Thursday, 4 November 2021

Discovering Authentic Croatia's Secrets With Seoski Tourism

November 4, 2021 – Village tourism or countryside tourism - Seoski tourism in Croatia - offers authentic, traditional experiences. Aleksandra Kuratko, secretary of Udruga ruralnog turizma Hrvatske (Croatian Rural Tourism Association) tells us more about it, and their work to help facilitate it

Croatia's visitor offer is evolving and expanding. There are exciting aspects of authentic Croatia to be discovered. Away from the beach, villages inland often look remarkably similar to how they did one hundred years ago. There, crops are grown and produce made in ways passed down through generations of families. And, in some lucky instances, these family farmers are willing to open their doors, invite you inside and show you how they live.

25_-_Pelje_ac_-_Bread_under_bell_at_Agroturizam_Antunovi_.jpgBread from the peka at Agroturizam Antunović on Pelješac

Seoski Tourism – translated as either village tourism or countryside tourism – is just that. Family farms that offer hospitality. These are some of the most homely and most welcoming accommodation experiences you can have in Croatia. Offering sights and sounds, tastes and flavours that you can't find anywhere else, visits or stays in Seoski Tourism places have long been loved by locals for weekend breaks or holidays outside peak summer. But, increasingly, these authentic Croatia experiences are being discovered by international visitors.

14_-_Moslavina_-_Goats_at_Kezele_family_farm.jpgMoslavina goats at Kezele family farm © Davor Konjikušić

One institution trying to facilitate the growth in interest is Udruga ruralnog turizma Hrvatske - Croatian Rural Tourism Association. Since it was formed in 2016, they have tried to bring together Croatia's family farm hosts, to promote them and educate them, and to build bridges between these independents and tourist boards, tourist agencies, educators and even the wider world outside Croatia.

16_-_Moslavina_-_renewed_traditional_house_at_Kezelefamily_farm.jpgSeoski turizam Kezele in Šumećani, on the border of Zagreb County and Bjelovar Bilogora County © Davor Konjikušić

Based in Ivanić-Grad, Zagreb County, the Croatian Rural Tourism Association is currently touring the length and breadth of the country, holding workshops with as many Seoski Tourism family farms that will come. And if the farmwork doesn't allow them free time, then they can attend Croatian Rural Tourism Association workshops online.

On the eve of the association's online Seoski Tourism workshops for Central Croatia and Slavonia, TCN interviewed Aleksandra Kuratko, secretary of Udruga ruralnog turizma Hrvatske, to find out more about Seoski Tourism in Croatia.

18_-_Prigorje_-_Local_specialties_at_Raki__family_farm.jpgPrigorje specialties at Rakić family farm

My name is Aleksandra Kuratko and I am secretary of Udruga ruralnog turizma Hrvatske. As an association, we are 5 years old.

We have 35 members, most of whom are service providers in what we call Seoski Tourism. We also have several tourist boards and two educational institutions as members.

19_-_Bilogora_-_Horses_in_autumn_at_Agroturizam_Na_malenom_brijegu.jpgBilogora horses in autumn at Agroturizam Na malenom brijegu © Vladimir Vlajinić

Seoski tourism is not quite the same as rural tourism, because rural tourism is many different types of tourism that happen in rural areas. Seoski tourism - which you might translate as village tourism - is quite specific. We assemble people who work in agriculture and who, at the same time, are also offering hospitality. In English, you might call them Farm Stays. Or Agro-tourism – a merging of agriculture and tourism.

28_-_Pelje_ac_-_fresh_vegetables_from_Agroturizam_Antunovi_.jpgFresh vegetables at Agroturizam Antunović on Pelješac

People who work on agricultural estates often take care of local cultural heritage. For example, they might maintain and renew traditional wooden or stone houses. Many also have etno collections, in which they preserve different objects from their region. Some of these objects might have been used in agriculture and households hundreds of years ago. So, they are preserving the cultural heritage of Croatian villages. This is what we call material cultural heritage. But, there's another kind.

Ethno0017.jpgCultural heritage preserved in one Slavonian village © Mario Romulić

Non-material cultural heritage is also a part. That might be preserving old recipes of traditional, regionally-specific dishes. Or, it might be showcasing the songs and dance of local music.

We are currently running a project which is supported by the Croatian Ministry of Tourism and Sports in which we hold 37 Seoski Tourism workshops in the field all over Croatia. There will also be around 15 online workshops. The workshops are aimed at colleagues who currently operate in Seoski Tourism – they work in agriculture and offer hospitality. Also invited are local tourist boards and local action groups.

31_-_Photo_from_URTH_workshop_at_Slatina.jpgPhoto from URTH workshop in Slatina

So far, we conducted 20 workshops in the regions of Central Croatia, Slavonia and Baranja, and Podunavlje. From next week until the end of the year, we will conduct the workshops in Istria, Kvarner, Lika and Dalmatia. Some service providers were not able to attend earlier workshops, because of work commitments of Covid. So, we decided to also offer access to the workshops online. Tomorrow is our first online workshop for Central Croatia and on Friday it's the online workshop for Slavonia.

These workshops are interactive discussions between our association, service providers and all other stakeholders. We discuss the legislative framework, which can be extremely complex. We talk about new trends in tourism for the post-pandemic era. We also discuss the importance of integrating cultural heritage in digital promotion.

26_-_Pelješac_-_Donkey_farm_at_Agroturizam_Antunović.jpgDonkey farm at Agroturizam Antunović on Pelješac

For the legislative framework, we have initiated the formation of a working group for the development of Seoski Tourism, which is now operating in the Croatian Ministry of Tourism and Sports. So, at the workshops, we ask if anyone is having issues. We collect the responses and address them in the working group.

Part of the workshop is the presentation of a new web application of Seoski Tourism, which we have developed with Croatian Ministry of Tourism and Sports. It has two purposes. One is to create a digital catalogue of Croatian Seoski Tourism. You can see region by region some of the Seoski Tourism options – currently around 40, those who have already enrolled.

