Nature and National Parks in Croatia

Untouched nature, diversity of flora and fauna, escape from city’s asphalt, and noise is reasons why National Parks’s interest is continuously increasing on a visiting list.

They are primarily intended for the preservation of exceptional natural values. All the parks are different, either national or nature parks. Still, each one is truly unique.

Tripadvisor has announced a list of the most visited, thus the most beautiful, the best national parks in Europe according to the visitor’s choice. Plitvice Nacional park ended in third place.

Plitvice lakes have been declared one of the most beautiful and most visited national parks by Lonely Planet, Road Affair, Pandotrip, European best destination, and many others.

Plitvice Lakes is one of 8 national parks in Croatia, with Krka National Park, Mljet, Paklenica, Kornati, Brijuni, Risnjak, and Northern Velebit.

The most famous National Parks is Plitvice Lakes, Krka and Brijuni.

Interestingly, all national parks in Croatia are in the coastal area or in the hinterland, while most nature parks are in Croatia’s interior.

National parks in Croatia

Plitvice Lakes National Park

Plitvice Lakes is the largest and oldest park, with its mesmerizing lakes and environment, which is why they are listed on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

The Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia’s most popular tourist attraction, was granted UNESCO World Heritage status in 1979.

Located roughly halfway between capital city Zagreb and Zadar on the coast, in the wooded mountainous region of Croatia, Lika County.

The Plitvice lakes National park consists of sixteen lakes of various sizes, all containing crystal clear cyan-colored water with numerous small rivers and streams.

The lakes are interconnected by a series of waterfalls and set in deep woodland populated by deer, bears, wolves, boars, and rare bird species.

Plitvice Lakes are divided into the Upper Lakes, which sit on impermeable dolomites, and The Lower Lakes, formed in permeable limestone substrate.

The lakes end with beautiful waterfalls, below which the course of the Korana River begins.

It is convenient to mention that Nikola Tesla, who was born near the Plitvice Lakes National Park, is responsible for enjoying Plitvice Lakes’ beauty.
Tesla did not allow the natural power of the waterfall to turn into a hydroelectric power plant.
He did not allow such influence of man to destroy the richness and beauty of nature that had been created for millennia.

If you visit Plitvice Lakes national park a few times, it will look slightly different from before. In other words, these unique plants are known as tufa generators (algae, moss, and others), participate in the creation of travertine rocks that change the shape of the lakes.

These formations are too fragile because they are composed of calcite, and they’re particular in their hollowness.

Of course, this means that they require a high protection level because this process isn’t nearly as simple as it seems.

If we combine these three main elements – a plethora of spring water, tufa generators, and the tufa, what we get is a biological phenomenon of exceptional beauty!

Every season, Plitvice Lakes paint the national park with different colors. You will not go wrong if you visit them more than once.

Walking along the Plitvice lakes, you can enjoy the natural harmony and beauty that engage all your senses.

Surrounded by sights for sore eyes, the clean mountainous air filling your body while you enjoy the calming sounds of the waterfalls and birds chirping.

I also advise an authorized guide in the park because stories and legends will surely increase your enthusiasm for Plitvice Lakes because of exciting facts.

Let’s also mention that the park is completely adapted for all age groups.

Inside the park, you can use electric trains, and boats run across the lake.

Hence, despite the national park’s size, you have the opportunity to relax and unwind and facilitate movement within the park, which is really outstanding in any annual home.

The Krka National Park

The Krka National Park is located in the Šibenik-Knin County and covers ​​109 km² of the most beautiful course of the Krka River and the lower course of the Čikola River.

The Krka National Park is a vast and primarily unaltered area of exceptional natural value, including preserved or insignificantly altered ecosystems.
With its seven travertine waterfalls, Bilušića buk, Brljan, Manojlovac slap, Rošnjak, Miljacka slap, Roški slap, and Skradinski Buk, the Krka River is a natural and karst phenomenon.

