feel like fresh breeze
Spring in Croatia and Slovenia
Spring seems to bring with it something bright and cheerful that can be felt in the air. Longer days, nice weather, open cafes on whose terraces people enjoy coffee in pleasant company. This is spring in Croatia: time for great gastronomic events that promote local cuisine and autochthonous wines, time for hiking through nature, and adrenaline tours that make your heart rush. Spring is also the beginning of a new swimming season for many swimmers. Sound interesting? Join us through text and find out what are the great parts of traveling in spring.
Telascica Nature parkImagine that there is an island with a huge lake, surrounded by mountains in the middle of the sea. Sounds amazing? This is what the southeastern part of the island Dugi Otok looks like. It is the home of the salt lake Mir, a geomorphological phenomenon situated between the open sea and the bay called Telascica. Telascica Nature Park is the largest Adriatic bay that offers its visitors many activities: from cycling and trekking to autonomous diving and recreational fishing. Flora and fauna of the mainland and submarine consist of hundreds of species, which means that you might see a flock of dolphins or a gray eagle flying above.
Blue LakeThe Blue Lake is an impressive karst lake situated along the edges of the town of Imotski. Thanks to its clear blue color, diameter of 800 meters, and average depth of about 90 meters, it is considered to be one of the most beautiful lakes in Croatia. Above the lake, there is a viewpoint offering a nicely built path that will lead you to the surface of the water in just a few minutes. The water level in Blue Lake fluctuates during the year, so it may dry out completely. When that happens, a unique traditional football match is played on the bottom of the lake between the home teams named Werewolves and Elves. Sometimes they have to wait a few years for this match, and when it finally happens, winning is not important. What matters is having good fun along with eating the local specialties.
Bled and BohinjThese two lakes are true gems of the Slovenian Alps and are a great choice for a daily trip. Situated only 22 kilometers from each other, the closer one to reach from Zagreb is Bled. Clearwater, emerald color, and green landscape –Bled’s scenery is just like a fairy tale. In the middle of the lake, there is a small island that you can reach by boat. When you arrive, it is obligatory to visit the Church and ring the bell for your wish to come true. On the hill above the lake, there is a fortress with a fantastic view. While you are here, be sure to try the famous Bled kremsnite (cream puff cake). Compared to Bled, Bohinj offers slightly fewer tourist attractions and more adventurous trails. If you are in good shape and like hiking, besides Lake Bohinj, be sure to visit the source of the Sava River – the longest river in Croatia formed by the confluence of two rivers, one of which flows out from Lake Bohinj. The waterfall at its source, the lavish green surrounding, and the peacefulness of nature are worth a visit.
Spring manifestations and festivals
Zadar county flower festivalSpring is the time when all of nature awakes, and there is no better way to chase away the winter blues than celebrate the cheerful colors of newly bloomed flowers. In Sveti Filip and Jakov, a small coastal town situated 25 kilometers south of Zadar, the Flower Festival is held every year at the end of April. The festival project was launched several years ago after this picturesque town was declared to be the best-kept place in Zadar County. Today Sveti Filip and Jakov is known as the flower oasis of the entire county. The event takes place in the center of the town, gathering a large number of exhibitors and flower growers from Croatia and abroad. During the three days of the festival, exhibitors present flower seedlings, souvenirs, and other products, while visitors have the opportunity to participate in lectures, arranger competitions, and exhibition shows. Youngest visitors can enjoy the children’s program through creative workshops and scenic parts. The festival also includes presentations of the old customs and eco-education to aware the visitors of the importance of heritage preservation through environmental protection. It is estimated that this flower-tourism festival is visited by over 20,000 visitors.
Easter weekend Hvar – za krizenThe period of Holy Week before Easter is a very solemn time for the residents of the island of Hvar. On the night of Maundy Thursday, they organize popular devotion, a procession called Za križem (following the cross). The procession is held at night in a circle of six places on the island, covering a total range of 25 kilometers. The central figure of the procession is a crusader, who barefoot, without any rest, carries a cross weighing 14 kilograms. Crusader is accompanied by family and friends wearing fraternal tunics and holding lanterns and torches. Along with the crusader and the accompaniment, there are also Kantaduri, singers of Gospin plač (Our Lady’s Lament). This ancient tune is the central song of the procession, and it is an interpretation of a medieval passion text. Although the tune itself is incomprehensible to many, its archaic sound with prayers under cover of the night gives an atmosphere full of mysticism that emphasizes the whole event. Prosession Za Krizen is part of UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. There is a story that this 500-year-old tradition began after a miraculous event in 1510. In that year, the commoners started to plan a rebellion against the Hvar nobles. On the eve of the unrest, the cross on the wall of the house where the conspiracy was prepared started to bleed. People of Hvar saw this event as God’s warning, so they started with penitential processions, which were attended by locals from all over the island. The cross which bled is called the crucifix of the Holy Cross, and it is kept in St. Stephens Cathedral in Hvar. During the centuries, there were many obstacles for the people of Hvar. In the difficult years of World War II, the procession was even held off the island, in exile, but the tradition was never stopped. In this way, it symbolically shows the strength, strong will, and hope for a better tomorrow of all the people who attend it, being a viable part of Hvar’s cultural and religious identity.