30_-_Podravina_-_Etno_rooms_at_Zlatni_klas_Otrovanec.jpgPodravina Etno rooms at Zlatni klas Otrovanec

A version of the app is currently available on the website of the National Tourist Board. But, they are building a new website. The forthcoming version of the catalogue will likely be more user-friendly with many more functions and options. On the new website, Croatia's Seoski Tourism options will be detailed in many different languages. It should be a great resource not only for tourists but for travel agencies, journalists like you and for educational institutions. That's the reason we are devoting time in our workshops to encourage Seoski Tourism providers to enroll. We are just at the beginning of the process.

11_-_Hrvatsko_zagorje_-_Grešna_pilnica.jpgGrešna pilnica in Zagorje © Jasna Podboj

The second purpose of the app is to collect information about the service providers. This info will be used by our working group when defining a Croatian model of Seoski Tourism. So far, we have taken examples from Slovenia, Italy and other countries that are successful with Seoski Tourism. But, these models were entered into our legislative system without fully considering our distinct business and cultural environments. That is now about to change.

We are very happy that, following many years of partially successful advocacy, there is now political will at a ministerial level to really shape things up, to change the laws and regulations in order to facilitate Seoski Tourism. We want to encourage more Seoski Tourism, not to have people from agriculture being turned away because of the difficulty of the process and bureaucracy.

22_-_Istria_-_Medieval_theme_park_San_Michael.jpgMedieval Theme Park San Michael © Silvia Otočan

You said part of the workshops will focus on new trends. What are some of these?

Research has been done by a working group that is developing a new tourism strategy for Croatia. It's called Strategy for Sustainable Tourism to 2030. Under the auspices of this group, a number of research fields have been analysed.

The collected data shows that a huge percentage of tourists are now more inclined to eat locally grown and healthy food. They want to spend their time on estates that are run in accordance with ecological principles. So, they really care about issues like how waste is disposed of etc. They also pay a lot of attention to culture. They are curious to learn exactly how we are living, how we are working and how we produce things. They want to learn about our society and culture. And, importantly, they really care about how they spend their money. Above all, they want to spend money in areas that can help support local communities.

17_-_Prigorje_-_Breakfast_at_Rakić_Family_Farm.jpgPrigorje Breakfast at Rakić Family Farm

For us, this is really important. Because Seoski Tourism answers these demands to an incredibly high level. We do produce local, healthy food. Not only on the agricultural estates where you can experience Seoski Tourism, but also from their neighbours who just do agriculture. We are concerned with ecology, we protect cultural heritage and the money spent in Seoski Tourism stays in local communities, where it has very beneficial effects.

In the digital promotion part of the workshops we are trying to persuade people about the importance of their online presence. Basically, these days, if you're not online, it's almost like you don't exist. So, we try to explain the importance of having good-quality photos, short videos and a regular online presence.

1_-_Baranja_-_Kulen__varci_nd_other_specialties_at_Baranjska_ku_a.jpgKulen, čvarci and other specialties at Baranjska kuća © Denis Despot

That's interesting. In some cases, it might be like two different worlds colliding - people who work in a traditional industry and a traditional environment having to adapt to a very modern way of operating. There's also another potential collision when providers learn of the expectations within modern tourism. Because these people can no longer just work in agriculture. To operate in Seoski Tourism, you're also very much expected to also be a host.

Yes. All of our current service providers who are successful within Seoski Tourism are also great hosts. It's essential. You can see it in almost all of the reviews for this kind of tourism. Guests come for the food and drinks and surroundings, yes. But, what they value the most, what they remember the most, is the host part of the experience. On the estates of Croatian Seoski Tourism, guests are welcomed like family. Across all of Croatian tourism we are expected to be good hosts. It's part of our reputation and the reason why many people come here from all over the world. In Seoski Tourism, it is vital we live up to those expectations.

13_-_Moslavina_-_Bread_from_bread_owen_at_Kezele_family_farm.jpgKezele family farm © Davor Konjikušić

Another aspect of this, which is a more recently-observed element, is that visitors often want an insight into the actual lives, even the personalities of their hosts. They want not only to taste the homemade sausages you make, but they also want to know how you do it, where you do it, how you learned to do that. When they go to Spain, they want to know how the people there make their wine. And, when they come to Croatia, they want to learn how we do it here.

So, all in all, those of us in Seoski Tourism are really busy. We are in agriculture, yes, but we are also in tourism and we are also online. With this more recently-observed aspect, we will need to try and devote even more time to our hosting. It can be difficult to balance the demands on your time. But, in our workshops, we are trying to persuade people to talk more about themselves, their lives, their cultural heritage. And, if there isn't time to do everything themselves, then to involve different and often younger generations of the family. Sometimes within the hosting or alternatively just with the online promotion and presence.

15_-_Moslavina_-_Kezele_family_farm_ethno_collection.jpgKezele family farm ethno collection © Davor Konjikušić

I've visited some family farms that were right at the start of their journey with Seoski Tourism and they seemed surprised that I was at all interested in what they do and how they do it. I think maybe they thought I was a bit crazy.

Yes, that is a response we sometimes also see at first. I think it's because our generation takes a lot of things for granted. We sometimes think that what we do is just what we do. We are not so good at showcasing it. “Why would I show someone how I make my cheese? I make my cheese like my grandmother used to make it” But, for those who open their doors to Seoski Tourism, inquiries about how they do what they do are only increasing. So, they seem to appreciate how we advise them in the workshops.

5_-_Me_imurje_-_Picnic_by_Me_imurski_dvori_restaurant.jpgPicnic by Restaurant Međimurski dvori © Igor Nobilo

We are trying to let our producers know that Seoski Tourism is not just a platform to sell their produce and an overnight stay, but it's a full experience they can sell. There are agricultural farms in Austria that are established in tourism that you must pay only to visit. Of course, that doesn't happen currently anywhere in Croatia, even though some of our Seoski Tourism estates have sections that look like museums.

