Why Croatia is a country of natural wellness and soul food

foggy green fields
Foggy green fields of Motovun, Istria, natural soul food for every single human

PUBLISHED: 21.7.2023.

The alternative, or “holistic” wellness offer in Croatia is huge, but did you know that Croatia itself is one giant region of natural wellness?

Not only is its beauty food for the soul, but its air, sea, minerals, herbs, and forests have qualities that work on our biochemistry to make us feel good. And these natural riches are not just found on Croatia’s beautiful coast but all over the country.

Why not choose a wellness offer in a region that offers not only fantastic experiences but also mystical and health-giving powers tailored to your own needs?

In this article, we cover:

The facts are these…

Croatia – a country of natural wellness and chilling

Introduction to wellness trends in Croatia

Croatia has long been a health Mecca. In the 19th century, visitors first came for illnesses such as respiratory problems. Medical tourism is again booming. But so too is the demand for wellness. Above all, for holistic wellness: visitors come to find inner balance, reconnect with themselves, and heal their frayed 21st-century nerves in a beautiful environment.

The classic hotel wellness offer is huge in Croatia, and most include alternative treatments like yoga. However, there is a growing demand for wellness that goes way beyond doing a few hours of something good indoors.

Visitors want a multi-sensory, challenging experience, often with a touch of adventure, which is authentic, sustainable, responsible, and even better, works in harmony with the local community. There are many dynamic young locals and expats offering exciting packages: yoga in unimaginable variations, offbeat stress-relief programs, sports combined with mindfulness; responsible, authentic adventures.

One example is Fige Yoga Adventures, a female-owned small business that works with family-run local partners, supporting the local economy and female entrepreneurs. Its offers, in gorgeous locations throughout Croatia, focus on connecting through yoga, movement, nature, deep relaxation, and friendship. View their offer here.

Why Croatia is the perfect wellness destination

Croatia already has more than its fair share of soul food: blue sea, a thousand islands, lakes, rivers, and pristine nature reserves. For thousands of years, different cultures left a rich legacy of castles, fortified towns, chapels, and art. Layers of cultures have intersected, leaving behind myths, legends, and mystery.

Mystery feeds my soul. From where I sit, I can see Cres Island, where the Greek mythological figure Jason, leader of the Argonauts, visited in search of the Golden Fleece. The mountain valley behind Mošćenička Draga (where I love to swim) was where the first Slavic settlers in Kvarner held cult rituals dedicated to, among other gods, Perun – the God of the sky, thunder, lightning, storms, rain, law, war, fertility, and oak trees.

[Read: Mošćenička Draga in Istria, a Croatian holiday town in transition]

We haven’t even started on Croatia’s healthy “slow food” diet, with its Mediterranean, Turkish, Italian, and Austrian influences. If you add the healing properties of thermal springs, mineral-rich sea air, medicinal mud baths, and aromatic herbs, it is no wonder that Croatia is a wellness mecca — once again.

Long history of wellness in Croatia

Croatia first became a wellness mecca in the 19th century when the Hapsburg royal family discovered its potential for spa cures. In particular, the entire Opatija Riviera and islands in the Kvarner Bay became THE  places for the 19th-century international elites (aristocracy, royalty, writers, actors and artists, and the rich) to “take the air”.

The 19th-century botanist Ambroz Haračić claimed that his home island of Lošinj had the healthiest climate in the whole Austro-Hungarian Empire. In 1892, the empire declared the towns of both Mali and Veli Lošinj “climate spas” suitable for treating respiratory and allergy problems.

In 1899, Opatija was officially named a royal health resort and a kurort (the German word meaning an area that has natural remedies in its soil, water, or climate.) Only the French Riviera has a longer history of tourism than Opatija.

By the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, climatic spas opened in Crikvenica, Rab, Veli Lošinj, Mali Lošinj, and Gorski kotar centers of Skrad and Delnice.

Obviously, pollution, climate change, and increased ship and tourism traffic have impacted Croatia’s 19th-century pristine nature, but Croatia still offers health benefits. Today, there are climatic spas all over Croatia. A variety of wellness programs, spa centers and sports recreation, rehabilitation activities, and specialist medical centers have developed around them.

