Kvarner newsletter / no 1

Protected natural heritage
Kvarner’s beautiful nature

The Kvarner region, officially called the County of Primorje and Gorski kotar, is located in the western part of the Republic of Croatia. Its varied landscape comprises three large geographical areas – the highlands, the shores and the islands – each with its own special characteristics and points of interest.
The natural heritage of this region is characterised by the great variations in its landscape features and a rich biological diversity.

In addition to the two major protected areas (the Risnjak National Park in Gorski kotar and the Učka Nature Park), the County of Primorje and Gorski kotar has some 30 additional protected areas. These include the special ornithological reserves of Kuntrep (island of Krk) and of Kruna and Podokladi (island of Cres), the special forest vegetation reserve of Dundo (island of Rab), the special geomorphological reserve of Vražji prolaz – Zeleni vir, and the strict reserve of Samarske stijene and Bijele stijene rocks in Gorski kotar. There are also several forest parks, protected landscapes and monuments of park architecture.

The Risnjak National Park is located at an air distance of only 15 kilometres from the Adriatic Sea and comprises the massifs of Risnjak and Snježnik and a hydrogeomorphological natural monument – the source of the river Kupa and its upper course.
The Risnjak massif provides a strong climatic and vegetational barrier between the coast and the continental part of Croatia.
Učka Nature Park is located on the border between the counties of Primorje-Gorski kotar and Istria and comprises the Učka massif and part of Ćićarija mountain range.
Visitors can admire the preserved primordial beauty of Kvarner’s landscape and natural resources in many places of interest: the natural bridged ravine and waterfalls of the special geomorphological reserve of Vražji prolaz – Zeleni vir; the vauclisian spring of unknown depth in the protected landscape of Kamačnik in the vicinity of the town of Vrbovsko; the more gentle landscapes of the forest parks of Golubinjak and Japlenški vrh; the preserved ecological systems such as Dundo forest; and the unusual coves, sand pyramids and archaeological sites in the Lopar area on the island of Rab.
Magnificent park architecture can be found near urban regions, or even in the midst of towns, such as the Angiolina and Margarita parks in Opatija, the Čikat and Pod Javori forest parks on the island of Lošinj, and Komrčar Park on the island of Rab.

Each protected natural area is home to many relict and endemic plant and animal species.
In the Gorski kotar area live rare predators and other mammals as well as some endangered bird species, and the crystal-clear waters of the exceptionally well-preserved mountain river in the region, Kupa, is home to many species of fish endangered throughout Europe.

Along the coast and on the islands grow numerous endemic plant species, such as the degenia velebitica and the edelweiss. This area, where the Mediterranean, continental Europe and the karstic Dinarides come together, is also home to the last population of one of the most endangered European species of bird, the Eurasian Griffon Vulture, which nests on the rocks directly above the sea on the islands of Krk and Cres. The waters off the islands of Cres and Lošinj are home to the only Mediterranean dolphin reserve and to rare sea turtles.

Ancient coastal towns scattered on the islands and along the coastline are architectural jewels of small urban areas folding neatly into the surrounding landscape. The origins of the small hilltop settlements such as Brseč, Mošćenice, Veprinac, Trsat, or Bakar, date back to prehistoric times, and the settlements on the coast and the islands hide a rich cultural heritage that dates back centuries – even several millennia in places.

Apart from climbing the marked hiking trails or taking pleasant strolls with a guide, most of these unique locations can also be visited by bike. There are as many as 19 cycle paths in the region: in Gorski kotar, in the Rijeka area, on the rivieras of Opatija, Crikvenica and Novi Vinodolski, and on the islands. One path leads through the entire Kvarner area.

The varied nature and climatic conditions of the Kvarner region, as well as the unique combination of the mountains, the coasts and the islands, make this area ideal for engaging in various sports and recreational activities: hunting, skiing, bird watching, horse riding, mountain biking, diving, parachuting, sailing, wakeboarding, windsurfing, fishing on the sea, lakes and rivers, or rafting and canoeing on River Kupa. In the immediate vicinity of Rijeka is the Grobnik racetrack for cars and motorcycles, which hosts numerous national and international car and motor races.