Some of these aspects are very new. And the feedback is great. I truly believe there are hidden treasures to be discovered in some Croatian villages. We are here to tell that story.

IMG_0239fghj.jpgSelection of food from a Slavonian village © Mario Romulić

What is so rewarding about Croatian Seoski Tourism that international visitors would want to go to a traditional farm in some inland village instead of lying on the beach in Dalmatia for 14 days?

People come because they really want to see a different side of Croatia. And, there are many different aspects of Croatia to discover – not just Seoski Tourism, but also National Parks and Nature Parks. All of our current trends show us that more and more tourists are willing to come inland from the coast or to explore a different part of Croatia – inland Istria, for example, or continental Croatia.

20_-_Karlovac_-_Kamačnik_river_canyon.jpgKamačnik river canyon © Aleksandra Kuratko Pani

They really want to try authentic, local food. They want to eat healthy, to know what they are eating and how it is made. And, they want to experience flavours that are different from the usual ones they get from the supermarket.

6_-_Me_imurje_-_Traditional_Me_imurje_table_at_etno_restaurant_Me_imurski_dvori.jpgTraditional Međimurje table at Etno restaurant Međimurski dvori

Also, I would say that with Seoski Tourism, people get to know better an authentic version of Croatia and its culture. It's a story we hear very often from our members. Some of them are visited by large groups from cruisers. These are people who might be on a cruise on the Adriatic and who journey inland for a day trip. Or, it might be a group who are cruising the Danube and disembark to visit a family farm in Slavonia, Baranja or Srijem.

24_-__ibenik_-_Drnis_prosciutto_Ivana_Kalpi__Agroturizam_Kalpi_.jpgProsciutto from Drniš at Agrotourism Kalpić © Ivana Kalpić

When they visit farming estates on day trips, it's very often a huge 'wow' moment for them. For many, in their minds, Croatia is simply sun and sea. And that's not entirely their fault. We, as a country, have done very little until now to promote alternative sides of Croatia. The visitors experience these wow moments because of the hospitality they receive and because of the tangible aspect of the visit. This is a modern aspect – people want to touch things, know how things feel, taste, smell. They want to ride on horses or feed them. Or take part in cultural activities. These parts of a visit to Seoski Tourism are very difficult to experience anywhere else.

img_0261.jpg__648x432_q85_subsampling-2.jpg(left) Ivana Alilović, director of Zagreb County Tourist Board (right) Aleksandra Kuratko, secretary of Udruga ruralnog turizma Hrvatske (Croatian Rural Tourism Association) © Zagreb County

Udruga ruralnog turizma Hrvatske's online Seoski Tourism workshops begin today and their physical workshops continue next week in Istria.

If you'd like to read more about rural tourism in Croatia, then look here

Sunday, 31 October 2021

Best Croatian Nature and National Parks For Autumn 2021

October 31, 2021 – With treetops turning orange, red, yellow, purple and brown, the Croatian landscape is at its most colourful right now. These are the best Nature and National Parks for Autumn 2021

Krka National Park

Krka_National_Park2.jpg© Krka National Park

Famous for waterfalls that crash down only a few kilometres from the beaches of Šibenik, there are in fact a series of 7 waterfalls in the park. Several are far from the shoreline. You'll find some deep in the hinterland of Šibenik-Knin County because Krka National Park extends over 100 square kilometres. The river valley and its surroundings are crossed by numerous cycling paths and hiking trails. Now is one of the best times to explore them.

Krka_National_Park.jpg© Krka National Park

If you want to read more about Krka National Park, then look here

Where to stay: The city of Šibenik is truly a year-round destination, with famous fortresses, restaurants, first-class accommodation and brilliant options for active recreation.

Žumberak-Samoborsko gorje Nature Park

Samobor_by_silvijabutkovic.photographer.jpg© Silvija Butković

Covering a vast 342 square kilometres, Žumberak-Samoborsko gorje Nature Park is an epic and varied landscape. Best explored on long hikes, you'll discover rolling hills, mountain meadows, water mills sitting by streams, historic churches and chapels and charming rural communities.

Samoborsko_Zumberak.jpg© Goran Šafarek

Where to stay: If you want the contrast of a big city stay, then Zagreb is just 30 minutes to the east. But, if you prefer perfect seclusion within similar rural splendour, why not try one of these amazing Zagreb County holiday homes.

Veliki Pažut Special Zoological Reserve

Veliki_Pazut.jpg© Goran Šafarek

Although not classed as a national or nature park, this special zoological reserve really comes into its own during autumn. Within this season, the migration of birds has a great effect on the population of places like Veliki Pažut. From further north, residents who will spend all winter here are arriving to settle in. They are joined by temporary visitors who are just stopping off on their way further south. The thinner foliage in the autumn trees also makes it easier to spot deer who roam the forests on all sides of Veliki Pažut.

Goran_ŠafarekD__6321_DxO-1.jpg© Goran Šafarek

If you want to read more about Veliki Pažut Special Zoological Reserve, then look here

Where to stay: Veliki Pažut Special Zoological Reserve is located at the confluence of the rivers Mur and Drava in Legrad, Koprivnica-Križevci County. You could easily visit on a day trip from Zagreb. If you want to stay for the weekend, for an urban stay with lots of cultural options, try the stylish Apartmani Marbis (here) in Koprivnica, here. Or, if you want a secluded rural stay or you're on a weekend of wildlife photography and wish to remain very close to Veliki Pažut reserve, try Guest House Zajec in nearby Kuzminec (here).

