There are eight official national parks located in Croatia, which is quite impressive for such a small country! From stunning waterfalls, breathtaking coastlines and verdant forests to rocky mountains and picturesque islands, Croatia seems to have a little scattering of everything you want in nature. We have broken down what to expect from each national park below so you can prepare for your holiday to Croatia.
1. Plitvice National Park
Plitvice National Park is without a doubt the most known and popular in Croatia. The cascading, bright blue lakes and lush surroundings are plastered on brochures and instagrams all over the world, showcasing the natural beauty of Croatia. You can easily walk around the main section of the park in a day, all the areas are connected by wooden walkways over the water and everything is signposted. The park gets very busy during the summer and there can be queues along the walkways with no room to overtake, so be aware of this when planning your trip. The best idea is to book accommodation nearby and enter the park as soon as it opens, when very few people are there.
Best for: Travellers who want to see some beautiful scenery without hiking and aren’t bothered about swimming, which is forbidden at Plitvice.
2. Krka National Park
Named after the Krka River, the park encompasses an area of over 142 square kilometres with the biggest draw being the beautiful Skradinski Buk Falls. It’s possible to explore the park in a day on a trip from Split, or if you would rather have more time then you should visit the town of Skradin where there are various hotels and guesthouses. Krka National Park is also home to a variety of wildlife, in fact four species on the European endangered list can be found here. These are the greater horseshoe bat, otter, wolf and wild cat. Due to the sheer size of Krka National Park there are a huge variety of activities for nature lovers. Enjoy walking trails, rent a bike, swim in the lagoon or take a boat ride across the lake.
Best for: Travellers who want a little more action and space to enjoy nature, including a beautiful swimming spot!
3. North Velebit National Park
One of the newest national parks in Croatia, North Velebit is perfect for keen hikers and walkers with its numerous trails. The national park is located in the Velebit mountains which is the largest mountain range in Croatia. It shares the mountain range with Paklenica, which is located on the southern side. If you want to spend a decent amount of time in the park you can stay in one of the nearby villages, either Krasno or Otocac. For serious hikers, there are a few basic mountain huts too where you can stay overnight. In order to preserve the park, there are designated trails. Expect lots of rocky terrain and forests, with some incredible views of the mountains!
Best for: Keen hikers and those who love a unique landscape for photography.
4. Paklenica National Park
Located in the southern section of the Velebit mountain range, Paklenica National Park covers an area of just under 100 square kilometers. The park is known for its two canyons – Velika Palkenica and Mala Paklenica. There are also various caves, some of which you can visit. These geological highlights are what sets Paklenica apart from other national parks. There are a few lodges and mountain huts in the park, as well as a camping ground on the coast which is open from March to November.
Best for: Those who like more of a challenge. While there are some gentle walking trails, you can also find several challenging hikes and climbing spots.
5. Brijuni National Park
Brijuni National Park consists of a cluster of islands, and is only accessible by boat from the small town of Fazana, near Pula. The journey is only around fifteen minutes making it accessible on a day trip however there are some good accommodation options on the islands. There are plenty of beautiful biking trails around as well as a whole host of other activities making it perfect for families. Did you know that dinosaurs walked these lands millions of years ago? That’s right, over 200 dinosaur footprints have been discovered in Brijuni! It’s also possible to scuba dive, play golf or simply enjoy the many walking trails on the islands. If that’s not enough, Brijini is home to one of the oldest olive trees in the Mediterranean, which can be seen when you visit the island.
Best for: Travellers who want a little bit of everything and plenty of different activities to keep them entertained.
6. Kornati National Park
Kornati National Park is considered a slice of paradise with its islands, islets and reefs. It has a total of 140 uninhabited islands which encompass caves, cliffs and rugged rocks, with an overall dry landscape since there is no fresh water here. The only way to access the park is by boat, whether this be private charter or on a guided tour. Kornati Island is perfect for swimming and snorkelling. It’s also quite easy to hike to the hilltop locations for some lovely views of the Adriatic Sea but be prepared for the heat and take a hat and plenty of sunscreen – there is very little shade and protection on the island.
Best for: Something a little different. The rugged and dry landscape here can’t be compared to anywhere else in Croatia!
7. Mljet National Park
Mljet National Park covers the entire north-western section of Mljet Island, encompassing a total of 5400 hectares of land. The two main towns are Polace and Pomena, where there is a small but decent range of accommodation if you wish to stay in the park for a few days. Mljet borders two saltwater lakes, known as Veliko and Malo Jazero (big and small lake). Both lakes stretch out around 4 kilometres with a small island dotted in the middle. This is where the Benedictine monastery sits, a popular image you will see of Mljet Island. There are plenty of well marked paths around the lakes so you can either walk or cycle to take in the views, or you can kayak and swim in the lakes.
Best for: Those staying in Dubrovnik and looking for the perfect day trip. Catamarans run regularly and take only one hour from Dubrovnik.
8. Risnjak National Park
Risnjak National Park is located in the region of Gorski kotar, around 15 kilometres inland in northwest Croatia, near the border of Slovenia. The park is easily accessed by car. There are various hiking trails here, as well as more challenging mountaineering and trekking paths. Many visitors come to conquer the peak of Veliki Risnjak, which sits at 1528 metres above sea level. The terrain in the park is mostly limestone and dolomite with bare rock and barren caves. Mountain biking is also a popular sport here and skiing is possible in the winter.
Best for: Avid hikers who like a challenge.