Island Dreaming

If you’re planning your next European summer vacation, look no further than a trip to Mali Lošinj, Croatia, where you’ll rediscover your love for travel, food and wellness. 

Words: Charmaine Yabsley 

“Welcome to the Island of Vitality!” Goran, the lean, smiling masseur beams at me, welcoming me to the spa room. “Here you will finally feel well.”  

We are at the Belluvue Hotel in Lošinj, a three-hour ferry ride from Pula, a Roman town that boasts its very own amphitheatre and lively restaurant scene. (You can also hire a car from Pula or Lošinj airport and arrive via the bridge linking the island to the mainland. If you want to arrive in true style, the hotel also offers a private jet service in a six-service plane to deliver guests to Lošinj airport. The island itself seems unchanged, despite its increase in tourist interest over the past decade. And while the hotel is sparkling new and shiny white, looming like a cruise ship over Čikat Bay on the sparkling blue Adriatic Sea, the building, and the island itself, retains its old-fashioned charm. However, it is small enough to feel intimate and secluded, with wide sweeping views of the bay and grounds through floor-to-ceiling glass windows. Situated on the seafront on the edge of the bay, the tree-lined promenade encourages you to explore (by foot or bikes hired at reception) the smaller, even more isolated inlets, where boats bob merrily on the crystal-clear waters, alongside pedalos, aqua park, stand up paddle boarders and enthusiastic swimmers.  

The hotel is just a short 15-minute walk into Mali Lošinj’s Old Town, where you’ll find a harbour so quintessentially authentic you may think you’ve wondered onto a Hollywood set. Here you’ll discover an array of restaurants, tourist shops, wine tasting offerings and island entertainment. Take your time to wander in the back streets to search out local art and cuisine (prices are also lower here than the waterfront establishments). There’s a distinctly Italian flavour to the menus – with good reason. The island was considered part of Italy until World War II and although it is now independent, the tastes of its neighbouring country linger.  

While you’re harbourside, book a day tour on a boat to visit the outlying islands of Lošinj. Competitively priced (around $80 per head, including lunch, wine, beer and soft drinks), the tours begin early in the morning and cover small islands and hidden coves. It’s an unforgettable day of cliff jumping, snorkelling and exploring the islands of Susak, Unije, Ilovik, Blue Cave and Bijela Beach – all delivered with Croatian charm and humour.  

Or, if you prefer to stay horizontal and venture no further than the pool bar, there is no better place than the Bellevue. Start your day with breakfast, served buffet-style in the Bava Restaurant, where you can indulge on the sumptuous offers, or enjoy a wellness shot at the juice bar. Vegans and gluten-free diets are catered for, and there is a wellness menu and offerings if you’re serious about rediscovering your vitality during your stay.  

As we arrived at the height of summer, the days were long and hot, with temperatures reaching up to 36 degrees. Thankfully, the hotel’s spot on the water’s edge allowed us to enjoy a refreshing early morning swim in the breathtakingly clear waters, before heading inside to the award-winning Spa and Wellness centre. The retreat takes up the lower floor of the hotel and is just what tired travellers (and harassed parents) need to rest and rejuvenate. Here, in the hushed, curtain-lined rooms you’ll find everything you need to restore your vitality. Guests are welcomed to the Spa clinic with a beautifully mindful ritual: we were presented with two test-tubes and a snack on a silver tray, each promised the key to better gut health. Already in true ‘relaxation mode’, we each headed for a treatment. Goran, my wellness practitioner, delivered a strong and invigorating massage while I was balanced on a water-filled table. By floating on water, my muscles were more supple and receptive to deep tissue work – much needed after several weeks of hotel beds. Afterwards, we were encouraged to visit to Cryosauna, the Finnish and ‘bio soft’ saunas, steam room, cold plunge pool, relaxation with waterbeds and heated stone beds. The gym beckoned, but we were too relaxed to consider a workout, but promised ourselves we’d visit the next morning after our morning dip. Instead, we headed to the hotel’s private beach club, enjoying some further relaxation on the sun beds, positioned invitingly on tiered stone slab platforms overlooking the bay’s water. The kids ran between the indoor and outdoor pool (with pool bar and restaurant) and jumping from the jetty into the azure waters. The staff were on hand to deliver water, snacks and lunch to our sunbeds – the only effort required was to sign the chit.  

The hotel’s footprint is impressive, yet offers several cosy places to relax and read your book, or even enjoy an outdoor massage or jacuzzi. Much like Lošinj itself, there is charm and secrets to uncover at every turn. Rooms are large and, best of all, offer adjoining spaces for children, so there’s no need to cram together (although there are sofa beds if you prefer one family room, and babysitting services are available). Each room boasts a wide terrace overlooking the bay – order room service or enjoy an apéritif while watching the sunset before heading to one of the hotel’s restaurant offerings. We whiled away an evening of gastronomic delight with a five-course dinner, or you can choose to dine a la carte at Bava or at Matsunoki, Croatia’s recently awarded ‘best-restaurant’ offering Japanese fusion delights. Finish with a nightcap at the Alto Rosso lounge bar, or wander next door to the Ibiza-like bar where 90s hits pump out, creating the perfect end to a day – and holiday – filled with health, happiness and vitality. 

Further information 

To book a stay, wellness experience or restaurant reservation at Bellevue Hotel, visit www.losinj-hotels.com/en/hotels-and-villas/hotel-bellevue/ 

Discover more on Croatia and Mali Lošinj through www.visitlosinj.hr 

 

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