251333204_10159958327839108_4607408917831515375_n.jpg© Goran Šafarek

Medvednica Nature Park

Park_prirode_Medvednica.jpg© Medvednica Nature Park

Sitting on the border of Zagreb, to its south and Zagorje, to its north, Medvednica is a protected area of mountains that is largely covered with thick forest. This makes for a wonderful natural habitat for birds and butterflies and others, which you can see while you walk, run or cycle through the park. The higher up the slopes you climb, the more rewarding the views. And, new to autumn 2021, the Medvedgrad Visitors Centre has just opened. It's a great time to go check it out.

zagreb_zagorje_julien_duval.jpg© Julien Duval

Where to stay: Medvednica Nature Park is on the doorstep of the Croatian capital, Zagreb, with some of the best city accommodation options in Southeast Europe.

Kopački rit Nature Park

Kopacki.jpgNational Parks For Autumn 2021: Kopački rit Nature Park © Mario Romulić

Truth be told, Kopački rit Nature Park is not at its best in summer. It's not just about the millions of warm weather mosquitoes. The waters of this marshland are at their lowest during summer and the wildlife population retracts. By autumn, rain has helped refill the Danube and Drava rivers, both of which feed Kopački rit.

Kopacki2.jpgNational Parks For Autumn 2021: Kopački rit Nature Park © Mario Romulić

The deer have just finished their rut and can be seen freely making their way through the forests. And, the bird population is spreading further throughout the park in response to the rising waters. Without question, boat trips on Kopački rit are best taken when water levels are at their peak.

If you want to read more about Kopački rit Nature Park, then look here

Where to stay: Kopački rit Nature Park is on the doorstep of Slavonian capital Osijek, which has many great accommodation options. Try Guesthouse Maksimilian (here) in the heart of the old city fort, Tvrđa.

Northern Velebit National Park (Sjeverni Velebit National Park)

Nacionalni_park_Sjeverni_Velebit2.jpgNational Parks For Autumn 2021 © Northern Velebit National Park

The whole Velebit region is a protected Nature Park. And, within it lie two National Parks. As its name suggests, Northern Velebit National Park is the most northerly. The park is exploding in colours rights now as the forests and fields turn from green to brown, purple, yellow, orange and red.

Nacionalni_park_Sjeverni_Velebit.jpgNational Parks For Autumn 2021 © Northern Velebit National Park

What's even more spectacular is the contrast between these colours and the unique geological anomalies that are protected within the park - Hajdučki kukovi and Rožanski kukovi. Mystifying and beautiful, these rock formations cover an area of around 22 square kilometres and contain no less than 40 summits that lie over 1600 metres. Between them, you’ll see Skrbina Draga and the Veliki Lubenovac field. Hiking in autumn and spring is hands down the best way to explore the extraordinary Northern Velebit National Park.

If you want to read more about Northern Velebit National Park, then look here

Where to stay: The Kvarner town of Crikvenica is a great place to base yourself for exploring the Nature and National Parks of northwest Croatia. Učka Nature Park, Risnjak National Park, Plitvice Lakes National Park and Northern Velebit National Park are all within 60 to 90 minutes drive of the town. Jadran Hotels and Camps have several year-round hotel options in Crikvenica.

Paklenica National Park

PaklenicabyIvan_Coric_Photography2.jpgNational Parks For Autumn 2021: Paklenica National Park © Ivan Čorić Photography

Paklenica National Park is the second National Park within Velebit Nature Park. Like its northerly cousin, Paklenica is a joy to explore on long hikes. But, these mountains have a wholly different landscape. Paklenica is dominated by two distinct and dramatic canyons - Velika Paklenica and Mala Paklenica. Following either, away from the coast and further into the park, will lead you to black pine forest and spectacular karst rock formations. Paklenica is also famous as a climbing location. Recreational and expert climbers from all over the world come here to tackle the rocks between spring and autumn.

PaklenicabyIvan_Coric_Photography.jpgNational Parks For Autumn 2021: Paklenica National Park © Ivan Čorić Photography

If you want to read more about Paklenica National Park, then look here

Where to stay: If you're looking for a city stay with many cultural, activity, event and restaurant options, the vibrant university town of Zadar lies on the shore just an hour from Paklenica National Park. But, if you're visiting solely to explore this wonderful National Park and want to stay close by, the much smaller seaside town of Starigrad is where you'll find the main entrance to the park.

Lonjsko polje Nature Park

Lonjsko_polje.jpg© Goran Šafarek

Covering a massive 505 square kilometres, Lonjsko polje is the largest protected wetland in Croatia and the Danube basin. It is also the third-largest Nature Park in Croatia, its floodplain fields and forests are habitats for more than two-thirds of all birds in Croatia.

247218663_4254117711377441_2820130146317535557_n.jpg© Lonjsko polje Nature Park

Like Kopački rit, Lonjsko polje is best enjoyed outside of peak summer and the 'mosquito months'. Bicycle and walking trails along with its flat landscape make this an incredibly accessible park to all. The park s also famous for its accommodation and food offer, the latter featuring river fish and wild meats like boar and deer which are traditionally common in autumn.

If you want to read more about Lonjsko polje Nature Park, then look here

Where to stay: Lonjsko polje is around 90 minutes drive from Zagreb and an easy day trip from the capital. But, if you want a more rural escape, as mentioned, the park is known for its accommodation offer. You can see more of it here.

Biokovo Nature Park

biokovo2.jpgNational Parks For Autumn 2021: Biokovo Nature Park © Marc Rowlands

Offering some of the very best views in Dalmatia, Biokovo Nature Park is arguably at its best in autumn. Why? Well, the powerful Bura and Jugo winds are more common at this time of year. Visiting Biokovo the day after they've visited is incredibly rewarding. The winds clear the air and, as a result, the visibility is truly incredible. You can pick out tiny detail in the islands.

biokovo.jpgNational Parks For Autumn 2021: Biokovo Nature Park © Marc Rowlands

Turning away from the sea and islands, Biokovo has an incredible mountainous landscape of its own that is no less thrilling to the eye. You'll discover it best on long hikes. Autumn and spring are the very best times to hike on Biokovo.

