8 National Parks to visit on a Croatian road trip | Nest Campers

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8 National Parks to visit on a Croatian road trip

Croatia national parks, road trip croatia
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26. June 2019

When renting and exploring the world in a campervan, you will want to see much more than just museums, galleries and city sights. In this blog post we gathered information about all eight National Parks Croatia has to offer. This National Parks guide will have you swimming, hiking, scubadiving, fishing, cycling and being one with nature.  

Here, at Nest Campers, our mission is to give you as much travel inspiration as possible and help you make your time in this part of Europe unforgettable. That's why we created another useful and informative blog post for your road trip with one of our campervans!

We are going to Croatia again, but this time we are exploring different parts of Croatia. This country has an amazing coastal scenery, culture and beaches, but it is also a home to some of the most beautiful National Parks in the world.
 

Croatia road trip, national park plitvice, croatia travel
Plitvice Lakes National Park is one of the oldest and largest national parks in Croatia.

 

National Park or Nature Park?

Before we begin, we must get the facts straight about the naming of a National Park and therefore avoiding confusion with a Nature Park.

As stated in a dictionary a National Park is ´a scenic or historically important area of countryside protected by the federal government for the employment of the general public or the preservation of wildlife´. A Nature or Natural park on the other hand is ´a designation for a protected landscape by means of long-term planning, sustainable use and agriculture´. These areas are legally protected by countries preservation laws and promoted for tourism purposes.

Croatia has 444 protected areas. They cover 9% of the country and are combined of 8 National Parks, 11 Nature Parks and 2 Strict Reserves.

Eight National Parks of Croatia cover the total area of 994km2 on the mainland and 235 km2 on the water. Each of them is maintained by a separate institution and funded by the government ministry of nature conservation and spatial development.

To make your choice easier we will introduce each of them, with the crown jewel at the end! Below is a list of National Parks of Croatia we'll explore in this blog post: 
 

1. NORTHERN VELEBIT NATIONAL PARK
2. PAKLENICA NATIONAL PARK
3. RISNJAK NATIONAL PARK
4. KORNATI NATIONAL PARK
5. MLJET NATIONAL PARK
6. BRIJUNI NATIONAL PARK
7. KRKA NATIONAL PARK
8. PLITVICE LAKE NATIONAL PARK

 

 

1. NORTHERN VELEBIT NATIONAL PARK

The Northern Velebit National Park is a playground for all those who are in for an active holiday away from the lazy vibe of the beach, but still love the ocean view. It is covered by various hiking trails, pits, shepherd's huts and even a botanical garden.
 

Velebit Croatia, Croati road trip, Croatia hiking
Stunning views from Velebit peaks.

 

As the name itself suggests, the park is situated on the Velebit mountain range, which is the largest though not the highest mountain range in Croatia. With a karst surface of more than 2000km2, this mountain range is divided by two national parks - The Northern Velebit National Park and Paklenica National Park.

Due to changing altitude the weather conditions are unpredictable and change during the year. That is why the park is open for visitors from early May to November, but if you want to enjoy the best weather, the peak time to go is from July to September.

Northern Velebit is a home to a wide diversity of karstic phenomena, flora and fauna, which has earned it a title of UNESCO´s biosphere reserve. The karstic highlight of the park are definitely the pits - one of the world's most famous localities of very deep, vertical speleological objects. More than 200 entrances have been discovered so far, at the area of only 12km2. The deepest and most famous is Luka's pit (1421m long), being 11th in the world, which was discovered in 1992.
 

Luka's pit, Croatia road trip, Velebit national park
The entrance to Luka's pit, one of world's deepest underground pits.

 

The karst geology helped develop an amazing natural botanical garden, with more than 500 plant species - botanical garden is located by the Zavižan weather station, a popular hiking destination.

This national park is perfect for those who like to explore the beauty of nature in peace and quiet. There are more 30 marked hiking trails along 145km ridge and you can hike them all. One of the most famous trails is Premužić trail - a lovely 57km long trail with almost no steep parts.
 

