Winner in the Tourism and Local Gastronomy category
Medimurje County, with its western part known as Gornje Medimurje, takes pride in its two EDEN destinations. In 2007, the Municipality of Sveti Martin na Muri was voted an EDEN destination for promoting sustainable rural tourism, and this year the somewhat larger region of Gornje Medimurje received the EDEN award for local gastronomy.
This microregion has won other prestigious international awards (e.g. Entente Florale Europe), as well as national tourism awards (e.g. the Green Flower awards by the Croatian Tourist Board for clean environment and tourism product development). The tourism management is very aware of the responsibility that comes with preserving the remarkable biodiversity of the environment, historical monuments and rural heritage (both material and nonmaterial), and relies on a well-developed communal and economic infrastructure, as well as the hard-working nature and hospitality of the local residents.
It has envisioned this tourist destination as being recognisable and highly sought-after in terms of offering its visitors a dynamic and healthy getaway, and providing them with the experience of sport and wellness, entertainment and learning, fine food and wine, rich culture and unspoilt nature.
Visit the unforgettable Upper Međimurje and its colourful scenery of gentle wine-growing slopes, fertile plains enclosed by powerful rivers and idyllic flower-decorated villages. The green oasis, which is part of the UNESCO Mura-Drava-Danube biosphere reserve, is best discovered while cycling or hiking the many themed trails.
Due to its charm and tidiness, this region is recognised by many as the ‘Garden of Croatia’. Make sure you try dishes prepared from well-known local foods grown in this fertile garden: pumpkin seed oil, apples, potato or buckwheat mash. 'Tiblica' meat, 'turos' cheese, river perch or 'medimurska gibanica' (a layer cake from Medimurje), are only some of the recognised dishes which go perfectly with 'pusipel' and a number of other fine wines, white and red.
Experience the field-to-table journey of traditional and healthy food in the old river mills, authentic oil mills or wooden winepresses. Try selected specialties in local restaurants, family farms and wineries. After a number of nature-based activities and gourmet experiences, relax in the thermal temple of Sveti Martin Spa, situated in the very heart of this abundant garden of healthy pleasures.
Experience the regional nature park Mura-Drava-Danube. The park is part of the international biosphere reserve protected by UNESCO. It is one of the last remaining European oases of authentic biodiversity of the lowland rivers.
The end of January is marked by the biggest Croatian trekking event for tourists in the wine-growing hills to celebrate St Vincent Day.
In April, one of the stages of the Tour of Croatia, the biggest Croatian cycling race, starts in Upper Međimurje, making it one of the most developed cycling destinations for tourists in Croatia.
Winner in the Accessible Tourism category
Stancija 1904 is located in the idyllic village of Smoljanci in the municipality of Svetvincenat. It lies 266m above sea level and 25km from the sea at the heart of the Istria peninsula.
Guests can enjoy peaceful and quiet evenings at the Stancija, and relax in the deep shade of the trees during hot summer days. They can spend their days doing one of the local activities such as playing golf, caving, hiking, taking walks or cycling in the countryside, visiting the Aquarium in Pula, surfing, or visiting nearby cities with well-known cultural and historical sites.
An attraction situated in the immediate vicinity is a small railway station, where a regional train passes seven times a day and connects the village to the city of Pula. Svetvincenat, a town of particular cultural and historical value, is only 3km away from the Stancija.
Svetvinčenat has 271 inhabitants and most of its venues are easily accessible. All the pavements are lowered and there are reserved parking spaces for the disabled. Bars, pizzerias, restaurants and taverns which serve traditional dishes, are also accessible to all and offer menus in Braille.
The clinic, grocery store, pharmacy, newsagent, post office and tourist information office are adapted to meet everyone's needs, regardless of disability and age. Beaches accessible to those with reduced mobility are located close to Stancija 1904.
All renovations to local heritage are carried out with respect to the village's historic architecture. They also take care to be accessible to all, regardless of physical limitations, age and disability.
Winner in the Tourism and Regeneration of Physical Sites category
Pustara Visnjica is an estate situated in the east of Croatia in the Slavonia region, 13km from the town of Slatina. It is surrounded by beautiful lime and chestnut tree gardens, and old pine and maple trees. The beauty and tranquillity of this place is mesmerising.
The word Pustara comes from an old Hungarian word ‘puszta’, which meant ‘land used for raising cattle and breeding horses’. This type of land was once a common feature across the Croatian landscape, but after many years of neglect, Visnjica is now the only working Pustara in the country.