If you want to learn more about Biokovo's hiking routes, then look here. And if you want to read more about Biokovo Nature Park in general, then look here.

Where to stay: Having experienced an explosion over recent years in the number of holiday homes available, the nearby city of Imotski is well equipped to welcome visitors. And, unlike some of the coastal options near Biokovo, the visitor offer in Imotski is not negatively impacted by the change in the seasons. Theirs is a year-round offer. Furthermore, the city's 11 lakes are due to join Biokovo within a new UNESCO Geopark from 2022. If you want to read more about Imotski, then look here.

Plitvice Lakes, most famous of the National Parks For Autumn 2021

Nacionalni_park_Plitvička_jezera_Plitvice_Lakes_National_Park.jpgNational Parks For Autumn 2021 © Plitvice Lakes National Park

The most famous of all Croatian National Parks is a treat in any season of the year. Plitvice's waters are full and more vibrant than ever at this time of year. And, the surrounding nature draws from an incredibly varied colour palette. Perhaps best of all, you have so much more of the park to yourself when you visit outside the warmest months.

Nacionalni_park_Plitvička_jezera_Plitvice_Lakes_National_Park2.jpgNational Parks For Autumn 2021 © Plitvice Lakes National Park

If you want to read more about Plitvice Lakes National Park, then look here

Where to stay: There are many different kinds of rural accommodation options in the vicinity of Plitvice Lakes National Park. But, if you want to combine your stay with a city break, there's nowhere better than Karlovac. The city on four rivers has its own incredible nature to explore, plus amazing culture, heritage and excellent food options. Actually, the city is famous throughout Croatia for its recipes with autumnal chestnuts. And, it's only an hour by car to Plitvice Lakes. If you want to learn more about Karlovac, then look here.

Both the author and Total Croatia News would like to sincerely thank Ivan Čorić, Silvija Butković, Mario Romulić and Goran Šafarek for the kind permission to use their photography here.

Friday, 15 October 2021

Grabovača Cave Becomes the First Cave for Speleotherapy in Croatia

October 15, 2021 - Respiratory therapies within caves, called speleotherapy, have thousands of years of practice dating back to the times of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Now, for the first time, the first cave for speleotherapy in Croatia has been opened in Grabovača Cave Park.

Although Croatia is rich in caves, which are in large numbers in the tourist offer, there was no speleotherapy until last week, reports Turističke Priče. Namely, for the first time in Croatia, in the Grabovača Cave Park, a cave for speleotherapy is being opened. Last week, on the premises of the Institution, the Agreement on granting a concession approval for Medina Cave was signed. The concession approval was granted to the trade "SIGA" from Perušić.

Speleotherapy is a type of respiratory therapy that involves breathing inside a cave. The benefits of this type of therapy were known as far back as ancient Greece and Rome, and modern use began in Germany.

The history of modern speleotherapy dates back to the fifties of the last century. At that time, speleotherapy hospitals were established in several countries of Eastern and Central Europe. In its classical form, speleotherapy was the use of underground minerals and hot springs.

The goal, as they say from the Grabovača Cave Park, is to encourage as long a stay in nature and caves as possible, ie to combine speleotherapy with educational content in the Park area, and to contribute to better promotion of the area. The official opening will be soon, and the interested public will be informed about everything.

By the way, the Grabovača Cave Park is the only cave park in Europe and is located in the area of ​​the Perušić Municipality in Lika. Water enriched with dissolved carbon dioxide with its mechanical and chemical power destroyed and dissolved carbonate rocks on the surface of the relief and in the depths of the Grabovača underground. Thus, countless ravines, oysters, sinkholes were formed on the surface and many pits and caves in the underground.

On a relatively small area of ​​only 1.5 square kilometers, there are eight caves and one pit, which is a set of diverse and rich in calcite formations valuable speleological phenomena, and a quarter of the total number of protected speleological objects in Croatia - five caves are protected in the category of geomorphological monuments nature, and the cave Samograd is the most famous speleological object of this cave park and the only cave that is open to visitors.

For more on travel in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Wednesday, 6 October 2021

Lika Awarded Green Destination 2021

October 6, 2021 - After having been given its first award back in 2020, seeing the gorgeous green region of Lika awarded Green Destination 2021 this year provides some hope for this lovely, but poor and deserted region.

Lika, the largest Croatian region, remained among the hundred top green and sustainable destinations in the entire world in 2021. This valuable recognition (which Lika was first recognised for in 2020), was assigned by the Global Green Destination trust fund. The organisation started rating global destinations worldwide seven years ago, and as their website says, they benefit the destinations, representatives, and stakeholders in "green" communities. The end game: making places better and more sustainable.

''Adopting these GREEN values will help destinations to enhance their quality, attractiveness, and competitiveness; it will help attract ''green travellers'', respectful visitors who will spend more in these destinations. These GREEN values are the basis of our programmes for policy improvement, Destination Awards and certification. Green Destinations works together with the tourism business and media partners in order to make the green offer of destinations more visible on the marketplace,'' explains Global Green Destination.

The Lika Destination tourist cluster is very much aware of all the benefits which go hand in hand with this recognition for which they worked really hard. As N1 reports, Lika Destination does its work under the motto ''Smart sustainable destination''.

''Lika is special for many reasons. Almost 60% of its surface is protected. There are eight protected areas here, including three national parks, and the pure nature allows for the growth of quality products,'' the Lika Destination cluster told N1.

They added that they are proud that international experts recognised their efforts in promoting Lika and building up the region in an eco-friendly matter.

