Ozalj – Croatia’s diamond in the rough

Story by: Tanja Brajsa     Date: 27 August 2021    Image by: Canva

4 minutes reading time Croatia

Do you wish to explore pristine nature but still want to have modern conveniences at hand? Then visit Ozalj, a tourist diamond in the rough.

Ozalj is a small town in the northwestern part of Croatia, not easy to find, but definitely not hard to reach. It is just an hour’s drive from the capital of Croatia, Zagreb, and just a 15-minute drive from Karlovac.

Surrounded by beautiful mountains on the north, the Kupa river on the east, and open plains in the south, it will take your breath away. Moreover, you will quickly discover why the royals in the Middle Ages decided to build their magnificent fort here.

When you arrive, you will be surprised by how much you can experience and explore in a relatively small area.

If you are into long walks, light hiking, or cycling, drive 15-20 kilometers into the mountains of “Žumberak – Samoborsko Gorje Hills” nature park. You will be astonished by the breathtaking natural beauty, but remember to bring food and beverages with you since there are no shops in the mountains. You can try out many marked cycling and hiking routes offering unforgettable views. The people you will meet along the way are the most hospitable in the world, and if you ask for just a glass of water, do not be surprised if they offer you to stay (at least for lunch).

Kupa River, Ozalj

Swim in the river

In the summertime, you can take a swim in the river. Yes, a river! Kupa river is a beautiful clean river originating in Gorski Kotar and flowing into the Sava river in Sisak. The Kupa flows through Ozalj and powers the hydroelectric power plant, divided into two parts. The building on the right bank of the river is newer, and the one on the left was built in 1908, being one of the oldest power plants in the continental part of Croatia. It is called Munjara and is a protected cultural monument designed by a famous architect Herman Bolle. This building represents one of the most beautiful examples of industrial architecture in Croatia. The idea for the power plant was initiated by the great Nikola Tesla himself.

River beach

And below it, there is a cultivated river beach. It features a wooden raft, volleyball playground, desk chairs, benches, and barbecues. The warm summer evenings are full of happenings such as concerts, movie nights, and workshops. Definitely an activity you will remember! (And mosquitos will provide you a lot of company, so bring a repellent!)


Suppose you wish to explore the river further. You can drive a couple of kilometers north towards the little place called Kamanje, and you will find numerous majestic wild beaches to enjoy along your way. Important notice: do not go swimming in the river if you are not a great swimmer; it differs considerably from swimming in the sea, lake, or pool. Those wild beaches do not feature a lifeguard!

Old Castle

On the other hand, if you prefer historical and cultural highlights, you must visit the Old Castle. It was built hundreds of years ago and turned into a castle in the 18th century and now hosts a Town Museum, with collections of weapons, artifacts from the prehistoric period, rare books, etc. The museum also features the paintings by Slava Raškaj, born in Ozalj. She was the most significant Croatian impressionist watercolorist. Her work was even exhibited in the 1900 Paris exhibition, so it is a definite must-see.

Vivodina region

The northern region around the town is well known for its winemaking skills. Vivodina region, located on the southwestern slopes of Žumberak mountain, has a developed network of wine roads. You can visit wine cellars and taste the excellent wine on the spot.

In September 2015, a very, very large strudel won the official title of World’s Longest Strudel in the Guinness Book of Records. It was prepared in a place near Ozalj, Jaškovo, measuring a staggering 1,479 meters. The original idea was to reach 1,300 meters. Still, there were so many leftover ingredients its makers decided to stretch it further. Since then, every September, ŠtrudlalFest is being organized.

Here you can indulge yourself in countless flavors of strudel and visit accompanying events.

Food in Ozalj

Last but not least, delicious food wherever you go. Whichever restaurant you come upon, you will have an authentic gastronomic experience. Most of the ingredients are produced locally and eaten seasonally, which guarantees an excellent meal.

And the best thing about visiting Ozalj and its surroundings is that it is uncrowded. You will see people, but you will not feel overwhelmed by the number of them. And you will definitely have a great time!

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