Including the submerged part of the river at the mouth, the Krka River is 72.5 km long. It springs in the foothills of the Dinara mountain range, 2.5 km northeast of Knin.
The travertine waterfalls of the Krka River are the fundamental phenomenon of this river.

Krka can boast with lakes and waterfalls. Interestingly, the oldest hydroelectric power plant globally and the first one in Europe is located here. The hydroelectric power plant was built only three days after the first one in Niagara Falls.

In August at the Krka National Park organizes the Burnum Ides.
The traditional ceremony of reviving Roman customs and life was held in the ancient Roman military camp Burnum in Ivoševci, in the well preserved Roman amphitheater.

Risnjak nacional park, photo by Zoran Jelača, Photo credit by Tourist Board of Croatia
Risnjak Nacional park, photo by Zoran Jelača, Photo credit by Tourist Board of Croatia
Risnjak Nacional park, photo by Zoran Jelača, Photo credit by Tourist Board of Croatia
Risnjak national park, Croatia, photo by Ivo Biočina, photo credit by Tourist Board of Croatia.jpg
Risnjak national park, Croatia, photo by Ivo Biočina, photo credit by Tourist Board of Croatia
Risnjak national park, Croatia, photo by Ivo Biočina, photo credit by Tourist Board of Croatia

Risnjak National Park

Risnjak National Park is located in Gorski Kotar, the most forested area of ​​western Croatia, with ​​63.5 km² occupying the central part of the Risnjak and Snježnik massifs and the upper course of the Kupa River with its source part. The air distance from the top of Veliki Risnjak (1528m) to the sea is 15 km, and from the Kupa (321m) 8 km source. Thus, at only 23 km air distance, there are marked climatic differences. This is what makes Risnjak stand out, a mountain that towers over all areas between land and sea that belonged to the National Park.

The lynx is probably the rarest and most hidden beast that inhabits Europe. Only a few hunters or naturalists find traces of a lynx or the animal itself. The lynx has so little that it is rarely seen, and its presence is often overlooked. However, the lynx is an essential link in the food chain in the Risnjak ecosystem. Besides, the lynx (RIS) also sponsored the name of the National Park.

Paklenica National Park

Paklenica is fascinating because of its forest and geomorphological characteristics, mostly visited by climbers.

Due to its unique natural basis, exceptional geomorphological shapes, and magnificent forests, ​​Velika and Mala Paklenica’s area was already declared a national park in 1949.
The main reason for claiming this area as a national park was protecting the best-preserved and largest forest complex in Dalmatia.

Paklenica National Park covers ​​95 km², on the slopes of southern Velebit, and there are its highest peaks – Vaganski vrh (1757m / high) and Sveto brdo (1753 m / high). It includes Velika and Mala Paklenica’s torrent flows, i.e., their recognizable canyons vertically incised into the southern slopes of Velebit and the wider surrounding area.

There is an exceptional wealth of geomorphological phenomena and shapes in a relatively small area, diverse flora and fauna, attractive landscapes, and untouched nature.
The diversity of the living world is conditioned by climatic characteristics and the rich and varied geological past.

The Paklenica National Park’s recognizable features are indigenous black pine forests, several types of beech forests, and deep canyons with streams – torrents Velika and Mala Paklenica.
The broader area of ​​NP Paklenica is characterized by a rich and diverse cultural heritage.

The name Paklenica most probably comes from black pine resin, the so-called “Pakline” used by the local population in folk medicine, for healing wounds, then as a lamp – for lighting and coating wooden boats.

Paklenica National Park, C roatia, photo by Ivo Biočina, photo credit by HTZ:Croatia tourist Board
Mljet island, Croatia, photo by Croatian Attractions
Mljet island, Croatia, photo by Croatian Attractions
Mljet island, Croatia, photo by Croatian Attractions
Mljet island, Croatia, photo by Croatian Attractions

The National Park Mljet

The National Park Mljet is classified as “sea” National Parks. It covers part of the beautiful island of Mljet with its pine trees and breathtaking lakes.
Mljet National Park is first Croatian marine protected area, founded on November 11, 1960. Its special status of protection was significantly contributed by prominent Croatian scientist and academic Branimir Gušić.