''For this year's admission, we had to fulfill 30 criteria, which is as twice as much than was necessary last year. In addition, we had to submit a story of good practice which this year, just as before, focused on local products with the mark ''Lika Quality''. Connecting local manufacturers with other tourist actors is something we've worked on in this cluster since day one. That's the main factor of Lika's development,'' concluded Lika Destination for N1.

That progress is definitely needed. As Večernji List recalled, Lika used to be an agricultural Mecca capable of feeding half of Croatia. Sadly, much like Slavonia, the region was devastated during the Homeland War and all of the former industry is now gone. One hundred years ago, Lika boasted over 200,000 residents, and now there are only around 40,000 left.

Naturally, it is expected that the number will be even lower when the 2021 population census is completed.

Speaking of Lika's many green areas, the oldest Croatian National Park, Plitvice Lakes, is also located there. Learn more in our TC guide.

For more about Lika, follow TCN's dedicated page.

 

Wednesday, 25 August 2021

Potential of Hydropower Tourism in Lika

August 25, 2021 - Is hydropower tourism in Lika the next big thing for the region? A closer look. 

In my article about the Lika region, I mentioned that a large hydropower plant is under construction in Kosinj. Total Croatia News has also reported about the project. As a matter of fact, the existing Senj Hydropower System (HES) will be upgraded. The project includes the construction of two new hydropower plants, one in Kosinj and one in Senj. As of August 2021, the estimated worth of the project is 3.4 billion KN. At the end of July 2021, the government declared the Kosinj Hydropower System (HES Kosinj) a strategic investment project.

Visualization of the hydropower plant in Kosinj

Author: Croatian National Power Company (Hrvatska Elektroprivreda, HEP)

Kosinj is a village located on the inland side of the Velebit, the mountain range that separates the inland from the Adriatic coast. The landscape is dominated by the fertile plains of the Lika river and the Bakovac stream. Kosinj lies within the Perušić municipality, which is located north of Gospić, the largest town in Lika. The travel distance to Gospić is around 15 minutes. As of 2021, the travel distance from Kosinj to Perušić is around 22 minutes. The existing roads are not in a very good condition. However, a new road will be built from Studenci, north of Perušić, to Sklope via Kosinj. Once completed, it will be much easier to travel through the Kosinj area. For those who are interested and who understand Croatian, there is a local YouTuber who covers all major projects and events in the Lika region. He uploads his material on his YouTube channel, TV Loki.

Currently, there are two hydropower plants within the HES. The first one opened in 1965, and is located outside Senj, on the Adriatic coast. The other one opened in 1970, and is located in Sklope, south of Kosinj. As a part of the project, the river was dammed. A nearby valley was filled with water and turned into an artificial lake, Kruščica (Kruščičko jezero). The Kosinj valley will also be turned into an artificial lake by the way. 

With its crystal clear water and surrounded by forest-clad mountains, the Kruščica lake has the potential to become a popular tourist attraction. 

The Kruščica lake 

Author: Croatian Tourist Board (Hrvatska Turistička Zajednica, HTZ)

In the Croatian media, the upgrade of the HES is described as a ‘megaproject’. Indeed, the project is of utmost importance for this part of Croatia, for many reasons. As of 2021, the HES has a capacity of 238.5 MW and an annual generation of 1.15 TWh. Once upgraded, the capacity will increase to 656 MW and 1.5 TMw per year. There is also the water flow. Before the HES was built in the 1960s, severe floods were a recurring phenomenon in western Lika. In order to regulate the water flow, underground tunnels were built through the Velebit. Also, the Lika river was connected with the Bakovac stream. Thereby, excess water could be led away from the area. With the upgrade of the HES, the regulation of the water flow will become even more efficient. Moreover, the project will benefit the agricultural industry, which is on the rise in the Lika region. 

Hydropower energy is not only a renewable energy source, it’s also cost-effective in comparison with other energy sources. In recent years, green ideas have become mainstream in Europe. The political elites have realized that eco-friendly is the future. Therefore, it’s very positive that the government declared the upgrade of the HES a strategic investment project. For, the upgrade of the HES is a major green investment. In addition to being an infrastructure project, it will also put Croatia on the eco-friendly map. 

Sources

https://www.hep.hr/projects/hydropower-system-senj-2/2543

https://www.vecernji.hr/vijesti/pocela-realizacija-dva-megaprojekta-u-lici-investicija-vrijedna-cak-34-milijarde-kuna-1439280

https://www.24sata.hr/energetska-tranzicija/investicija-od-34-milijarde-kn-hep-ov-novi-megaprojekt-u-lici-722742

https://balkangreenenergynews.com/hep-invests-eur-450mn-in-mega-hydropower-projects-kosinj-senj/

https://visit-lika.com/en/page/the-lika-river-and-kruscica-lake

For more on lifestyle in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page

Tuesday, 6 July 2021

Celebrate Nikola Tesla On His 165th Birthday This Weekend in Gospić

July 6, 2021 - This Saturday marks the 165th anniversary of the birth of the genius born in Smiljan, and the Tourist Board of Gospić, the city of Gospić, and the Nikola Tesla Memorial Center have prepared a worthy event called ''Tesla Power of Lights'' to celebrate Nikola Tesla in style.

Turističke priče reports that as part of the celebration of the 165th anniversary of the birth of Nikola Tesla on July 10th, a lot of content was prepared that will serve as a kind of reminder of the fact that one of the world's greatest geniuses, Nikola Tesla, was born in Lika. On his birthday, this Saturday, as part of the July program in Gospić, the event "Tesla Power of Lights" will be held.