[Read: Guide on visiting thermal spas in Croatia with a complete list of toplice]

Croatia’s natural health-giving properties

Croatia’s natural riches include:

  • Adriatic Sea with a 7–14% higher concentration of minerals than the average seawater because waters that flow in the sea are rich in minerals. Seawater has been found to reduce tension and stress, treat and relieve skin problems and hormonal disorders, and be beneficial for arthritis and rheumatism. The sea also releases health-giving negative ions. When the minerals and ions combine with essential oils from medicinal herbs growing inland, it results in an aerosol that is super healthy to breathe.
  • Healing light quality in Dalmatia’s Split, perfect for heliotherapy, a system of using light rays for therapeutic purposes that goes back to ancient times
  • Optimum air humidity in many places
  • Pine forests along the Adriatic coast beneficial for people with respiratory problems
  • Mineral-rich coastal mud baths
  • Some of Europe’s best-quality thermal springs
  • Mystical water sources, underground streams and energy lines in Istria, and much more…

Obviously, over time, the sea and air have become less clean, thanks to pollution, but it is still possible to find pristine places. Read more about Croatia’s natural riches by region below.

How and where Croatian nature boosts our health

Did you know Croatia is a powerhouse of natural energy? Croatia.hr, Croatia’s official tourism site, lists some of those sources of power by region. For more info, go here.

Here, we list some of the fascinating information to excite your curiosity.

#1 Kvarner Bay

The Učka Mountains protect Kvarner from cold northerly winds, making it one of the mildest Adriatic regions. Its healing microclimate is called the Kvarner effect, with around 2.600 hours of annual sunshine, optimal air quality and pressure, and high salt concentrations in the sea, which gives off therapeutic aerosols.

[Read: 5 hiking trails on Učka mountain]

#2 Crikvenica Riviera

Because of its clean mountain air and sea air shorten recovery times, Selce, in the heart of the Crikvenica Riviera, is now a center for physical rehabilitation.

#3 Meline Beach on Krk Island

The black mud in Krk’s Meline Beach not only helps skin ailments, rheumatism, and gout but is also a skin beauty therapy.

#4 Queen of Kvarner wellness: Lošinj

The island of Lošinj is especially therapeutic for respiratory problems because of the unique combination of clean air at optimum humidity and temperature saturated with particles of sea salt and essential oils. The natural healing aerosol actively improves respiration by, for example, soothing and dilating the bronchi and dissolving mucus.

There are other medical benefits of this clean air. Combined with the mild stimulating climate, it promotes the self-regulation of the body’s immune system and the cessation of inflammatory processes.

The island remains today a center of imaginative programs and workshops for the treatment of respiratory tracts and asthma, allergies, and psoriasis. In recent times anti-stress programs have been developed, as well as programs for body cleansing, energy regeneration, and physical vitality.

#5 Central Croatia

Central Croatia, the basin of the Sava, Drava, and Mura rivers, is famous for its thermal springs. Based on mineral water quality, they rank among the top ten in Europe, with Topusko springs coming third and those in Krapinske Toplice sixth.

Each thermal spring offers different benefits. So, the hot volcanic Topusko waters benefit neural, muscular, and locomotor systems. The thermal water and therapeutic mud at Tuheljske Toplice soothe inflammatory and chronic rheumatic ailments, particularly arthritis and sciatica, respiratory illnesses, gynecological ailments, and posttraumatic and postoperative conditions. The Varaždinske Toplice waters are sulphurous, benefiting skin, musculoskeletal and respiratory disorders.

#5 Magic of Naphtalan

Ivanić-Grad, (around 45 kilometers from Zagreb) is one of only two sources of naphtalan (the other is in Naftalan, Azerbaijan), a therapeutic mineral oil excellent for skin, inflammatory rheumatic, and joint and spine diseases. Marco Polo wrote about it when he went to Naftalan in the 13th century.

#6 Mysterious Istria

Istria has a mysterious Karst geology made up of soluble limestone rocks. These get worn away over time, forming caves, sinkholes, underground streams, and natural water springs (often the site of ancient magical rites). View more on hidden, magical springs here.

Istria’s Livada thermal springs, used since ancient times, have high-sulphur, optimally radioactive warm water with 14 different types of minerals. They are at the foot of the ancient hill fort of Motovun in the Mirna River valley.

#7 Spacious Slavonia

Slavonia’s Bizovac thermal springs are beneficial for psoriasis, chronic rheumatic ailments, injuries to the musculoskeletal system, and sporting injuries.

