Rijeka, Jewel of the Adriatic

With the cruise industry remaining at a standstill in the U.S., cruise lines are looking for ways to return to service, and as the industry continued searching for a way back, Europe began very limited cruises in late summer 2020. They’ve been leading the way since.  Collectively, there seemed to be a resigned acceptance that U.S. operations would remain suspended until late 2021, but with the recent positive news on vaccines, there’s cause for optimism.  U.S. based cruise lines have been scouting destinations.  Europe, the eastern and western Mediterranean, and most recently the Bahamas, seem poised to benefit.

Located in the Adriatic and surrounded by some of the most beautiful waters in the Mediterranean, Rijeka is an emerging destination.  Part of Istria – the most popular tourist region in Croatia – Rijeka is a city that hosts festivals all year long, from sailing regattas to the joys of chocolate.  In February, the city brings its most colorful and festive self to celebrate Carnival.  In July, thousands of candles light up the night at Trsat Castle to welcome the summer in a magical tradition.  There’s a different festival every month highlighting something that is uniquely Rijeka.

Rijeka is rich in culture, history, art and music.  Street performers and musicians bring a lively and cheerful vibe to the city.  And with Rijeka’s enviable selection of wines, olive oil and fresh Mediterranean seafood, foodies will not be disappointed.

Northern Istria is home to Motovun, one of the most beautiful and famous medieval towns in the country. Built in the 13th century, the Romanesque-Gothic style bell tower dominates the center of the town.  Motovun’s forest makes for good truffle hunting, and vineyards surround the town from all sides.  Istria’s finest wines are produced from the grapes of these vineyards.

Less than an hour from Rijeka is Hum, an enchanting and picturesque village with about 20 inhabitants and structures that whisper of ancient times.  Known as the smallest town in the world, it’s also known for biska, a brandy spiced with mistletoe and made according to an old Hum recipe.  The town hosts an annual Grappa festival in October that attracts brandy producers from all over Istria.

Bakar is one of the oldest towns in the Northern Adriatic. Just 8 miles from Rijeka, visitors can enjoy panoramic views, tour Bakar Castle, St. Andrew’s Church and its catacombs, explore Hreljin Fort, and sample Bakar’s sparkling wine made from a vine grown on stone walls.

If you’re longing for an idyllic Mediterranean beach, you’re in luck.  A few minutes’ drive from Rijeka is Kostrena, where a long coast and late sunsets make for the perfect lazy beach day.

Rijeka was honored to be named the European Capital of Culture 2020 in recognition of its commitment to culture and diversity, and 2020 was slated to be a banner year of celebrations with Rijeka telling its rich story through music, dance, art, theatre and cuisine.

Despite the many disappointments of 2020, there’s great optimism that vaccines will be a game-changer.  It’s never too early to start planning a trip – a special trip to a special place with special people.  Appreciate every moment.  You’ve earned it.  Visit Rijeka.

This post was written by cruise expert, Shannon McKee, founder of Access Cruise Inc. Access Cruise Inc is a Miami based cruise marketing and sales consulting group, specializing in product and business development within the cruise industry.


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