Premuzic trail, Velebit hiking, Croatia road trip
The Premužić Trail is a a 57km-long path mapped out by lifelong Velebit enthusiast Ante Premužić in the 1930s.
 

Besides trekking, the area also has a network of forest roads and is very popular among mountain bikers. There are no marked biking trails, therefore extra care is advised. If you are in doubt of conditions, turn to the INFO center in Krasno.

To make your adventure easier there are two mountain huts, Zavižan and Alan, where you can rest and refresh. The accommodation on these huts must be booked at least 5 days in advance and paid at upon arrival. There is also a mountain shelter built in 1929, called the Rossi´s shelter. It is located on Premužić trail and is meant for a stay in case of emergency and not for a longer period of time.

The must-see´s in the Northern Velebit National Park are Zavižan, the Velebit Botanical Garden, the Premužić Trail, Štirovača, Alan, Lubenovac. Besides those, we promise there are many more, but we will let you discover them by yourself!

 

HOW TO GET THERE

Northern Velebit National park can be reached from various directions, all depending which part of the park you wish to visit.

- The main point of entrance is from village Krasno, easily accesible via Zagreb - Split highway. Driving from inland, take the Otočac exit and follow the road to the small town of Senj. There you will find signs directing you to village Krasno.

If you wish to reach the northern point of the park and visit Zavižan and Velebit Botanical garden, your entrance will be via Babić Siča. The easiest way to reach it is from direction Oltari by a paved road. Or alternatively from Krasno via macadam road.

Southern part of the Park Štirovača and Alan, can also be accessed from Krasno, following a 29 km paved road or from the coat Adriatic Highway taking a narrow road from Jablanac.
 

TICKET PRICES

Ticket prices vary depending on your plans, length of stay and whether or not you hold a mountaineer's card or other conditions which are valid for a discount. Tickets are available at the Krasno Information Centre.

General entry prices range from 40HRK* to 45HRK*. On top of thisquotes, there is also a 6HRK tax which you must consider.

The accommodation prices at shepherd´s huts are based on a 1 night, 1 person stay. For Alan´s hut you will pay 120HRK and for the hut in Lubenovac the price is a bit lower, 100HRK.

*For all the ticket prices visit the park's official website.

 

2. PAKLENICA NATIONAL PARK

Paklenica National Park is a southern brother of Northern Velebit National Park. With continuing beautiful nature, made to be discovered by tramping, it is also a must for those who love rock climbing.

From beginners to advanced, there is something here for everyone. Stretching to the ocean it is a perfect combination for an active day, followed by a swim and a rest on the beach.

Paklenica climbing, hiking Croatia road trip

Paklenica climbing, croatia road trip, climbing croatia
Paklenica is a climber's paradise.
Photo source: http://argyruntum.com/paklenica-climbing/

 

As said, National Park Paklenica is an unusual combination of the ocean and the mountains, covering an impressive 92km2. As a part of Velebit mountain it is also covered with karstic forms and home to some rare plant and animal species. If your hobbies include bird watching, this is the area for you.

With altitude much lower than the northern part, there is no risk of snow here. But the proximity to the ocean introduces the harsh winter wind 'bura' and high summer temperatures, which are not the best for hiking and tramping. The best time to visit the park are spring months of April and May and autumn months, September and October.

Paklenica was given its title as a National Park in 1949, the reason being the majestic karst creations of canyons, mighty cliffs, caves and ridges. The two deep gorges named Velika Paklenica (14 km long, and 500 to 800 meters wide) and Mala Paklenica (12 km long, from 400 to 500 meters wide) are the most popular areas of the park and a home to several hundred meters high cliffs, with Anica Kuk being the highest.

anica kuk paklenica climbing, croatia campervan road trip
Anica Kuk is known as the astonishing 700m high climbing wall in Paklenica National Park.
 

