About Northern & Eastern Croatia
Inland, northern and eastern Croatia is "a landscape of dreams"; a truly picturesque area with natural wonders in abundance and, although it isn't far from the main tourist routes and only a short distance from the sea, it is much a quieter region for visitors. In this region there is such a variety of places to visit - these include the cities of Karlovac, Osijek and Varazdin and the natural wonders of the Kopani Rit Nature Park and Sava River valley, all of which can be integrated into one of our Tailor Made Holidays for Independent Travellers.
Whilst visiting Northern Croatia there are a number of interesting places to see, whether that is as a day trip from Zagreb or during a short stay in the lovely town of Varazdin. Our favourite places are the impressive castle at Veliki Tabor, set on a hilltop overlooking the Slovenian border, the German Romantic style castle and lake at Trakoscan, the Pauline Monastery at Lepoglava and, of course, Varazdin itself.
The city of Varaždin is greatly overlooked by many travellers to Croatia but it is the historic, cultural and touristic centre of its own county, the oldest in Croatia (1205) and is located at a crossroads of four historic regions - Styria, Zagorje, Međimurje and Podravina. Its location as the Northwest Gate of Croatia (aka "Little Vienna") provides an ideal place from which to explore the surrounding region of unspoilt nature, castles, museums, religious heritage, archaeological sites and vineyards. In the 18th century Varazdin became Croatia's capital for a time but a fire in 1776 ended this period of glory and the government returned to Zagreb (the story of the fire has its own legend, much the same way as that of the Great Fire of London).
Varazdin's Baroque architecture and castle (a bastion against the Turkish in the 16th century) provide a rich legacy which also includes many parks, located as it is on the picturesque southern bank of the River Drava. In the city there is so much to see, head to the main square, Trg Kralja Tomislava, where you will find the Draskovic Palace, Town Hall (look for the Purgari Guards with their bear-skin hats) and cathedral all within easy walking as well as many small shops and cafes amongst a plethora of colourful facades. North of the main square is the Stari Grad fortress, which is also home to the City Museum, a fantastic place with many towers and sections dating from as far back as the 13th century. The town is definitely an easy-going kind of place, thanks to its large student population and makes a good day trip from Zagreb or a relaxing place to stay in its own right.
Varazdin is also home to Spancirfest, one of the largest open air festivals in Croatia, which takes place over 10 days every August. There’s a mix of music, theatre performances, art workshops, street performers and more.
Today’s city of Karlovac developed from a mediaeval fortress built for defence from Turkish incursions into Central Europe. The central part of the old town is built on top of the fortress remnants, shaped as a six-pointed star, once surrounded by strong walls and deep moats. From its inception, Karlovac has been one of the biggest junctions in Croatia due to its exceptionally favourable geographical position in the western part of Croatia, as well as the confluence of river valleys of Kupa, Korana, Mrežnica and Dobra. Karlovac is also well-known for its spa treatments and for activities such as mushroom foraging and rafting.
Also worth a visit in this region are Samobor, a pleasant small town famous for its cream cake and Sisak, on the Sava river, now most famous for its urban murals.
The capital of Slavonia and the largest city east of Zagreb, facing Serbia. The city itself is split in two - Gornji Grad (upper town) and Donji Grad (lower town). Always a border settlement, it came under heavy bombardment in the Wars of Independence in the 1990s and sections are still being restored to this day. The fortified centre is called "Tvrda" and what is left of the fortifications encircle some delightful Baroque buildings. 19th century Osijek is tree-lined and its avenues are home to many cafes and shops.
Đakovo is an Eastern Croatian town rich in history and culture; its old centre is filled with sights and monuments, such as the Cathedral. The world famous Đakovo’s stud farm of Lippizaner horses was founded by bishops from Đakovo in the 14th century; today the farm has over 220 horses, mostly thoroughbred Lippizaner bred for competitions but also suitable for training and riding.
Kopacki Rit Nature Park is located in the very east of Croatia, close to the border with Serbia, this park covers a wetland area (one of the largest in Europe) where the Danube and Drava rivers meet. The park is home to a large deer population and numerous bird species so it is a birdwatcher’s paradise. Bikes are also available to rent at the park if you’d like to explore further.
Ilok is the easternmost town of Croatia, beside the River Danube, boasting a long and rich list of cultural sights and attractions but wine making is the most famous feature of this city and the Ilok cellars, on the famous wine route, will amaze you with its diverse premium wines.
Vukovar is where you will find the Vučedol culture museum and the Baroque castle Eltz Manor which houses the Museum of Vukovar. Why not take a tour along the Danube on the panoramic waterbus to see for yourself. Vukovar’s history is though forever marked by the catastrophic events of the Croatian War of Independence. The memorial cemetery of the victims of Homeland War and mass grave in Ovčara serve as a memory of all the victims and their sacrifices.
Where to stay
The Hotel Korana, the most beautiful in Karlovac, was built in 1908 on the banks of the River Korana, in the heart of the most beautiful park in Croatia.
The Hotel Trakoscan lies 40 kms west of Varazdin on the border with Slovenia and is surrounded by a forest & mountains.
The Hotel Waldinger is in the centre of the city, just 100 m from the main city square and the famous Osijek Promenade.
The hotel "Istra", originally built in 1911, enjoys a prestigious location in the centre of town surrounded by baroque palaces.
The Varazdin Hotel is near the railway station and the town centre is a short walk away. Designed to blend in with the local Baroque architecture this modest hotel offers great value in Varazdin.