Mljet National Park covers almost 5,300 ha, including the sea belt 500 m from the coast, islets, and cliffs, and occupies approximately one-third of the island. The bays submerged by the sea, Small and Big lakes, are the most prominent locations in this area and an important geomorphological and oceanographic phenomenon.

The entire area of ​​the park is affluent in life. The importance of its protection is evidenced by numerous endemic and endangered species.
According to the famous Greek myth, the nymph Calypso, the daughter of Atlantis, settled on the legendary Ogygia, today’s Mljet.

Ancient Greek hero Odysseus was returning home after many years of adventure and was the only survivor after the shipwreck. He managed to swim to the shores into the Mljet Channel and reached Kalipsin’s island of Ogygia. Calypso fell in love with Odysseus and lived with him for several years, preventing him from leaving Mljet island.
Mljet is famous for a few more legends and stories, but its incredible beauty is a must-see in Croatia.

Kornati National Park

When we think of the Kornati National Park, we mean the islands. The Kornati are also protected, and only one-quarter of the area makes land. Particularly interesting for divers.
The park includes a high-value marine water area. The mainland part of the park is distinct karst, limestone. That is why all karst phenomena are present here: ravines, oysters, sinkholes, and caves.

The landscapes are perhaps most impressive on the island’s offshore side, where cliffs rise above the sea. It is highest on Klobučar (80 m), Mani (65 m), Rašip Veliki (64 m), Obručan (50 m), and Piškeri (45 m). Submarine extensions plunge into the sea and ninety feet deep. Visitors are also visually impressed by the horizontal layers of some islands, such as Mali Šilo. The layers give the impression of neatly arranged stone steps to the top of the island.

Kornati, Kornati NP, Croatia photo credit by Dream Division
Kornati NP, Croatia photo credit by Dream Division
Brijuni National park, Croatia, photo by Ivo Biocina, photo credit by Tourist Board of Croatia
Brijuni National park, Croatia, photo by Ivo Biocina, photo credit by Tourist Board of Croatia
Brijuni, nacional park, Croatia, photo by Zoran Jelača, photo credit by Tourist Board of Croatia
Brijuni, Nacional park, Croatia, photo by Zoran Jelača, photo credit by Tourist Board of Croatia

Brijuni National Park

Brijuni is a favorite tourist destination with a rich history dating back to the third millennium BC.

The National Park’s present-day boundaries were set in 1999 and comprise the land, the surrounding sea with the seabed and cover an area of 33.9 km2.
The length of all island coastlines amounts to 46.8 km. The most indented islands are Veliki Brijun (25.9 km) and Mali Brijun (8.3 km).
The shores are mostly low and rocky but easily accessible due to the horizontal stratification of the rocks. In some bays, gravel and sand can be found. The Brijuni National Park includes 14 islands.

Brijuni is also known as the summer residence of the late President of EX-Yugoslavia, Tito. Brijuni thus entered the list of destinations gladly visited by the world’s politically powerful people, statesmen, presidents, international jet-seters, royal families, and many others.
Tito designed a fantastic zoo with rare and unusual animals that he received as a gift from his visitors – statesmen.

Velebit National Park

Northern Velebit, founded in 1999, is the youngest of eight national parks in Croatia. This area of ​​Velebit is a real mosaic composed of various habitats home to many plants, fungal and animal species whose wealth we have only just begun to discover. This diversity of karst forms, living world, and landscapes, created mainly by man, was the reason for the Northern Velebit National Park’s proclamation.

Northern Velebit National Park also includes several previously protected areas. There are a strict reserve Hajdučki and Rožanski kukovi, botanical reserve Visibaba – a site of endemic plants of Croatian Siberia. Botanical reserve Zavižan-Balinovac-Velika kosa, which includes the famous Velebit Botanical Garden, declared a park architecture monument.

