Croatia // The Kvarner Gulf //

Hiking on Mount Ucka

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Dominating the skyline above Opatija and Lovran is the long, forest-covered ridge of the Učka massif, which divides the Kvarner region from central Istria and is protected as a Nature Park (w pp-ucka.hr). It is accessible by road from Rijeka via a route running over the northern shoulder of the mountain, which passes a turn-off to the 1396-metre summit of Vojak on the way. Rather than driving to Vojak, however, the best way to enjoy Učka’s wooded slopes is to walk. Paths are well marked, and the Učka map (25Kn), available from the tourist offices in Opatija and Lovran, is an invaluable guide.

Lovran is the starting point for the most direct hiking route up the mountain – the ascent takes around three and a half hours. A flight of rough-hewn steps begins immediately behind Lovran’s old centre, leading to the small Romanesque Chapel of St Rock on the edge of the village of Liganj. Join the road into Liganj for a couple of hundred metres, before heading uphill to the right through the hamlets of Dindići and Ivulići – semi-abandoned clusters of farmhouses and moss-covered dry-stone walls. From Ivulići it’s a steady two-hour ascent through oak and beech forest before you emerge onto a grassy saddle where an expansive panorama of inland Istria suddenly opens up, revealing the knobbly green and brown forms of the peninsula’s central hills; the peak of Vojak is another twenty minutes’ walk to the right. At the top, there’s an observation tower, TV mast and splendid views of Rijeka and the spindly form of Cres beyond. An alternative ascent, which takes about fifty minutes longer, starts just behind the Medveja campsite and ascends to the village of Lovranska Draga before climbing steeply up a wooded ravine to join the main path from Lovran.

From Vojak, a path descends north to Poklon (1hr), where you meet up with the old Rijeka–Istria road. There’s a terrace offering another view of the Kvarner Gulf here. On Sundays, bus #34 from Opatija climbs as far as Poklon once a day, making this a good starting point from which to tackle Vojak if time is short. From Poklon, you can work your way southeast back to Lovran (roughly a 2hr walk) by a downhill path which ultimately joins the main route you came up on.

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