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National Parks in Croatia

Croatia is a beautiful country to visit. With a total area of 56.594 square kilometers, it has about 31 thousand square kilometers of coastal water. It is a true paradise for diving, swimming, fishing, and sailing on the welcoming beaches of the Adriatic Sea. 

The continental part of the country is separated from the coast by the Dinara Mountain Range, a part of the Eastern Alps. The picturesques Pannonian lowlands are located in the east. 

Croatia can boast cuisine, ancient history and many tourist attractions. Such cities as Split, Dubrovnik, Omis, Pula, as well as stunning islands of the Adriatic Sea, welcome millions of tourists every year. They come here to have a good rest from the busy city life in its hot sun and admire fascinating islands, lakes, rivers, mountains, and valleys with their unforgettable scenery. 

The country is abundant in natural riches and diversity of flora and fauna species. There are 8 large Croatia National Parks and many smaller nature parks and reserves with magnificent forests, lush and impressive landscapes, and beautiful cascading waterfalls.

Let’s look at the most well-known and popular routes.

Kornati National Park

Kornati National Park is a necklace of 89 islands with ideal conditions for sailing and diving. The total area of the park is 217 square kilometers. There are also multiple islets and reefs there, so the overall number of islands is actually unknown. 

The main part of the Park is Kornati island, also known as the Stomorski Island. The place is located in the north of Dalmatia region and is a boaters paradise. From here you can visit Sibenik-Knin county, including Krka National Park and the fabulous city of Sibenik. The entire archipelago stretches for 35 kilometers and the sea area of it is 320 square kilometers.  

The archipelago was named after its main island, Kornat. There are no permanent houses on it, the owners of temporary buildings only visit them in summer. The place is very warm due to the Mediterranean climate with the average temperatures of 22.8°C in summer and 14°C in winter.

There are lots of interesting places in the area: Sestrice Lighthouse, ruins on Island Mana, Lojena beach. 

Kornati is one of the best places for water activities in Croatia and a perfect place to spend your vacation. So if you are interested in the underwater world, go diving and admire the variety of algae, underwater plants, and about 850 animal species. The underwater flower plant, Posidonia, is considered the lungs of the sea because it enriches the water with oxygen. Go scuba diving or snorkeling to meet specific species you will never see anywhere else. Or you can encounter an eagle owl, a very rare bird that lives in big numbers in the Kornati Islands.

The best time to visit the Park and enjoy tranquility, laze in the sun, bathe in the crystal Adriatic sea is in late spring and summer.

How to Get There

The only way to reach this archipelago is by boat and the best option is to buy an organized tour from Sibenik, Murter, or Zadar.

Accommodation near the park

Please see lodging options with a 9.5+ rating in Zadar here.

Plitvice Lakes National Park 

This cascade of 16 lakes located deep in the forests of central Croatia is amazing. It should be on your list of places to visit in this beautiful country. The Plitvice Lakes National Park covers an area of about 300 square kilometers. All the lakes are interconnected and separated by dams. This territory became a National Park in 1949. It has been in UNESCO’s World Heritage List since 1979.

Nature is perfect here with its azure, blue, and green colors of the water that are caused by minerals and organisms inhabiting the lakes. You will see the Large Waterfall (Veliki Slap) here. It is 78 meters high, and it almost completely freezes in winter.

Tufa barriers are the reasons why these gorgeous lakes and Croatia waterfalls were formed. The formation process started about 6-7 thousand years ago, at the time of the Pleistocene epoch.

Choose one of 8 different trips, make a tour around the lakes and enjoy the most beautiful views of the park from cozy tourist paths in the forest. This place is a paradise for hikers as there are 4 perfect hiking trails with walking duration from 1.5 to 8 hours. You can also use a sightseeing train to have a ride around the park. 

Plitvice is very busy during the high season in summer. So, you would better visit it either in June or September when it is not so crowded. You will also admire the colors of changing leaves in the forests in autumn or frozen lakes and waterfalls in winter.

How to Get There

The Plitvice Lakes are located next to the main road through Lika. You can go there by bus from any part of Croatia all year round. The most convenient routes are from Zagreb and Split. 