The fascinating landscape, mild climate, fresh air and clear water, as well as the culture and history of this place has had a great influence on the regeneration of the region. Today, Visnjica offers something for everyone. It’s the perfect destination for those looking for peace and quiet, as well as those looking for adventure. Horseback riding, cycling, hiking and swimming are just some of the activities on offer.
The regeneration of Pustara Visnjica is based on the idea of returning back to nature and revitalising the values of a healthy lifestyle through tourism. The idea of connecting agriculture and traditional local activities to sustainable tourism was a new proposition and a key challenge. Today, there are numerous regeneration programmes in Pustara Visnjica, including the development of rural tourism, horse breeding, and the cultivation of sweet potato, grains and medicinal herbs.
The 19th-century buildings have been restored and given a new purpose as the old residential buildings are now workshop studios. Here you can learn the art of cooking and traditional jewellery or pottery making. The old stables have been restored and over 70 horses, of various breeds, now thrive on the land. The development also includes riding and cycling paths, ideal for discovering the beauty of the region and its surroundings.
Winner in the Aquatic Tourism category Nin is located in a shallow lagoon about 14km away from the regional centre Zadar, on the eastern shore of the Adriatic Sea. It is the oldest Croatian royal town as it was the first metropolis of Croatian kings from the 9th century.
It is located on a small island, which is connected to the mainland by two stone bridges from the 16th century. The destination offers spectacular sandy beaches and salt pans. Not far from 'Kraljicina beach' there is a site famous for its healing mud and a wetland area. Many wetland birds, which attract nature lovers, have made their home here.
The well-tended paths and natural sandy beaches are a favourite place for families with small children, and out of season they are a great place for taking long walks in the natural surroundings. It is also ideal for people looking for stories of history and culture. Here, you can find famous old Croatian churches built between the 9th and 12th centuries, which are unique in Croatia and the wider Mediterranean area.
Visitors to the old town centre can approach the island via one of the two ancient bridges or through the lower city gate, preserved from the 16-18th centuries, and start to explore the town walls and many valuable monuments.
A unique part of the natural heritage of Nin is the healing mud (peloid) and weather conditions produced by the area. The medical centre in Zadar has been using the mud for 40 years in the treatment of various diseases such as rheumatic illnesses, spine problems and skin diseases.
In summer, the mistral blows and reduces the summer heat. As a result, Nin is an oasis for tourism and offers ideal conditions for rest and recreation.
Winner in the Tourism and Protected Areas category
The Northern Velebit National Park is located in the north-western part of Croatia. With its lush forests, diverse plant life and vast array of wildlife species, it was declared a nature park in 1981.
The area has a rich heritage that dates back many centuries. The town of Senji is the gateway to the park.
The Northern Velebit National Park is an explorer's paradise. Deep sinkholes, caves and other topographical features give the park an unparalleled sense of variation. The Hadjuk and Rozan hills contain over 150 caves, the best-known being Lukina Jama (Luka's Cave), which descends 1,392m into the earth.
For visitors wanting a taste of alpine sports, the park is second to none. There are a great number of hiking, cycling and cross-country skiing trails through the mountains that reveal some striking panoramic views. A walk along the Premuzic Path leads trekkers through enchanted forests and endless lush green grasslands.
Warm, sultry seaside weather combined with mountains that rise into the sky make the Northern Velebit Park a truly extraordinary region for nature. Predatory animals such as wildcats, bears and wolves roam the mountainsides, while a large population of wood grouse makes its habitat in the heartlands.
Plant life is also abundant. 1,500 plant species ranging from sub-Mediterranean to mountainous fill the park. In the warmer months, the mountain flora is spectacular, with a rainbow of colours dotting the hillsides.
The region overflows with local fare throughout the year, with many Croatians lured to the park in search of mountain fun and relaxation. It has also recently started to see a rise in foreign tourism.
As the number of visitors each year (10,000-15,000) rises, the local municipalities have begun to pay close attention to the ecological balance of the area. Future plans are being discussed to develop a tourist infrastructure with facilities outside the park, in the towns nearby. The aim is to keep the park as untainted by man as possible.
Plans are also being developed to enhance visitors' experiences within the park, especially when it comes to wildlife and natural vegetation.