Spring break parties – Zrce beachZrce beach on the Croatian island of Pag is one of the most beloved party destinations in the world. Over the years, it has hosted the most prominent electro-dance music DJs, and according to the DJ MAG Top 100 club list, it has four of the best clubs in the world. Hosting numerous events and festivals in recent years, Zrce has also become one of the largest spring break party destinations in Europe. If you like to party until the early morning hours, there is an opportunity already in May with four days of Big Beach Spring Break. Another four days spring party is Zrce spring break in June. Party-friendly line-ups with international DJs, warm-up parties, and boat parties are just part of the offered program. With students coming to celebrate from all around the world, these open-air parties sound like a place to be.
Food & wine
Open Wine Cellars Day in IstriaThis is a long-awaited happening in which, for one day, more than 70 winemakers all over Istria open the doors of their cellars and wineries to visitors from all around. The event takes place every last Sunday in May, and it is a great opportunity to visit some of the top-notch cellars, and learn more about local wines like Teran, Istrian Malvasia, and the Momjan Muscat, straight from the owner. All visitors can also buy wine, bringing home a nice souvenir. The only mandatory for this day is a prior notice of arrival, as all the guests need to have a confirmed reservation.
Vinistra, PorecThe Open Wine Cellars Day is an overture to Vinistra, an international exhibition of wine and wine equipment traditionally held in Poreč. This is a great opportunity for all winemakers and winegrowers to present the results of their year-round work, promote wine culture, and increase the quality of Istrian wines. The focus of the exhibition is on wine quality tasting, and in addition, Istrian olive oil and rakija (local schnapps) are evaluated as well. In the total duration of three days, all the visitors get to enjoy some of the finest wines, along with autochthonous products of the Istria village, such as olive oil, prosciutto, cheese, and honey. The accompanying gastronomic corner of the exhibition, Vinistra Gourmet, offers visitors the opportunity to taste various delicacies of renowned chefs. Uniting numerous wine exhibitors in one place, Vinistra is an absolute must-attending place for all who want to deepen their wine knowledge and enjoy an ethnic-gastro event.
Days of Asparagus & Cuttlefish in Labin and RabacThe spring menu is almost inconceivable without asparagus – a seasonal vegetable whose sprouts have a specific taste and are rich in nutritional value. As a key ingredient of local spring cuisine, asparagus is prepared in various ways: from mixing it with scrambled eggs to adding it to Istria dishes like fuži and pljukanci (homemade pasta). Along with asparagus, this is the time of year when the Adriatic cuttlefish is caught. Considered to be among one of the most delicious in the world, the traditional way of preparing cuttlefish awakes umami – the fifth taste in our mouth which stimulates appetite and provides food with that special something making the last bite as good as the first. In honor of this wonderful food, throughout the whole of April, nine restaurants in the small and picturesque Istria towns of Labin and Rabac are offering specially designed menus. Beefsteak in an asparagus sauce, risotto with cuttlefish, asparagus cream soup, or candied asparagus are just some of the gastro delicacies that visitors can enjoy.
Ston Oyster FestivalOysters are considered to be the ripest and most delicious in March, on St. Joseph’s Day. That is why every year, on this day, the 19th of March, Ston and Mali Ston host the Oyster Festival. Ston is a medieval town whose municipality includes as many as 19 settlements. Along with the Mali Ston, it is the first settlement on the Peljesac peninsula when coming from the mainland. Thanks to the specifics of Mali Ston Bay, oysters have been grown in this area since ancient times. Thanks to their quality, Ston oysters and other shellfish are grown in the Bay of Mali Ston is a trademark of this area recognized throughout Croatia. The Oyster Festival is a gastronomic event that offers its visitors the enjoyment of fresh oysters and dishes made from them. In addition to raw oysters, which are best sprinkled with lemon juice, the menu includes oyster soup and various ways of preparing this delicacy, such as breaded, baked, or fried oysters. As the Peljesac peninsula is an unavoidable wine destination, the whole festival is accompanied by good Peljesac wine and authentic Dalmatian songs.
