About National Parks in Croatia
The landscape of Croatia offers much more than coastal resorts and historic towns; there are exceptional National Parks and protected landscapes which offer the visitor a range of sightseeing opportunities. We have selected some great accommodation in our favourite locations - the justly world-famous Plitvice Lakes National Park, the often overlooked Paklenica National Park near Zadar, Krka National Park, not far from Split, and Mljet Island off the coast near Dubrovnik.
Many of the other National Parks featured below are best visited from one of our featured locations or even en route between places on one of our excellent self-drive itineraries.
In the summer the park is green and full of lush vegetation while in the winter the lakes and waterfalls freeze leaving spectacular ice sculptures. The park is open daily all year round, with longer opening hours during summer; there is a reasonably expensive entrance fee, which acts as a contribution to the park's upkeep and protection.
Designated a National Park in 1985, Krka National Park has a rich and diverse flora & fauna; it includes the region along the river Krka which runs through a deep canyon and forms beautiful waterfalls. The town of Skradin is a lovely base from which to visit the park and time in Krka should also include the peace and quiet of the Visovac monastery and the sprinkling of water drops from the Skradinski Buk waterfall.
Mljet is one of the smaller Dalmatian islands; its western half is given over to a Nature Park to protect the environment and its famous salt-water lakes. The park is densely wooded and the lakes are joined to the sea but its jewel is the 12th century Monastery of St. Mary located in the middle of the largest one.
With an area of almost 2,000 km², the Velebit Nature Park is the largest protected area in Croatia, larger than all other protected areas put together. Within the park there is a series of smaller protected areas, including two National Parks: Northern Velebit and Paklenica, and the strict reserves of Hajdučki and Rožanski Kukovi. This is a diverse area, rich in plant and animal life hence its UNESCO protection.
The area of Paklenica National Park has an exceptional diversity of geomorphology of which the most attractive and most valuable parts are the impressive canyons of Velika Paklenica and Mala Paklenica. Velika Paklenica canyon is 14km long and 500-800m wide, in its narrowest part around the Bunkers the canyon is only 50m wide. Vertical cliffs rise above both sides of the canyon up to a height of over 700m; the most attractive part is the area around the steep drop downstream from Anića Luka, where cliffs rise directly above the stream, forming the narrowest part of the canyon between Anića Luka and the parking area.
One of the smaller National Parks, set around Mount Risnjak, protects the karst landscape of Gorski Kotar near Rijeka. There has never been any settlement or cultivation in the area so it is a pristine ecosystem. The forested area has lots of snowfall in winter and forms the watershed between the Adriatic and the Black Sea (all rivers running to the east of this point eventually find their way into the Danube). The higher areas are great spots for seeing Alpine flowers such as Edelweiss and Mountain Orchids; wild animals such as the lynx, brown bear and deer roam the area, too.
This small group of islands just off the southwestern coast of Istria protect excellent tracts of unspoilt Mediterranean vegetation. The islands were off-limits to tourists for much of their recent history leading, inadvertently, to their ecological importance - this was because President Tito and previously an Austrian industrialist made them their private domains. The larger island (Veli Brijun) has a safari park which holds a collection of animals, offered as diplomatic gifts to President Tito, as well as some fine Roman and Byzantine ruins.
Within the central part of the Croatian Adriatic, at the mid-way point between Šibenik and Zadar there is a group of islands called Kornati. Due to its exceptionally beautiful landscape, interesting geomorphology, diversity of the coastline and especially because of the rich bio-diversity of the marine ecosystem, the greater part of the Kornati Maritime Zone was declared a National Park in 1980. Today, the National Park of “Kornati” occupies an area of about 220 km2 which includes 89 islands, islets and cliffs, together with a coastline about 238 km long; in fact the park protects the reefs and waters too and 75% of the park area is sea. The white limestone under the coastal shallows gives the incredibly beautiful blue colour of the sea. The cliffs in the southwest rise up to 80m and are the highest coastal feature along the Croatian Adriatic.
Split - Ancient is mixed with modern and wrapped up with lots of Mediterranean spirit. The first inhabitant of Split was the Roman emperor Diocletian who started to build his palace here around 293 AD; after his abdication he withdrew to this luxurious palace.
Biograd Na Moru - Once the crown city of Croatian kings, today Biograd is a well-known tourist and nautical centre as well as the focus of the Riviera that goes by its name. The city lies on a peninsula surrounded by modern marinas and a promenade with an unforgettable view of the Pašman Canal and the islands scattered within it.
Zadar - a city of exceptional history and rich cultural heritage and one of our favourite places in Croatia.
Knin - located near the source of the River Krka, at the three border points of Lika, Bosnia and Dalmatia, at a cross-roads of important routes between the interior and coast, which is why Knin is often called Key of Croatia and Door to Dalmatia. The city of Knin is rich in cultural and historical monuments and natural highlights; almost 6,000 of the 17,000 inhabitants are younger than 19; this gives Knin the right to hold the title of the youngest city in Croatia.
Where to visit
National Park Krka has a rich and diverse flora & fauna; it includes the region along the River Krka which runs through a deep canyon and forms beautiful waterfalls such as Skradinski Buk.
Paklenica National Park's landscape offers exceptional, dramatic and largely unspoilt landscapes providing walking and climbing for lovers of outdoor pursuits.
Where to stay
The Hotel Prorode is an oasis of peace, with an excellent restaurant and winery, in the "Heart of Nature" near Ribnik.
The Stara Lika, at the foot of Velebit Mountain, is a perfect base from which to explore several of Croatia's National Parks.
Things to do
Spend the day cycling along and enjoying the pleasant shade of the quiet forest roads and a landscape of endless green fields.
This cycling route leads you through Croatian history while enjoying a landscape of forests, hills and monuments - no better way to get around.
Cycling in the stunning National Park, which includes the archaeological site of Paklarić fort, offering magnificent views of the Paklenica Riviera.
One of the most beautiful hikes in Croatia, known for its unusual diversity of plants & animals, forests, canyons, cliffs & caves.
The Mreznica Canyon includes a gorge so narrow & deep that the sun enters it for only a few hours each day, creating spectacular light effects.
The Zrmanja and Krupa rivers have carved a spectacular canyon and built magnificent waterfalls in what is now the Velebit Mountain Nature Park.
"We are back home and suffering from post holiday withdrawal, we have thousands of photos to sort through and just as many wonderful memories. I thought while it is all still fresh that I would drop you a line to say thanks. The whole trip was amazing and everything worked without a single hitch. The hotels that you booked for us were spot on and the car hire etc all worked perfectly. Really the holiday could not have been easier so a massive thank you for all your advice and organising. The highlights were the national parks. Apart from Plitvice, we also visited Krka and Paklenica and could have spent longer at all of them. Split, Trogir and Dubrovnic were amazing but busy, I also loved the smaller villages that were less crowded.The Sail /Bike trip that we added in was an amazing way to see some of the Islands and it fitted perfectly into your itinerary. A final big thanks to you - it was so easy to arrange this trip, you were always prompt with your responses, answered all my questions and took all the stress out of planning this holiday. A pleasure to do business with. "
S Gemmel, Oman, July 2016