What Zagreb lacks in nearby access to littoral mountain ranges and clear Adriatic waters, it strives to make up for with a number of inland adventures offering beauty and, perhaps above all else, isolation. Which isn’t to say you shouldn’t temper your expectations slightly, since these land-locked mountains, gorges and wetlands aren’t quite of the take-your-breath-away variety. Still, you’ve got options, and definitely no excuses to save your outdoor excursions for the west. So why not take advantage of your location away from the most popular attractions of the Dalmatian coastline and explore the less-trodden pathways of inland Croatia?
Start close to the city center, where the Medvednica Nature Park offers some scenic vistas from a hike (or drive) up 1,035 meters, as well as the opportunity for some cool subterranean exploration in the always-intriguing Veternica Cave. It also doubles as your Zagreb’s go-to ski destination when winter hits. During the summer months, runners, bikers, swimmers and sailors alike can head to Lake Jarun, an admittedly tame man-made lake that nevertheless gives adventurous city dwellers a chance get out and feed their energetic side. Pair these with a couple of urban parks like Bundek and Maksimir to explore and, well, honestly you’ll probably be asking, “is this it?” Thankfully the answer is no.
If you don’t mind trekking outside the immediate city limits, you’ll find that the exploratory possibilities outside the Croatian capital get much more interesting. To the west, the neighboring Samoborsko and Zumberacko Gorjes offer tempting hikes and a wealth of small rivers and waterfalls to uncover near the Slovenian border. Venture southeast and you have the opportunity to boat or hike the wetlands of Lonjsko Polje, known for its variety of unique bird species. Feel like camping out on some lush, forest covered mountains? Then head to the too-often-overlooked Papuk Geopark, which offers a wealth of activities year-round from hiking and biking to skiing and paragliding. Granted the selection isn’t the most titillating, but bring along a sense of curiosity and a taste for the outdoors and Zagreb just may surprise you.