A land of unique physical beauty, Croatia boasts rolling inland hills, fertile plains, and gorgeous coastal shores, making it one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. Off Croatia’s northern coastline is the Kvarner Gulf, a haven with picture-perfect scenery. The vivid hues of holiday villas contrast with the stony inlets, and many intriguing islands of ancient limestone karst are set like immortal gems in a bed of dazzling turquoise that is the Adriatic Sea. Situated at the central crest of the Kvarner Gulf is Croatia’s third-largest city and main seaport, Rijeka. Rijeka holds the honorable title of “European Capital of Culture,” given by the European Union in 2020. Of the islands and islets of the Kvarner Gulf, perhaps the most famous is Rab. Rab is one of Croatia’s largest satellite isles and the southernmost island in the Kvarner Gulf. Legend has it that the island of Rab is protected by the gods. Indeed, Mount Kamenjak serves to protect the town of Rab from the icy blasts of the north in winter. The largest of all islands in the Adriatic Sea is also found in the Kvarner Gulf. At just over 400 square kilometers (154 square miles) in size, Krk also has the largest permanent population of the islands, with approximately 20,000 inhabitants. The island of Cres, the second largest of the Adriatic islands, is home to only about 3,000 people. At the center of the island is the unique Lake Vrana. One of the purest fresh water sources in all of Europe, its impressive depth of 74 meters (243 feet) reaches below sea level. The town of Beli is a sanctuary for wildlife, and the nearby cliff faces are home to a thriving population of Griffon vultures, which the local community actively protect. In the 19th century Austro-Hungarian Empire, Losinj was known as the “healing island” with the healthiest climate. Losinj is characterized by rolling tree-covered hills, and today it is a haven for pleasure boaters who anchor in its numerous natural harbors. The Kvarner Gulf certainly offers spectacular sights with a rich cultural history. Let us strive to be gentler stewards of our planet, so that such pristine beauties may continue to flourish for many generations to come.