When thinking of Croatia, images of beautiful beaches lapped by crystal-clear sea immediately spring to mind, but central Croatia and Slavonia, two regions often overlooked by tourists, hide attractions and places not to be missed.
The landscape of the two regions is varied, with vast plains cultivated with wheat, corn and beets, stretching between gentle hills and rugged karst rocky areas.
Alongside major cities such as the exciting Croatian capital Zagreb, you can visit ancient villages, forests, castles, thermal spas: no matter what kind of holiday you want to take, there is always a reason to visit the inland regions!
Splendid walks in the midst of lush nature await you at Plitvice National Park, modern art galleries and cultural events in beautiful Zagreb, lively nightlife in the university town of Osijek, historic thermal pools in Bizovačke Toplice and stunning examples of Baroque and medieval architecture in Karlovac.
Central Croatia and Slavonia are the only two Croatian regions that are not washed by the sea. Looking at the map of Croatia, they almost seem to be a separate entity, all shifted to the north-east.
These two regions are in fact the northernmost and easternmost in the country, bordering Slovenia and Hungary to the north, Serbia to the east and Bosnia to the south.
Central Croatia also geographically includes the Zagreb region, which from an administrative point of view is a separate region.
Start your itinerary in the Croatian hinterland from Zagreb, a modern capital full of museums, art galleries and events that has nevertheless retained an old European charm, with magnificent palaces, churches and historical monuments.
Zagreb is also perfect as a holiday destination in its own right, perhaps for a weekend city break, and can be visited throughout the year.
In spring and summer, you can relax in its beautiful parks; winter seems less inviting because the temperatures are a little cold, but if you come in December, you can warm yourself up with the magical atmosphere of the Christmas market, which, although still little known to tourists, is considered one of the most beautiful in Europe.Read more
Open all year round, the Plitvice Park, with its emerald lakes and rushing waterfalls, is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Croatia.
It is a karst phenomenon that created the waterfalls in this spectacular park, where you will find yourself surrounded by lush nature, forests, gorges, caves, cliffs and a riot of waterways including rivers, streams, lakes and waterfalls.
You can spend a few hours or a whole day strolling along the wooden footbridges, which stretch for no less than 18 kilometres, creating picturesque and entertaining routes that pass under, over and through waterfalls.Read more
The town of Karlovac is generally remembered for its unique location at the confluence of four rivers and an old town centre in the unusual shape of a six-pointed star, with streets lined with Baroque buildings.
The town’s oldest monument is the medieval Dubovac Castle, which dominates the town from a hill above the Kupa River, but Karlovac is more famous for its most important event: Croatia’s largest beer festival is held here.Read more
Situated along the southern bank of the Drava River, Osijek is a charming city with a pretty riverfront and an imposing 18th century fortress perched atop a hill.
Being a university town, it is quite lively in the evenings, with young people gathering in the many small bars along the river and continuing the evening in the clubs, where you can dance into the night.
It is also worth visiting Osijek to taste the typical dish, riblji paprikas, a spicy fish stew flavoured with a variety of local paprika.Read more
Birdwatchers will be enchanted by this park inhabited by storks and horses as well as rich in monuments related to the history of the former Yugoslavia.
It is a marshy expanse in the Posavina region, a huge reservoir rich in flora and fauna. The village of Cigoc is a meeting point for storks: here, these delicate birds nest on wooden houses and stay until the end of August, before migrating to the warmth.
The nearby village of Krapje is an architectural treasure: with its traditional wooden cottages, it is an enchantment. You can admire picturesque dwellings with covered outdoor staircases, porches, columns, courtyards with barns, drying huts, pigsties and chicken coops in a curious leap back in time. You can also see pasavki horses, a special breed that graze in the middle of oak forests.
In the village of Jasenovac, on the other hand, you can see a World War II concentration camp, the scene of the extermination of nearly 1 million Serbs, Jews, gypsies and political opponents. Don’t miss the Memorial Museum.
The availability of hotels and B&Bs varies greatly in the different locations in Central Croatia and Slavonia. In the more touristy areas you will have a wide choice of accommodation, while it is more scarce in towns and villages still untouched by mass tourism.
Rooms with private individuals are a real tradition in Croatia and represent an excellent compromise between price and comfort.
If you want to visit the Plitvice park, you can stay in one of the numerous hotels and rooms for rent around the park. Zagreb also has a good range of accommodation on offer, with solutions to suit all budgets: from luxury hotels to hostels, passing through mid-range hotels and inexpensive bed & breakfasts.
Expect less choice in places such as Osijek and Karlova, although the situation has improved considerably in recent years.
Some of the most important spa and thermal hotels in Croatia are concentrated in these two regions.
Some places in Central Croatia and Slavonia, such as the tourist resorts of Zagreb and Plitvice, are easy to reach by car because they are well connected by motorways or national roads.
These two locations can also be reached by bus from all major Croatian cities and are the destination of numerous organised day tours departing from the main tourist resorts. Rail connections are more scarce.
The situation is different for the smaller resorts: if you want to visit them, you need a car or rent one.