Beyond the Postcard: Uncovering Hidden Gems

It’s the possibility of discovery that tantalizes us into traveling and that’s exactly what’s on the menu in Slovenia and Croatia. Where ecotourism havens, as awe-inspiring as they are focused on sustainability, await you.

Slovenia’s Garden of Eden

Going off the beaten path will lead you to Eden, or actually, EDEN – European Destinations of Excellence: exceptional but as yet undiscovered places that foster sustainable tourism, of which Slovenia is home to nine.

The Solčava region is a prime example, a symphony of nature with its three impressive valleys. The Logar Valley shines brightest with its picture-perfect trail guiding you to the foothills of giant mountains. Along the way you’ll encounter rustic farms and homecooked meals.

Along the Sotla River and blending into neighboring Kozjansko Regional Park is Podčetrtek, where thermal waters, sprawling meadows and history come together. Here you’ll find castles and spaces alongside the eye-catching Olimje Monastery, home to Europe’s third-oldest apothecary.

The winegrowing hills of Brda, Slovenia’s Tuscany set between the Adriatic and the Alps, are home to a number of the world’s top 100 winemakers. Let the sweet romance of fine wine, pastoral villages and locally inspired dishes carry you away.

With 32% of the country covered in agricultural land, you can find gems of the vine along wine roads in every corner. From the Vipava Valley to the Pomurje Hills, Slovenia’s wine stories span the entire country.

Beer lovers can rejoice with a pint in Laško, a charming hamlet on the Savinja River that’s renowned for its brewing tradition. There’s more than just the tasty brews though, Laško’s medieval history of castles and monasteries is a nice prelude to the modern thermal spas it’s now famed for.

History, Wine and Everything Divine

As for Croatia, the coast gets the glory but the truth is, 90% of the country is rural.

But don’t confuse rural for boring, with nature parks, rolling vineyard hills and vibrant heritage, it’s anything but boring out in the country. Factor in cuisine on another level and you may never leave!

Perhaps no place brings this together better than Croatia’s first EDEN destination: Međimurje. An oasis for gourmets, wine fans and nature lovers, it’s also part of a UNESCO-protected biosphere.

On Croatia’s eastern border, you’ll find a trifecta of EDEN locales – Vukovar, Vučedol and Ilok.

Vukovar, with its charming Baroque city center, extends along the Danube. A historic city that suffered greatly during Croatia’s War of Independence, the EDEN recognition marks a new chapter.

A few kilometers away is the Vučedol Culture Museum. An impressive building dug straight into a mound, the exhibits highlight the contributions of a civilization dating back to 3,000 BC.

Ilok is known for its outstanding wines and there’s no better place to enjoy them than beside a 15th-century castle atop the city’s hill, providing commanding views of the Pannonian Plain below.

In Lika, follow the quaint cascades and small rapids of the Slunjčica River to the watermill village of Rastoke, one of Croatia’s most beautiful. Or visit Gospić, situated on the pristine Lika River with the Velebit mountains hanging in the background.

When visiting Dubrovnik, a day trip to Konavle is essential. A place where wild nature, cliff-lined beaches and cultural heritage blend perfectly.

Expect the Unexpected

When planning your vacation, leave some free days to get off the beaten path and away from the crowds. As a bonus, the rural parts of Slovenia and Croatia are home to the most welcoming folks; you won’t go hungry, thirsty or without a good story in the countryside.

Things to consider before traveling

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Some tips to consider while traveling

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