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Bjelovarsko-Bilogorska Zupanija (Bjelovar-Bilogora County in English) is one of Croatia's 20 counties, located in the northern central part of the country. The county is surrounded by Koprivnica-Križevci County in the north, Virovitica-Podravina County in the northeast, Požega-Slavonia County in the southeast, Sisak-Moslavina County in the southwest and Zagreb County in the west. The capital city and part of the county's namesake is Bjelovar, found in the western part of the territory. The city has been inhabited since the Neolithic age; however, the first written mention of the city dates back to the 15th century. Another prominent city in Bjelovar-Bilogora County is Daruvar, featuring spa springs that have been visited by local inhabitants over the course of history since the 4th century BC. To this day, the springs are used for medicinal and recreational purposes. The second part of the county's name is derived from the local mountain range, Bilogora, whose landscape is part of the European ecological network Natura 2000. The Bilogora area is formed by diverse flora and fauna, lakes, ponds, streams, and wine-growing regions, featuring a considerable number of walking and cycling trails. The highest peak within the Bilogora mountain range is Rajčevica, at an altitude of 309 meters above sea level.
Daruvar is one of the bigger cities in Bjelovar-Bilogora County, situated in the region's eastern part. The city is known for its spa and thermal springs, with healing properties that were discovered 2,500 years ago by the Lassi tribes in this region. In 1772, Antun Janković—the area's owner—began constructing buildings around the natural springs, envisioning the potential for the town to become a center for healing, leisure, and recreation. Many buildings, such as Anton's Spa and Ivan's Spa, remain functional to this day. Nowadays, in the city is located Daruvarske Toplice, a specialized hospital complex for rehabilitation that focuses on the treatment of female fertility issues, offering two clinics for esthetic surgery. Other spas can be found in the vicinity of Pakrac and Lipik, where a mineral water bottling plant operates. The complex encompasses a park with 65 different tree species, including a 250-year-old Ginkgo tree from China.
Located in the western part of Bjelovar-Bilogora County is a theme park called Čarolija svjetla Salaj (meaning magical lights), or Salajland. For over two decades, the Salaj family in Čazma, Croatia has been sharing the Christmas spirit through their "Christmas story." This tradition has grown to become one of the most significant Christmas events in Croatia, attracting visitors not only from within the country but also from around the globe. The Salaj family's property has become a destination, offering a festive experience during the holiday season.
Bjelovar-Bilogora County offers a variety of activities. Anglers can enjoy the cleanliness of rivers such as Česma, Velika, Ilova, and Toplica, which are popular fishing destinations. Local towns in the region feature hotels, restaurants, alehouses, and coffee bars, presenting culinary traditions with local dishes and drinks to travelers. There are also several museums and churches that preserve the region's historical heritage. Festivals, cultural events, and sporting competitions, including the livestock fair, handball, harvest festival, and Terezijana, regularly occur in Bjelovar-Bilogora County. The region also hosts events such as the Festival of Popular Theatre, Children, Joy, Song Festival, and the Supermarathon Zagreb-Čazma, attracting visitors from around the country and beyond.
Bjelovar-Bilogora County is named after the city of Bjelovar, found in the northeastern part of the county, and after the low mountain range called Bilogora. The mountain range is situated in northeast Croatia, spanning the Koprivnica-Križevička County and bordering the Bjelovar-Bilogorska and Virovitika-Podravska counties. The highest peak, known as Rajčevica, has an altitude of 309 meters above sea level. Bilogora extends between the northwest Kalnik mountain range and the southeast Papuk mountain range. The rivers Česma and Ilova originate in the Bilogora mountains. Although it is one of the lowest mountain ranges, Bilogora is also one of the most extensive. The hills also hold oil, natural gas, and brown coal deposits. Other characteristic geographical constituents of the Bjelovar-Bilogora County include the marginal massifs of Papuk and Ravna Gora in the east, Moslavačka Gora in the southwest, and the valley of the Česma and Ilova rivers in the west, central and south.
The landscape of the Bilogora area is part of the European ecological network Natura 2000. A series of mounds and hills characterize Bilogora. The region is predominantly covered by oak and hornbeam forests, along with beech forests. The base of the area features meadows and arable land. Bilogora's allure as a tourist destination reportedly lies in its diverse flora and fauna, lakes, ponds, streams, vineyards, and a network of hiking and biking trails.
The city of Bjelovar is located in the temperate continental climate area, characterized by warm summers and moderately cold winters. Regarding the annual weather in Bjelovar, the warmest month is August, with an average daily temperature of 28°C. Typically, January is the coldest month, as temperatures rest around 4°C on average. March tends to be the driest month in Bjelovar because it generally receives 43 mm of rainfall on average. The most precipitation falls during June, as it receives an average of about 91 mm.
The oldest Neolithic site in the Bjelovar area, located in Ždralovi, dates back to the Starčevo culture (5000-4300 BC). The region also contains remnants of the Korenovo, Sopot, Lasinja, and Vučedol cultures and Bronze and Iron Age civilizations. Roman influence arrived in today's Bjelovar-Bilogora County in 229 BC, with the intersection of two Roman roads near present-day Bjelovar. Settlements supposedly emerged between the 2nd and 4th centuries, attested by archaeological findings. The first written mention of Bjelovar dates back to 1413. Later, the city became part of the Croatian Military Frontier in defense against the Turks. Stabilizing the Habsburg-Ottoman border in the 18th century led to an administrative reorganization in the region.
Another city with considerable history in the Bjelovar-Bilogora County is Daruvar, with a history dating back to the 4th century BC. During that time, organized settlements emerged near the geothermal springs in the Daruvar Valley. The Celtic-Pannonian tribes, known as Lassi, skilled in water treatments for health, inhabited the area and allied with the Roman Empire. Thus, the geothermal and spa tradition of Daruvar City can be traced back to the 4th century. Daruvar retained the spa tradition, and to this day, its geothermal waters are one of the reasons people visit the town.
Concerning recent history, in 1871, the Varaždin Generalate of the Military Border handed over the administration of Bjelovar to Colonel Ivan Trnski, which led to the integration of the area into civic Croatia and the establishment of Bjelovar County. In 1872, during the parish of Ljudevit pl. Reisner, the county received its first coat of arms, featuring symbols such as St. George slaying the dragon and the Croatian checkerboard. In 1886, Bjelovar County merged with Križevačka County, and in 1922, the Croatian county system changed. Since 1993, Bjelovar-Bilogora County has been one of Croatia's twenty counties.
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