It is a one-day event to celebrate Nikola Tesla, organized by the Tourist Board of the City of Gospić, the City of Gospić, and the Nikola Tesla Memorial Center, and the program will be held in the evening. This year, a light spectacle will be organized in Gospić and its surroundings, and citizens and visitors will be able to enjoy a laser show, among other things. In addition to the extraordinary light effects that will spread the sky over the city, the program of the celebration also includes a multitude of contents on the main city square.

celebrate-nikola-tesla.jpg

Gospić Tourist Board Facebook Page

Thus, Interactive Games of Light, Laser Harp, Light Labyrinth… will be held on Stjepan Radić Square, and part of the “Tesla Power of Lights” program will also take place on the newly built Nikola Tesla Square. At 9 pm, in the Atrium of the Cultural Information Center Gospić, there will be a promotion of T-shirt From Smiljan by ELFS and Traumatic Lights - Led acro duo, followed by a House party that will start at 10 pm. DJ Felver and DJ Ian Podley will perform.

Under the colored light beams will be buildings related to the life of Nikola Tesla in Gospić, and the Nikola Tesla Memorial Center in Smiljan, which includes the birthplace of the great inventor, physicist, and inventor, will have an Open Day on July 10.

Total Croatia included Nikola Tesla in its guide to Croatian inventions and discoveries, which you can read HERE.

For more news about everything made in Croatia, be sure to follow TCN’s dedicated page.

Monday, 21 June 2021

Croatia and the World Discovering Lika's Potential

June 21, 2021 - Croatia and the world have discovered Lika’s potential in recent years, but what makes it so special? A closer look at Lika's potential. 

Located in central Croatia, the Lika region is bordered by the Adriatic coast to the west, Dalmatia in the south, Bosnia-Herzegovina to the east, and Kordun and Gorski Kotar to the north. It encompasses the inland part of Lika-Senj county and the northernmost part of Zadar county. The regional capital is Gospic, a small town located on the east side of Velebit, the mountain range which separates the inland from the Adriatic coast. The physician Nikola Tesla, the 19th-century politician Ante Starčević, the former Austro-Hungarian Generaloberst Stjepan Sarkotić, and the actor Rade Šerbedžija were all born in Lika. 

Lika has traditionally been the least developed part of Croatia. In the 1950s and 1960s, during communism, Croatia was industrialized. However, for some reason, Lika was left behind. Then, the 1991-1995 Homeland War happened. During these years, large parts of Lika were completely devastated. Then, in the 2000s, things began to change. The new Zagreb-Split highway (A1) was built through Lika. Suddenly, Lika became a link between Central Europe and Dalmatia. The highway created new jobs and new opportunities. In 2007, the Nacional newspaper reported that 70% of the companies operating in Lika were doing fine. The Croatian average was 69%. In the wake of the 2008-2009 global financial crisis, many Croats had their bank accounts blocked. In 2019, Lika-Senj county had the lowest percentage of blocked accounts. As we speak, a giant hydroelectric dam is being built in Kosinj. Once completed, it will provide the whole region with electricity and, of course, create new jobs. 

In recent years, it seems that Croatia and the world have discovered Lika’s potential. Lika is Croatia’s least developed region, but that comes with an advantage - lower taxes and house prices. Lika has a perfect location, 2 hours from Zagreb and Rijeka and only 1 hour from Zadar. The Adriatic coast can be reached within an hour. It’s fully possible to live in Lika, where the house prices are lower, and work in Zadar, Rijeka, or Zagreb, where the wages are higher. In fact, people are already moving from Slavonia, Dalmatia, and Zagreb to Lika! In the near future, a new highway will be built from Otočac to Rijeka via Senj and Crikvenica, over Velebit and along the Adriatic coastline. Once completed, the travel distance to Rijeka will be reduced to less than 2 hours.

The Lika region is probably most known for the Plitvice Lakes. Located in the northern part of the region, the lakes, with their sparkling turquoise water, are interconnected by a series of waterfalls. In 1979, the area became a national park. The surrounding landscape is like a Bavarian postcard - green forests, rolling hills, and white houses with flower-bedecked balconies. The Karlovac-Zadar route, until 2005 the main traffic link between Zagreb and Dalmatia, runs through the area. 

As said, the Velebit mountains separate the inland from the Adriatic coast. Since 1999, the northern part of the Velebit mountains has been a national park. Nature is majestic, with high, forest-clad mountains, deep canyons, and crystal clear streams. 

Zavizan, the highest meteorological station in Croatia (1676 m), is located within the national park. The Zavizan peak overlooks the Adriatic Sea and the island of Rab. Not far from the national park lies the Alpine village of Krasno, with its Edelweiss Dairy (Sirana Runolist) and its 18th-century pilgrim’s church. Farther east lies Kuterevo, a small village that is known for its brown bears’ sanctuary. The bears are being taken care of by volunteers from all over the world. All these places are located along the road from Otocac to the coastal town of Senj. 

As a matter of fact, the Lika region is full of see-worthy places, from the Gacka field and the crystal clear Gacka river in the north and the historic Krbava field (Krbavsko polje) in the south to the Alpine landscape in the west. The landscape is a mix of the Austrian Alps, the American prairies, the Scandinavian black forests, and the green Bavarian hills. The air and the water are clean, and as said, it’s only 30 minutes to the Adriatic coast. If you want to live in a temperate climate but have the subtropical zone next door, Lika is a perfect choice. 

For more, follow our travel section.

Thursday, 1 April 2021

New Lika Tourist Attractions in Untouched Nature Sure to Delight All Tourists

April 2, 2021 - New Lika tourist attractions in untouched nature are sure to delight all types of travelers! 

The residents of Lika are hoping for full accommodation capacities for Easter and the upcoming tourist season. This year, there are new attractions for tourists to discover in Lika; a real hobbit house has sprung up in untouched nature, and for a complete atmosphere, there is a forest organ, the first in Croatia.

The play of branches and wind creates a symphony on the forest organ; that's how the Lika forest sounds. "It produces the sound of air flowing through pipes and holes in pipes. They have an aid during weak winds so that people are not disappointed when the organ is not heard when there is no wind", said Tomislav Špehar, from Grabovača Cave Park.

