Planning a springtime break to Croatia? Here's our pick of new green initiatives sure to attract nature lovers as well as epicureans and lotus eaters looking for a spot of eco-indulgence.
Visit Zlarin, the plastic-free island
In March 2019, the island of Zlarin made a pledge to be Croatia's first island to scrap single-use plastics. Starting this Spring, environmental activists as well as local residents on the island are working towards the goal to eliminate the use of bags, plates, cutlery and glasses made of plastic and replace these with more sustainable alternatives.
Connected by ferry to the charming city of Šibenik, this small island covers an area of only eight square kilometres, but there are 19 kilometres of coastline which means plenty of beaches. There's another excellent reason to visit: Zlarin is also car-free! Hire a bicycle and you're all set for a low-carbon island holiday.
More information: Zlarin Tourist Board
Sample natural wines at Roxanich Wine Hotel
“Honest and natural winemaking” is the ethos of Roxanich, winemakers producing quality vintages in the vineyard-covered hills of Istria, Croatia's westernmost region. Inspired by biodynamic agriculture – an organic approach to farming developed by Rudolf Steiner and guided by principles like balance and sustainability, chemicals are avoided as much as possible in the wine-making process in favour of natural ingredients.
The much anticipated Roxanich Wine & Heritage Hotel opened its doors in April at the foot of the charming hilltop village of Motovun, and is a fine addition to Istria's gastronomic map. Tours of the massive wine cellars, wine-tasting experiences, and tasting menus combined with wine pairing are on offer here along with stylish guest rooms and a wellness centre if you're looking for a gastronomic escape.
Learn about eco-friendly building techniques
If you're intrigued by eco-friendly buildings and would like to go hands-on and learn a few techniques in green building, Gea Via is the place for you. This eco-retreat camp on the island of Brač is holding a workshop in dry-stone walling where participants can learn how to build the dry-stone walls so typical in rural parts of Croatia made without the use of mortar or other materials. Another week-long workshop on 'Creating your eco-building' tackles simple construction techniques using renewable or recycled materials.
There are plenty of examples of sustainable buildings at Gea Via to be inspired by: check out the straw bale eco-cabin, large dome tent for seminars and yoga retreats, outdoor kitchen, the stone circle open-air auditorium, and reed-roofed huts. Set in an olive grove overlooking the sea, accommodation is provided in glamping huts and tents.
Explore the Vis archipelago: A UNESCO Global Geopark
Vis has been in the international spotlight in the past year as the picturesque filming location for Mamma Mia 2. But this Dalmatian island was in the news again last month when it was designated as a UNESCO Global Geopark. This status recognises its exceptional geological heritage. Vis and the nearby islands of Jabuka, Brusnik, Biševo and Palagruža, which make up the Vis archipelago, are geologically the oldest islands of the Adriatic Sea.
The best-known attraction here is the Blue Cave: a sea cave only accessible by boat located in a small bay on the island of Biševo. Visit around midday to see the cave fill with a magical glowing blue light reflecting off the limestone walls.
More info: Vis Tourist Board
Indulge in an organic treatment at Albaro Wellness & Spa
Another notable April 2019 opening is the Grand Park Hotel in Rovinj, Istria's best-known tourist town. Located on the edge of the seaside promenade, this imposing 209-room hotel is already a landmark thanks to its multi-levelled facade covered in lush foliage. The expansive 3500-square-metre Albaro Wellness & Spa split over two levels with both indoor and outdoor spaces is a highlight for wellness seekers.
On the extensive spa menu is a tantalising and expertly curated selection of treatments inspired by the herbs, plants, trees and cultural heritage of Istria. Ingredients are sourced locally and prepared by artisan producers: extra virgin olive oil, organic oils made of local plants, and herbal grappa as well as natural ingredients from the sea like seaweed, salt and mud. Indulge in one of their exclusive treatments: the Pelinkovac Rakija Ritual using a local absinthe made with the healing herbs, the Olive Press Ceremony inspired by Istria's olive oil tradition, or a Batana Bodywork massage which utilises a section of the oar used by traditional Batana boatmen to ease muscles.
Words: Isabel Putinja