Croatia’s eight national parks represent the country’s varied landscape and make it a haven for tree-huggers, explorers and holidaymakers alike. From untouched island clusters and impressive marine eco-systems, to flowing turquoise lakes and jagged mountaintops, Croatia’s nature has a story that needs to be uncovered so gear-up and start your discovery.[ordered_list style=”decimal”]
Brijuni National Park
Brijuni consists of 14 islands and islets just off Istria’s western coast in North Croatia. These indented gems floating across the Fažana Strait are painted with Mediterranean colors with indigenous flora and fauna enriching the masterpiece. Brijuni has been a favorite resort destination since time can remember and on your hop onto these enchanting islands you will discover dinosaur footprints, millennia old olive trees, Roman residences, hydro-archeological sites, forts and churches, and a 1922 golf course where deer, mouflon, rabbits and peacocks keep you company during your round. Legend says that angels created this “heaven on earth” and therefore, the pristine Brijuni archipelago is referred to as such.
Kornati National Park
The 89 islands, islets, and reef that make up the Kornati Islands stand out from the rest; a barren land and an inhospitable landscape outside the coast of Northern Dalmatia. This uninhabited karst-limestone cluster of islands reveals numerous fossils, unexplored caves, and imposing vertical cliffs but the best way to discover Kornati is through the lenses of your diving mask. The marine eco-system of Kortati is the pride of the Adriatic with typical Mediterranean marine life, algae, colorful corals, sponges, and the rare noble pen shells decorating the labyrinthine seabed. Many of the islands have quirky and rather naughty names such as Babina Guzica and Kurba Vela meaning Gradma’s Buttocks and Big Prostitute.
Krka National Park
Just 12km from Šibenik is Krka National Park, stretching from Knin to Skradin along the Krka River and valley. Krka’s main attractions are the seventeen cascading waterfalls of Skradinski Buk where a swim in the large shallow pool is compulsory if you want to truly absorb the beauty of this landscape surrounding by riverine vegetation. For a little cultural discovery, hop on to the Visovac Island with a 14th century monastery and church.
Mljet National Park
The most southerly easterly of the large Adriatic Islands is Mljet and its northwestern tip is home to a national park blessed with two tranquil salt lakes, Malo and Veliko Jezero. A great way to explore the lake is by kayak and a lunchtime break on the Isle of St. Mary with its 12th century Benedictine monastery. Alternatively, explore this green haven with a stroll or bike-ride along the many Aleppo pine-shaded paths where you will find many secret swimming spots and the legendary Odysseus Cave.
Paklenica National Park
In the hinterland beyond Zadar hides the Paklenica National Park in the littoral zone of the Velebit Mountains by Starigrad. The impressive karst river canyons of Velika Paklenica and Mala Paklenica stretch 14km and 12km each with imposing vertical cliffs of up to 700m high making the park a favored destination for climbers, hikers, ornithologist, and speleologists.
Plitvice Lakes National Park
For a scenic walk in pristine nature, detour into the hinterland to visit Croatia’s only UNESCO Nature Site and the country’s largest national park. Throughout the year, travellers from across the globe come to Croatia just to see the cascading turquoise lakes of Plitvice. In this tranquil green haven, the flowing waters have created travertine barriers coated in moss where the water runs into inter-connecting lakes and over mysterious caves. For hiking enthusiasts, there are a series of marked routes at varying lengths but if walking isn’t your thing, there is a panoramic shuttle train available too.
Risnjak National Park
This forested ridge is named after the lynx, ris in Croatian, which roam these mountains. Risnjak is considered to have the most diverse flora in the country so there is no wonder why botanists from across the globe have been coming here for two centuries to get a close look at the edelweiss and alpine roses that decorate this lush landscape where coastal and continental vegetation zones meet. Fauna is no less impressive in Risnjak where brown bears, wild boars and woodpeckers hide in the deep forests.
Northern Velebit National Park
Embark on a hike along the Premužić Trail, one of the 30 mountain trails in this pristine wilderness landscape. Make your way up to a peak to take in the breathtaking views of the Adriatic islands before meandering through a striking botanical garden, visiting the meteorological station at 1594m altitude, and breaking at Rossi’s shelter before descending Luka’s 1,421m pit.[/ordered_list]