As said the park is filled with steep karst forms connected into a climber's paradise and the most significant climbing center in Croatia. With 70 short and 250 long climbing routes available, you can find a fit for every level. The routes range from 40m to 350m with some bolted and some not. Friendly advice, if you are unsure of the conditions, ask at the Information Centre when buying your ticket. Also, a must know fact is, there is no drinking water in the park itself, so bring enough with you.

When you need a break from climbing, there are more than 50km of hiking trails to explore before jumping in the sea. The network of hiking paths is clearly signed and marked, so there is no problem finding your way around reaching the highest peak Vaganski vrh (1757 m).

For refreshment and rest on your hike, there is a mountain hut Paklenica, which is located a good 2h walk from the canyon of Velika Paklenica. It is opened every day from June to September and on weekends during other months of the year. Opening times from June to September are 6am to 9pm and from May and October opening times are 7am to 4pm.

But be aware, Paklenica is a home of some unusual animal species such as roe deer, red deer, chamois and wild boar. Large predator species include the brown bear, the wolf and the lynx. But do not be discouraged, not a lot of visitors have seen them! 

 

HOW TO GET THERE

Paklenica is located just by the coastal town of Starigrad. The easiest way to reach it is from the Maslenica junction which is easy accessible from any direction. At the junction take the Rijeka road for the next 15km.

TICKET PRICE

Entry tickets for National Park Paklenica vary depending on the length of stay and the season you are visiting. Ticket prices range from basic adult low season 40HRK* to 5-day entrance with climbing pass in high season for 150HRK*. With options to buy 1, 3 or 5 day passes that are working out cheaper, you can make the stay as long or short as you wish. There is also an additional charge of 10HRK if you wish to visit Manita peć Cave.

*For all the ticket prices visit the park's official website.

 

 

3. RISNJAK NATIONAL PARK

Risnjak National Park is located near Slovenia, just west of Crni Lug and Malo Selo. With a spectacular forest, hiking trails and a mountain lodge is a perfect go-to to immerse yourself in untouched nature. Its location in Gorski Kotar, near the capital, and easy accessibility makes it a popular destination for hikers, climbers and mountaineers.

Risnjak national park, Croatia road trip, campervan Croatia

It is a wide karst plateau with high peaks rising to the highest peak Mt. Risnjak, at the height of 1528m. The karst phenomena is spread widely across the 30km2 area, with Lokvarska cave being one of the highlights. It is a 140m deep and over 1000m long display of stalagmites and stalactites. Its end is a grand finale 70m high waterfall called Zeleni Vir.
 

Zeleni Vir, Croatia national parks, Risnjak

The Park is known for homing an amazing variety of flora and fauna. We can find over 4000 different plant species, 500 butterfly species, more than 100 brown bears, lynx (ris in Croatian and after which the park is named), wolves, wild cats, wild boars, deer and chamois. It was founded as a National Park in 1953. From the original 3000 hectares it has enlarged to 6400, occupating the source of river Kupa, as well as the mountain of Snjeznik.

You can visit Risnjak National Park all year round. The activities you can do change with the weather.

The summer is perfect for hiking the 4200m long educational trail or walk to the source of Kupa. If you are up for a challenge, hiking Risnjak and Snjeznik is the best choice. In the winter the park transforms into skiing wonderland.

Over 40km of marked cycling paths are perfect for cycling enthusiasts. Watching rare animals in the nature is a must-do and even fishing is allowed from April to October.

 

HOW TO GET THERE

Getting to Risnjak is simple. On the East follow highway A6 / Rijeka - Zagreb to Crni Lug. There, you will find the administration building of the National Park. From the West via Platak –  Snježnik, from the North via Gerovo – Lazac or crossing Vrsićko krizanje to Žauharova bajta and from the south via Gornje Jelenje or the crossing Pjetlićev vrh.

