Vukovarsko-Srijemska Zupanija, or Vukovar-Srijem County, is found in the northeastern part of Croatia. The county neighbors Osijek-Baranja County to the north and west, Brod-Posavina County to the west, the Bosnian and Herzegovinian entity of Serbia to the south and southwest, Brčko District to the south, Posavina Canton to the southwest, Serbian Srem District to the southeast, and South Bačka District to the northeast. The landscape features arable soil, vineyards, and roads. However, the forests are the primary constituent, with approximately 70,000 hectares of the county's area being covered by trees. Historically, Vukovar-Srijem County reportedly features the oldest settlement in Europe, Vinkovci, with archeological proof of settlement dating back approximately 8,000 years. Presently, Vinkovci is the largest city in the area. Yet, the title of the county's capital belongs to the town of Vukovar. Vukovar offers a number of attractions to tourists visiting the city, among them the Crkva Sv. Filipa i Jakova. In terms of climate, Vukovarsko-Srijemska Zupanija is found in a moderately continental climate, with the average annual temperature resting around 11°C. The area receives the most rainfall during spring and mid-summer, with average humidity being 79%.
Vukovar, the capital city of Vukovar-Srijem County, holds several considerable sites that bear witness to its history. The hospital, used during the siege, now serves as a modern facility, but its basement has been transformed into a museum. Tank Graveyard Street commemorates a battle, featuring destroyed tanks left as a memorial. Despite war damage, the museum at the baroque Eltz Manor exhibits various artifacts, including the Vučedol culture's ancient ceramic shoe. The Ovčara field stands as a memorial to the massacre of hospital staff and patients by Serbian soldiers, with a museum established nearby. Additionally, Crkva Sv. Filipa i Jakova, the main Catholic cathedral, which was also partially destroyed due to the war, offers a panoramic view of the city and the Danube River.
However, the largest city by area in the Vukovarsko-Srijemska Zupanija is Vinkovci. The city is also known as the oldest settlement in Europe, as it has thrived for 8,000 years, leaving traces of history throughout the town. Starting from Korzo, a city promenade, visitors can observe the Baroque old town center with its historical buildings, such as the Vinkovci grammar school and the Town Museum. Additionally, tourists can view the ancient Indo-European calendar, Orion, depicted on ceramic pots from 2600 BC, which inspired symbols on Korzo's pavement. Taking a walk along the Bosut River, people will come across the old Krnjaš, a Šokci street, and the childhood home of author Ivan Kozarac, commemorating his forbidden love. Natural attractions in the city include Veliki Park.
Exploring the plains of Syrmia and Slavonia on a bicycle is one of the options for active travelers visiting Vukovar-Srijem County. The Syrmia route connects the county's southern and northeastern parts and joins the international Danube bicycle route, offering a variety of landscapes, cultural attractions, and culinary experiences. For a different adventure, horse riding is an option, with various Syrmian equestrian clubs found in the area. Nature enthusiasts can enjoy walks along forest paths, as almost 70 percent of the site is covered in forests. The wetlands along the rivers Sava, Bosut, and Spačva may entice hunting tourists. The Spačva forest, in particular, boasts a vast common oak tree forest, including the Lože reservoir, with centennial oak trees reaching up to 40 meters in height. Virovi, protected as part of Natura 2000, showcases a typical Slavonian landscape.
Vukovar-Srijem County is situated in the northeastern region of Croatia, encompassing eastern Slavonia and western Syrmia. It covers a total area of approximately 2,454 square kilometers. The county is characterized by the presence of two major rivers, the Danube and the Sava, as well as two smaller rivers, the Bosut and the Vuka. The Bosut River is a tributary of the Sava, while the Vuka is a tributary of the Danube. Within the water-land Spačva basin, there are smaller tributaries called Spačva and Studva. The county's highest point is Čukala, located on Fruška Gora, with an altitude of 294 meters above sea level, and its lowest point is along the Spačva River, at an elevation of 78 meters within the Spačva basin.
Concerning the nature of Vukovar-Srijem County, the area is characterized by arable fields, vineyards, road networks, and forests. The county boasts fertile arable land, with approximately 150,000 hectares of productive soil, particularly on the Vukovar plain where blackberry soil prevails. Additionally, Vukovar-Srijem County is located in a mild continental climate, which enhances agricultural activities. The primary agricultural products include wheat, corn, sugar beet, and tobacco, with processing capacities such as warehouses, mills, silos, cold stores, and factories. Another feature of the Vukovarsko-Srijemska Zupanija is the preserved old forests, covering around 70,000 hectares of land. Presumably, the best-known among them is the Luznjak oak forest. Notably, there are two protected forest areas in the Spačvan forest basin: Lože, near Županja, and Radiševo, a protected forest area close to the village of Vrbanja.
Regarding climatic conditions and weather in the county's capital, Vukovar, the warmest month is often August, with an average daily temperature of 30°C. Reportedly, January is the coldest month, as temperatures average a high of 4°C. March tends to be the driest month in Vukovar because it generally receives 36 millimeters of rainfall on average. The most precipitation falls during June, with an average of about 85 millimeters.
During the Paleolithic era, nomadic tribes hunted and fished in the region of today's Vukovarsko-Srijemska Zupanija. The Neolithic period saw the emergence of sedentary settlements with farming and herding tribes, starting ceramic dish production and stone and bone tools. Later, pastoral tribes arrived from the east, introducing copper products. In the Bronze Age, the Vinkovac and Daljska cultures thrived, and during the Hallstatt period, iron processing and production developed. Roman conquest brought changes, with settlements such as Cibalae growing into administrative centers.
During the Ottoman Hungary period, the region was part of the Sanjak of Syrmia, centered in present-day Ilok. After the Ottoman Empire retreated in 1699, it became part of the Habsburg Monarchy; later, it joined forces with the Austrian Empire, and eventually, it became part of Austria-Hungary. The historical Slavonian Syrmia County existed from 1745 to 1922. During the revolutions of 1848, the county briefly became part of the self-declared Serbian Vojvodina. In the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, the region was a subdivision until 1922 and later part of the Sava and Danube Banovinas until 1939, when it became part of the Banovina of Croatia, encompassing the modern Vukovar-Srijem County.
During World War II, Yugoslavia collapsed, and the Independent State of Croatia was established, including the Great Vuka County in the former Srijem region. In post-war Yugoslavia, new districts were established with headquarters in Vinkovci, Vukovar, and Županja. The region faced challenges, including agrarian reforms and political suppression. With the disintegration of Yugoslavia, Vukovar-Srijem County was restored in 1992. The area suffered during the 1991 aggression against Vukovar, with numerous lives lost and many missing or imprisoned in Serbian camps. Reportedly, efforts are ongoing to identify and locate the missing persons from the county.
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