Dnevnik.hr reports, the small houses with green doors lead us to a real-life fairy tale. The Hobbit houses also have furniture, a small bed, books about the Hobbits in more than ten world languages ​, and a herbarium of real Lika plants that grow in the garden in front of the houses. Last year, volunteers from all over the world worked on the creation of this project. 

"Our goal is to have editions of the book The Hobbit in foreign languages. Volunteers from Spain, France, Pakistan, and Vietnam took part in the last project", says Mario Paral, Grabovača Cave Park.

The children of Lika will also find a piece of paradise for themselves and have the opportunity to learn new languages. "When books in different languages ​​come, then I will be able to learn a little more languages," says Niko, 9 years old.

Foreign languages ​​are already being heard. The season in the cave park Grabovača started earlier than usual. "We've been open for three weekends. In those six days, we were visited by about 300 visitors. Of which 99% are Croats and only one percent are foreigners from the Netherlands and the Czech Republic", said Jelena Milkovic, director of the Grabovac Cave Park.

That is why they rightly expect more guests than last year's five thousand because enjoying the smells and sounds of the forest with a little escape in the imagination - is the cure for all problems. 

For the latest travel updates and COVID-19 news from Croatia, CLICK HERE.

Wednesday, 17 March 2021

Mali Losinj and Lika Among Top 100 Global Green Destinations

March the 17th, 2021 - The beautiful green heart of Croatia, Lika, and charming Mali Losinj have both been listed among the top 100 global green destinations for the year 2020.

As Morski writes, the Green Destinations Story Awards jury commission divided the top 100 green destinations in 2020 into a total of six categories and, according to the submitted material, selected the most innovative and sustainable, and one of the important criteria was the possibility of applying examples of good practice in other destinations across the world.

The Lika Destination Cluster won third prize in the category Islands & Seaside with the story Local products in the function of destination development, and Mali Losinj was included among the top six finalists in the category Communities & Culture, with the story Integrated quality management in the destination.

The truly beautiful and emerald green area of Lika is unique in many ways because it combines a beautiful continental part of the country, the Velebit mountain massif as a unique biosphere park and the coastal part that leaves nobody feeling indifferent. It is an area that includes three gorgeous national parks, a nature park, a cave park and a number of other natural phenomena. Most of this area is a unique example of rich biodiversity, which is an excellent prerequisite for the production of premium food that is placed under the unique brand Lika Quality and it is thanks to this project that the destination Lika won this highly commendable award.

¨At the recent selection for the global top 100 green destinations across the world, Lika won for the first time, but the recognition doesn´t stop there, within that same list, it was selected among the top fifteen," said a proud Petra Kovacevic, the leader of the Lika Destination Cluster.

The island of Losinj, known as the island of vitality, is a brand that has been striving for sustainable and responsible tourism since way back in 2006, and is considered one of the leaders in sustainable development in the Republic of Croatia.

¨Were glad that Losinj has once again been recognised as one of the best green destinations. Sustainability is the key advantage of the island of vitality. Through many years of measuring things up and comparing data, we´ve detected strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities in order to constantly improve the destination's sustainability strategy. With integrated cooperation with its residents and visitors, we have come to a solution on how to develop, but at the same time preserve a permanent quality destination for coexistence and the pleasant stay of our guests,¨ said the director of the Tourist Board of Mali Losinj, Dalibor Cvitkovic.

The competition for 100 sustainable destinations is organised to highlight relevant and true stories of sustainable and responsible tourism across the globe, which serve as inspiration for other destinations, tour operators and of course travellers and tourists.

For the latest travel info, bookmark our main travel info article, which is updated daily

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Friday, 5 March 2021

Interest in Houses in Zagreb Down 10%, Says Online Classified Site

ZAGREB, 5 March, 2021 - Over the past 12 months interest in buying a house in Zagreb dropped by 10% while at the same time interest in house purchase in Gorski Kotar, Lika and Istria grew significantly, shows an analysis by the Njuškalo online classified site.

Even though there have been no major changes in asking prices for real estate in Zagreb over the past 12 months, trends related to demand point to changes in customers' interest, which is probably due to a series of earthquakes that hit central Croatia in 2020.

Whereas last year clients increasingly searched for houses in Zagreb, rather than flats, over the past 12 months the interest in buying a house in Zagreb dropped by 10%.

In the entire country the interest in house and flat purchases grew less than one percent on the year but some regions have become much more attractive.

In the central mountainous Primorje-Gorski Kotar County, the interest in buying a house rose by 26.75% in the last 12 months, while in Istria it went up by 25%. Ads for properties in Lika-Senj County, too, saw an increase in views of 22.4%.

The average asking price for houses in Primorje-Gorski Kotar County was €1,595 per square metre, in Istria County it was €1,799 and in Lika-Senj County €1,160.

Potential buyers also increasingly searched for houses in Zadar County, as well as in the region of Međimurje, with interest in buying real estate there going up by 11%.

Interest in flats in Zagreb up 5.6%

From February 2020 to February 2021 interest in buying a flat in Zagreb grew by 5.6%, with the average asking price exceeding €2,150 in February 2021.

Among the cities where asking prices have continued growing are Osijek, Zadar and Pula, with Rijeka seeing the highest increase, of 6.4%, for the second consecutive month. Even though Split was previously in this group, it has been stagnating now in terms of the average asking price, Njuškalo says.

Rent in Zagreb down 9%, demand down 6%

Over the past 12 months, the rent on flats in Zagreb dropped by 9% and demand in the first two months of this year dropped 6% compared to the same period of 2020.

The average rent in Zagreb was €539, with most flats for rent having an area of 40-70 square metres, and the only flats to see an increase in the cost of rent on the year were those with an area of 20 square metres. The cost of rent for such flats went up by 3.2% to an average €231 per month.

The cost of rent dropped the most in the downtown area of Zagreb, by 11%, however, the average cost of rent still exceeds €700 a month, the online site says.

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