Cres - Cherso Island
Cities, Towns and Hamlets

Panoramic view of the town of Cres on the Island of Cres

Cres (Cherso) Island


The Cres-Lošinj (Cherso- Lussin) group of islands, situated in the Kvarner (Quarnero) Gulf, is the largest group in the Adriatic. It is made up of 36 islands, islets and reefs.

The cause underlying the formation and current appearance of the islands of the Kvarner was the transgression of the Adriatic Sea in the last 12-6 thousand years.

Some 20-30 thousand years ago the whole Kvarner underwent elevation, including northern Dalmatia and the Italian coast of the Adriatic. With the melting of the icebergs, at the end of the Ice Age, there was a rise in the level of the Adriatic Sea of about 100 meters, and the mountains and hills of the mainland became islands, the higher hills became smaller islands and the lower hills became underwater reefs and rocks.

Cres and Lošinj, with their neighboring islands and islets, are a continuation of the Cicarija (Ciceria) mountain range, that is, of its southern extension - Učka (Monte Maggiore). The extension of the highest part of the Učka range can be connected with the range to the north of Cres (Sis - 638 meters). The southern part of the Učka range (Sisol - 833 meters), via the cape of Masnjak [  ], extends to the cape of Pernat [  ] into the chain of hills west of the Vrana Lake (Helm - 483 meters), and further south to Lošinj, via Osorscica (Mount Osor - Televrina - 588 meters), to finally end on the island of Ilovik . The extension of the hilly formation south of Labin is breifly suggested by the islands of Unije and Srakane (N. Strazicic, 1975).

Chalk limestone and dolomite of very diverse content and resistance is dominant in the geological composition of the islands. This played an essential role in the forming of the present relief. Thus a more compact and purer limestone, recognizable by its craggy and rugged rock, is located on the island of Cres near Beli, in Lubenice, and on the island of Lošinj, in the mountain mass of Osorscica. The locations of impure limestone, mixed with dolomite, is where valleys were formed due to erosion. Examples of this are the valleys where the town of Cres or the settlement of Martinscica are located. Dolomites in which the greatest breakdown and erosion is taking place are located in the entire area surrounding Vrana Lake as well the entire stretch tot the southeastern point of the island of Cres. Here the coastline is very indented and forms fjords which deeply cut into the land, for example, the points of St. Dumjan and Kolorat or the deeply indented Jadriscica Bay. This phenomenon can also be seen around the port of Mali Lošinj.

Cres (Cherso) is an island in the Kvarner (Quarnero) Gulf off the coast of Istria, from which it is separated by the channel of Vela vrata (Farasina), and it is below the Bay of Rijeka (Fiume). In the south, a canal separates Cres from the island of Lošinj (Lussino), and they are connected by a turn bridge over the channel which was first made during Roman times and was revived in the 16th century. Both islands are structurally part of the limestone plateau of Istria.

Cres is an elongated island about 40 miles long, 14 to 7 miles wide, and has an area of 150 sq. miles. It is connected with the island of Lošinj (Lussin), lying on the S.W. by a turn bridge over the small channel of Osor (Ossero). To the east, the Canale di Mezzo (Canal in the Middle) separates it from the island of Krk (Veglia). These three islands are the principal islands of the Kvarner group.

It is traversed by a range of mountains, which attain in the peak of Syss (?) an altitude of 2,090 feet and form natural terraces, planted with vines and olive trees, specially in the middle and southern parts of the island. The northern part is covered with bushes of laurel and mastic, but there are scarcely any large trees. There are no surface streams on the island and there  is a scarcity of springs. Thus, the houses are generally furnished with cisterns which capture rainwater. In the centre of the island is a large freshwater lake called Vransko (Vrana) or Crow's Lake (5.75 sq. km.), situated at an altitude of 40 feet above sea level and its bottom lying 68 m. (convert to feet) below sea level. It is 31 miles long, one mile wide and 184 feet deep. This lake is in all probability fed by subterranean sources. It contains about 200 million cubic metres of water [convert to feet] and supplies both Cres and Lošinj. Numerous submarine freshwater sources (vrulje) spring up along the shores of the island.

