Croatian National Parks
Visiting all of the Croatian National Parks gives a breathtaking array of scenery from forested islands to craggy mountaintops, waterfalls, lakes and sun-baked islands in the sea.
The eight National Parks of Croatia cover 7.5% of the country or 994 sq km. They provide ideal vacation experiences for active travellers as there seems to be nothing you can't do. Try scuba diving, rock climbing, hiking, biking, swimming and spelunking! Geologically speaking, many of Croatia's National Parks lie on karst. Karst is highly porous limestone and dolomitic rock through which water seeps to create underground streams. The terrain is marked by fissures, caves and springs as well as polje, a basin formed when the limestone collapses.
Kornati National Park (islands)
The Kornati National Park can be found within the Kornati Group of Islands just across the cities of Zadar and Sibenik in the Dalmatian Coast. There are 140 islands and islets together, 89 of which belong to the National Park, covering 220 square meters of the island. The distinguishing character of the Kornati National Park is its "crowns" - significant geological formations (vertical cliffs) resulting from the earth's shift, separating Africa from Europe.
These crowns stretch above and below sea level, so they're visible from the open sea as well as below which make scuba diving a memorable experience. The Kornati Archipelago is famous by many sailors who often describe the region as "heaven on earth"...
Mljet National Park
Mljet National Park on the Island of Mljet is located a couple of hours away by boat from the Island of Korcula. It covers roughly 1/3 of the westernmost part of the island (about 30 square kilometers). What makes the national park unique is the presence of two natural salt lakes - The Great Lake (45 hectares) and The Small Lake (24 hectares).
Within the Great Lake lies the Isle of St. Mary, a small island with an ancient Benedictine monastery and a church from the 12th century. Walking, biking and even swimming in the lakes are allowed in the Park. There's even a hotel within the park should you choose to prolong your visit.
Sjeverni (North) Velebit
North Velebit is the youngest Croatian National Park to date, being created last 1999. With Paklenica National Park to the southeast, North Velebit is on the opposite, but both part of the Velebit nature reserve. North Velebit covers a surface area of 102 square kilometers, but its attractions lie in the two main peaks of the mountain range - Rozanski and Hajducki Kukovi. Hajducki Kukovi is where the Lukina cave is. Lukina Cave is the 8th deepest cave in the world and only 83m out of its 1392 meters have been discovered. The Velebit Botanical Garden is also home to many of the indigenous flora that can be found in the park.
Plitvice Lakes National Park
Declared as a national park in April 8, 1949, Plitvice Lakes is the oldest in Croatia. It was also a proclaimed a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979 because of its exceptional natural uniqueness. Resting on a karst landscape, the Plitvice Lakes is composed of 16 turquoise lakes of varying sizes, combining with other water tributaries to form the waterfalls in the area. The natural barriers to the lakes are formed when the flowing water in the lakes mix with the travertine-forming plants indigenous to the area and thus producing petrified plants. This unique ecosystem makes the Plitvice Lakes National Park a wonder of the world! If you're planning a visit, there are hotels and camping areas as well as restaurants in the Park for your convenience. Hiking trails and wooden walkways are well-laid out so you can even be as close as you want to the waterfalls, but no swimming is allowed.
Brijuni National Park
The Brijuni Islands are a group of 12 islets and 2 islands that are separated by the Fazana Channel from the southwestern Istrian peninsula. They used to be the summer state residence of Yugoslavian President Josip Broz Tito. The main island, Veli Brijun, is the largest island and within it lie an animal sanctuary (a remnant of President Tito's collection of pets), historic ruins, and the Bijuni Minor Fortress. Brijuni is also practically a submarine world because of all the unspoiled marine treasures of the islands and it serves as a fish hatchery and a marine park to all underwater creatures.
Paklenica National Park
Paklenica is the second Croatian National Park, established in October 19, 1949. It is located in the Municipality of Starigrad, at the southeastern portion of the Velebit Mountain Range. Covering an area of 102 square kilometers, Paklenica also rests on karst that gives the limestone its natural landscape. It is famous for its two major canyons - Velika and Mala and has since become a favorite climbing destination.
The park also has access to gravel beaches where the canyons flow into the Adriatic Sea. The forests are one of the largest in the Mediterranean. If you care to spend more time in the park, accommodations and dining facilities are available in the nearby areas of Starigrad-Paklenica and Seline.
Risnjak National Park
Located in Gorski Kotar, Risnjak is about 15 kilometers inland from the Adriatic Sea. Quite accessible from the main roads of Zagreb-Rijeka, Risnjak National Park is a favorite destination for nature lovers, birdwatchers, spelunkers and hikers. Most visitors' goal is to reach Veliki Risjnak, the highest peak in the park at 1,528 meters. There you'll find a mountain lodge called Sloserov dom. Others, especially the serious hikers, prefer the Rijeka Mountain traverse - a 6-7 day hike across the mountains with rest stops and overnight accommodations in mountain huts along the way.
The Park also promotes the Educational Path Leska, a 4.5 kilometer circular walk starting from and ends at the Tourist Center in Crni Lug. It aims to educate its participants on the different flora and fauna around the area as well as the karstic formations on which the National Park is built on. Other sights within the vicinity include the Lokvarska, caves filled with impressive stalactites and stalagmites all the way through. Snjeznik, the 2nd highest peak in the park is recognized as a skiing location because of its proximity to the ski resort of Platak.
Krka National Park
Krka National Park is so named because it follows the path of the River Krka as it winds down toward the Adriatic Sea. It is 142 square meters in size and is also famous for its waterfalls and lakes. Like the rest of the Croatian National Parks, Krka is also of karstic terrain, which its studded with porous rock that developed and flows through various caves and caverns in the area.
What makes Krka stand out are its two waterfalls - Stradinski buk, a magnificent waterfall with a 46m drop, and Roski slop. Tours can also be arranged to visit the island of Visovac, the site of an old Franciscan monastery.
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