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Veternica Cave: A Perfect Daytrip To Refresh On A Hot Summer's Day

Explore the cave located right above Zagreb and make a perfect summer day trip.

If you've visited Zagreb or lived for some time here, you've probably noticed the mountain placed right above the city skyline. Well, if you don't know its name yet, it is called Medvednica, and its famous peak is named Sljeme. A fun fact is that many Zagrebians often refer to the whole mountain as Sljeme and is a much loved place of recreation for many citizens of the capital.

I myself have recently started to do weekly hikes up to the Sljeme peak. It has become my weekend routine and gives me so much joy and energy for the working week ahead. There are numerous hiking trails on Medvednica mountain, and each one is amazing in its way. Some are shorter and for beginners, while others are a bit more intense and longer.

But besides the beautiful trails, Medvednica hides a lot of stunning natural monuments that are worth exploring. One of them is a Veternica Cave, ensuring a perfect family day out or a hiking venture. 

The plateau in front of the cave entrance

Image credit: Nature Park Medvednica Archive

Some more information

Medvednica is categorized as a Nature Park in Croatia, which means it is considered a space of unique natural beauty in which human activities are allowed, but without disturbing the harmony of nature.

Veternica Cave is located in the southwest part of this beautiful Nature Park and just a short ride from the Zagreb city center. Here are some facts about it. Veternica Cave is in size the sixth cave in Croatia. It branches in seven kilometres of canals and hallways and speleologists who explore it are still finding newer and deeper parts of the cave to this day. 

Veternica Cave from the inside

Image credit: Nature Park Medvednica Archive

Even though it is a considerably long cave, visitors can also have access to some parts of this natural monument, but always with the help of expert guidance. As a tourist, you can visit first 380 meters of the cave.

When taking the guided tour of the cave you will see different erosion forms that were created by water vortexes. As described on the official Nature Park Medvednica website, you will also see: "...sand dunes, a jaw of the cave bear, fossil mud, the Stone Waterfall, the Wishing Well in the Concert Hall, the fossils of ancient shells and sea urchins." 

Also in the cave, you can "meet" some Neanderthals! Neanderthal men used to use the entrance part of the Veternica Cave when they went hunting. Traces of hearth and Neanderthal tools were found in the entrance hall of the cave. There is even a small exhibition of Neanderthal sculptures around the hearth in the cave which reminds visitors of its past habitats. 

Image credit: Nature Park Medvednica Archive

Visiting a cave is really quite an interesting experience which I always recommend my friends who have lived all their life in Zagreb but haven't visited Veternica yet. 

My first visit to the cave was in primary school with my biology teacher. As a kid, all I remember is that it was really cold and that my teacher worried someone would slip and fall. Today I understand that there was nothing to fear of as the cave is very well adapted to visits and suitable even to the smallest children.

Concert hall in the cave

Image credit: Nature Park Medvednica Archive

Today’s habitats of Veternica

The Veternica Cave indeed hides a lot of history inside its deep hallways. It has seen many centuries and millenniums, and with it, thousands of people passing by it. From Neanderthal man to different army soldiers who fought in this area throughout centuries all the way to current day hikers and those seeking to find adventures. Today it's perfect as a day trip option and an escape from the city rush, but I can only imagine it once served as a warm shelter from a harsh winter or a perfect hiding place during war times. 

Its only permanent residents nowadays are bats. There are 12 species permanently living inside the Veternica Cave hallways but more were recorded visiting it. To be exact 18 of them. Because they are very sensitive and delicate animals and require specific conditions for their winter sleep, the Veternica Cave is closed during the winter months.

They even have a special door at the entrance through which they can fly in and out of the cave. In the same time, door guards them against human or other animal visitors who might upset them. 

Image credit: Nature Park Medvednica Archive 

Here's another unique recommendation. If you find yourself in Zagreb at the end of August, you can even experience a special event dedicated to the bats. On the last weekend in August, in front of Veternica Cave and the mountain lodge Glavica, the annual celebration of the International Bat's Night takes place – the event in which bats are celebrated throughout Europe. I'm sure it is something to remember, and I'm planning to visit it this year. 

Come prepared!

In the end, if you plan to visit beautiful Veternica, be prepared. The temperature in the cave is around 10 degrees Celsius, all year long, so if you visit it during the summer months, make sure to have warmer clothes to put on at the entrance because it can get quite chilly inside.

Also, I warm-heartedly recommend bringing adequate sports shoes with you because approaching the cave is possible only by hiking trails. There are also muddy patches in the cave for which sports shoes are necessary. So don't think that flip flops are the right choice of footwear just because it is summer. 

It is also important to note that entry into the underground is not recommended to people who have claustrophobia because it can be quite an overwhelming experience. The whole visit to Veternica takes 45 to 60 minutes. Admission fees for the adults are 40,00 kn, students and retired citizens 30,00 kn and for children 20,00 kn. There is also a family ticket available which costs 100,00 kn. You can find all the information about prices, directions and working hours at the official Nature Park Medvednica website here.

A replica of the skull of a cave bear

Image credit: Nature Park Medvednica Archive 

I hope this article will inspire you to visit beautiful Veternica Cave and Medvednica Nature Park. It is something not to miss in Zagreb, and yet, it is often overlooked even by locals. 

Header image credit: Nature Park Medvednica Archive 

Author: Darija Ilić