Gastro – Festiwine DubrovnikFestwine Dubrovnik is a top gastro-wine event that holds a place at the end of April, bringing together winemakers, wine enthusiasts, and gourmands in search of gastronomic delicacies. The festival begins with “Dubrovnik Wine Week,” in which guests visit restaurants, taverns, and wine bars marked as “Wine Friendly” and taste high-quality wines with delicacies from the Dubrovnik region. The central event is a wine exhibition with interesting lectures on wine and wine tastings, as well as culinary workshops. In its beginnings, Festwine Dubrovnik started as a regional wine festival that wanted to promote wine cultures and indigenous varieties of Dubrovnik – Neretva County. Thanks to the great interest of the public, it quickly got an international meaning. It is less known how this festival has a humanitarian character through its special “Dubrovnik FestiWine Gala” – a gala dinner at which, along with the winning wines from last year’s festival, the young talented chefs presented their cuisine. The entire income is intended for scholarships for young talents in the field of culinary and sommelier.
Spring Island hoppingFor the Autumn Island hopping, we have suggested Split to Dubrovnik in one way. Now we have a new proposal, and that is the discovery of Kvarner islands: Krk, Cres, and Rab. They belong among the larger Kvarner islands, they are well connected, and because of historical sights and beautiful pebble beaches, they are popular tourist destinations. As there is no (not yet) ferry connection between the islands of Rab and Cres, the easiest way to reach all of the islands is to start from Rab, then travel by ferry to Krk and from Krk to Cres. If you think you’ve never heard about the small island of Rab or any of its inhabitants, you’re very likely wrong. Why? Because according to some sources, Saint Marin, the founder of the Republic of San Marino, was born in Rab. Connected to the coast via the navigation route Stinica (mainland) – Mišnjak (Rab), this is an island that represents a kind of imaginary border where the continental part of Croatia ends and the region of Dalmatia begins. This is also an island where people are still engaged in traditional jobs such as shipbuilding, fishing, and farming, while tourism has been organized since the days of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. One of the most beautiful places on the island of Rab is its eponymous capital. Its churches and noble palaces have witnessed the high cultural development of the city since the Middle Ages, making it full of historical attractions that visitors can explore. Rab is connected to the island of Krk via the ferry route Lopar – Valbiska. Thanks to its favorable climate, but also numerous water sources, Krk has been inhabited since prehistoric times. Around 1000 BC, the island was ruled by the Illyrians and then the Romans, whose remnants of rich culture and architecture have been preserved to this day, making Krk a very interesting and rich destination. What is also worth mentioning is that Krk has Mrgari – unique giant dry stone flowers that are very impressive, especially if you see them from the sky standing out on the rocky Krk. These stone flowers are flower-shaped dry stone multicellular sheepfolds. It is interesting that seven of them are still in active use, keeping them protected from neglect and abandonment. From Valbiska (Krk) ferry takes you to the port of Merag on the Cres – the largest Croatian island. With many endemic plants and various flora, it’s one of the richest Croatian islands. In addition to diverse flora, there is also rich fauna. Thus, Cres is home to endangered griffon vultures, making it a great destination for all nature lovers. The local population of this island has managed to maintain the authenticity of island life, reflecting it in keeping the customs, dances, and costumes, but also the archaic speech itself. In addition, a large number of residents are engaged in olive growing, sheep breeding, beekeeping, and fishing, which is why on Cres, you can taste and buy excellent local products.
Spring in Capitals
ZagrebThere is no better time of the year for visiting Zagreb than spring. This idyllic part of the year in Zagreb begins with the Festival of Light, during which many historical sites in the city are illuminated and thus become part of this light spectacle. As spring is a great time for being outside, Zrinjevac, Zagreb’s central park, is a place that is not to be missed. People here come to take a break and enjoy themselves overlooking the flourishing urban plantations and imposing historical buildings surrounding this green oasis. Near Zrinjevac is a Botanical garden filled with more than 10,000 different plants from all around the world. If you enjoy the greenery, another not-to-miss spot is Maksimir Park, the oldest one in the city of Zagreb. With many walking paths, it is a place that gathers walkers as well as sports enthusiasts. This park is also very popular among children as it is the home of Zagreb’s ZOO, where you can see many domestic and exotic animals.
