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Zagreb day trips

Zagreb is surrounded by natural wonderlands - why not escape the city for a day?

If you're looking for Zagreb day trips, you're spoilt for choice. Natural beauty spots surround the capital, ranging from the majestic waterfalls of Plitvice Lakes National Park to the marshy wetlands of Lonjsko Polje. If your city break has left you gasping for rural greenery and fresh air, these wonderful day trips are exactly what the doctor ordered.

RECOMMENDED: More great travel destinations in Croatia

Plitvice travel guide
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Plitvice travel guide

Plitvice Lakes is one of Croatia's most alluring attractions. Just a few hours from capital city Zagreb, and easily reached by road, this remarkable feat of nature is very accessible. Visitors flock here in summer months to gaze at the 16 startlingly clear lakes and heavenly cascades spread over its lush terrain. Carefully protected by the government, Plitvice is not overrun with eateries and hotels, but you can easily find places to dine and doze around the fringes of this natural wonderland.  RECOMMENDED: more great travel destinations in Croatia

Kumrovec
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Kumrovec

Straggling along the eastern side of the Sutla valley, hard against Croatia’s border with Slovenia, Kumrovec is a typical village of the Zagorje region, with vineyards, haystacks and clucking turkeys the defining features of its bucolic charm.   No wonder the centre of the village was designated as an open-air ethnographic museum, a conscientiously reconstructed huddle of traditional houses, workshops and barns that show what Zagorje life was like in the years before World War I.    However, there is another reason why the museum was placed in Kumrovec rather than elsewhere; namely that Marshal Tito, the communist autocrat who ruled Yugoslavia from 1945 to 1980, was born here under the name Josip Broz on May 7, 1892.   Indeed many of the vistors to Kumrovec’s Old Village Museum (open Apr-Sept 9am-7pm daily, Oct-Mar 9am-4pm daily, 20kn) stop first at the house where Tito was born, a simple one-storey structure that stands at the core of this 40-building tribute to traditional peasant life. Inside are the practical, solid furnishings that a family of the time would have owned; sturdy beds that look like wooden boxes, and a central stove that was intended to heat all the rooms in the house. There’s a small display devoted to Tito’s career as a war leader and statesman, including one of the uniforms he wore in 1944, and photographs of him hosting US president Richard Nixon in Zagreb in 1970.    Occupying centre stage the milky marble bust by Antun Augustinčić of the Yugos

Lonjsko Polje
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Lonjsko Polje

A century or so ago inland Croatia would have been covered in bucolic villages made up of wooden houses and barns. Nowadays the only area that still preserves traditional architecture in any great quantity is the Lonjsko polje, located 50km south-east of Zagreb just beyond the provincial city of Sisak.   A strip of flatland running along the eastern bank of the Sava river, the Lonjsko polje contains a string of villages where rickety timber house still groan under the weight of shingle-clad roofs and flowerpot-filled wooden verandas.    What makes the Lonjsko polje doubly appealing is its status as one of Croatia’s most important wetland environments. The level fields that stretch east behind the villages are prone to seasonal flooding, creating a unique watery habitat for a wide range of insects, birds and wild mammals. Much of the area now falls under the protection of the Lonjsko Polje Nature Park, which maintains visitors’ centres in Krapje and Čigoć, the two most popular destinations.   The park is the largest protected wetland not just in Croatia but the entire Danube basin. An area of 50,650 hectares, it has 238 bird species, ten types of reptiles, 16 amphibians, 41 fish types, and 550 plant species. The place is so diverse it even contains 38 varieties of dragonfly. Lonjsko Polje is a key feeding station for many migrating birds, with black and white storks, white-tailed eagles and spoonbills, among the many regular visitors. It’s the white stork that it most of

Rastoke
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Rastoke

Croatia’s Kordun region is at once a peaceful haven of preserved folkloric tradition and, conversely, an adrenalin rush. Located just an hour and a half outside Zagreb, its rustic centrepiece is the community of Rastoke, a suburb just north of the town of Slunj, the landscape criss-crossed by crystal-clear rivers.   This combination makes for, arguably, one of the country’s most unheralded recreation spots. As well, because it is located roughly halfway between the Croatian capital and the northern Dalmatian coast, just 25 kilometres from the Plitvice Lakes National Park, it is a perfect place to learn more about Croatia beyond its most typical locales and give your holiday a change of pace.   Slunj’s geographic importance is nothing new. For centuries this was (and is) a military headquarters and was even a focal point in the Yugoslav war. The good news for visitors is that the area’s priorities have changed.   One of the key institutions guiding Rastoke’s rise as a tourist destination and activity centre is Tourist Center Mirjana Rastoke, a tourist agency four kilometres from Slunj, containing a 30-room hotel and restaurant open all year round. Mirjana offers a multitude of outdoor ventures, including rafting, kayaking, paintball, off-road vehicles, plus horseback-riding and trout fishing.   Many of Mirjana’s excursions involve crashing numerous waterfalls on three-to-four-hour-long trips down the class-two and class-three (in summer) Mrez nica and Korana rivers by

