Central Croatia

THE CROATIAN ZAGORJE

This region isn’t as busy as the coastal area, so if you want to escape city life and bustling promenades by the sea, head to Zagorje’s rolling hills, vineyards, medieval castles and quaint villages. You don’t want to miss a stroll by the lake and a tour of Trakošćan Castle, which is considered to be the most beautiful castles in Croatia. Veliki Tabor, a castle built by the Hungarian noble family of Ráttkay is also worth visiting when in Zagorje. The story has it that Veronika of Desinić was killed by the  powerful Count Herman II of Celje for secretly marrying his son Fridrik, and her body was built into the wall connecting the pentagonal tower to the castle entrance. Her wails can still be heard today… Since 2002, Veliki Tabor has been the venue of an international festival of short films. You can choose between a hotel or hostel accommodation, rent a vacation house, book a room at one of numerous family farm estates… Either way, good food, fine wine and friendly people await your visit!

KRAPINA

The new Neanderthal Museum in Krapina was opened in 2010 and it quickly became one of Croatia’s most popular museums. It’s modern and interactive, covers an area of around 1200m2 where you can learn about the prehistoric habitat of the Krapina Neanderthal discovered by Dr. Dragutin Kramberger. The exhibition starts in a virtual cave and takes you on a journey from the Big Bang, the formation of Earth to the appearance of the first humans and the world today. The most interesting part are the hyper realistic reconstructions of Neanderthals and their habitat. Fun fact: in the introductory 16-minute movie, the lifelike reconstructions of a Neanderthal man were made by the same team of experts as in the famous movie “Lord of the Rings”.

KRAPINSKE TOPLICE

The biggest water park in Croatia, Aquae Vivae has five pools and the biggest jacuzzi in Europe (300m2). In this modern thermal spa center there are 600 sun loungers, a wave pool, a diving pool and a piano bar where guests can relax and sip a drink. Krapinske toplice are a center of inland health and wellness tourism in Croatia because of the historic hot springs. There are several family farms in the vicinity where you can taste home grown food and specialties such as strukli (traditional handmade pastry with oven-baked fresh cottage cheese topped with cream) and strudel, purica s mlincima (roast turkey with special pasta tatters) or cabbage with sausages.

SVETI MARTIN

The only thermal baths center in Međimurje region, constructed by local experts and Italian architect Maurizio Favetto, offers guests luxury spa, wellness and beauty treatments, various saunas and an Ice cave with Siberian sky with a temperature of 8-12 ° C. Go spoil yourself 🙂 Or, if you prefer an active vacation, there are over 700 kilometers of bike routes in the area and numerous other outdoor and indoor activities (golf, football, yoga, volleyball, tennis…). When in Međimurje, visit its center, Čakovec -Croatian National Tourist Board pronounced it the most well-kept city in continental Croatia on three consecutive years (2009-2011).

KARLOVAC

A unique City on Four Rivers (Kupa, Korana, Mrežnica and Dobra) which was once a fortress town, built in the shape of a six-pointed star to protect the region from ever-invading Ottoman Empire. It was named after the Archduke of Austria, Charles II (Karl in German), hence Karlstadt (Ger.) or Chalestown (Karlovac) 🙂
With Croatia being one of European countries that has the richest ichthyofauna and flora, and Karlovac being the town on four rivers, not surprisingly, it recently got a unique freshwater aquarium complex, Aquatika, with 25 pools where you can see about 100 species of fish and have an educational tour to learn about underwater flora and fauna. Speaking of rivers, of course you can go rafting either on Dobra, Kupa or Mrežnica. After a good sweat, have a fine meal in one of the local restaurants or buffets and taste one of the most popular beers in Croatia – Karlovačko beer, brewed in Karlovac. The city also hosts a 10-day beer festival Dani piva (Beer Days), something like the famous Octoberfest in Germany, only on a smaller scale 🙂
Interesting facts: the war scenes for the video Earth Song by Michael Jackson were shot in the suburb of Turanj, near Karlovac, since it was almost levelled to the ground by the Serbs and their paramilitary forces during Croatia’s War of Independence (1991-1995). When in Karlovac, visit The Homeland War Museum, the open-air exhibition of a collection of weapons used by the Croatian Army during that time. And know that a famous inventor Nikola Tesla went to school here 🙂

RASTOKE

A historic center, old part of the town of Slunj, somewhat an introduction to Plitvice Lakes: beautiful waterfalls, cascades and azure green pools of the river Slunjčica which flows into Korana at this place, often being referred to as “the Small Lakes of Plitvice”. Mills and houses in Rastoke make you think you’ve taken a step back in time or were shifted to some fairytale land. When here, you must try the particularly tasty bread made of freshly grinded corn (a combination of maize, barley, wheat, rye and millet) from a mill driven by water power. The local restaurants offer fresh trouts from the Slunjčica river and other typical specialties such as roast pork or lamb. You can enjoy many activities in this region, such as swimming, rafting, fishing, biking, hiking, riding, or you can visit limestone Caves of Barać (Baraćeve špilje) near Rakovica.

SAMOBOR

Only 20 kilometers from the capital, located between the eastern slopes of the Samobor Hills, the eastern part of Žumberak Mountain, in the valley of the River Sava, this charming town is the favorite weekend-getaway for many of the capital’s residents. People come here to enjoy the picturesque streets, to walk the pretty promenades by the River Gradna or hike in the nearby hills. Only 10 minutes walk from the city centre, up on the hill there are remains of the Samobor Castle fortress dating from the 13th century. After a long walk, try the famous Samoborska kremšnita (a vanilla custard cake with puff pastry) or krafna (jelly doughnut). Doughnuts, though, are most popular during the famous Samobor Carnival which has been held here for the past 170 years. People of Samobor once said: “Fools have a carnival every day, and sober only during the Carnival”. If you don’t want to stay completely sober, head to the nearby Plešivica Hills and visit small family wineries where you can taste the local wines, and don’t forget to ask about Bermet, a red aromatic wine made from selected sorts of grapes and wormwood. For a classy experience, drink it from special crystal cut glasses made in Samobor (this is a cultural rarity – only in the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Hungary and Croatia this artwork is produced).