Adventure paradise: 5 national parks to visit in Croatia

Few countries other than Croatia can lay claim to such a biodiverse sprawl of nature, best experienced through its handful of world-class national parks

Team Wanderlust
27 February 2023
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Croatia Travel

1. Brijuni

Brijuni National Park (Shutterstock)

A short boat ride from Fažana will whisk you out into the Brijuni archipelago, an attractive chain of islands near the Istrian peninsula. The archipelago itself stretches over seven square kilometres and along 48km of enviable coastline. It is teeming with wildlife including 680 different plant types and over 150 bird species. Setting foot on shore at Veli where the national park is mainly located, there’s a range of archaeological sights to explore including an early Roman villa complex, The Byzantine Castrum, and even a bonafide Dinosaur Footprint preserved in the salt licked rocks. By far the best way to see the island is by bicycle and with over 300 available to rent throughout the park, there’s nothing to stop a serene ride along its 13km bike trail, winding through fragrant conifers and open meadows, let alone the presence of a 1,600 year old olive tree. Finish the trip with a refreshing dip at Saluga Bay, or the popular Jerolim Beach.

2. Kornati

Kornati National Park (Aleksandar Gospić/CNTB)

Kornati National Park can be summed up in the old Croatian saying “As many days in a year, as many Kornati islands”. With over 80 uninhabited islands, islets, and reefs, covering an area of 217 km sq, this national park is definitely one for lovers of the great outdoors. The park is only accessible by boat, which usually departs from the small town of Murter, in the southern Šibenik-Knin county, close to the famous festival town of Tisno. Once there, explore a sunny kissed maze of sea and untouched islands. Kornati is the perfect spot for divers too with soft corals and red gorgonians in abundance, as well as several accessible ship-wrecks. But it’s above ground where the park’s most famous feature can be found, in the shape of Kornati’s ‘crowns’ or monumental cliffs. Stretching for as long as 1,350 meters, and dropping as far as 100 meters under water, the best way to see them is up close by boat.

3. Mljet

Mljet National Park (Shutterstock)

Situated only two hours from Dubrovnik, on the Pelješac peninsula, Mljet is a convenient national park for a sunny day trip from the city. Though covering a vast area of around 53 km sq, the main feature of the park are two saltwater lakes, Veliko and Malo Jezero stretching on for four kilometres. Though easy enough to see by foot or cycle, the best way is by kayak. Head to Mali Most (to the point where the two lakes meet at a narrow channel) to find a rental and then take it easy on the water, drinking up the sun and rising hills of the surrounding Aleppo Pines forests. When the time for a break arrives, be sure to stop-off at the small island ‘Melita’ where a former 12th-century Benedictine monastery has been given a breath of new life as a bistro.

4. Paklenica

Paklenica National Park (Shutterstock)

Just a 45 minute bus ride from Zadar, Paklenica National Park is a tranquil retreat after a few days of hard, Croatian sunshine. A hiker’s paradise, Paklenica’s main feature is an adventurous mix of high peaks and deep gorges, all drenched in lush beech and pine forests. With 200km of marked hiking trails, the best of the bunch are the ones that walk you straight through two karst river canyons, Velika and Mala Paklenica or out past a handful of long deserted villages. If gentle days on foot isn’t quite the ticket, then climbing routes have become a popular way to explore the landscape. The park also boasts an intricate network of explorable, underground caves and is also home to wild cats, lynx and even bears.

5. Krka

Roški Slap (Zoran Jelača/CNTB)

Most famous for its Insta-worthy waterfalls, Krka National Park plays host to some of Croatia’s most diverse and unaltered ecosystems, making it a first class place to explore untouched nature. The park covers an area of just over 142 sq km and includes two-thirds of the river, though the biggest draw is Skradinski Buk, the tiered, branching waterfall, which is one among 15 others. The area surrounding the falls is home to over 800 species of verdant plant-life, and houses the second highest density of lavender in Europe. Another must see, is the tiny island of Visovac, previously settled by Franciscan monks in 1445, who built the monastery that still adorns the island, and has since been converted into a small library and museum.

Feeling inspired?

For more information and inspiration about this incredible country, head over to the official Croatia website.

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