North Velebit National Park is a favorite among hikers due to the large number of hiking trails. The value and beauty of the nature of Velebit have long been recognized. Mount Velebit was included in 1978 in the network of world biosphere reserves. Three years later, the whole of Velebit becomes a nature park. There are even two national parks in the south.

The Paklenica National Park declared in 1949, and in the northern part is the Northern Velebit National Park, declared half a century later.

Velebit - Tulove grede
Velebit - Tulove grede
Velebit - Tulove grede
Velebit - Tulove grede

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Nature parks in Croatia

Since February 2021. there are 12 Nature Parks in Croatia; Lastovo archipelago, Vrana lake, Žumberak, Medvednica, Biokovo, Papuk, Telaščica, Lonjsko polje, Kopački rit, Velebit, Učka and Dinara nature park.

The Greek god Poseidon could not decide whether Mljet, Lastovo, or Korcula were more beautiful.

Lastovo archipelago nature park

Like Mljet, Lastovo enchanted the Greek ancient gods, in fact, only God, Zeus. The Greek God Zeus considered Lastovo one of the most beautiful islands in the world.

The island itself is small, only 10km long and 8,5km wide.

The sea is so crystal clear that you can see the bottom even very deep. On Lastovo island, the walnuts were not allowed to be planted so that witches would not come to the island. Interestingly, Lastovo is an island without poisonous snakes.

Lastovo Island, Croatia, a diving, photo by Marjan Radovic, photo credit by Tourist Board of Croatia
Lastovo Island, Croatia, a diving, photo by Marjan Radovic, photo credit by Tourist Board of Croatia

Nature Park Vrana Lake

Vrana Lake is the largest lake in Croatia and it has a Mediterranean climate.
It is a designated nature park, a kind of protected area in Croatia. The park’s dominant feature is a special ornithological reserve, an almost untouched natural habitat of birds, rare wetland systems, full of high biodiversity, and an outstanding scientific and ecological value.

Vrana Lake is a shelter for endangered birds and wintering ground for about 100,000 waterfowl. The park is a paradise for sport fishermen and cyclists. It is separated from the sea by a limestone reef. A unique experience of water diversity, fresh or saltwater, at such a short distance.

Vrana Lake, Croatia, paragliding, photo by Denis Peroš, photo credit by Tourist Board of Croatia
Vrana Lake, Croatia, paragliding, photo by Denis Peroš, photo credit by Tourist Board of Croatia
Vrana lake, nature park, Croatia, kamenjak, photo by Denis Peroš, photo credit Tourist Board of Croatia
Vrana lake, nature park, Croatia, kamenjak, photo by Denis Peroš, photo credit Tourist Board of Croatia

Žumberak and Samobor hills nature park

The mountain range of the Žumberak and Samobor hills is one of the least populated areas in Croatia. However, it is close to Zagreb, Karlovac, and Samobor. Life here has never been easy. The only way was to live according to the laws of nature.

Through millennia of presence, people have managed to preserve this balance here – the views of traditional villages, pastures, and fields still harmoniously complement the vast forest expanses. This mosaic of preserved traditional landscape with a great wealth of flora and fauna, geological features, and valuable archaeological finds today attracts hikers, and nature lovers.

Žumberak, Croatia-photo-by-Borna-Petrovčić
Žumberak, Croatia-photo-by-Borna-Petrovčić
Žumberak, Croatia-photo-by-Borna-Petrovčić
Žumberak, Croatia-photo-by-Borna-Petrovčić
Žumberak, Croatia-photo-by-Borna-Petrovčić
Medvednica slopes, Croatia, Boytronic photography
Medvednica slopes, Croatia, Boytronic photography
Medvednica slopes, Croatia, Boytronic photography
Medvednica slopes, Croatia, Boytronic photography

Medvednica is a nature park for its neighbours, Zagreb's people

Although the capital of Croatia, Zagreb is actually located on the slopes of the Medvednica Nature Park. Thus, Zagreb also has a ski resort during the winter, less than an hour from the city.
However, Zagreb’s people are great admirers of Medvednica, and going to their nature park and to its highest peak, Sljeme, on weekends is a way of life. A green mountain that keeps the back of a city of almost a million. The man left a trace on Medvednica 45,000 years ago, when Neanderthals lived in the Veternica cave.

