by Erin Davis
Croatia is known for its piercing turquoise hues of the Adriatic Sea, its towering mountains, and its storied history. Perhaps less known, it’s also a country filled with wellness options, especially in its north-west part. If you’re in the market for a wellness-filled European vacation, the countryside north of Zagreb (the capital city) is well worth including in a visit to Croatia.
On a recent press trip hosted by Air Transat and Croatia Full of Life (the country’s tourism board), I got up close and personal with this stunning part of the country. I enjoyed Options Plus on the flight from Toronto to Zagreb, an Air Transat upgrade that comes with perks like free first-checked baggage, seat selection, priority check-in, an exclusive check-in centre, priority boarding and baggage delivery, a blanket, sleep mask and headphones.
Fresh off the plane, we headed straight for the soul-soothing countryside. Located about 45 minutes north of Zagreb, the peaceful Krapina-Zagorje County is backed by the towering Medvednica Mountain and is known for its wellness options, full-service spas and bathing pools (courtesy of its many thermal springs.) With its rolling hills and varying shades of green, the landscape alone naturally evokes a sense of calm and peace.
Of its numerous thermal springs, acclaimed since the Roman army ruled the territory, the most famous are Krapinske Toplice, Varaždinske Toplice I, Tuheljske Toplice, and Stubičke Toplice.
Terme Tuhelj is one of the region’s best-known spas (and the largest spa in Croatia), and sits on the site of the famed Tuheljske Toplice thermal spring. The sprawling, activity-packed property features a full-service spa with an extensive water therapies program. The property’s Sauna World features four Finnish saunas, three steam saunas, and a loconium, which is a dry bath that helps warm the body and prepare it for exposure to high temperatures and humidity. Here, guests will find everything from a thermal mud program in the mud sauna, to an air whirling program in the panoramic sauna, and a program with fragrances and peelings in the salt and double steam sauna. There’s also a cold-water pool, a Kneipp Path, an indoor and outdoor whirlpool, plus rest areas – some with water beds and swings.
At Terme Tuhelj, the region’s thermal water is front and centre. It fills all of the indoor and outdoor pools, and guests are welcome to take a dip in the thermal water spring and enjoy a thermal experience that’s full of the beneficial effects of healing water and peloid mud.
In terms of accommodations at Terme Tuhelj, guests have options: A room at the wellness-focused hotel (which is attached to the building housing the Sauna World), glamping tents, a collection of modern mini homes, or even their personal RV. The brand-new modern mini homes in the Glamping Village are complete with a separate swimming pool and wellness centre. The wellness centre features a massage room, sauna, whirlpool (backed by a mountainous view), and peaceful relaxation area with pristine loungers.
Catering to an active family, the Terme Tuhelj property is designed for all ages and features a sprawling indoor/outdoor water park (where the pools are, naturally, filled with thermal water), tennis, trampolines, mini golf and more.
For more intimate and peaceful accommodations, Vuglec Breg is just a short drive away. Offering an excellent opportunity to sample fresh local goodness, the scenic property is backed by endless rolling hills and houses a celebrated Michelin Starred restaurant serving traditional and homemade dishes made with products from the surrounding region. Outside, its thatched roof terrace overlooks the postcard-worthy landscape and infinity pool.
At Vuglec Breg, guests can also choose from a variety of accommodation options, including the House Imbra, which is complete with a private sauna, outdoor shower, and a hydro massage pool – referred to as “Softub.” Aside from the healthy dining and poolside lounging, Vuglec Breg also features a tennis court and an onsite winery. Those looking to fully unwind can also enjoy in-cottage massages.
Those seeking the full spa experience will also find it nearby at the celebrated Krapinske Toplice and its renowned thermal springs. The village houses numerous saunas, hot tubs and pools. Here, the water temperature at the springs is 39-41ºC (102° – 107° F) and rich in calcium, hydrogen, and magnesium mineral content. In March 2023, the village opened the biggest complex of indoor pools in Croatia – something that’s definitely more of a family-friendly vibe.
For a more refined experience, Krapinske Toplice also houses the award-winning hotel Villa Magdalena, located on a picturesque hill. The hotel’s top-level panoramic floor boasts a new “wellness oasis” with saunas, a whirlpool, steam room, saunas, indoor pool and a peaceful relaxation area. All apartments in Villa Magdalena feature a hot tub with a direct attachment to the thermal water springs (water temperature – 39°C (102° F) . Hotel and spa amenities are also attached to that direct source of thermal water.
For those looking to connect with nature – perhaps with a soul-soothing hike, scenic bike ride, or peaceful forest bath – the Krapina-Zagorje County region is also known for its pristine forests and trails.
So, if you’re looking for a generally crowd-free, wellness-focused few days to add to a trip to Zagreb (which we also recommend, especially for foodies), Krapina-Zagorje County region awaits in all of its picture-perfect and rejuvenating glory.
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Erin Davis is a Toronto-base writer and regular contributor to Travel to Wellness.