Winner in the Tourism and Local Intangible Heritage category
Durdevac lies at the heart of the county of Koprivnica-Krizevci in northern Croatia, between the river Drava and the wooded region of Bilogora. The region is famous for its linen production, and traditional weaving workshops are just as popular with visitors as trips to the area’s sands, its picturesque vineyards and its local gastronomical specialties consisting of numerous types of cakes.
The Sands of Durdevac, or the 'Bloody Sands' as they are known locally, are a distinctive European habitat of sand-loving vegetation, unique flora and fauna boasting indigenous species, and the visible remnants of sand dunes.
The Borik Park Forest has ancient forests of pine and locust trees. Visitors can enjoy meandering paths that are well kept and marked for the benefit of walkers, runners, trekkers, cyclists and athletes looking for cross-country training.
The area is also an untapped source of geothermal waters.
Durdevac houses exhibitions in the Stari Grad gallery and the Old Town Gallery situated in the central fortress. The Old Town Gallery is considered the 'Croatian Louvre' and houses more than 1,500 pieces of art.
The Slavko Cambi ethnographic collection contains close to a thousand artifacts and is protected by the Ministry of Culture. It gives visitors a real insight into the everyday lives of the region’s inhabitants over the centuries.
The church of St George, the patron saint of Durdevac, is a reinterpretation of an early Croatian church with Romanesque and Byzantine elements. The list of precious sacral monuments also includes the Baroque sculptures on the three original altars in the 18th century chapel of St Rosaria.
The wine roads of the Durdevac countryside pass through the most picturesque of the vineyards, situated on the slopes of gently meandering valleys. Driving along, the visitor passes traditional architecture preserved in the old vineyard huts that hold numerous items of ethnographic heritage. The wine sampling rooms on family homesteads are open to visitors.
The region is famous for its various cakes and home-baked corn bread and dishes prepared according to old, almost forgotten recipes. Chicken is a particular favourite in local savoury food.
The town’s intriguing name is a celebration of guile over force, referring to when in the 16th century the townspeople held a besieging army at bay by deluding them into thinking Durdevac could hold out indefinitely thanks to a plentiful supply of food. Down to its last, stringy old rooster, the townspeople made the creature crow and crow and crow again, leaving the attackers with the idea that their attempts to starve the inhabitants into submission were never going to work.
This gives rise to the Picokijada festival (picok meaning rooster) at which the battle is replayed alongside concerts, sports events and art displays. The legend of the rooster has put its stamp not only on the town, but on the people’s identity as well – the festival has been staged for the last forty years and has been declared a cultural asset of Croatia.
Alongside the legend of the Picoki within the Picokijada there are some 30 other events taking place, and one which draws the greatest number of visitors year on year is Podravina , a procession of specially decorated horse-drawn carts and a display of folklore and ethnographic heritage of the people of Podravina. Traditional weaving workshops, and linen throws and towels are now offered as souvenirs of Durdevac.
Đurđevac stages a range of other cultural, sports and entertainment events throughout the year, including: the Small Carnival, Chicken-Gastro, the Kukuricek Music Festival, the Durdevo/St George Feast, Mamice so štrokle pekli (Mamma baked the cheese strudel), the Podravina Salon of Art Photography and the Pumpkin Festival.
Winner in the Best Emerging Rural Destination category
Sveti Martin na Muri is located in the northernmost part of Croatia, close to the border with Slovenia and Hungary. As the first local community in Croatia to adopt sustainable tourism development practices in rural areas, Sveti Martin na Muri has more to offer than just its versatile sport and recreation facilities.
The main aim of the tourism strategy was to establish sustainable economic development based on preserved natural heritage. Implementation of the strategy provided a fresh impetus to the local community, particularly through the introduction of sustainable tourism as the most important economic activity. Such an approach aided the improvement and diversification of tourist services on offer, not only in Sveti Martin na Muri, but in the whole region of Medimurje, and even throughout continental Croatia.
Serious developments in tourism began in 2005 when, through the utilisation of a thermal spring of medicinal water in the immediate vicinity of Sveti Martin na Muri, the Sveti Martin Spa was built. It is the largest and one of the most beautiful spas in Croatia.
Sveti Martin na Muri has been profiled as a rural destination and a spa destination, and forms part of the sales programme of all major tourist agencies in Croatia.
There is a diverse range of activities on offer. For those interested in nature and ecology, there is a deer farm owned by the Dvanajscak family and an educational ecological trail along the Mura, the northernmost point of Croatia. Visitors can also take part in the a range of activities:
The wine road, with some 30 wine houses, ranks as one of the best in quality of its type in Croatia. It includes: