What could be better than to escape from a cramped, polluted city into the simple life, clean nature and tranquility of a beautiful island, and enjoy the scent of medicinal herbs, the lush vegetation, the warm rays of the sun and the shade of pine trees, the gentle sounds of the sea, the sand coves and beaches that offer you and your family countless opportunities for rest and recreation. Tourists and travellers have experienced these romantic sensations on the island of Rab for over a century.
At the foot of the mountain Velebit, in the arms of the Kvarner Bay islands of Krk, Cres and Pag, slumbers the island of Rab, like some giant crab on the water surface. The island stretches from northwest to southeast for some 22 km, and is 11 km wide at its widest. It is 1800 m away from the mainland.
The small town of Barbat
When you depart from the breathtaking barren rocks of the car-ferry landing of Mišnjak, the first settlement you reach is the small town of Barbat. Its rich vegetation and beautiful beaches provide a striking contrast to barren Mišnjak; this is where Mirko Diving Centre, your destination, is situated. The people of Barbat have spontaneously combined their tradition with modern trends, and their private boarding houses offer you a selection of unique fish and seafood delicacies. Many who run private lodging haven't forgotten their farms and breed sheep, till the land, keep bees and grow grapes, thus providing their guests with healthy, fresh, ecologically grown food. The proximity of the sea, the beauty of sand beaches, the safety of the Barbat Channel, bordered by Rab and the 6 km long island of Dolin - are some of attractions that appeal equally to swimmers, families with children, surfers and navigators. Barbat, stretched along the coast, offers 2000 beds in rooms of highest class, together with 1500 in private accommodation. History enthusiasts will enjoy an interesting visit to the remains of an early Christian church and an ancient Greek forth, on the nearby hill of Saint Damian. When you leave Barbat, you will carry the memories of the fragrant essential oils of immortelle, the deep blue colour of the sea, and the air of history that permeates the entire island.
The City of Rab
The city of Rab is located on a small peninsula, surrounded by city walls. The four impressive church towers make it appear like a four-masted windjammer, sailing unflaggingly through tempests and dead calms, but never turning back. A fragment of an inscription in Latin proves that the city was originally a Roman colony which emperor Octavius Augustus secured by walls and defensive towers. Thus the city of Rab (Arba in Latin) became an autonomous Roman city, complete with temples, forums, courthouses, aqueducts and theatres. The government changed through history, from Romans, Byzantines and Venetians to Hungarians and Croats, but the city has never been devastated.
The city of Rab is full of church and cultural monuments, such as the Church of Saint Christopher (the city and island's patron saint), which also includes an old tower now serving as a belvedere.
The remains of the monastery and church of Saint John the Evangelist, an exceptional Romanesque basilica, include a Romanesque church tower, the foundations and remaining columns of a three-nave church, as well as the renovated deambulatorium. In the proximity stands the Church of the Sacred Weeping Cross, where, chronicles say, a miracle happened and a cross wept. The church and the tower of Saint Justine are on the Trg Slobode (The Freedom Square) and serve as a museum of church art. The church is built in a three-nave Romanesque style and has a beautiful Baroque altar. The tower dates from 1181 and is the oldest tower on the island.
At the end of the Gornja ulica (The High Street) are a monastery and a former cathedral, built on the edge of a sheer cliff rising over the sea. The building of the cathedral began in 1118. Pope Alexander the Great personally sanctified it in 1177. It is a magnificent Romanesque basilica. The church tower is a separate structure that dominates the town, and is one of the most beautiful late Romanesque buildings in Croatia. Between Saint Christopher Square and the Srednja ulica (The Middle Road) is the patrician palace Dominis-Nimira, built in the 12th century, bearing richly decorated Renaissance windows and a Gothic portal. Among the most valuable monuments on Rab is also the Knežev Dvor (The Earl's Hall). The building started in the 12th century, but the most characteristic pieces are from the 15th and the 16th century. The Town Hall, a square Renaissance structure with beautiful columns, dating from 1509, has recently been renovated. The city of Rab has countless valuable portals, balconies, windows etc., all coming alive with picturesque details and rich ornaments. Every crest and every inscription tells a story of the town's glorious past. Become an explorer. Rab will always tell you a secret, but keep another in store.
