Traveler’s Guide to Croatia: From Sinj and the Medieval Equestrian Competition to the Wine Country of Varazdin and Beyond
The nation of Croatia offers something for almost everyone. With 2,000 kilometers of breathtaking coastline, most travelers tend to visit the country’s pristine beaches, but inland Croatia is filled with rugged wilderness as well as tranquil farmland, vineyards and castles for those who want to really get away and experience true Croatian culture.
Visitors might consider dividing their time between the inland areas as well as the coast to get a taste of the real Croatia.
Croatia Top Attractions
Visitors traveling to Croatia during the first weekend of August, shouldn’t miss the nearly 300-year-old Sinjska Alka, held in the town of Sinj, just 35km north of Split. The easiest way to travel through Croatia is by rental car, although there is bus transportation available. This ancient town was originally known as Setovia; to get there, follow the road inland from Split and past the ancient fortress of Klis. You’ll cross a stony desert, ultimately reaching a beautiful landscape filled with fields, willow trees, and the winding Cetina River in the distance, with Sinj set under the shadow of Mount Visoka.
Hotel Matanovi Dvori offers large and comfortable rooms in a family run, B & B style lodging with old fashioned hospitality. Locals are said to gather here to sing traditional songs.
The famed historic horseback tournament takes place here as it has for the past 295 years. This equestrian competition consists of competitors on horseback armed with lances that aim to hit the inside of a metal ring, known as the alka, and points are awarded according to which part of the alka they hit.
It’s a great privilege for the knights, who can only participate if they were born in the city or surrounding villages. The knights ride their horses at full gallop along the main street, aiming their lances and adorned in the same costumes worn by warriors back in the 18th century. This spectacular event is often the highlight for visitors to Croatia.
It’s well worth taking the time to explore northern Croatia’s castles and spectacular wine country. The road between Zagreb and Varazdin, known as the Zelina Wine Road, provides breathtaking scenic views as well as a number of wineries offering fine wines as little as $5 a bottle and picturesque castles and manor houses dotting the landscape at the edge of primeval forests.
Stay in Varazdin and you may never want to leave. The town was once the nation’s capital and today, is filled with stunning architecture and history with baroque buildings and narrow, winding streets. Sip local fruity, white wines that are typically found only in Croatia; pair with hearty meals like strukli (cottage cheese strudel) for a perfect match.
The Turist Hotel is highly recommended as well as being reasonably priced and clean, within walking distance from the beautiful old city area.
Journey back to Nin, Croatia in Zadar County, the oldest Croatian royal town, and you’ll discover the nation’s best sandy beaches. Ninska Laguna is often recognized as one of the most beautiful Dalmatian coast beaches and also known for its medicinal mud, but the entire area is an oasis of long, sandy beaches that are protected from winds and offer clean and warm water for swimming.
Consider a stay at the gorgeous Zaton Holiday Resort, built in traditional Dalmation architectural style with private balconies just steps away from the beach.
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