Where to observe autumn leaves changing colors in Croatia

lake in autumn
Kruščica lake near Gospić, Croatia

The falling autumn leaves of different shapes and colors bring joy to all of us who are frisky and playful. But aren’t we all children in our hearts?

Every piece of Croatian land has its own pearls, but Istria, Lika, and Gorski kotar stand out for their vibrant forests and protected landscapes. They hide locations perfect for romantic souls, where they can observe what the autumn does to untouched nature.

The autumn palette full of pastel colors – faded green, bright yellow, ruby red, warm orange, and golden brown invites you to paint your mind with the sweetest memories. We bring you Croatian destinations to visit during the fall that will leave you calm and speechless.

Whether you watch the falling leaves in the woods or by the lakes, on a foggy morning or sunny afternoon, alone or with someone special – we wish you to dream, be playful, and find your own peace. And remember: Ljepota je u oku promatrača (Beauty is in the eye of the beholder).

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The facts are these…

Where to see autumn leaves change colors in Croatia

#1 Barać caves

The area of Baraćeve špilje (Barać caves) is protected as a significant landscape characterized by extensive biodiversity. The caves are ideal to visit if you are on your way to Plitvice Lakes National Park, which is only 20 kilometers away.

Surrounding woods are rich in grab (hornbeam), bukva (beech), and hrast kitnjak (sessile oak), an indigenous species in Croatia. Frequent guests are also malolisna lipa (small-leaved linden), gorski javor (Sycamore maple), javor klen (field maple), divlja trešnja (wild cherry), obični jasen (common ash), bijela vrba (white willow), smreka (spruce), crna topola (black poplar), and bushes such as lijeska (hazel), glog (hawthorn), trnina (blackthorn), svib (common dogwood), and dren (cornus).

Just imagine these colorful treetops intertwining like swing dancers’ legs, and your feet will be on their way. Pure magic!

[Read: Sea and continental caves of Croatia including Baraćeve špilje]

Location: Rakovica, Karlovac County – view map

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#2 Sokolac old town in Brinje

autumn trees
Autumn hills and sheeps in Lika-Senj County

The medieval noble town Sokolac, smiling from a small hill in Brinje, will warm the heart of every history lover. The Frankopan princes built it in the 15th century, and the settlement was formed beneath it. Assumptions say it was named after a story about a sokol (falcon).

The old woods encircling Sokolac bring a new story every season. Trees around the ruins paint the perspective in various colors, playing with observers’ minds. Lengthen the step towards Brinje’s mini chapels: Sv. Vid, Sv. Fabijan i Sebastijan, Uznesenje Blažene Djevice Marije, Vretenaš mill, and a stone bridge to expand the spectrum of autumn colors and experiences.

Location: Brinje, Lika-Senj County – view map

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#3 Buzet, the city of truffles

Buzet is known as a Croatian city of truffles called tartufi in Croatian. Like most old towns inside Istria, it is built on the top of the hill and surrounded by a forest.

During a cold autumn morning or evening, the lucky ones may catch a fog arising from the bottom of the Buzet hill, sneaking through the forest to the old city, wrapping it around like a mystical muse. Your dog won’t complain if you go truffle hunting around Buzet. Explore the Istrian hills and connect with the trees all the way to Hum, which is only 20 minutes away.

[Read: Hum, Istria: Smallest city in the world]

Location: Buzet, Istria County – view map

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#4 Fužine, autumn fairytale

autumn forest
Autumn forests of Gorski kotar, Croatia

Fužine is a fairytale town situated at 722 meters above sea level, surrounded by dense conifer forests of Gorski kotar. The deciduous trees that form paths around the city and three giant accumulation lakes will lead your way around. While soaking up the calmness of woods on a beach, big lake shells may grab your attention.

Fužine is a perfect stop for everyone driving on the Zagreb-Rijeka highway. View some useful road tips in our guide on driving in Croatia, including highways, tolls, gas stations, car washes, and parking here.

[Read: What I miss about autumn in Zagreb after moving from Croatia]

Location: Fužine, Primorje-Gorski Kotar County – view map

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#5 Grožnjan, the city of artists

cat on the window
Grožnjan cat hidden behind autumn colors

Artistic spirits will find their home in Grožnjan, a romantic settlement of arts and music on an Istrian hill close to Italy. The diverse plants settled in the city’s stone streets make it unique during fall. Get lost in these labyrinth-shaped streets, overgrown with Mediterranean plants headed by his highness oleandar (oleander).

If you dig enough, you will find the kaki trees lying on the slopes and watching the city of Motovunon on the neighboring hill. Admire the potted plants in playful jars art gallery owners use to decorate their windows and terraces. Fire your imagination by taking photos of Grožnjan’s most frequent inhabitants – cats, combining their patterns with the autumn leaves’ gentle colors. Enjoy both vividness and peace.

Location: Grožnjan, Istria County – view map

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#6 Kamačnik canyon

Kamačnik’s wooded area was declared a significant landscape of Croatia in 2002. It is a perfect destination for those who don’t (want to) drive since a train station is only 100 meters from its entrance.

