Guest Post by Romeo Demes:
Croatia has firmly established itself as one of Europe’s premium tourist destinations. Its major attractions like Dubrovnik, Zagreb, Plitvice Lakes and Zadar have gained global tourist acclaim.
As a result, most visitors to Croatia travel to these attractions. However, these attractions are just the tip of the iceberg. Croatia has numerous jewels and hidden gems, many of which have been delighting curious adventurers for years.
If you are one of those who are willing to look beyond the standard travel brochures, then these hidden gems are the perfect destination for you. Some of the hidden gems are the following:
Galesnjak – The Island of Love
Popularly referred to as the “Lover’s Island”, Galesnjak is quietly emerging as one of Croatia’s top romantic destinations. This is because it is the most heart-shaped island in the world. This fact was first brought to the attention of the world by Google Earth images in 2009.
The island has since become popular stopover for couples on a romantic holiday. Therefore, if you are travelling with your better half, you may want to drop by there.
The island itself is small, uninhabited and mostly covered with trees and shrubs. It is surrounded by pristine waters of the Pasman channel, and has a few pebble beaches. The majority of the island is wild and untamed. You can have a picnic, enjoy a quiet romantic time or even camp through the night. Most people who visit the island set base at Pasman Island or in the historic town of Zadar.
Varazdin – Croatia’s Vienna
Popularly referred to as “Croatia’s Vienna”, Varazdin is one of the most well preserved towns in Croatia.
Its rich history which stretched back to 1181 is so evident that the town has been described as “a history book come alive.”
Its Central European Baroque town is a trip back into the classical Baroque era. The buildings are preserved in all their color, artistry and glory.
The popular ones include:
- The medieval fortress of Stari Grad
- The Semage Palace
- Herzer Palace
- Varazdin Castle (photo on right)
There are also several centuries-old cathedrals, residences, villas and mansions. The town also contains a cobbled town square, numerous galleries, cafes and monuments.
Varazdin has a laidback, quiet atmosphere which gives it serene, almost magical aura. It is the perfect destination for those who desire an intimate experience of Croatia’s rich cultural heritage.
Senj – The Nehaj Fortress
Senj is a resort town with a rich history stretching back over 3000 years. It is located in the idyllic Velebit channel at the foothills of the Mala Kapela and Velebit mountains.
Senj is a historical treasure-trove with a wealth of architecture, monuments and records. It most famous icon is the Nehaj Fortress which was built in 1558.
Perched upon the Nehaj hill in the heart of town, the fortress offers magnificent views of the town. It also offers a glimpse into the city’s rich architectural heritage.
Other popular attractions are the gothic town hall (with its 14th Century loggia), the 18th Century Carina Palace and the town museum which contains all its ancient records.
The town also boasts of numerous pristine beaches with white sands, crystal clear water and a relaxed leisurely feel.
There are opportunities for swimming, diving, mountaineering, cycling, camping and other adventures.
Senj also has close proximity to the National Park Northern Velebit and Velebit Nature Park, two places to enjoy pure unspoiled nature. The town is also close to tourist destinations like Opatija, Rijeka and Plitvice Lakes National Park.
Sipan – The Gothic Rector’s Palace
The largest of the Elafiti Islands, Sipan is located 17 km to the North West of Dubrovnik. This island boasts of idyllic beaches, magnificent landscapes and a rather unique historical tradition.
In the 15th century, the island was the top summer getaway for Dubrovnik’s royalty. As such, numerous villas, palaces and castles were built on the island.
Most of these are now in ruins, but some like the late Gothic Rector’s Palace are still standing. There are also numerous medieval churches, towers and fortifications which can be viewed near the island’s major towns of Sundurad and Sipanska Luka. Visiting the island can offer one an incomparable glimpse into Croatia’s rich architectural heritage.
Sipan is also renowned for its beautiful environs. The island boasts of picturesque beaches, colorful plants and endless swathes of citrus trees, olive groves, fig trees and vine yards.
The island has a rich culinary and wine tradition. Sipan is renowned for its sumptuous sea delicacies, especially the iconic Lopud Prodet. You can enjoy this delicacy at any of the numerous food cafes in Sundurad and Sipanska Luka. You can also enjoy adventures like scuba diving, snorkeling, trekking and wine tasting.
In a nutshell, those are 4 hidden gems which can unveil to you a part of Eastern Europe's Croatia which most tourists never see.
Traveling to each of these destinations is quite easy. To visit Varazdin, you simply take a bus or taxi from the Croatian capital Zagreb. The remaining destinations can best be visited by via water.
Although numerous companies organize cruises, such cruises only go to popular locations like Zadar, Split and Mljet. Therefore, the best way to visit these places is to hire a boat and go exploring. There are numerous charters in Croatia which offer boat rent services at attractive rates. You can use such services to get yourself a boat and go exploring in Croatia’s hidden gems.
This guest post was contributed by Romeo Demes, a passionate writer and blogger who was born in the beautiful Croatia. He is currently living and working in Australia, but he travels home to Croatia every summer to spend time with family and friends.