Samobor
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Samobor

Samobor is an easy hop, only 20km west of Zagreb near the Slovene border. A cantonal centre under Napoleon, Samobor has always been an important stop between Zagreb and the sea.   Many travellers alighted at the hotel K Gradu Trstu on their way to or from Trieste. It was also at the hub of the 19th-century Illyrian movement and attracted many a Croatian poet, writer and politician whose works called for independence. A tradition of folk carnivals and balls is maintained to this day.    This dovetails nicely with Samobor’s penchant for leisure and relaxation. The first spa, Šmidhen, was opened in 1868, the first public park, Anindol, in 1883, and locals flocked here from Zagreb every weekend. By 1914, Samobor could boast three hotels, a boarding house, a restaurant, a coffeehouse and 50 pubs. Until 1979, the narrow-gauge Samoborček slowly shuttled between the capital and Samobor; today it’s a quicker but perhaps less bucolic journey by car or bus (from Črnomerec or the main bus station).    Visitors still come in numbers for relaxation, around Samobor’s main square of Trg kralja Tomislava, through its narrow streets, along the Gradna creek, and in the parks of Vugrinščak and Anindol. Well-preserved sights include the churches of Sv Anastazije and Sv Mihalja, and the chapel of Sv Ana. The Town Museum contains a small but delightful display of local ethnography.    Samobor’s other great asset is its proximity to a wealth of easy hiking opportunities. Šoićeva kuća, a rust

Varaždin
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Varaždin

Varaždin is one of the true Baroque jewels of Central Europe, with a parade of fine palaces and churches presiding over a calm, pedestrianised centre.   It is also home to the country’s one unmissable non-Adriatic summer festival, the Špancirfest, a week-long series of parades, outdoor concerts and club events that takes over the town at the end of every August. With the Trash Film Festival in September and the highbrow Baroque Music Evenings soon afterwards, there’s enough going on in Varaždin to warrant the two-hour journey from Zagreb.   Historically, Varaždin was a fortress town, and flourished as a strategically important Habsburg stronghold against the incursions of the Ottoman Turks. Croatian aristocrats who prospered from these border wars built their townhouses in Varaždin, turning it into a lively centre of society and culture. Meetings of the Croatian parliament were held here from 1756 onwards, and the town may well have become the long-term capital of Croatia were it not for the great Varaždin fire of 1776.   It’s an easy town to explore, with a compact centre bordered by strips of park that follow the lines of the former fortress moat. Presiding over grassy embankments at the north-western corner of the centre is the resplendently whitewashed Castle, with a beautiful Renaissance courtyard girdled by earlier, 15th-century towers. Inside the castle is the City Museum (042 658 754; 9am-5pm Tue-Fri, 9am-1pm Sat & Sun; admission 25kn), with displays of arms, lo

Zagorje
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Zagorje

The Zagorje, a land of rolling green hills on the far side of Medvednica mountain, has always been something of a recreation area for Zagreb folk.    Perceptions of what the Zagorje offers are slowly changing, with traditional attractions like historic castles and pilgrimage churches jostled aside by a more pronounced accent on lifestyle and leisure. It’s the Zagorje’s spa hotels, restaurants and swimming pools that are increasingly pulling in the visitors.   When it comes to splashing around, the Zagorje always did have a solid reputation, with mineral-spring resorts such as Stubičke Toplice and Krapinske Toplice providing sanatorium-style spa treatments as well as recreational swimming pools. However both places entered the 21st century looking a bit too old fashioned for the contemporary tourist industry.   However the Zagorje’s tourist facilities are currently in the throes of a major overhaul, with Krapinske Toplice building a large new aquatic centre and Tuheljske Toplice – the largest swimming-pool complex in the country – opening a brand-new four-star wing of its spa hotel.    Thirty-five kilometres north of Zagreb, Terme Tuhelj sits in a typically bucolic Zagorje valley lined with round-topped hills. The indoor section of Terme Tuhelj’s stirringly named Water Planet (Vodeni planet) sits beneath an innovative timber and metal canopy, with sunlight streaming in through the huge side windows. The outdoor part of the complex boasts wave pools, a 250-metre-long ‘r

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