By Tina Kastelan
The island of Rab, located just off the northern Croatian coast near the islands of Krk and Pag, has a very rich history and is known today as the ‘Happy Island’.
Rab, or Arba at the time, was first mentioned in a Greek source in 360 BC. Today the 22 km-long island is bustling with tourists in the summer.
Rab is recognisable by the four Church towers that form its outline – bell tower of the church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary – the cathedral, the bell tower of the church of St. John the Evangelist, the belfry of the church of St. Andrew the Apostle and the bell tower of the church of St. Justine.
Whilst the northeastern side of the island is mostly barren, the southwestern side is covered by one of the last oak forests of the Mediterranean. Rab can be reached by ferry which connects the island with the mainland port of Stinica.
Here are a few things to check out whilst you are visiting the island.
Try Rapska Torta (Rab cake)
Yes, the island has its own cake. Its main ingredients are almonds and Maraschino liqueur and it is traditionally baked in the shape of a spiral. According to legend, this cake was first served in 1177 to Pope Alexander III when he consecrated the Assumption Cathedral in Rab.
Visit Rajska Plaža (Paradise Beach)
CNN named it in its World’s Top 100 best beaches list. Rajska plaža, or Paradise beach, is the most famous beach on the island and has been a ‘blue flag’ owner since 2003. The 1.5 km long beach is great for kids thanks to the sand and large shallow water areas.
Check out Rapska Fjera
Rapska fjera festival is a is a historical reenactment of the island’s history for tourists. Held on the streets in the old town of Rab in the last week of July, the festival also includes a medieval festival of crafts and customs and a crossbow tournament.
The celebrations were first held in 1364 in honor of King Louis the Great who defended Rab from Venice.
Walk in Dundo Reserve
Go for a stroll in one of the last oak forests of the Mediterranean in Dundo reserve in the Kalifront forest which is situated on the north-west side of the island of Rab. The park is protected.
Swim to Classical Music
Go for a swim in the town beach where you can swim with a great view of the ancient city walls and church towers. The beach is also right under the window of a classical music school, so depending on the time of the day you can get serenaded whilst you swim.
Go to Pudarica
Another of the island’s beaches worth checking out. Located on the south part of the island next to Barbat, Pudarica beach is a beach with amazingly clear sea.
Check out the Old Town & the Churches
Rab is distinctive by four church towers that rise above the roofs in the old town – the bell tower of the church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary – the cathedral, the bell tower of the church of St. John the Evangelist, the belfry of the church of St. Andrew the Apostle and the bell tower of the church of St. Justine. You can also check out a large collection of sacral art at the Franciscan Monastery of St. Bernardin with two churches (St. Euphemia and St. Bernardin) where you can find all sorts of artifacts.
Go to Kamenjak Viewing Point
Kamenjak is the highest point on the Rab Island (408 metres above sea level). Take the steep road up, it is worth it for the spectacular views of the island. There is also somewhere to grab a bite and a drink up the top.
Enjoy a Fisherman’s Feast
There are many fisherman’s nights (ribarska večer) held on Rab in July and August. A chance to enjoy some fresh fish, wine, local music at very reasonable prices. The nights are great for tourists to get a real ‘local’ feel. Posters advertising when and where they will be on are usually located around the town.
Do a Tour
There are many tours you can do from the island of Rab. From day excursions to the Croatian Alcatraz, Goli Otok, to island hopping around neighbouring islands Krk and Pag. You can even venture back to the mainland for an excursion to Velebit National Park.