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Off-the-beaten-track destinations are fast becoming the first choice of holidaymakers and globe-trotters. Located in the Balkans, Croatia, a land in the shape of a backwards comma, is a melting pot of cultures and historical periods. It is the finest destination for an off-the-radar exploration experience in the remotest corners of the country. Looking for some suggestions? Here are our picks of the best-hidden treasures of Croatia!
Croatia is becoming a fully integrated member of the European Union in 2023. In 2013 Croatia became part of the EU, but not completely. Financially the country needed to get all of its ducks in a row. Now, travelers will not need to exchange their money for the old Croatian currency of kuna and will be able to use euros.
Renowned for the upbeat sword dance, the island of Korčula takes you one step closer to the rich Croatian culture and heritage. Beckoning tourists with the perfect old town feel, the island is a versatile destination catering to the demands of every visitor. Speckled with exquisite beaches, magnificent medieval structures, quaint villages, cozy dining spots, and a transportation system that basically runs on water, the island can’t get any more tempting. So, if you’re wondering what makes us call Korčula versatile, then you have to explore it for yourself! Prepare for the summer months to attend the Korčula Sword Dance Festival.
Konoba Mate – Restaurant in the Village of Pupnat, on the island of Korčula
(Konoba = Tavern)
The Konoba Mate is not a place where you will encounter a crowd, rather just an aromatic ambiance with a blend of organic produce and a splash of local flavors. This is the real deal. Everything from pastas and cheese to pastry and liquor is house made using local produce. Sitting on their lovely veranda under the arbor is a perfect setting for a meal. Here, they are always experimenting with food and plating the most innovative forms of delicacies. If you’re ready to give your taste buds a treat with conventional specialties presented with a twist and an old-school touch, we suggest you dine here! They are open May 15th through October 15th, but please check dates and times before going.
Lastovo is another island stop in the Adriatic Sea. It’s only recently that Lastovo has become a favorite European and Croatian destination amongst vacationers. Nevertheless, it was high time and this newfound popularity was well-deserved. Owing to its geographical location and serving as an army base under Yugoslavia, Lastovo Island has previously been in the back of beyond.
With modern technology, the internet is revealing this hidden gem to the world. Blessed with lush vegetation, immaculate waters, and the cleanest bays, it’s an unspoiled area left to be discovered and enjoyed.
Fruska Gora mountain in eastern Croatia harbors a captivating little town, which the Romans regarded as delicium mundi or “the delight of the world”. This little town called Ilok is a potpourri of culture, culinary and contemporary, where travelers can be assured of something to look up to! Be it historic sites like remnants of Roman fort Cuccium, the church of St. John of Capistrano, or ottoman turbe (tomb). The Turkish baths, dating back to the era of Suleiman, are a resplendent display of different historical periods and kingdoms.
But if that doesn’t satisfy your wanderlust, Ilok has more in store for you! You know what they say: the older the wine, the better it tastes. Well, Ilok’s ties with winemaking and vineyards of Syrmia are 2000 years old, so you better not be going home without sampling some of its pride and joy stored in 15th-century old cellars!
Graced with a landscape that reminds travelers of its Italian-Croatian hybrid past, Bale is unimaginably marvelous. Perched on a hill fringed with olive groves, vineyards, cobblestone streets, and a 15-century edifice, Bale casts an image that will forever be etched in your memory.
Moreover, the town brings along elegance and a vintage vibe kept alive with the production of local olive oil by the Bembo family, local wine at San Tomasso Winery and Meneghetti Winery at Bale, along with other hand-crafted souvenirs. With Italian influence in Istria from its historic past, which was under Venetian rule, enjoy the best of both worlds of Croatia and Italy.
The Church of St. Mary on Škriljinah
Another marvel studding the landscape of Istria is the Church of St. Mary on Škriljinah. Škriljinah means shale or St. Mary on rocks. This Gothic masterpiece features a portico, a bell gable, a wooden tabulate, and most importantly a depiction of the Dance of Death in its interiors. Sheltering the most popular Istrian fresco – the Dance of Death exhibited in the church is the most accomplished piece of art by Master Vincent from Kastav dating back to 1474. A must-see hidden gem, here’s wishing you an unrushed exploration, but hurry before people are in the know, and it no longer remains hidden!
Don’t let the tranquil pictures of Grožnjan fool you. This is another Istrian town that has grabbed international attention lately. Known as the village that the government saved by inviting artists and musicians to resettle there, Grožnjan is a major crowd-puller and an irresistible temptation for culture aficionados, art lovers, and history buffs. While winters slide the town into hibernation, Grožnjan knows how to make up for this loss. As summers begin to inject fun and frolic into the town, Grožnjan transforms into a jazz musical utopia to revive the spirits of weary travelers.
Adding variety are the beautiful sceneries, served along with piping hot meals at restaurants like Konoba Vela Vrata. By the way, do give the steak with truffles and pasta a try.
Built around the same time as the Roman Colosseum, the Arena of Pula is a classic amphitheater and an edifice constructed under the rule of Emperor Vespasian. It was a famous spot to witness gladiator fights and had a seating capacity of 20,000 spectators. It is a designated venue for Pula Film Festival, concerts, opera, and ballets. Also, weekly gladiator fights named “Spectacvla Antiqva” are held to keep the tradition alive. This majestic site is spectacular in itself but we suggest attending one of these performances for an authentic Croatian experience.
No matter how much we try, the list can never be complete as there is so much to see and explore in Croatia. Some other wonderful places to visit are the ethereal views from Motovun, the biodiversity of Plitvice National Park, or the holidaymaker’s favorites: Dubrovnik, Hvar, and Rovinj. The hidden treasures of Croatia await your discovery and the appreciation that they deserve.