Croatia National Parks

Croatia’s National Parks are a phenomenon unlike anywhere else, seemingly endless trails through a network of pristine lakes and waterfalls splashing into turquoise water which doesn’t look real. Here are the top two parks visited yearly, and our comparison of them!

Plitvice Lakes National Park

Fun Facts

Plitvice Lakes National Park is both Croatia’s first park and the only one listed as a UNESCO site. Despite all the water and 16 clear lakes, you can’t get in or swim in any of them. Take as many photos as you like but don’t get your toes wet. The landscape here is also fascinating due to the type of limestone, travertine, that makes up this area. The water gradually wears away the stone whilst simultaneously the living moss creates a barrier which causes the travertine to actually build up, to 1cm per year, which all contributes to an ever-changing landscape!

Croatia National Parks view of falls from aboveWhen is the best time to go?

If possible we would recommend before or after the peak summer season is underway, the weather is still good but the crowds are considerably less. Regardless of the month, definitely get to the park upon opening at 7am or take a shorter stroll in the afternoon. The mass of tourists and bus tours tend to gather from mid-morning onwards, so you’ll have a much more enjoyable time if you can avoid that.

Visiting in off-peak or the shoulder season will also save you considerably in ticket prices. Parking is 7 Kuna ($1) an hour regardless of when you visit but there is a whopping 195 Kuna ($30) difference between off-peak and peak season entrance fees.

How do I get there?

Although if you’re following the coastal road Plitvice is a slight diversion inland the effort is worthwhile. The DC429 is the road that goes by both entrances and where buses will drop you off, but if you’re driving, that’s where you aiming for:

  • From Zagreb/Zadar: DC429
  • A1 from the South: DC52
  • A1 from the North: DC42

If you are going to travel via bus the travel time is looking around:

  • From Zagreb- 2 hours 20 mins
  • From Zadar- 2 hours
  • From Split- 3.5 hours – 5.5 hours

Croatia National Parks Girl HikingIf you take either of the above choices there are some great places to stay in and around the park if you want to max out your time or have a long days drive. There are several hotels based inside the park, they are more expensive than the surrounding accommodation but perfect if you don’t have a car or you want to be able to access the park all day long. We opted to stay at Camp Korana and it was great. Take your pick from camping (tent or RV) or a cute little bungalow bedroom amongst a vast sea of green. The buffet breakfast is superb and a great way to fuel up for the day of walking and the little store has all your picnic requirements. 

Alternatively, you can hop on a tour from the bigger cities and take a day trip.

Croatia National Parks emerald waterfallsWhat should I see?

If you’ve done any research you’ll know that it’s all about the lakes and the subsequent waterfalls these bodies of water create, around 90 of them. At entrance 1 you will be greeted by what is probably the most iconic fall, Veliki Slap or The Big Waterfall and it’s only going to get better from there. If you pick any of the routes that are four hours or longer you will pass most of the highlights plus a lot of extra delights. 

Which trail should I take?

There are a total of seven trails, all of varying lengths, for you to pick from. Comfortable trainers or Chacos are suitable footwear for the wooden boardwalks that curve around the lakes and the forest paths that interlink them. Depending on the trail you choose you will also get to enjoy a leisurely boat ride and a train up or down the winding hill road (depending on the direction you come from). All timings are roundtrip and encompass the boat and train if you ride them, plus the stops for photos and lingering. We completed trail C and highly recommend it. You do start with the most spectacular lakes and waterfalls at the beginning, but the train ride is near the end and allows you to rest your feet whilst admiring the forests. 

Croatia National Parks Walkway

Where should I eat?

The food is nothing to write home about and priced for tourists. If you can, pack your own picnic and enjoy lunch whilst watching a waterfall.

 

Krka National Park

Croatia National Parks Rich in front of fallsFun Facts

Due to its location along the Krka river, the sights are spread across several smaller islands within the park limits. There are seven waterfalls throughout the park, the longest of which (Skradinski buk), you can swim in the water near (make sure to take a waterproof case or bag for your camera). Alongside the spectacular water display there is also history here to explore from a monastery to traditional watermills. 

Croatia National Parks boat ride

Croatia National Parks Boat ride in

When is the best time to go?

We cannot stress enough how important it is to be on the first boat into the park. Krka is hugely popular and the crowds become unmanageable after the first few hours of opening. The park also has a visitor cap, so if the number has been reached you will have to wait for people to leave to gain entry. Being the first in will give you an opportunity to enjoy the waters, without touching anyone else, and try to get that unobstructed selfie. Be warned though, there are approximately 30 minutes to do this before the park becomes overrun. Wear your swimsuit so you can jump in as soon as you arrive and avoid paying the additional fee to visit the bathroom and change. If you want to swim near the waterfall (who doesn’t?!) you will have to time your visit between June- September. Based on crowds and water temperature, late September is a great choice. 


How do I get there? 

Krka actually has five entrances, all of which allow access via different methods and take you to different elements of the park. Skradin is one of the most popular entrances and gets you into the park via boat. You can actually stay in the town of Skradin but it’s a short drive from Sibenik and other cities.

  • From Sibenik: D56
  • From Zadar: E65/E71
  • From the South: E65
  • From the North: E71

You can travel via bus to the Skradin entrance (bear in mind to also check the boat departures as these vary depending on the season);

  • From Sibenik to Skradin- 30 minutes
  • From Split to Skradin- 1 hour 30 minutes
  • From Zadar to Skradin- 1 hour
  • From Zagreb to Skradin- 4 hours

There are plenty of bus and boat tours (we wouldn’t necessarily recommend this due to how busy the park gets, being on a schedule out of your control, you can’t guarantee a stress-free or enjoyable visit).

Croatia National Parks on bridge in krkaWhat should I see?

Obviously, Skradinski buk is the most well known feature of Krka, being the longest waterfall and the first you come across upon entering the park. You can splash around in the surrounding waters or view it from the bridge. There are other sights to visit dotted around on their own islands, such as the Monastery and Manojlovac slap (another waterfall) but you will have to pay an additional to catch another ferry to these.

Which trail should I take?

There is a loop trail from Skradinski buk that passes other waterfalls, lakes and the old hydropower plant. The educational aspect is very interesting and you may even catch a small traditional performance. The rest of this very busy trail is predominantly on a boardwalk, you may get a chance sighting of snakes, turtles or other animals but you will spend a lot of time dodging fellow tourists. You can also hike into the park or follow a trail from Lake Visovac to the parking lot if you have a couple of hours. 

Croatia National Parks swimmingWhere should I eat?

If at all possible don’t stay long enough to get hungry. Take a picnic and drinks with you as the gaggle of vendors selling expensive food will be your only choice. 

 

Pros and Cons

Keep Traveling,

Steph & Rich

 

 

Croatia's National Parks

 

 

 

Croatia's National Parks