Damir Bakarić

European Destinations

of Excellence

European Destinations of Excellence (EDEN)

Resplendent and hidden locations in Europe, whose unassuming and quiet nature keeps them away from the mass tourism flows, should be revealed to the world by slightly opening their doors, which keep secrets, legends, tradition, unspoiled nature and a natural balance among people living in harmony with nature, while adhering to the principles of sustainable tourism. Since 2006, all this has been encompassed by the EDEN (European Destination of Excellence) project, which has been envisioned by the European Commission as a story of unique and non-traditional European tourist destinations that develop tourism by using local resources.


Each year, EDEN’s themes are devised in a way that displays the diversity offered by small and lesser known European destinations, including beautiful nature, their history and heritage, traditional events and the local gastronomy. The rules of EDEN stipulate that these must always be tourist areas that are not widely known, typical or developed in terms of tourism and yet are preserved and pristine in their beauty, providing tourism options all year round. And that Croatia boasts such secluded gems that need to be showcased to the world as examples of authenticity and preserved nature, was evident as early as 2006, when EDEN was implemented in our country by the Croatian National Tourist Board in cooperation with the network of local tourist boards and the Ministry of Tourism.


The European Destination of Excellence in Croatia is selected through a tender and has a different theme every two years that pertains to specific types of tourism. In addition to the winner, four other finalist destinations are selected. This is an opportunity for promoting hidden tourist oases on the official websites of the European Commission and the Croatian National Tourist Board as examples of good practice and new destinations for modern, aware tourists and passengers who are precisely looking for authentic and original destinations that both take care of the environment as well as preserve cultural heritage and tradition.


So far, Croatia has picked a total of nine national EDEN winners and 36 finalists in the following themes: Rural Tourism, Tourism and Local Intangible Heritage, Tourism and Protected Areas, Aquatic Tourism, Tourism and Regeneration of Physical Sites, Accessible Tourism, Tourism and Local Gastronomy, Cultural Tourism and Wellness & Well-being Tourism.

Winners of the EDEN competition

2019 EDEN finalists

Oases of health, care and escape from stress

The segment of wellness and well-being tourism is aimed at finding authentic and innovative products that can provide the basis for developing non-traditional tourist destinations, such as those promoted by the EDEN project.


Sveti Martin na Muri is the 2019 winner and new Croatian European Destination of Excellence, while the finalists are Stubičke Toplice, Daruvar, Tuheljske Toplice and Krapinske Toplice, well-known health and wellness tourism destinations. Their offering and quality as well as the preserved natural environment have shown that Croatian tourism has plenty of assets for promoting health improvement, relaxation and the achievement of physical and mental well-being in preserved nature and in harmony with the environment. The term “wellness” is an English portmanteau of the words well-being and fitness, which best describe what the treatments offer and what this year’s EDEN selection promotes. Croatia is distinctive for its destinations of excellence in the areas of recovery, health and relaxation, as evidenced by locations enriched with exceptional thermal springs, mild river valleys and preserved nature.

Finalists of the EDEN 2016/2017

Five destinations offering an emotional experience

Courageous, creative, modern and innovative models of cultural heritage management are the latest trend. Tourists want new experiences and new knowledge. This was recognised by the Croatian destinations which have entered the final round of the European Destinations of Excellence (EDEN) project for 2016/2017 for the theme “cultural tourism”. In line with the objective and theme of this year's EDEN project, these non-traditional tourist destinations offer intangible cultural heritage to visitors and the project's agenda is to develop the destination and increase year-round tourism. All five Croatian destinations, the winner and four finalists, have joined the European network of destinations which promote sustainable forms of tourism.

The title of the European Destination of Excellence went to Vukovar-Vučedol-Ilok, a destination where historically many peoples and cultures have left their mark in the area of the Slavonian plain, Fruška gora, and where life revolved around the mighty Danube.

The national winner, Vukovar – Vučedol – Ilok and the finalists – the City of Đakovo and the Gorjani Municipality, Rural Konavle, Smiljan-Gospić, Zagorje – A Fairytale in the Palm of Your Hand, are all exquisite in their diversity and they represent in the best possible way the rich heritage of Croatia, its attractive culture and traditions, natural heritage, excellent cuisine and wines, limitless possibilities of having an active vacation... They have everything that the modern guest wants - emotions and experience!

Finalists of the EDEN 2014/2015

Finalists of the EDEN 2012/2013

Finalists of the EDEN 2010/2011

Finalists of the EDEN 2009/2010

Finalists of the EDEN 2008/2009

Finalists of the EDEN 2007/2008

Finalists of the EDEN 2006/2007