Opatija Riviera: Where Croatia Tourism Began

Over the course of summer, millions of tourists make their way to Croatia, fueling the local multi-billion Euro tourism industry. The days preceding tourist season are spent fine-tuning marketing and PR campaigns and upgrading facilities: tourist attractions are spruced up; hotels undertake last minute touch-ups; tourist-friendly services gear up; and souvenir stalls take root for another season. One look at the coast and you can sense the invisible, well-oiled commercial force that runs the show. So much so, that it’s hard to believe all this began, quite by chance, in the 1800s, along the tranquil waters of the Adriatic at the Opatija Riviera.

The Opatija Riviera stretches along the Kvarner Gulf . Along with a clear blue waterfront, the region also enjoys good weather all year round; it enjoys Mediterranean summers, pleasant winters, and continuous greenery. It was this very fact that saw it become a popular winter escape for the upper classes of continental Europe.

At the heart of the Riviera is the resort-town of Opatija . Also known as the pearl of the Adriatic,Opatija has attracted many visitors over the course of history. The story of the town’s great popularity goes back to 1844 when a rich merchant, Iginio Scarpa, fell in love with the place  and decided to build a luxurious holiday home here. The Villa Aangiolina, as it came to be known, was shielded by bay and oak trees and it enjoyed views of the sea, past a beautiful landscaped garden. Even today, the gardens and the art surrounding the Villa make for great viewing as does the tourism museum inside the Villa.

Soon enough, Villa Aangiolina was hosting Europe’s wealthy, mainly Austrian and Croatian aristocrats. And as word spread around this influential circle about this winter haven, the number of tourists arriving increased considerably. In time these newcomers, too, set up their own luxurious villas overlooking the sea. Many of these villas can be found along Opatija’s 12km long promenade; most operate as hotels today. In recent years, the tourist flow and trade in the region has grown. The hotels have multiplied, the facilities have improved and the crowds have gotten larger.

Keeping with the times, the Opatija Riviera has developed into a prominent wellness centre. All major hotels in the region provide a diverse range of wellness facilities. Pick a package that works for you and ease the tension away in this calm and healing environment.

Of course there is more to Opatija than just a day at the spa. Between therapeutic treatments, simply jump into a car or hire a boat and explore the sea and the small towns on this stretch of the Adriatic. You may discover: Volosko, a lovely little fishing village; Lovran, with its medieval alleyways and Habsburg architecture; the old core of Icici; and the many quaint, pebbled, beaches spread across the 43km stretch. The options are varied, but the results are the same: refreshing and recharging.

Written by Neha Puntambekar for EuropeUpClose.com

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