TICKET PRICE

Tickets can be bought in pensions, mountain huts and other accommodation objects in the Risnjak National Park.

With the price of 45HRK* and validation of two days, the visit is a great value for your money.

*For all the ticket prices visit the park's official website.

 

After all the canyons, hills and mountains, let's go back to the ocean. The next four National Parks of Croatia are located by the ocean, but nonetheless exciting.

 

 

4. KORNATI NATIONAL PARK

Kornati National Park is the largest archipelago in Adriatic Sea, with no permanent inhabitants, which makes it a must-do for all who love the untouched, bare nature and clear blue sea. Whether you are on the shore or on the sea, we promise, you will be amazed.

Kornati Croatia, Croatia road trip

Kornati archipelago is a network of over 89 islands, islets and reefs spread over 64km2. It is part of Dalmatia region and located across the cities of Zadar and Šibenik.

With between 2600 and 2700 sunshine hours annually, there is no wrong time to visit Kornati National Park and even in peak season it does not get overcrowded.
 

Kornati national park, croati travel road trip

The islands have no source of fresh water, only rain water is collected in water holes. This unique feature is found in the island's shores, with many caves and coves carved in the limestone ground. Over time the landscape has been eroded by the sea and overgrazed by the sheep, leaving most of the lands in bare rock, low plants and bushes. Just a small part is now available for growing fig trees, olives and vineyards. With no permanent inhabitants, these are grown by the island's owners, who live on the bigger Dalmatian islands. This beautiful, rural piece of nature was recognized as a National Park by Croatian government in 1890s.
 

Kornati Croatia

 

The Park is combined by two sets of islands, Kornatski and Pucinski set. The largest of all the islands is Kornat, which gave the park its name. There is also one village of Verunje where you can go sightseeing and step back in time. There are two bigger islands of Žut and Piškera, where you can go sightseeing too.

Besides birdwatching, there is also fishing in the park, but strictly limited to certain areas. Two fully equipped marinas make the area a sailor's paradise, allowing to discover the islands on your terms.

Last but certainly not least of must-do´s in Kornati is discovering the underwater world. Depending if you wish to snorkel or scuba dive, you will be able to see sea turtles, bottlenose dolphins, noble pen shell or giant tun fish.

Accommodation in the park is very limited to stone cottages, there are no hotels or campsites and must be booked well in advance.

 

HOW TO GET THERE

There is no public transport available to take you to or around Kornati National Park. The only way is by a sail boat or a trip on an excursion boat from Murter (mainland), Sali (Dugi Otok), Zadar, Biograd na Moru or Sibenik.

TICKET PRICES

If you enter the park by boat the ticket fees range between 150HRK* and 300HRK* per day, depending on the vessel.

But if you go on a full day trip 8am - 6pm, the prices go for 300HRK*. This includes the price of entrance ticket to the park.

*For all the ticket prices visit the park's official website.

 

 

5. MLJET NATIONAL PARK

We have written about Mljet National Park before, covering all the highlights, must-do´s and ways to reach this lovely island. 

Mljet island is known as the greenest and purest of Croatia`s islands. It lies south of the Pelješac peninsula, it is the southernmost and easternmost of the larger Adriatic islands of the Dalmatia region of Croatia. With its rich history, legends of Odysseus and a national park, it is one definitely worth a visit.
 

Mljet Croatia

Mljet is of volcanic origins which makes its relief full of chasms and gorges. Over 84% of the island is covered with forest, mainly pine. With a soothing Mediterranean climate this island is perfect for the production of high quality red and white wine, olives and goat´s cheese. Long and thin, Mljet is around 37 kilometres long and has an average width of only 3 kilometres (total surface is approximately 100 km2).

There are many ways to explore the island and the national park - trekking, cycling, kayaking or canoeing. The park is located 25km from the port of Mljet, with plenty of parking options and is easily accessible.