#8 Sunny Dalmatia

Split region

Heliotherapy, the use of rays of light to treat certain illnesses and organ disorders, was common in ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome, as well as in Arab countries and the Middle East. Split and the region around it have a therapeutic light.

The Dalmatia-Split region’s Mediterranean cuisine is a UNESCO “intangible cultural heritage of mankind”. Split has the largest number of Olympic medal holders per capita in the world, which could be a result of its healthy life and climate.

Zadar region

On the island of Pag, the northern bura wind raises tiny particles of seawater, creating aerosols that are healing to respiratory organs and offer relief for asthma sufferers.

[Read: Why wind is important – bura vs jugo]

A walk in the herb-covered mountains is a natural aromatherapy experience. Pag salt is used to treat skin and rheumatic illnesses, while therapeutic mud has been used medicinally for centuries. The island is often called the Island of Health.

[Read: Everyday Croatian-made products that you can buy to support Croatia, including Pag salt]

Nin, close to Zadar, has therapeutic mud used to treat rheumatic illnesses, spinal deformations, locomotor system problems, female infertility, and skin problems.

Dubrovnik region

Korčula is one of the Adriatic’s most forested islands, with an indented coastline full of coves, sandy beaches, and around 40 islets. Its wild aromatic and medicinal plants are used in particular for digestive tract difficulties.

[Read: The meaning of lavender for Croatia]

Kale cove, close to Vela Luka, has therapeutic mud and radioactive water, a powerful combination to treat chronic rheumatic, neurological, and gynecological problems. Therapeutic mud in the Blace cove in Trpanj has anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, and bio-stimulative properties that promote regenerative processes.

Rich range of holistic wellness offers in Croatia today

Here is just a small taste of exciting offers in healthy locations.

Yoga, mindfulness, and meditation

The yoga offer is booming. Check out the variety:

  • Six-day yoga retreat on the stunning island of Korčula – view here
  • 3-day yoga break with an Agnihotra fire ceremony and Chrystaltherapy in Tuhelj, Krapina-Zagorje County – view here
  • Five-day hiking and yoga retreat in the Dinarian Alps and Ražanj on the Dalmatian Coast – view here
  • 6-day Tantra Yoga and Permaculture Retreat in Karlovac County – view here
  • Sailing yoga retreat – view here
  • Luxury yoga retreat in Dubrovnik, which gives back to the community – view here

More offers are available here.

Stand-up paddleboarding (SUP)

A growing trend that combines mindfulness with exercise: take SUP-themed tours on Croatia’s beautiful coast and islands. The offer is often creative, for example, these two:

  • SUP Yoga offer in Pula – view here
  • Glowing SUP experience in Split – view here

If you have your own board, you can go to the delta of the Neretva river near Dubrovnik, which is an ideal place for surfers.

[Read: Delta of the Croatian river Neretva – an agricultural and kitesurfing heaven]

Responsible and sustainable travel adventures

Here, we give one example that sums up the trend for a challenging, authentic, responsible wellness holiday. The “boutique” adventure travel agency Terra Magica Adventures in Istria offers hiking, cycling, kayaking, rock climbing, and SUP. The emphasis is on an authentic Croatian experience that at the same time supports local communities. View more information here.

Sound healing

Sound healing is also available in Croatia. One example is the Sense Studio in Dubrovnik, whose owner fell in love with the sound of Tibetan singing bowls on a visit to Bali in 2014 and is now a Certified Peter Hess® Sound Massage Practitioner. The studio uses sound vibrations in a therapeutic setting.

The vibration of the singing bowls placed on your body creates a state of total meditation-like relaxation, a massage of the “soul”. This studio also gives “sound baths”, where you lie down on a wool mat and are immersed in the meditational sounds of Tibetan bowls. View more information here.

De-stress retreats

Stress relief retreats are also a growing trend. Here are some:

  • 4-day balanced life Women’s Retreat in Dubrovnik – view here
  • 4-day Reconnect with Yourself Solo Retreat in Dubrovnik – view here
  • Embody your wild feminine goddess potential in a soul-connecting self-love retreat – view here
  • Herd sheep, groom ponies, or work on a farm for three days of de-stressing in Vuglec Breg, 40 km from Zagreb – view here

View our other related articles

Wellness by Visit Opatija
Croatia spa resort by TripAdvisor
Healing mud on the island of Krk by Visit Krk
About Lošinj’s fragrant garden by Miomirisni vrt
Visit Lošinj

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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