Majority of travelers that visit Zagreb and that have intention to use it as a starting point during their travel in Croatia, do not take their time to visit the north of the country. Yet, I hear time and again from those who actually do make the effort to visit it, how amazing is that part of Croatia, and that they will recommend it to all their friends and relatives.
So why you should consider visiting Northern Croatia?
First of all it is a large part that encompass three counties (Varaždin county, Međimurje county, and the Krapina-Zagorje county). The landscape in the north consists of hills and mounts, covered with lush vegetation, vineyards, and in between them are large and small valleys of meadows, agricultural fields, and forests. Driving through this region you will see old houses made of natural material, and the entire environment will make you feel as if you passed through some kind of a crack in time. Furthermore if you stop somewhere in such area and start walking through one of its many meadows and forests, do not be surprised if you see a deer or some other harmless forest animal that will be curious about your visit.
In the region of North Croatia you could take a break in one of the local restaurants and have a thorough local experience, as often such restaurants are family based located inside a house where the host family lives, and often time the meal would be prepared by the ‘gramma’ of the family or someone of the same position who has a long history in cooking local traditional food. This experience provides an insight to cultural explorers into personality and mentality of the people of the Northern Croatia and, if you are good observer of a human nature and are planning to continue your journey to other parts of the country, you will doubtless notice the fine differences between people in various regions of Croatia.
It cannot pass without mentioning that this area has very rich history and cultural heritage that range from the number of castles that count in dozens to churches that go back to the time of the gothic architecture, but also traces of Celtic tribes and even much further back as the remains and settlements of the Neanderthal people has been found in Zagorje as well. Couple all of this with curious legends of fascinating creatures, kings, witches, dragons, and heroes, and there you have a mixture that can take you on a journey in Northern Croatia that you have never expected to walk into.
There are also historical towns and villages, Varaždin being the prime example as it is a former capital city of the country with beautiful streets, houses and palaces dating back to 17th century, and a towering castle in a midst of it all.
There are other castles worthwhile visiting, some of them being Trakošćan castle (the most representative castle in Croatia), Stubica castle and the castle in Veliki Tabor. Not far from there are some other gems, such as the 17th century church and monastery of the Franciscan order with valuable sarcophaguses of the noble Erdody family, Kumrovec etno village where the infamous Tito was born, the church in Lepoglava, etc.etc.
Also, there are many choices for hiking on some of the region bigger mounts such as Ivančica or Ravna Gora, which are about and over 1000 meters high, perfect for those who want to spend time in nature in combination with local experience.
These are just a few of the reasons why you should consider coming for a day, two or three to the wonderful region of the Northern Croatia!