[Read: Guide on train travel in Croatia (including loads of discounts)]

The Kamačnik walking trail begins at the mouth of the Kamačnik river into the Dobra river. The deeper you walk into the forest, the more nature will reward you with its mesmerizing scenarios. Absorb the scents of the protected vegetation as you walk on the autumn carpet by the crystal clear Kamačnik river. Once you get to the source, grab a moment to meditate by the small blue-green lake and surrender to the rain of autumn leaves falling around you.

Location: near Vrbovsko, Gorski kotar – view map


#7 Kruščica, the lake of peace

Forest near Kruščica lake in Lika, Croatia

Are you terrified by the silence that can be found only in distant places? If those are your dream spots and you’d love to hear every single leaf touching the earth, Kruščica lake is your undiscovered heaven.

This isolated Kruščica lake was named after the former village of Kruščica, sunk during the construction of the hydroelectric power plant Sklope. The remains can be seen every ten years when the lake dries up, looking like a desert. If you have a license, you can go fishing there.

[Read: How to get a fishing license in Croatia]

Kruščica lake is only 23 kilometers away from the city of Gospić, situated on the Novčica river. Gospić is another ideal destination to stare at the autumn leaves while they find their eternal peace on the river’s surface.

river in autumn
Novčica river in Gospić, Croatia

Location: near Gospić, Lika-Senj county – view map

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#8 Rastoke, a waterfall city

An inevitable stop while traveling through Lika to southern Croatia is Rastoke near Slunj, a village resting at the mouth of the Slunjčica river into Korana. On a cold autumn afternoon, take a coffee by the fireplace and stare at the travertine rocks, waterfalls, rapids, lakes, and cascades. Watch them get lost in the darkness like wild wolves about to rest for new daily adventures.

Antique lovers can recharge their batteries with a short walk through Rastoke, imbibing the vibes of its traditional mills and authentic architecture originating from the 17th century. Rastoke was included in Zagreb’s Register of Immovable Cultural Monuments in 1969.

Tiny tip: You can take a bit longer walk to examine the bank of the Slunjčica river running through its canyon beneath the city of Slunj to Rastoke.

Location: Rastoke, Karlovac County – view map

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#9 Smiljan, Tesla’s village

fields in autumn
Autumn landscapes near Smiljan, Croatia

Lika’s village of Smiljan is seven kilometers away from Gospić. Legends could not decide whether it was named after smilje (immortelle) flowers that once grew there, the beautiful girl Smiljana who lived there, or a famous folk hero Ilija Smiljanić. We are sure of only one thing – Smiljan is Nikola Tesla’s hometown, where his house and memorial center are located.

Tesla identified himself with this village, where he got his first ideas. Autumn brings another perspective to the village when compared to sunny days. Imagine Tesla as a child, playing he’s an inventor like professor Baltazar in Smiljan’s freezing forests. The palette of autumn leaves must have helped him warm his soul and develop innovations.

[Read: Nikola Tesla: 7 little known facts from his life in Croatia]

Location: Smiljan, Lika-Senj County – view map

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#10 Učka mountain

road in the mountain
The road to Učka’s mountain top Vojak

Učka mountain is a favorite destination of Istrian locals. If you visit Učka in autumn, you’ll see its leaves change to golden brown, warm orange, and bright red colors. From its highest mountain peak called Vojak, 1.397 meters above sea level, you can also enjoy the fall covering Istria, Kvarner Bay and its islands, Gorski kotar, Velebit, Ćićarija, Julian Alps, and Italian Dolomites.

[Read: 5 hiking trails on Učka mountain]

If you are not into hiking, you can get a license and pick mushrooms or maruni, big tasty chestnuts typical for this area.

[Read: Famous Croatian produce and where it comes from, including Učka chestnuts]

Location: Istria County – view map

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#11 Zeleni vir & Vražji prolaz reserves

In 1962, Zeleni vir (Green fountain) and Vražji prolaz (Devil’s passage) were declared a special geomorphological reserve thanks to their lush forest vegetation covering the entire landscape.

Vražji prolaz is an 800-meter-long canyon faithfully followed by the Jasle spring covered with deep shadow. The walking trail along the spring is decorated with bridges and staircases and sometimes climbs through the rocks. A 70-meter-high rock juts out between two wooded slopes, carrying two streams and guarding a cave with a spring called Zeleni vir. The spring hides a crystal clear, calm lake of emerald green color.

Soak up the autumn colors covering the surrounding landscape and small streams before they plunge into the cold winter and become icy waterfalls. Life can’t get better than this.

Location: near Skrad, Primorje-Gorski Kotar County; Zeleni vir – view map; Vražji prolaz – view map

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View our other nature posts

Bioraznolikost by Baraćeve špilje
Sokolac by TZ Brinje
Kamačnik by Visit Vrbovsko
Jezero Kruščica by TZ Perušić
Vražji prolaz i zeleni vir by Javna ustanova Priroda

Please note: Information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal or financial advice in any form. Croatian laws and bureaucratic rules often change, and each personal case is individual, so different rules may apply. For legal advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. For financial advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian tax advisor or accountant.

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