Where the old town ends, Varoš (The Centre) begins, with its beautiful square that stretches to northwest to meet modern shops, hotels and blocks of flats, and with the town park Komrčar, a guests and locals' favourite destination for a walk. Besides many hotels and private accommodation, there are excellent Mediterranean and continental restaurants, aperitif and night bars, cafés, pizzerias etc. At night, summer terraces and pleasant garden restaurants provide live music, from folklore ensembles to pop and dance bends and orchestras to the "klape" ("the companies"), which perform the genuine Dalmatian and Coastal music. There are also modern discos that stay open until late hours. You can also experience the unique atmosphere of summer celebrations and fishermen's nights, taking place on the long, beautifully lit waterfront.
Admirers of classical music can enjoy concerts in the Cathedral of Rab and the lovely Chapel of The Holy Cross, given weekly as a part of the Rab Music Evenings, the festival that built its reputation on performances by the Croatian and the world's foremost musicians. Visiting theatre troupes, art exhibitions and film projections in the summer cinema round off the city's cultural life.
Those who prefer active holidays have numerous opportunities for sport and recreation: scuba diving, water slide, water skiing, surfing, pedaling, rent a boat, parachuting, jet-ski, tennis, beach volleyball, mini golf, boće-bowling, five-a-side European football, basketball, handball, biking (mountain bike), trekking etc..
The island of Rab has rightfully been considered a forerunner of the Adriatic nudism. The official beginning of the nudism is said to had been in August 1936, when King Edward VIII of England and his wife, who had visited the island, had been granted permission by the town authorities to swim in the nude in the Kandarola Bay. The opportunity to swim in the nude attracts many tourists who choose Rab as their holiday destination.
Being an island, Rab has a traditional cuisine that uses fish, crabmeat and shellfish. Quality food fish is usually grilled and cooked. It is then served with a generous helping of green vegetables, ecologically grown on the island's fertile fields.
The meats include the famous local lamb, which is equally tasty spit-roasted, oven-baked and cooked, and also pork, beef and poultry. They come flavoured with widely known medicinal herbs and spices that grow on the island's green slopes. The most common and characteristic spices include rosemary, laurel, basil, mint, pharm fennel, heather, garlic, parsley and olive oil. Another delicacy is the octopus, dried in the winds and the sun and then prepared with eggs. Delicious wild asparaguses are served in the spring, also prepared with eggs. Virtually all restaurants offer vegetarian menus, again with traditional spice. Straight from the sea and the garden onto the plates of guests.
As soon as you arrive, Rab will greet you with scents of Mediterranean vegetation and beautiful sights of evergreen woods, including the Mediterranean evergreen oak, the pine and the cypress. Myrtle, Spanish broom and other shrubbery grow on the rolling hills. Especially precious is the island's region called Kalifront, where the forest reserve Dundo houses the largest Mediterranean evergreen oak plantation in the Adriatic. There are also the mock privet, the black and the silver pine, and a deciduous tree, the flowering ash. Under the century-old trees intertwine forest vines, ivy and other climbers. The forest of Dundo is widely known outside Croatia and is a favourite destination for visitors, including numerous foresters and botanists. Professor Günter from Graz wrote in 1912 that "Rab owes the great number of visitors to its forests, especially the park Komrčar, the pride of the inhabitants."
The gentle climate makes Rab a suitable home to many species of migratory birds (around 40 species). As the island is a tourist destination, the submarine world has been preserved. This world is a home to the starfish, the sea urchin, the sea cucumber, the sponge, corals, crabs, white and blue fish, the pen shell, the Jacob's cap and other shellfish. Besides domesticated animals, there are rabbits, pheasants, deer and roe. The commonest reptile is the Dalmatian wall lizard, and there are no venomous snakes. Many species of insects live here, with butterflies being the most common.. In the summer, the cricket's song can be heard all over the island.