You can use the highway from Zagreb, drive 2 hours direct to Grabovac and from there it is 15 minutes to the parking near the entrance to the Park. Or you can go from Split to Korenica and from there another 15 minutes to the same parking.

Accommodation near the park

Please see hotels in Plitvice, Croatia with a 9.5+ rating here.

Krka National Park

Enjoy the beauty of this natural treasure with the Krka River, a lot of wildlife around and stunning waterfalls in just 1 hour from Split airport in Croatia. The Krka National Park is located at a distance of several kilometers from Sibenik and got its status in 1985. It lies on the banks of the Krka and Cikola Rivers and is famous for its aromatic lavender and magnificent views. 

Skradin Waterfall is known for its calcium carbonate waters. There is the hydroelectric power plant Jaruga under this waterfall - one of the oldest plants of this type in the world.

The park offers a lot of touristic, educational, and recreational facilities and activities to its visitors: Ključica Fortress, Etnoland Theme park, Monument to Croatian King Petar Svačić, Franciscan Monastery, Cikola Canyon, etc. 

The first reason why you need to visit the park is its stunning waterfalls with the highest drop altitude of 242 meters. Skradin Waterfall is the most massive one. You will also enjoy the richness of the area’s flora and fauna. If you are interested in endemic species, you will find Grassy bells and the Chimney bellflower here, with above 860 other plant species to admire.

You can take a boat excursion to Roski slap, Visovac Island, and Krka Monastery where the history meets the present and Nature is especially eye-catching.

The park is located in Sibenik-Knin County, to the northeast of Sibenik. It is very beautiful at any time of the year if you are a true lover of Nature.

How to Get There

The Krka National Park has five entrances and you can get there by car from Sibenik. There are also buses from Sibenik, Zagreb, Zadar or Plitvice.

Accommodation near the park

See accommodations in Split (1 hour drive from the park) here.

Mljet National Park

The Mljet National Park occupies 5,300 hectares on Mljet Island near the Peljesac peninsula in the southern part of the country and attracts tourists by its beaches, bays, caves, and archaeological sites. The island is very green owing to a wide variety of plant species, so people often call it Green Island.

Visiting it should be on your tourist list because you may like its huge forests with Aleppo pines, 20 meters high, and Holm oaks that look gorgeous.

There are two beautiful lakes here - Great and Small ones. They were formed by rising sea levels. Though they were karst pits filled with freshwater in the past, now their water is salty. 

The fauna here is presented by lizards, snakes, mammals, and birds that inhabit caves and pits of the island. You can hear robins, nightingales, finches, and blackbirds here.

Take a tour to the Isle of Saint Mary and see the Benedictine monastery with the Church of Saint Mary built in the 12th century.

Tourists like to visit the park all year round, the high season here is from May to October. There are three comfortable solar-powered vessels to take tourists around the island. They do not make noise, so are very suitable for those who love peace and tranquility.

How to Get There

The Mljet National Park has three entrances. You can get there by catamaran from Dubrovnik or Split, by ferry from Prapratno, or by the vessel of your own. If you enter the territory on the vessel you will have to pay for it. 

Accommodation near the park

Here’s the list of accommodations in Dubrovnik.

Paklenica National Park

The Paklenica National Park is the second oldest one in Croatia after Plitvice and is situated on the southern side of the Velebit mountain range, not far from Zadar. The highest peaks are Vaganski Vrh and Sveto Brdo. The place is worth visiting if you are fond of hiking and rock climbing. 

The most well-known site in the area is Manita Pec - a cave located 570 meters above sea level with astonishing underground fauna, rock formations and surroundings. There are many caves on the territory of the park but this cave is the only one opened for tourists. 

Other attractions include places like: Libinjska kosa, Veliki Vitrenik, belay rock Starigrad, Mali Alan plus 4 educational trails. They offer you a great journey into history accompanied with beautiful views at the Adriatic Sea. If you are interested in local history and culture, do visit  Marasovic. It is a complex of traditional stone houses and an outstanding exhibition place.

The park is located in Zadar County near the Adriatic Sea so beautiful beaches and water sports activities are very close. Or, if you are not a fan of hot weather, come here in the low season - in April-May or in  September-October.

