For people who want to experience something different in Croatia, Lonjsko Polje is a great place to visit. This floodplain of Sava and Lonja rivers features the last remnants of traditional style of agriculture, architecture and indigenous domestic animals. It is also an important refuge for birds, most notably white storks. In this article you will find Lonjsko polje photos and useful information to plan your visit.
Lonjsko polje is located southeast of Zagreb, towards the Bosnia-Herzegovina border. The closest bigger city is Sisak, a historical place worth visiting. There are numerous small villages located along Sava river and its oxbows. Čigoč, Lonja, Krapje, Mužilovčica, to name a few, are all worth visiting for their traditional architecture, way of life and of course – storks.
There are not many places to stay or restaurants in the area. The best idea is to stay with locals and arrange with them home cooked breakfast and dinner while you explore the area. Read further for recommendations.
Lonjsko Polje – Where to go
Here are my suggestions which places to visit at Lonjsko polje and why.
Čigoč village is almost a synonym for Lonjsko polje. It is also called the village of the storks due to the numerous nests located on top of the houses. When you arrive to the village, the first thing you see is a giant stork statue. The best way to explore the village is to park your car at one end of the village and continue on foot. The wooden houses are located on one side of the road and on the other side there is a Sava river oxbow – just like most other villages.
As much as I enjoyed walking around Čigoč I was also a little bit sad to see so many dilapidated houses. Too many abandoned houses that no one is taking care of. People who still live in the village are proud of their heritage but struggle to maintain their houses with their modest incomes.
There are a couple of nice places to stay and an interesting museum house run by a local elder couple. The first place is called Tradicije Čigoč, they have nice rooms, camping grounds and a large restaurant. The second place is Iža na trem, a smaller, more intimate place located on the opposite side of the village.
Somewhere in the middle between Čigoč and Lonja, Mužilovčica is a typical Posavina village. It is located along (surprise!) an oxbow of Sava river, just south of a big floodplain. There is a small market in the middle of the village and the building hosts a large colony of house martins (Delichon urbicum). What an amazing sight – all the nests and birds flying in & out!
Here there is an entrance to Lonjsko Polje Nature Park – this particular area features large floodplain where one can witness traditional grazing herds of domestic animals. Typical for this part of Croatia, cows will mix with horses and domestic pigs, ranging free in the open meadows.
Lonja is the biggest and most “prosperous” village of Lonjsko polje. It is located on the north bank of Sava river. Here too, people are leaving their home for a better life in the cities. The old school seems abandoned as are the other town buildings. Even the large church has seen better times. There is some hope though, locals have embraced the tourism – my favourite place to stay of all Lonjsko Polje. The Ethno Village Stara Lonja is a family run B&B. It features 300 hundred years old houses that one can stay and a nice restaurant with home cooked meals. Two twin brothers who run the place are former rock band stars and they can sing to you or teach you a traditional fishing methods for catfish.
Yet another stretched out village of Lonjsko Polje. Krapje features the biggest number (and best preserved) traditional wooden houses of the area. A walk through the village is a joy – so many cute houses, with cute gardens and cute stork nests!
There is also an information center for Lonjsko Polje Nature Park with spacious parking. The nearby Krapji dol can be visited from here. This is an oxbow, protected as an important nature site. An educational trail is well worth taking. Some of the highlights include Posavina horses, Turopolje pigs, Podolian cattle, roosting sites of herons and spoonbills as well as many other bird species. There are two view towers (called Čardak) along the trail but spoonbills are hard to see. Overall, this was one of my favourite things to do while there.
Local Animal Breeds of Lonjsko Polje
Lonjsko polje is home so some rare domestic animal breeds. These include Turopolje pig (Turopoljska svinja), Slavonian-Podolian cattle (Slavonsko-Podolsko govedo), Posavina horse (Posavac) and Posavina goose (Posavska guska). Nowadays most of these animals are on the brink of going extinct as they are no longer vital to farming or due to mixing with other breeds. Luckily there is initiative to protect them. Also many locals breed these local animals, helping them to survive.
To me, this was one of the biggest draws to visit Lonjsko polje. I wanted to photograph these animals in their homeland. It was not easy, especially the Podolian cattle which is only bred by Lonjsko Polje Nature Park. I arranged with park management to visit their enclosure near Krapje. The Turopolje pigs are easier to find, but most of them are not pure blood anymore. They mix with other domestic pigs or even with wild boars. The Posavina horses and geese are easy to find – many locals still breed them so they were the easiest to find.
The traditional farming here was always influenced by nature. The floodplains, the abundance of grazing grounds allowed local farmers to graze their animals in the open. One can still see this in practice – if you look carefully you will see the mix of animals in herds, cows, horses, pigs. And they are almost always accompanied by storks, searching for tasty snacks.
Lonjsko Polje Photos of Nature
The single most important natural phenomena of the area is seasonal flooding of Sava and Lonja rivers. Every spring the rivers flood the meadows and alluvial oak forests. When the water recedes, fertile land is available for grazing and farming. This natural circle allows for great biological diversity which is most obvious with abundant bird life. The most notable birds include white stork, spoonbill, white-tailed eagle, all kinds of egrets and herons and even the elusive black stork (I’ve seen four of them in the course of three days). Overall, there are more than 250 different bird species in the park.
Bird photography requires a long telephoto lens which I unfortunately did not bring on my last visit. But even with 200mm lens I was able to get some white stork photos and video. If you are keen bird photographer, you should arrange a special trip with park management. This way you will get access to best places for photography. Even spoonbills, the symbol of the park are hard to see. The border guard’s trail is your best bet to find them, but the nesting colony itself is well hidden within thick vegetation.
Great way to enjoy nature here is to explore the oxbows. The one I like the most is at Mužilovčica village and the one north of Čigoč (not really an oxbow but rather a body of water along the protective embankment). At these two places I saw the most birds, chatted with fishermen and enjoyed the smaller life, frogs, dragon flies, great diving beetles… I was amazed about the different kinds of fish that local fishermen caught – the most impressive was a meter long catfish!
Visiting Lonjsko polje is definitely a very different experience of Croatia than visiting its famous coast. It is not as glamorous but it will get into your heart. Mostly because of the genuine friendliness of local people, the authenticity and pristine nature that is increasingly rare to find in Europe. I am already planning to go back. Fishing for catfish, Posavina horses swimming in the river, photographing birds with telephoto lens, a boat ride on Sava and its oxbows… These are some of the reasons I want to return. And visiting in winter.
For photographers, I added the locations to Photohound. Check it out for other Croatia and world photo locations too.
I hope you found this post useful and that you enjoyed my Lonjsko polje photos. Please check out my other Croatia posts. Thank you!