The single road on the island is about 29 square miles (75 square km) in area and runs the entire length of the Island which has a total area of 156 sq. mi. (404.33 sq. km.). Its highest peak is Gorice (750 m or 650?). In general, Cres has a poorly indented coastline, major indentations being the Bay of Koromafina [  ] on the east coast, and Creska Luka [  ], Valun (Vallone), Martinšćica (S. Martino) and Ustrine on the west coast. Off the west coast are the islets of Zaglav and Zeša and a group of reefs called Visoki; the islets off the southeast coast are called Trstenik and Cutin, and the islet off the northeast coast is called Plavnik.

The southern portion of Cres Island is more populated than the north and sees a milder climate because it is more protected from the bora (bura), the north-easterly winds which race across the north side of the island. The western side of the island is warmer and more humid than the eastern also because of the bora. In 1900, it had a population of 8,274. Today's population is ?

The north portion of the island is home to a colony of protected griffin vultures, as well as eagles, hawks, buzzards, and many other species. Cres is well known for the large number of birds that nest on the island.

Considerable areas of woodland (oak, hornbeam, and pine) have been preserved in the northern part of the island, while in the southern part woods can be found only here and there; the area cast of Vransko Jezero contains large areas of pine woods. Most of the settlements are in the west of the island, the eastern and central parts being sparsely populated.

The chief town on the island is the small town of Cres (Cherso), situated on the west coast, which possesses a good harbour and is provided with a shipwright's wharf. It is the only settlement on the island with the status of a city. The inhabitants of the island are chiefly occupied with farming (olives, vines, vegetables). Important industries are shipping, fishing and fish processing (at Cres and Martinšćica). Stone of good quality is quarried near Osor. The main communication line in the interior is a road which runs the whole length of the island and serves all its settlements. It leads from Porozina in the north to Osor in the south, continuing towards Lošinj. Ferry boat services from Porozina link the island with Rabac and Rijeka. The recently developed [1960s?] water-supply system, electric light and improved communications attract increasing numbers of tourists to the island.


The island of Cres has been inhabited since the Neolithic period, as evidenced by the cave dwelling at Punta Križa. Earlier earthworks from the Bronze Age are surrounded by circular stone walls and stand on the less accessible peaks. From the Iron Age date the hillforts (castellieri) with a rectangular ground plan (Beli, Lubenice and Ustrine), where burial places with tumuli have been found. Cres also has Roman ruins, a Renaissance clock tower, a city loggia, and a 15–16th century church.

The oldest known inhabitants of Cres were Illyrian Liburnians. Ancient Greek sources used for the islands of Cres and Lošinj the common name Apsirtides, which is associated with the legend of the Argonauts. Ancient sources mention the settlements of Krepsa (Cres) and Apsoros (Osor). During the reign of the Emperor Augustus, Cres came under Roman rule. After the fall of the Western Empire it became part of the Byzantine possessions in the Adriatic, and in the early Middle Ages it was gradually settled by Slavs.

The oldest Southern Slav monument written in Glagolitic letters is the famous "Valun Inscription" (Valunska ploča) dating probably from the 9th century. In the 10th century, Cres was for a time part of the Croatian state.

Following the fall of the Roman Empire, Cres was part of the Byzantine Empire until 998 A.D. From 1000 to 1358 it was a Venetian possession, to come subsequently under Austro-Hungarian rule, and then again (from 1409 until 1797) under Venice and during which period the political and administrative center of the island moved from Osor to Cres. Subsequent rulers were Austria, France (Napoleon), Austria again (1814–1921) - during which time Cres, Krk and Lošinj formed the administrative district of Lussin in the Austrian crownland of Istria. In the 20th centurz its rulers were Italy (officially 1920–47, effectively 1918-43). Yugoslavia (1947–92), and since the dissolution of Yugoslavia it has been part of the Republic of Croatia.

The main communities on the Island of Cres are the towns of Cres, Osor, Martinšćica and Valun. Its other towns are Beli, Lubenice, Pernat and Punta Križa.


  • Text - The Yugoslav Coast, Guide and Atlas, Jugoslavenski Leksikografski Zavod, Zagreb (1972)
  • 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica.

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Created: Wednesday, July 25, 2007; Last updated: Sunday, August 18, 2013
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