The wonders of continental Croatia

A field of hay stacks under a stormy sky taken from a moving car

“You know, I’ll tell you honestly: if you like food and you haven’t come here to eat, you’re really missing the fucking boat. This is world-class food; this is world-class wine; this is world-class cheese. The next big thing is Croatia. If you haven’t been here, you’re a fucking idiot. I’m an idiot.”

Anthony Bourdain, World Travel: An Irreverent Guide

Last month some big news were announced on the UK – Croatia air travel front; Ryanair is opening a new route connecting London Stansted to Zagreb, the capital of Croatia. This is great news for us as my family lives an hour away from the Zagreb airport. Basically, with this route we could easily go visit my family for a longer weekend!

Does this make any difference to the average tourist? Of course it does!

This route will not be a seasonal route flying only in the summer months. This route should be year round making it easier to get to Croatia outside of the main tourist season. It also opens the door to exploring the continental part of the country which is so often overlooked.

What is there to see away from the coast?

First of all, there is Zagreb, the capital of the country and probably the most visited place not on the coast. It might not be as big as some other metropolises out there but it definitely doesn’t lack in terms of things to do and see.

There is something going on any time of year you visit, be it summer events like Ljeto na Strossu and Art Park, be it film festivals, or maybe you’d like to visit during the Christmas Market, one of the best in Europe. There are also plenty of museums to go around and peak anyone’s interest. And let’s not forget loads of history and culture all over the city.

Moving out of the capital, there are many more places to visit.

Nearby Krapina holds the Neanderthal museum telling you the story of the Neanderthals that lived in this area of Europe.

You could go to Varaždin and enjoy Špancirfest, a street festival that turns the town centre into a big stage. Or you could go to Koprivnica and watch a real knight’s tale play out before your eyes at the Renaissance festival. Both of these are held at the end of August.

You can visit Bjelovar, a town founded by the Austro-Hungarian empress Maria Theresa back in 1756 (my home town). Bjelovar hosts DokuArt (documentary film festival) and BOK Fest (a famous theatre festival).

If Bjelovar is not your cup of tea, you can go further along east and stop in Đurđevac that hides its own desert! It even has camels!

Going into Slavonija you have Đakovo where you can enjoy Đakovački vezovi, the biggest traditional festival in Croatia. You’ll be able to see people wearing traditional clothes of Slavonija and surrounding areas, see some traditional dances and admire gorgeous horses strutting around.

Or you can visit the only town in Europe which has been continuously inhabited for 8300 years, Vinkovci.

How gorgeous are this boy and his Lipizzan horse!

Did you know there is a world famous haras close to Đakovo, in Ivandvor? Queen Elizabeth II herself visited it in 1972 and was completely taken by the beauty of the horses.

But there is more!

If you are more into nature, the continent will not disappoint. Medvednica is guarding over Zagreb. Another gorgeous nature park called Žumberak is right next to the town of Samobor, where you can taste one of the best cremeschnitte (custard slices).

If you’re into stargazing then the best place for you is Vrani Kamen or Petrova Gora, both International Dark Sky Parks and both in the continental part of Croatia!

You might not know this, but Croatia has its own stork village, Čigoč (please send pronunciation attempts into the comment section :D). It is in the middle of Lonja field, the largest protected wetland in the Danube basin.

Other nature parks in this part of the country include Kopački Rit, one of the most important, largest and most preserved and intact wetlands in Europe, and Papuk, a part of European and UNESCO Geopark Networks.

So you see, there is more to Croatia than just the gorgeous coast with clear sea and old Roman ruins. There is a whole plethora of nature, festivals and culutre to explore away from the coast and away from the swarms of tourists. All you have to do is look…

View from Bilogora

Have you visited any places in Croatia that were not Zagreb or on the coast? Do you like travelling “off the beaten path”? Let us know below in the comment section!

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