Mljet Croatia, Croatia road trip with motorhome

The must-see´s are two saltwater lakes, Veliko Jezero and Malo Jezero, the Isle of St. Mary, high point of Montokuc and be amazed by the views of Korčula and Pelješac, Odysseus Cave and of course the beaches! The three beautiful sandy beaches lie on the island's eastern tip.
 

HOW TO GET THERE

The main port of Mljet is Sobra. The international ferry lines run from Dubrovnik (Prapratno - Sobra) several times per day, all year round. The car ferry will take about 2.5h from Dubrovnik, with the cost of 28HRK per person and 248HRK for your campervan (prices of the ferry vary between low and high season).
 

TICKET PRICE

Ticket prices vary depending on the season you are visiting and whether or not you hold a mountaineer's card or other conditions which are valid for a discount.

The basic adult ticket prices range from 70HRK* to 125HRK*. You can also purchase a return ferry ticket to the island of St. Marija for additional 30HRK per person.

*For all the ticket prices visit the park's official website.

 

 

6. BRIJUNI NATIONAL PARK

From all the nature's beauties we have discovered so far, Brijuni National Park is different. It is an amazing mix of natural and man-made. A place where native and exotic, old and new work in a brilliant way. This park is for the ones who love culture, theatre, history and good food. And when you need a stretch, jumping in the ocean is the best choice!

Brijuni National Park, Croatia holiday

The Brijuni National Park is an archipelago located in the South of the Istrian peninsula, just North of the entrance to Pula Port. Covering an area of 736 hectares, it consists of 2 larger islands, Veli and Mali Brijun and 12 smaller ones. The perfect mild climate and geographical conditions made it a popular destination from prehistoric age until now and is a site to see all year round.

One of the main reasons to visit the park is the culture. This area was inhabited from Neolithic era and was passed by many different rulers, all of which left a mark. Before becoming an official park in 1983, Brijuni islands were a summer residence of the former Yugoslavian president Marshal Tito. Here he hosted magnificent high-profile guests like Sofia Loren, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Placido Domingo, Caroline, the Princess of Monaco and others. Many of them brought exotic animals as gifts, which were kept in the fenced part of the island and became a real-life zoo.

Brijuni national park
 

The entrance to the park used to be free, but now you have to join one of the excursions which take you to all the must-sees, such as Tito Museum and his cadillac, former quarries, about 1600 years old olive tree, St Mary's Church, Roman ruins, swamp and the amazing safari park. You can make your way around the island if you stay in one of the accommodations, but the fee you pay stays the same, whether or not you take the tour.
 

Brijuni safari, Croatia road trip

If you are in for more than just the sights, you can go for a swim or a sailing trip or try yourself in tennis, archery and golf. To finish the day, make sure you try some delicious food and enjoy a theatre play.

Brijuni National park is one of a kind and there is literally something for everyone to enjoy!

 

HOW TO GET THERE

The National park of Brijuni can only be reached by a boat from Fažana with the official boats. The nearest largest city is Pula, which is well known and easily accessible.

TICKET PRICE

Ticket prices vary depending on the month you are visiting and cost from 125HRK* to 210HRK*.

*For all the ticket prices visit the park's official website.

 

The last two Croatians National parks are magnificent creatures of nature with lush forests and beautiful waterfalls.

 

 

7. KRKA NATIONAL PARK

As the name itself says, Krka National Park covers the area of the river Krka near Šibenik. This gem of nature is a must visit for those who like to immerse and sail through waterfalls, lagoons and natural pools with incredible scenery.
 

Krka national park

This National Park is located 10kms inland from Šibenik and is a part of Dalmatia regio and it covers an amazing 142km2. Its unspoiled beauty became home to over 800 species of plants and a rich birdlife including ospreys, peregrine falcons and golden eagles.

The park is opened all year round, but the best time to visit is in late spring to early autumn. This way you avoid all the crowds and still get a chance to jump in the fresh water.

