National Parks in Croatia: A Comprehensive Guide

national parks in croatia

Croatia’s natural beauty goes beyond its beaches. The country has eight national parks that offer unique and stunning experiences for nature enthusiasts, hikers, and photographers. In this article, we will explore each of the eight national parks in Croatia in detail.

The 8 National Parks in Croatia

  1. Plitvice Lakes National Park
  2. Kornati National Park
  3. Krka National Park
  4. Sjeverni Velebit National Park
  5. Paklenica National Park
  6. Mljet National Park
  7. Brijuni National Park
  8. Risnjak National Park Croatia

Plitvice Lakes National Park

Plitvice Lakes National Park is the largest and most popular national park in Croatia, attracting more than a million visitors each year. The park, situated between the mountains of Mala Kapela and Lješevica, is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a magnificent gift from nature. The main attractions of the park are the 16 interconnected lakes, waterfalls, and cascades that range from 25 to 78 meters tall. The lakes are renowned for their distinctive colors, ranging from azure-blue to green, depending on the number of organisms, minerals, season, and amount of sunlight in the water.

Plitvice Lakes National Park is easily accessible from Zagreb or Zadar and can be explored as a day trip. It’s recommended to arrive early in the morning to avoid crowds and enjoy the exceptional natural beauty in peace and quiet. A typical visit lasts between two to eight hours, depending on the length of your hike.

Mljet National Park

Mljet National Park is situated on the Island of Mljet in Croatia’s deep south and bordered by two saltwater lakes. It’s a hidden gem for people who love adventure and stunning scenery. The island is shrouded in myths, fables, and stories, with Benedictine monks having lived there almost 1,000 years ago. The center of the island has a lake, which has its own island where a former 12th-century Benedictine monastery now stands as a café. Besides being a fascinating historic site, it’s also a great place to kayak and then enjoy a coffee.

Daily ferries to Mljet from Dubrovnik and day trips from Korcula, Dubrovnik, Makarska, and the Peljesac peninsula can be arranged during the summer months.

Krka National Park

Krka National Park is another park that boasts spectacular waterfalls in Croatia. It’s home to the larger waterfalls than Plitvice Lakes and is easier to get to. The park has several educational walking paths and trails that point out the area’s history and wildlife, with over 200 different bird species calling Krka National Park home.

The biggest and most famous waterfall in Krka National Park is Skradinski Buk, made up of no fewer than 17 cascades. Visitors can also visit a 14th-century medieval fortress on the Krka River, take a boat ride to the Krka Monastery on Visovac Island, or admire the upper section of the waterfalls from a viewing post erected by Emperor Franc Josef II for his wife.

Krka National Park is accessible from the old city of Sibenik, Split, or by boat from Zadar or Skradin. A walking path that takes approximately two hours to navigate, including time for photos, is available.

Risnjak National Park

Risnjak National Park is one of Croatia’s least-known national parks, but it’s well worth a visit. Located just 15 kilometers from the sea, Risnjak is a mountainous park that offers limestone-formed valleys and rolling mountain ranges. Despite its wild nature, Risnjak is surprisingly accessible, situated off the main road that connects Rijeka and Zagreb.

Wildlife is a major draw in Risnjak. Visitors can book an observatory in the summer or a log cabin in the winter to get up close and personal with animals such as deer, lynx, and even brown bears. Fishing is another popular activity, with fly fishing available in the rich Kupa River. Hiking and rock climbing are also popular in Risnjak, with various trails available to explore the rugged landscapes of the Dinaric Alps.

Paklenica National Park

Paklenica National Park, located near the Velebit Mountains and Zadar, consists of two torrent gorges: Velika (Big) Paklenica and Mala (Small) Paklenica. The park offers barren mountains, pine forests, and deep-cut canyons, making it a great place for hiking and rock climbing. It also boasts a cave, Manita Peć, that visitors can explore with a guided tour.

The park is home to over 1,000 plant species and countless birds, including eagles, falcons, and even brown bears. With 150 kilometers of trails and paths to explore, Paklenica is a great day trip from many of the Adriatic coastal towns.

Sjeverni Velebit National Park

Sjeverni Velebit National Park, also known as Northern Velebit National Park, is a great destination for an active holiday. Located in the Velebit Mountains, which divide the Adriatic coast from the continental part of Croatia, the park offers cycling and hiking opportunities. The park’s star attraction is the Velebit Botanical Garden, which showcases the biodiversity of the mountains. For a truly unique experience, visitors can take part in the park’s evening stargazing program, “Stars above Zavižan.”

Kornati Islands National Park

Kornati National Park is possibly the most extraordinary of Croatia’s national parks, an archipelago of 89 islands, islets, and reefs along 238 kilometers of coastline. The park is a nautical paradise, and visitors can sail through the islands with a permit. Snorkeling and scuba diving are popular activities, and eco-tourism is encouraged, with locals operating many of the tours.

Brijuni National Park

Brijuni National Park is an archipelago of 14 islands off the west coast of Istria. Visitors can explore archaeological sites of ancient Roman villas, a Byzantine Palace, and St. Mary’s Church, which is said to have been used by the Knights Templar in the 13th century. The island was also the home of Tito, Yugoslavia’s leader after World War II, who had his own zoo, now a safari park. Sports enthusiasts can play golf, tennis, or practice archery, and a 13-kilometer bike route takes visitors past all the main sights.

National Parks in Croatia Websites

For information on entrance fees and hours of operation for Croatia’s national parks, visitors can check out each park’s website. These include Krka, Mljet, Paklenica, Sjeverni, Brijuni, Kornati, and Risnjak. The Croatian Ministry of Environment and Nature also has a web portal with details on all of the country’s national and nature parks. Visitors can take a virtual walk to get a sense of each park’s natural beauty.

One more national park worth mentioning is Papuk Nature Park, the only UNESCO Geopark in Croatia. This underrated park offers plenty of natural beauty and is well worth a visit.


Croatia’s national parks offer a diverse range of landscapes and activities, from hiking and rock climbing to snorkeling and sailing. Visitors can get up close and personal with wildlife, explore caves, and discover ancient ruins. The country’s national parks are a testament to its natural beauty and offer a welcome escape from the hustle and bustle of the tourist towns.

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