Central Croatia is a historical-geographic region in the northwestern and central part of Croatia. The region is bounded by the Žumberačka Mountains and the Sutla River valley in the west and northwest, the Drava River in the north, the western slopes of the mountains of Slavonia in the east, and the mountainous region of Banija and Kordun in the south and southwest. It encompasses a great part of the territory of the Republic of Croatia, and by its geographical, cultural, and tourism characteristics is divided into the following regions: Zagreb, Zagorje-Međimurje, Podravina-Bilogora, Banija and Kordun.
The Zagorje and Međimurje region encompasses the most northern part of Croatia bounded by the Slovenian and Hungarian borders, Medvednica in the south, and Kalnik in the east. This area is full of thermal springs where spas have been built, complete with hotels, swimming pools, sports-recreation grounds, and medicinal halls. Important cultural and monumental heritage: the whole old town of Varaždin (European Baroque) with its park-cemetery; Krapina- Hušnjakovo Mountain; Čakovec-the old town; Lepoglava-Gothic churches, Belec, Lobor, Štrigova; old towns at – Veliki and Mali Tabor; Trakošćan, Maruševec, Lobor, Belec; castles at – Januševec, Klenovnik, Gornja Bistra, Oroslavje, Miljana, Marija Bistrica. Among the natural heritage it is important to mention: the region Trakošćan- Macelj- Ravna gora; Opeka (arboretum); Vindija cave (geo-morphological monument).
Hrvatsko Zagorje is a region full of villages and small towns, picturesque hills, numerous vineyards, and cultural historical monuments. Situated in Hrvatsko Zagorje is Marija Bistrica, a place of pilgrimage and adoration of the miraculous figure of Mary and baby Jesus since the Middle Ages. Nearby is the Stubičke thermal spa that, together with Krapinske and Tuheljske thermal spas are the most significant thermal springs in the wider surrounding areas of Zagreb. Krapina is the largest town of Hrvatsko Zagorje, and nearby the remains of a Neanderthal skeleton were discovered at the end of the nineteenth century, and date back to the period in which life in this area began.
To the north of Krapina is the castle Trakošćan. Its construction began in the Middle Ages and it was fully completed and its lands developed in the 19th century. The entire castle complex with the surrounding lake is one of the most beautiful environmental wholes in the continental part of Croatia.Situated on the right bank of the Drava River is the town of Varaždin, full of historical monuments and cultural sites. The town developed around a medieval fortress that has been preserved to date, and the most significant monuments, residential as well as sacral, are of the Baroque and Classical styles. The identity of Varaždin today is contained in the Baroque Musical Nights as in the city guard, “purgari” in their blue uniforms, present at all town festivities.
The Varaždin region is famous for its typically continental cuisine and the wine from the local vineyards.
In the vicinity of Varaždin, there are several old castles that are a splendid proof not only of the culture of living but also of the stylistic changes throughout the centuries (castles at Maruševec, Jalžabet, Šaulovec and Opeka with a beautiful arboretum). Nearby, likewise, is the Varaždin Spa, a thermal spring that was well reputed as early as Roman times for its beneficial effects on health.
The Podravina-Bilogora region is bounded by the Drava River in the north, the slopes of Kalnik and Moslavina in the east and the Sava River in the west. This area is significant for tourism due to its cultural and monumental heritage, river fishing, and hunting in the mountains. Among the more important cultural and monumental heritage are the church and the monastery in Koprivnica, the city whole of Križevci and the gallery in Hlebine, while the most famous natural heritage includes: the Kalnik mountains, Đurđevački pijesci (special reserve), Lonjsko polje (wetland nature park).
The Banija and Kordun regions encompass the peri-Pannonian part of Croatia: bounded by the Sava River basin in the north, the Una River in the east, Mala Kapela in the south, and the middle course of the Kupa River in the west. In this area, all the preconditions exist for the development of transit, hunting, and ecological tourism. Significant cultural and monumental heritage includes: Sisak-old town; Karlovac-Renaissance star; Cetingrad-fortress; Topusko-remains of a Gothic castle; Ozalj-Medieval town.
Among natural heritage it is important to mention Crna Mlaka (natural reserve); and the river basins of the Kupa, Korana, and Mrežnica.Karlovac dominates the area and is situated on four rivers. In the former trenches of a castle, today there are parks and pleasure gardens. In the vicinity of Karlovac there are many weekend resorts on the rivers and small towns, the most romantic of which is probably the old town of Ozalj, on a steep cliff above the river Kupa. The area around Karlovac is also famous for its wines, particularly the sorts from vineyards around Jastrebarsko. This region is the home of Jamnica, one of the most significant mineral water springs in Croatia.
Some fifty kilometres away from Zagreb, downstream along the Sava River, is the town of Sisak, inhabited as early as the time of the Celts and Romans. In the town center, a fortified town from the 16th century stands, one of the few structures whose author is known – the master builder Pietro of Milan. His three cylindrical towers still preserve the memory of many battles that went on beneath the city walls. In the vicinity of Sisak, one can see many small settlements in a serene landscape.