Off the Beaten Path in Croatia: Top 5 Destinations
Famous for its idyllic Adriatic coastline, historic cities and friendly welcome, Croatia is one of the top vacation destinations in Europe. But tear your eyes away from the medieval streets of Dubrovnik or the sun-kissed beaches of Split and the whole country opens up to you, just waiting to be explored. Mighty mountains loom over fertile lowlands brimming with vines, olive groves and truffles. Picturesque lakes dots lush national parks. And the world turns just a little slower as yachts and sailboats glide gently by Croatia’s more than 1,000 tranquil islands. There’s really nothing quite like getting off the beaten path in Croatia; to get you started, here are five of our favorite destinations — we know you’ll them!
1. Vodnjan & nearby Istrian villages
Away from the glorious Adriatic beaches, tucked up in the hills of Istria lie some of the lesser known gems of Croatia; its beautiful, hidden villages.
In days gone by, Vodnjan, in northern Croatia, was an important local center. And two thousand years after the Romans first visited, its streets still reflect this past with narrow,cobblestone lanes, Medieval churches and impressive palazzi in Gothic, Venetian and Baroque styles — a gentle stroll through the winding alleys of Vodnjan, off the beaten path in Croatia, is a treat for those who love culture, architecture and history.
But, as you’ll see, Istria is also renowned for its produce. From big, juicy olives to vines laden with fruit, from the heady aroma of maturing hams to the diamond of gastronomy, the truffle, Istria is a must for foodies and gourmets alike. So if you’re planning a vacation to this wonderful region, why not let our expert local guide take you off the beaten path in Croatia to experience the wines and olive oils of Istria? What a delightful introduction.
2. Ilok Town, Slavonija
From the west coast, we travel inland to Ilok, the easternmost town off the beaten path in Croatia. Nestled up against the Hungarian-Serbian borders, alongside the famous River Danube, the town rises gently above the plains, standing out against the horizon. In fact, it’s the perfect position from which to admire the vast vineyards that carpet the lowlands and lap up the glorious Croatian sun.
Just like Istria, the eastern region of Slavonia is renowned for its wines — if you’ve not come across the name before, why not dive into the Danube Kingdom of food, wine and antiques for a fascinating, mouthwatering voyage of discovery? Upon arrival you’ll toast the winemakers of Ilok with Champagne and a traditional Poderane Gace cake whose name, for some strange reason, means “torn pants!” There you’ll tour the winery and old cellars of two vineyards, learning how old oak barrels give the delicious its body. By the end of your day in the countryside, your tastebuds will be tingling with the best flavors of Ilok and Slavonia, while your memory will be full of the sensational scenic setting. I can’t think of a better way to spend a day off the beaten path in Croatia, can you?
3. The villages of Brac Island
With over 1,000 isles dotted along Croatia’s Adriatic coast, island life forms an important part of the national identity. And as the third largest, Brac island is one of the favorites, with Croatians and visitors alike.
Treasured for its beaches, windsurfing and traditional architecture, Brac is also famous as the source of the gleaming white stone that built America’s White House and the Roman Emperor Diocletian’s Palace in Split, housing the heads of two great powers. But if you love to discover a location through its traditional cuisine, then a food, wine and olive oil tour of Brac island is a perfect introduction to this island gem.
Your first stop is Skrip, a 3,000-year-old village that is one of the most important historic and cultural spots on the island. Next is a tour of the museum of olive oil, a shrine to some of the best oils in Brac and the whole of Croatia. And after nibbles of olive pate tapenade, delicious salted anchovies, sun-dried figs and local cheese, its time for a traditional Brac lunch of grilled lamb on a stick, lamb liver pâté and other local dishes. It’s a simply beautiful island, and a perfect place to get off the beaten path in Croatia, as real life comes fully into focus.
4. Zagreb’s countryside
When Croatia declared independence in 1991, the historic city of Zagreb in the northeast corner of the country was proclaimed its capital. Today, 25 years later, Zagreb is not only the capital city but also the largest and the cultural, historic and economic hub of the country. And as more and more visitors discover the beauty and history of Zagreb, its scenic landscape is opening up to welcome foodies and wine lovers, too.
To enjoy all that Zagreb’s wineries have to offer, why not let our expert sommeliers walk you through the tastes of Zagreb’s countryside? Traveling through picture-perfect villages, surrounded by family farms and tranquil nature, you’ll stop at two or three vineyards (depending on your tour) to learn how the farmers turn sweet grapes into the nectar of the gods. From Chardonnay to Pinot Noir, Muscat to Blaufraenkish, Sauvignon to Zagreb’s very own Beaujolais, Portugizec, there’s something to please every palate. And as your sommelier explains the flavors and aromas assailing your tastebuds, you’re sure to remember this trip off the beaten path in Croatia for years to come.
5. Dalmatia’s underground – Modric Cave adventure
At over 2,700 feet long (840m) and 95 feet above sea level, the Modrič Cave near Zadar in northern Dalmatia remained hidden for millennia until potholers discovered it in the late 1980’s. In fact, exploring its constantly warm tunnels probably hasn’t changed much since the first caver slid, feet first, into the cavern so if you’re expecting steps, lifts, lights, paths or easy access, think again; this is an adventure for truly intrepid visitors, off the beaten path in Croatia.
Fortunately, donning overalls, hard hats and non-slip shoes keeps you safe and clean and opens up a subterranean world of stalagmites, stalactites and speleothems, in all their natural glory. And unlike other caves set up for mass tourism, you’ll have these tunnels all to yourselves and your small, select group so you can really enjoy the underground experience to its fullest, taking a couple of hours to explore, experience and enjoy. It’s a unique place and will create unique memories. Perfect!
Explore off the beaten path in Croatia
If you’re looking for real people, traditional local foods and a glass of quality local wine, then getting off the beaten path in Croatia is the perfect solution. From scenic villages to olive groves groaning with plump fruits, or from the historic city of Zagreb to the subterranean corridors of Modrič Cave, there are countless authentic experiences to be had. And they’ll all leave a lasting imprint on your memory that you can treasure long after the holiday is over. Leave us a comment telling us what makes the perfect vacation for you; in the meantime, we know we you’re going to love exploring the quieter, unknown side of the wonderful country of Croatia. Happy travels!