LjubljanaAnother beautiful spring destination is the capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana. Ljubljana welcomes spring with the celebration of St. Gregory Day in March. This celebration holds a beautiful long-standing tradition of hand-making small lamp-lit boats and houses. On the eve of the day, the handicrafts are sent down the river. The custom has its origins in the sentence that St. Gregory tosses the lamp into the water, meaning that the days are getting longer, and there is no more need to work under candlelight which was so important for the workshops. With the arrival of beautiful days, Ljubljana’s lovely and small city core is perfect for a walking tour through its medieval streets. If you’re planning to take a walking tour, Preseren Square, Triple Bridge, the Dragon Bridge, Tivoli Park, and Ljubljana Castle are some of the sights which should find a place on your must-see list.
Active holidays in Croatia
RaftingIf you prefer active holidays, rafting in Croatia is a great exercise that combines physical activity with enjoying greenish scenery. One of the most popular destinations for this river adventure is Karlovac County. Also known as the city on four rivers: Dobra, Korana, Kupa, and Mrežnica, it has a lot of agencies that are specialized in offering all sorts of river activities such as rafting, kayaking, and canoeing. The most popular rafting destination in Dalmatia probably is the Cetina River near the city of Omis. Around 12 kilometers of the Cetina course takes the rafters through numerous rapids, making them actively paddle while the beautiful scenery of green forests and cliffs surrounds them.
KayakingKayaks are stable and easy to use, and they can offer the possibility of including the children’s seat along with two adult ones, making them a great family activity. The river Korana is not only great for rafting, but it is also interesting for kayakers, especially in early spring. Among the popular rides is the kayak safari, a trip that will allow you to get better acquainted with the beauties of its region. There are numerous ideas on how to use kayaks, and one of the cool ones is to explore the city you are visiting from the seaside. Yes, it is possible, and a tour like this can be found in the city of Split. The whole experience lasts around 4 hours and includes a line from the western side of the port up to the southern side of Split and Marjan Park Forest.
Horse ridingAdmirers of these noble animals have plenty of opportunities for horseback riding in Croatia. However, due to the specific environment of the protected Plitvice Lakes, perhaps you could consider this area your next destination. In the untouched landscape, just a few kilometers from the lake, several ranches offer the possibility of organized riding for experienced and complete beginners. Horseback riding tours on natural trails, day trips, and multi-day tours are just some of the possible options while enjoying the silence, clean air, and natural beauty of the Lika region.
Hiking and mountaineeringCompared to other mountain range systems like the Alps, Croatian mountains are of a small size – they do not exceed 2000 meters in height. The moderate height of their summits makes Croatian mountains appealing to hikers. With hundreds of different hiking routes spreading from the coastal south to the Slavonia region, hiking enthusiasts can pick from many different trails of varying difficulty. From easy inclines such as hiking trails on Mount Medvednica above Zagreb to demanding trails of Velebit and Dinara, Croatian mountains have something for everyone. At the same time, you enjoy the great variety of landscapes. If you have decided to look up some hiking experiences in Croatia, late spring to mid-autumn is the best time. Ucka mountain, Northern Velebit, Paklenica, and Biokovo Mountain are some of the most popular hiking spots.
CyclingCroatia is great for a two-wheeled adventure, and spring is the best time to do it. If you are not afraid of challenges, and the natural setting boosts your happiness, a cycling tour through Nature Parks might suit your interests. Attractive and challenging, trails through Učka, Velebit, and Biokovo will guide you through some breathtaking landscapes. Istria peninsula, Brac, Hvar, Korcula island, and the Dubrovnik region are among the most beloved cycling destinations in Croatia. Although geographically remote, all these sites have similar features such as temperate climate, enough inclines for some muscle work, and scenic locations which give additional pleasure to cycling. Some routes take you close to the impressive vineyards and small family farms with local products allowing you to turn your day into a gastronomic experience.
ZiplineDry and warm weather is just ideal for this fun adventure. Zipline is offered throughout Croatia, and with prior notice and reservation, some providers offer transfers from the meeting point to the location. In addition, they will provide you with the necessary education and equipment, followed by the best part – descending through the air hooked on the wire. For zipline to truly be an unforgettable experience, several factors need to be met. Along with the friendly and professional staff, the most important thing is the attractiveness of the site. As some of the interesting ideas, we would single out (from the northwest to the south) a zip line above the Pazin Cave in Istria, a zip line above the canyon of the river Korana, and a zip line above the Cikola River. The 14 – kilometer – long Čikola Canyon is one of the most impressive in Croatia, which is why the zipline will certainly not lack adrenaline while observing the landscape from a new, bird’s eye perspective.
Buggy tourEvery year there are more and more people getting acquainted with buggy tours which provide enjoyment for people of all ages. This small motor vehicle easily breaks through uneven terrain and macadam, which makes it a great choice for tours of the karst Dalmatian landscape, and open-top is just an added benefit. A buggy tour is definitely something you need to try.