There are an increasing number of foreign travel writers and journalists visiting Croatia, but few venture further than the sexy coastal hotspots of Istria and Dalmatia. One notable exeption is Emmy Award winner Ashley Colburn, who is getting to know Croatia better than many locals. Here are her top 5 spots in Croatia away from the coast.
Croatia’s variety of landscape allows travelers to visit time and time again, each time discovering something new. After 18 trips to Croatia in the past 6 years, I still have places to explore, but a few of my favorites are off the typical tourist path and can be found in continental Croatia. The feeling is different when you take a boat ride and encounter wildlife in Kopački Rit Nature Park verses diving into the crystal clear Adriatic. While the sun and sea will always be attractive to foreigners in the summer heat, I feel continental Croatia has something to offer year round. Below I listed some of my favorite attractions that aren’t on the sea; yet bring me so much joy to visit!
Otočac, Gacka River – The sea is clean, beautiful and salty and one of the best in the world. However, for those who aren’t as close to the Adriatic may want to consider a visit to the Gacka River. Flowing through the region of Lika, this is a great stopping point if you are traveling to or from the iconic Plitvice Lakes. The price is much cheaper than a seaside hotel and the beauty you can explore during your stay will make you wonder why you got such a great deal! I have taken my whole family here and my brother enjoyed fly-fishing lessons, while we have also taken canoes down this beautiful river. In my last article I spoke about how I love that Croatia is still not too commercialized and this is a region where you can still feel like a local. Spend a day or two along the river and go for long walks, visit the mills, go fishing, eat trout and bring a great book to sit outside and enjoy the sounds of nature.
Čakovec – Zagreb is a bustling city for Croatia standards, which I love and adore. Just an hour away is a great town from the capital that not only tourists should visit, but locals as well. I love to go to Medjimurje County and explore Čakovec and its surroundings. Čakovec is a green city and has received many awards for being the cleanest city in Croatia. A stroll through Zrinski Park is a must and a visit to the castle. Not far from the city you can visit the fairytale castle of Trakošćan, which sits up on the hill overlooking a small lake. The tradition is rich, the white wine is tasty and the rolling green hills and windy roads are something special so make sure the camera is ready.
Osijek– Slavonia might seem far away, but it has so much to offer those willing to make the trek (and its really not that far). I feel I need to return to the region as it takes up most of the country and feeds the country. While wineries can be found throughout the region, Osijek is a beer city specializing in Osječko Pivo. With the Drava and Danube rivers flowing through, its location is close to other landmarks such as the Lipizzaner Horse Farm in Djakovo, Kopački Rit Nature Park, wine roads and more. I also love the hospitality in the region where you can go see typical homes, life as a farmer and of course eat the kulen and taste the homemade rakija.
Oprtalj– One day I hope to own a house in Croatia and I think I want it to be in Oprtalj. Almost feeling abandoned, this charming and quaint hilltop town in the north of the Istrian Peninsula. The colorful buildings, cobblestone streets and mystic feeling are what draw me back every time I visit Istria. Surrounded by beautiful forests full of truffles, olive trees and some of my favorite wine makers, it’s paradise! The best part of Istria is within 40 minutes; you can easily travel to the other side of the region making everything very convenient and accessible.
Kastav– A lot of places in Croatia have wonderful views, but in Kastav I found one of the best views overlooking Kvarner Bay. This hilltop village might not seem like much from afar, but once you are inside the old town you will see you have so much to explore. Each year Kastav holds one of the largest Carnival celebrations and it comes alive for locals and visitors. Throughout the old town are great ateliers and ruins, which create an old world charm. Behind the city are trails where I enjoy running in nature, walking and taking in the scenery. When it comes to food, you can enjoy the views while feasting on Kvarner scampi (some of the best in the world) and wild asparagus.
To find out more of my favorites, you can visit my website, www.ashleycolburnproductions.com and follow me on Instagram Ashley_colburn