A rocky wall at the rim of flat Prigorje
A field trip to Kalnik is an excellent choice for all those who wish to see something new and unusual. Unlike many other mountains in Croatian Zagorje or at its rim, on Kalnik you will see picturesque vertical cliffs and a particularity of these rocks is that they are located at the very rim of a vast plateau. Thanks to this, beautiful views stretch from their tops. The cliffs of Kalnik stretch like a huge indented wall, creating thus an unusual picture for anyone looking at Kalnik from the southern side, from the direction of Križevci.
Kalnik is situated at the borderline between Zagorje, Prigorje and Podravina, some 80 km from Zagreb. Here visitors are welcomed by picturesque forest life, an educational trail and the remains of two old fortresses. The smaller one is located on top of Mali Kalnik and the larger one on top of Veliki Kalnik. Veliki Kalnik was once a royal palace. It was at the time of king Sigismund whose wife, Barbara Celjska, known in the legends as “The Black Queen«, often visited this area. The town’s first mention dates back to the 13th century and it was composed of three parts. The first one was built at the time of the invasion of the Tatars, when king Bela IV used it as a hideout. The legend of “Kalnik plums” is associated with this king: the people of the villages at the foot of Kalnik fed the king with their plums, which is why he conferred noble titles to them.
Those who wish to hike to Kalnik, they need to know that Kalnik is isolated transport-wise and is far from main roads. Those who wish to drive here, they can take the road leading to the mountain lodge, which is at certain points very steep – up to 18%. The road to the mountain lodge bifurcates from the road Križevci - Gornja Rijeka and leads through villages Sudovac and Kalnik.
Most visitors usually drive to the mountain lodge and then they climb to the top. The educational trail leading to the highest top of Kalnik, Vranilac, is particularly interesting. This trail is 5 kilometres long and a walk along this trail can take 2-3 hours. Ten plates with descriptions of interesting points are placed along the trail.
The peak of Vranilac, the highest peak of Mountain Kalnik, was named probably after the plant vranilova trava (Origanum vulgare, L.). The highest point, at 643 meters, is marked with a geodetic pillar, and slightly below the summit, there is a television transmitter visible from afar. From the peak northeast, there is a range of rocky “teeth”, popularly called “the seven teeth”. Mountain trails to Vranilac lead from two sides. On the northern side, there is a trail one requires a lot of climbing skill to master and therefore to ascend to and descend from the top it is best to use the road leading from the southern side towards the transmitter. The peak can also be reached by crossing “the seven teeth” but this is recommended only to expert mountaineers, as some points are secured with wedges and cables, just like a real Alpine trail.
From the mountain lodge, besides the educational trail, Vranilac or Veliki Kalnik, one can explore the peak of Peca (40 minutes) or a picturesque strait of Vratno (an hour and a half). The first destination is known for its vegetation and the second for its hunting lodge, a playground, a nearby viewpoint (Škrinja) and three caves.
Another interesting possibility is to ascend towards Mali Kalnik (40 min), a rocky peak accommodating the remains of Pusti Grad. The peak of Mali Kalnik is protected as a botanical reserve. From Mali Kalnik to Vranilac and the mountain lodge, markers are much better and the trail is agreeable because the height is even and woods provide a shade from the sun.