National parks of Croatia

There are eight national parks in Croatia, with a combined size of almost 1,000 square kilometres. The Plitvice Lakes with their colourful lagoons and staggered waterfalls are the best known and have even gained UNESCO World Heritage status, but that doesn’t mean the other seven choices aren’t equally stunning and packed with views to make you stop and stare.

Brijuni National Park

A total of 14 islands and islets make up Brijuni National Park, an area fondly referred to by locals as Heaven on Earth.

This area is bursting with natural beauty, and also comes with a rich cultural heritage dating right back to the stone age. More than 200 dinosaur footprints have been identified on the main Veli Brijun island, while a half-day tour of the islands by speed boat will bring you face to face with everything from exotic wildlife at the safari park to Roman ruins.

Kornati National Park

The only right way to see Kornati is by boat. After all, how else could you best explore 89 islands lined by living reefs and sun-soaked bays? You could always book a panoramic flight above the islands and pick out the most appealing spot to stop and swim, but to get truly up close to nature, take the slow route and sail from reef to reef with your snorkel at the ready.

The Plitvice Lakes National Park

The Plitvice Lakes are the largest of Croatia’s national parks and form one of the oldest national parks in Southeast Europe. Nestled between the Pljesevika and Mala Kapela mountains, forests here line 16 lakes – each of which is staggered up the mountainside in deep shades of blue and azure green. Listen out for the sound of wolves high up in the mountains’ peaks as you spot the magnificent waterfalls.

Krka National Park

Another great choice for anyone wishing to admire waterfalls, Krka national park is remote but offers rushing rivers, the likes of which create aquatic highways through gorges and canyons up to 200 metres deep. Around the edge of the waters lie a number of ancient monasteries, while there are also plenty of spots to stop and enjoy a picnic in the wild grass.

Mljet National Park

Pick up an entry ticket for Mljet at Pomena or Polace and you could whisk yourself out for the day on a boat tour of the park’s saltwater lakes. In the largest of Mljet’s lagoons you’ll find Sveti Marija Island, alongside its impressive Benedictine monastery. As if the dazzling natural scenery wasn’t enough, this 12th-century monastery is a sight to behold and hides a pleasant restaurant where you can stop for a bite to eat.

Mount Risnjak National Park

Another great option for those looking to stretch their legs, Mount Risnjak has an extensive variety of trails suited to hikers of all experience and fitness levels. The visitor centre for this park is located in Crni Lug on the eastern edge, and if you don’t fancy the modest trek to the peak of Veliki Risnjak, perhaps you’ll enjoy scouting out special species of flora and fauna at ground level instead. Highlights include the alpine rose and small herds of red deer.

Paklenica National Park

At the southern slopes of Velebit mountain lies Paklenica National Park, complete with two mind-blowing karst river canyons. There are over 150 kilometres of hiking trails here, so if taking pictures of the incredible scenery isn’t enough, you won’t struggle to get interactive. Hire a guide and head out for an afternoon hike, or for experienced adventurers a day of rock-climbing might just be in order.

Sjeverni Velebit National Park

Sjeverni – meaning north – Velebit is hugely biodiverse and home to all manner of interesting things. Covering 109 square kilometres of the Velebit mountain, this park is home to more than 100 species of bird, as well as 16 species of reptile and large mammals including the lynx and wild wolf. The park and its trails are open from May to November, while nearby towns and villages such as Krasno, Senj, Jablanac and Otocac offer plenty of local cuisine to help you refuel after a day exploring.

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