The jumble of geographical regions that make up inland Croatia seem, on the face of it, to have little in common with one another. Historically, however, the Croats of the interior were united by a set of cultural influences very different from those that prevailed on the coast. After the collapse of the medieval Croatian kingdom in the early part of the twelfth century, inland Croatia fell under the sway of first Hungary, then the Habsburg Empire, increasingly adopting the culture and architecture of Central Europe. This heritage has left its mark: sturdy, pastel-coloured farmhouses dot the countryside, while churches sport onion domes and Gothic spires, providing a sharp contrast with the pale stone houses and Venetian-inspired campaniles of the coast.

The main appeal of inland Croatia lies in its contrasting landscapes. It’s here that the mountain chains that run from the Alps down to the Adriatic meet the Pannonian plain, which stretches all the way from Zagreb to eastern Hungary. The Zagorje region, just north of Zagreb, resembles southern Austria with its knobbly hills and castles, while southwest of Zagreb are the captivating lakes and waterfalls of the Plitvice Lakes. Much less touristed but equally rewarding are the wetlands southeast of the capital, with the Lonjsko polje Nature Park offering a mixture of archaic timber-built villages and birdwatching opportunities. The eastern province of Slavonia features broad expanses of flat, chequered farmland only partially broken up by low green hills. Tucked away in the province’s northeastern corner is the Kopački rit Nature Park, a wildlife-rich wonderland of reedy waterways and sunken forests. It’s in these areas of natural beauty that rural tourism is taking off in a big way, with village B&Bs, folksy restaurants and well-signed cycling routes cropping up in the Zagorje, Plitvice, Lonjsko polje and Kopački rit. Vineyards and wine cellars are a growing feature of tourism too, especially around Ilok in the far southeast.

The region also has worthwhile urban centres, with several well-preserved Baroque towns in which something of the elegance of provincial Habsburg life has survived. The most attractive of these are Varaždin, northeast of Zagreb, and Osijek, a former fortress town in eastern Slavonia.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Croatia features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Vukovar: inland Croatia's laidback escape

Vukovar: inland Croatia's laidback escape

The fastest-emerging tourist destination in inland Croatia is not one you might expect. Twenty five years ago, the pretty Danube-hugging town of Vukovar was alm…

06 Dec 2016 • Jonathan Bousfield insert_drive_file Article
10 great winter destinations in Central and Eastern Europe

10 great winter destinations in Central and Eastern Europe

Forget the plummeting temperatures and long dark nights, winter is a hugely rewarding season in which to visit Central and Eastern Europe. Frozen rivers, frosty…

28 Nov 2016 • Jonathan Bousfield insert_drive_file Article
Sailing in Croatia: a first-timer’s guide

Sailing in Croatia: a first-timer’s guide

Coastlines don’t come much more idyllic than Croatia’s 2000km of ruggedly beautiful Adriatic shore. Along this magnificent stretch are ancient Roman remains…

09 Nov 2016 • Eleanor Aldridge insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month