A must do Croatian adventure kayaking trip is circumnavigating island Lošinj. It is a 100km paddle, takes a week and finds bow of your kayak pitched in front of centuries od historic towns, campsites, delightfully colorful waters and isolated beaches. See what we saw and learned on this trip.
On this adventure kayaking journey, I went out with one of our friends from Northern Europe. Someone who shares the same passion for great paddling, island exploration, and excellent food. We packed a couple of kayaks, camping gear and headed north.
From a distance, Lošinj and it’s neighboring islands looks very much like many of the other 1045 islands and reefs on the Adriatic. It is not unlike a minimalist design. At first, it doesn’t look like much, but as you get closer to it, the island starts to reveal it’s little villages, historic old towns, and picturesque pebblestone beaches and high mountain vistas.
The actual adventure kayaking trip was more than circumnavigation of Lošinj. We started from our base on island Molat. From there we paddled past islands Ist, Silba, and Ilovik before we reached Lošinj.
We decided to extend what would have been our biggest crossing of 9km into an 11km paddle with a short stopover on a small island Grujica. It is home to a lighthouse and a man who operates it. Paddling towards the island is an exciting cruise over island’s shallow waters with the ubiquitous Croatian shades of turquoise and green. This time of year, shallow waters of the island are a perfect meeting ground for schools of mullet. Literally, hundreds of them spear their noses through the water surface catching their prey.
Our island hopping between small land masses was soon replaced by a long stretch of coastal touring - hand railing Lošinj’s diverse coastline and keeping it on our left for the remainder of the trip.
We were very lucky with the weather. This paddling trip takes place in March. On most of our paddling days, we had nearly flat water conditions. On two days we had a bit of upwind paddle, but nothing like we were expecting. Global warming and changing weather patterns seem to work in favor of kayaking in Croatia.
On this adventure kayaking trip, we decided to make a camping based trip. It is the best way to circumnavigate the island, particularly it’s more isolated areas. Camping allows flexibility in case of strong Bura or Jugo storms. This is particularly useful for us since we planned the trip months in advance. We can start either clockwise, counterclockwise or, because of the uniquely designed bay of Mali Lošinj, make a letter 8 as we cut through part of the island.
Northeast coast of Lošinj has a number of campspots. They are convenient for kayakers as some of the best spots are just by the sea, literally meters from where you take your kayak out.
One thing we definitely expected from this adventure kayaking trip was a rewarding hike on Osorčica - mountain that stretches for 20km along the northern part of the island. We decided to start the hike from Osor, although there are great hikes going from Lopari and Nerezine. Hiking path that we took cut through former pastures with an occasional ruin here and there. Once up on Sveti Gaudent mountain hut, views are stunning on both sides of the island – to the east Cres and to the west Unije. It’s a great way to allow for an active rest day from a week of kayaking.
There were sections on the east coast of the island of this adventure kayaking trip where we paddled along the road. There, it felt that civilization overwhelmed our senses. Between towns Ćunski and Nerezine the meditative sound of our paddles cutting through the water suddenly got overwhelmed by the sound of accelerating car engines as they overpass trucks on a long road that briefly touches the sea. It felt like we were on the third lane of the road, and as if trucks were overpassing us. Luckily it is not a long section. Just long enough that one revives appreciation for the natural ambient around the kayak.
What surprised us is the amount of wilderness and turquoise waters as you kayak the western coast of Lošinj. South and east (Velebit facing) coast have a history of human development. It goes from century-old towns and villages to pretty much touristically developed beaches being either an official beach or a camp spot. The west, on the other hand, coast couldn’t be more different. Wild beaches literally pop up every kilometer and almost all are completely inaccessible by land. They make for stunning kayaking breaks.
From Uvala Liski southward, the sea is much shallower and the colors with much more intense turquoise. Some of it is result of pebblestone covered seabed, but other parts is sand spilled out by river Po that colors the seabed of islands Unije, Susak and Srakane.
Adventure kayaking, when done in Croatia, needs to include some history and picturesque ports. It’s just a part of the experience of paddling islands that have been inhabited for hundreds of years. Our paddling meets small-town life in Veli Lošinj. It’s a small harbor with bustling life and a bit of touristy aura to it. Nice place to grab a cup of coffee and stock up on some supplies.
A historical town is a pleasant break from the sea kayaking trip. We found the actual passage between Cres and Lošinj, a very exciting place to paddle. It is a 50ish meter long canal that was man-made hundreds of years ago – it was the primary reason for Osor’s growing influence in Rennaisance times. Today, canals keeps its antique design and there is always a constant current that feels pretty much like a river. Great for some kayak training or just practicing kayak movement in the flowing water - micro adventure kayaking session. There are also a number of camps around.
On this adventure kayaking trip we tried local restaurants whenever there was a chance. We felt it fits the destination with the historic towns and I guess kayaking is deeply connected with great food. Perhaps it is just our personal interest.
We have both agreed that of all the food we had on the trip, the best was in restaurant Orfej. Situated in one of the small alleys in Osor, the place is all about the picturesque courtyard that feels cozy and has an air of good taste to it with food to match it looks. Highly recommended.
This trip was a circumnavigation of Lošinj, except for the 9km south of Čikat bay. We have done this section on an earlier occasion. A nice paddle with large bays and beaches. We decided to skip it for logistical reasons. A Jugo storm was due and instead of battling the storm upwind and paddinlg back to Molat, we have boarded a car ferry from Mali Lošinj down to island Ist. From there it is just a short kayaking trip over to Molat.
Lošinj is one of the biggest inhabited island towns in Croatia. With so many people, roads, tourism and hype there, you kind of lose the island-like twist to it. There is tons of cars and trucks so big that you know you are not on a small island. When you hop back on the car ferry that connects Lošinj to southern island, you see the real island life – strong island dialect, sturdy men with skin hardened by the wind and salt and their eternal tractors which they swap between islands.
On this adventure kayaking trip, we have also done a night paddle from Ist to Molat. Night paddle and night crossings always have a bit of adventure and respect to them. What surprised us on this particular night paddle back to Molat was the full moon and calm night. Moon’s white glow was reflecting from the waves of the kayak. A meditative experience to end this fantastic kayaking adventure.
Here is a video from the paddling trip.
Complement this piece with a story about our coldest paddle ever and take a look at our visual story about paddling on Kornati and finally best moments from our activity holidays in Croatia in 2018.
On a different note, read more about island life in our main base on Molat which nicely connects to reflections adventure travel and art of slowing down.
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‘Moving your limits’ isn’t necessarily about the highest mountains, deepest canyons or oldest ruins. But it is about great adventures. It’s about that constant pursuit of world’s secrets – cultural as well as natural. It’s about how we move in nature and raise our expectations about each and every place in the world, moving our mental and physical limits on the way.