Yes, you read it right. Swimming in this National Park is allowed, which makes it a really popular destination for those who want to visit a bit more than just the coastal line.

Krka national park

The main features of the park are Roski waterfall. This is a collection of 12 waterfalls in an area of 450, with the largest of 22m height and 60m width. Even bigger is Skradinski Buk, a series of 17 waterfalls with the highest over 45m.

The last thing you must do is the island's monastery of Visovac. This monastery was built on a tiny island of Visovac by Franciscan monks in 1445. That was demolished and rebuilt in 18th century, followed by a church in 1576. Now it homes a number of beautifully preserved artefacts and a library. This area became a National Park in 1985 thanks to its Dinaric base which curved a one of a kind landscape.

The best way to see the park is to sail through it. On the way you can stop, jump off, see the sights and refresh with a swim.

Believe us it is a great alternative or better yet a good combination to all the coastal National Parks.

 

HOW TO GET THERE

To reach the park is really easy. The nearest big town is Šibenik, but you can also take the route from Zadar or Split. It is a good stop if you are making your way up or down the Croatian coastline.

TICKET PRICE

Ticket prices vary depending on the month you are visiting and cost from 30HRK* in winter months to 200HRK* in summer months. The prices also vary depending on the time you enter the park, making it a full or a half day ticket.

*For all the ticket prices visit the park's official website.

 

 

8. PLITVICE LAKE NATIONAL PARK

As promised, the last on our list is the crown jewel of them all. The Plitvice Lake National Park is the oldest and most visited National Park in Croatia and was registered in UNESCO’s Register of World Natural Heritage in 1979. Walking from lake to lake through the magnificent forest is a must and really easy as well, as it is located less than two hours' drive from the Bregana border with Slovenia, just south of the capital Zagreb. A true paradise for all the walkers and hikers out there. But be aware - refreshing swim in the lakes, as tempting as might be, is not allowed!

plitvice croatia

This park is a wonderland composed of sixteen small lakes, connected with numerous waterfalls of the Korana river. The reason for creation of this landscape is a special kind of limestone, called travertine. Besides the waterfalls, the park features many caves and flower meads. The dense forests are home to several animal species making this an official National Park in 1949.

Plitvice are well worth a visit any time of the year. In the summer the lush forests provide shade and waterfalls a cool breeze to keep you refreshed. In winter the lakes freeze over and have a very calm and soothing tone to it. But the best time would be spring and early summer when the waterfalls are at their peak. Plitvice are opened all year round, with longer summertime opening hours from 7am to 8pm.

In this over 296.85km2 you can see it all or just the best of the best, it depends on your schedule and time. 

Plitivice national park croatia

There are two entrances of the park to make your exploring easier. Entrance 1 takes you to the upper lakes, the famous Veliki Slap or the Big Waterfall, pouring down a 70m cliff and Supljara Cave. Entrance 2 allows you to start your adventure from the lower lakes, making your way up via a wooden pathway.

If you cannot make up your mind, find your inspiration online to help you pick and choose. The other options provided are half or full-day guided tours, which takes you around the best sights.

Either way you decide to go, just go!

 

HOW TO GET THERE

Plitvice National Park are located in central Croatia. It is easily reached from all major cities. A drive from Zagreb, Split or Zadar will take about 2 h.

The park itself is easy to find, as it is clearly signed kilometers prior.

TICKET PRICE

Ticket prices vary depending on the month you are visiting and cost from 55HRK* in winter months to 180HRK* in summer months and 110HRK* in between periods. 

A good thing to know is all buses and ferries transfers within the park are included in the ticket price. Also, parking is available in front of both entrances and charged 7HRK per hour.

*For all the ticket prices visit the park's official website.


 

There you have it. From the mountains to the oceans, rivers and the waterfalls. Croatia is one of the most diverse countries in Europe with magnificent landscapes, creating wonders of nature we can be grateful to be able to visit and enjoy. 

 

Written by: 

Martina Mestek

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