How to Get There

You can reach the park by rental car from Zagreb, Rijeka, or Split. The other choice is to take a bus from the Zadar bus station, and ride for 45 minutes. 

Sjeverni (Northern) Velebit National Park

The Northern Velebit National Park is a part of the highest mountain range in Croatia that stretches along the Adriatic coast and is one of the most picturesque Croatia National parks. Enjoy nature to the fullest here as it features outstanding scenery with dense forests, caves, sedimentary rocks and karst views, and a lot of animals, birds, and plants. 

There is a nature reserve on the territory of the park, too. Its name is Hajducki i Rozanski Kukovi. It is known as one of the most interesting speleological sites in the world, featuring chasms, karst sinkholes, and sharp rocky peaks. Lukina Jama is the deepest cave in Croatia and the 14th deepest one worldwide. Its depth is 1,431 meters.

If you like mountain hiking and climbing, the place offers a lot of mountain trails to its visitors. The epic Via Dinarica mega trail is the most well-known and loved by tourists. 

Do visit the oldest high-altitude weather station in the country located in the Zavizan mountain lodge on top of the rocky ridge. You will see the panoramic views of magnificent forests, mountain peaks, and the Adriatic coast from it.

Go to the mountain village of Krasno to see Kuca Velebita. It is an educational house with a lot of samples of birds, insects, large animals, and endemic plants that can be found in this area. There are over 950 plant species that can be encountered in the area. Hrvatska Sibireja is the most rare of them. It grows in Velebit only. Since it comes from Siberia, it can survive the lowest temperatures of -30 degrees Celsius. Besides, there is Velebit botanical garden which is only 40 minutes drive from Krasno.

The area is inhabited with many animal species. It is unlikely that you  encounter a lynx, wolf, or bear eye to eye, but there are many of them here.  

The park is located in Lika-Senj county. The best time to visit it is in spring when the entire mountains are in bloom, and they look immensely beautiful. Bear in mind that sometimes Velebit Mountain is covered with snow until late spring, so the access to the park may be blocked. So you need to check this before you go on a trip. 

How to Get There

The park has two entrances - Babic Sica in the northern part and Stirovaca and Alan in the southern part. To get there by car you should choose between two roads - the mountain road or the road along the Adriatic coast. Both of them are covered with asphalt and not very steep.

Risnjak National Park

The Risnjak National Park is located in Gorski Kotar. It is the most mountainous region of the country not far from the Adriatic coast and it covers 4,600 hectares and includes the source of the Kupa River, the Snjeznik massif, and Risnjak Mountain. 

The name of the park comes from ‘ris’, the Croatian word for ‘lynx’. The lynx is a very rare animal in Europe but here it can be often encountered by people who know how to trace it. There are numerous species of other animals and plants in the area too. The most widespread tree species are spruce, giant willow, beech, black hornbeam, fir, and black and white alder.

If you are fond of mountains, go to Veliki Risnjak with a height of 1,528 meters. From there you can enjoy the picturesque views of Istria, Kvarnerski Zaljev, and Slovenia Julian Alps.

Another mountain peak that is worth seeing is Snjeznik with a height of 1,506 meters. The name comes from big amounts of snow that remain on the mount until late spring.

The source of the Kupa River is a beautiful place with rich flora and fauna. The area is also called the Wonderful Butterfly Valley. The spring from which the river starts is very deep - over 154 meters and very beautiful, too.

The park is located near the border with Slovenia. You can come here at any time of the year. Though, the best time to see its beauty is on sunny days of late spring and summer. The source of the river may not be available when it is raining or flooding.

How to Get There

You can reach it by car driving the 1.5 hours highway from Zagreb in the direction of Ravna Gora. If you are in Rijeka, take a bus to Crni Lug.

Final Thoughts

Croatia is a real pearl in Europe with stunning coastline, gorgeous mountains, picturesque cities that will provide you with a lot of travel emotions. Millions of travelers come here year by year to enjoy the cozy islands of the Adriatic Sea, sunny valleys, scenic lakes and mountain picks. The country has a great laid-back vibe, and visiting Croatia National parks adds a lot to that.