If you’ve seen the icons of Europe, and are looking for a quieter, more affordable country to explore, Croatia and Slovenia should be next on your list. These two countries offer the full package for blissful travel: great scenery, good food, interesting history and welcoming people.
We asked our Travel Directors to tell us why these countries are so underrated, and to give insider tips for finding unexpected delights in Croatia and Slovenia.
Head inland on Croatia’s postcard perfect islands
Croatia’s islands boast some of the most beautiful coasts in Europe, with picturesque beaches and a number of small but charming fishing villages. In the summer, these islands attract many visitors, with luxury yachts filling many of the main harbours.
Yet these islands still manage to keep their unique local charm, with medieval villages and rustic farmland to explore.
“Guests can learn for themselves the reason Hvar island is one of the most beautiful islands in the world. With lavender plantations, vineyards and half-abandoned stone villages clinging to its steep central ridge, Hvar Town is one of the Adriatic’s best-preserved towns.” – Jasmina
In the eco-village of Humac, there is no running water or electricity, yet the local farmers are still able to cook delicious locally-sourced meals in a truly unique dining experience.
“In Croatia, we enjoy an amazing lunch in Humac village on Hvar island, where guests sit on the terrace of a medieval stone house that’s surrounded by vineyards and olive groves. Our hosts use local cooking techniques for octopus, lamb and veal, while everything is accompanied by a regional red wine.” – Gasper
Roam Croatia’s medieval walled cities
The walled cities of Dubrovnik, Split and Ston emanate a unique medieval charm.
Most famous, are the old city walls of Dubrovnik, made famous in both literature and film. Wander the old city walls, to learn about the medieval history of the region and enjoy the sea views. In the late afternoon, you can head to Buza Bar, carved into the city’s cliff edges, for a drink at sunset, before a fresh seafood dinner.
“In Dubrovnik, we dine in the Old Port surrounded by the ancient Dubrovnik city walls. We enjoy freshly caught fish and enjoy the wines that were cultivated here over 2,000 years ago.” – Jasmina
Visit Opatija and Plitvice Lakes in Northern Croatia
Whilst many Europeans head straight to the Croatian islands for their sunshine fix, the northern parts of Croatia have some beautiful locations to visit.
The Plitvice Lakes National Park is a wonderland of green lakes and waterfalls, with UNESCO World Heritage status. The sixteen lakes are interconnected by mini waterfalls, where visitors can walk across decked walkways and hiking trails.
On the northern Adriatic coast, sits the pretty seaside town of Opatija.
“Opatija was the finest sea resort in the Habsburg Empire and you can feel the spirit of the fin de siècle to this day. Walk along the 19th Century promenade, which spans 12 kilometres along the sea, enjoying the peaceful sound of the waves and admiring the stylish villas and cafes along the way.” – Sasha
Go Truffle tasting in Rovinj, Northern Croatia
Northern Croatia offers a completely different experience from the Mediterranean vibes of the Dalmatian islands. In the city of Rovinj, experience the unique flavours of Istrian white truffles, considered by gourmets and culinary connoisseurs as some of the most renowned in the world.
Soak up the scenery of Slovenia
Dramatic mountains, serene lakes, mysterious castles and leafy green cities; Slovenia is effortlessly photogenic. With plenty of cultural charm and outdoor pursuits, but more affordable than its neighbours, Slovenia could easily be your unexpected highlight of Europe.
“Slovenia is a highly underrated country – affordable, great scenery and not too over-crowded” – Michael
Discover the magic of Lake Bled in Slovenia
“Slovenia is one of the most beautiful but also one of the most underrated countries in Europe, and Lake Bled is the jewel in the crown. Crystal clear emerald green water, ringed by mountains and a medieval castle towering over the lake right across from our hotel – what’s not to love?” – Dean
Whether you want to hike on of the many trails, take a boat out on the water or explore the pretty lakeside villages and marinas, Lake Bled is a joy to explore in summer or winter.
“Enjoy an sunset stroll around Lake Bled and then reward yourself with coffee and Cake at Smon (The Brown Bear), the best in Bled.” – Craig
With both natural beauty and cultural significance, Lake Bled is one of Slovenia’s most fascinating locations.
“In Lake Bled, we have a great legend about a bell that was sent by a rich widow to the island’s church after her husband was murdered. Because of a storm, the bell fell from the boat and still lies on the bottom of the lake. I advise our guests to open the windows in the morning and try to hear the famous bell ringing from the bottom of the lake!” – Gasper
Sweet treats and culinary delights
Slovenian food inherits flavours and styles from it’s neighbouring countries of Italy, Hungary and the Balkans. The capital of Ljubljana is a foodie destination in its own right, with a growing trend of brunch spots and high class restaurants, all using the finest and freshest ingredients.
“Try the honey bread hearts of Slovenia and Croatia. The tradition of honey bread hearts goes back for centuries and was a popular gift from a boy to a girl. These hearts are red and beautifully ornamented and can be flavoured with honey or ginger.” – Jasmina
Sometimes it’s the unexpected sights and lesser known experiences that provide the most joy. Have a moment that springs to mind from your Croatia or Slovenia trip? Let us know where you found your ‘off the beaten path’ pleasures in the comments below.
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