Today it is home to 18 species of bats. The mountain’s name preserves the memory that bears (medvjed in Croatian) also lived here in large numbers. And a thousand-year-old yew tree may be hiding a red mushroom in the shade – a witch’s heart.

Because once upon a time, witches lived here, and when they fell to the ground, a red mushroom sprouted in that place. Only it could break the bold witch’s heart.

Biokovo - a mountain with a root in the sea and a forehead in lightning

Every step to the highest peak, Sveti Jure at 1762 meters, will be unsurpassedly rewarded with a panoramic view of the sea and islands, Zagora, Bosnia’s mountains, and Herzegovina and neighboring Italy.

Heavenly Promenade, a horseshoe-shaped lookout point outside the cliff with a glass surface for walking, is called the Skywalk Biokovo. It’s located in the southwestern part of the Biokovo Nature Park, in ​​Ravna Vlaška, at an altitude of 1228 meters above sea level. In addition to its proud heights, the mountain also has unimaginable depths. Over 400 pits and caves have been discovered.

Some of them are forever full of snow and ice that withstand even the hottest sun. People inhabited the area of ​​Biokovo before the letters appeared. The mountain is an old home that has mostly preserved its ancient face.

Biokovo, nature park, Croatia, photo by Ivo Biocina, photo credit by Tourist Board of Croatia
Biokovo, nature park, Croatia, photo by Ivo Biocina, photo credit by Tourist Board of Croatia
Papuk, nature park, Croatia, Jankovac forest, photo by Ivo Biocina, photo credit by Croatia tourist board
Papuk, nature park, Croatia, Jankovac forest, photo by Ivo Biocina, photo credit by Croatia tourist board
Papuk, nature park, Croatia, Jankovac forest, photo by Ivo Biocina, photo credit by Croatia tourist board

Papuk is Slavonian Mountain

From the depths of the former Pannonian Sea, the peaks of Papuk rise to almost a thousand meters above sea level.

This geologically most diverse area of ​​Croatia is the first and only geopark in Croatia. Its layers reveal a history that has completely changed the area’s faces – from the Pannonian Sea to the splendor of centuries-old beech trees.

Telaščica - home of dolphins

Telašćica is a place where the steepest Adriatic steep slopes of 161 meters plunge into the sea.
The bottlenose dolphins, the last marine mammals of the Adriatic, have chosen Telašćica as their favorite place to come in flocks and provide visitors with a photo of an already unforgettable moment.

Maybe at the same time, you will miss that a gray falcon just flew off the “rock.” It is impossible to capture all the beauty of our most beautiful and largest Adriatic bay, Telašćica. Countless bays, capes, and cliffs and the safest port for those who sail – it’s Telascica.

Kornati, Croatia, photo by DreamDivision, photo credit by Šibenik Knin County Tourist Board
Kornati, Croatia, photo by DreamDivision, photo credit by Šibenik Knin County Tourist Board

Lonjsko polje nature park is natural floodplains

On the European map of “natural features”, Lonjsko polje occupies the first places: one of the last areas in Europe where traditional grazing is preserved, and cattle graze freely on large common pastures; the first declared stork village in Europe.

Lonjsko polje is one of the most extensive and best-preserved natural floodplains in Europe. Lowland floodplain forests of pedunculate oak and field ash represent the most representative deciduous forest complexes in Europe and the entire Western Palearctic.

Lonjsko polje, nature park in Croatia, photo by Bojan Haron-Markicevic, photo credit by Tourist Board of Croatia
Lonjsko polje, nature park in Croatia, photo by Bojan Haron-Markicevic, photo credit by Tourist Board of Croatia
Lonjsko polje, nature park in Croatia, photo by Bojan Haron-Markicevic, photo credit by Tourist Board of Croatia
Lonjsko polje, nature park in Croatia, photo by Bojan Haron-Markicevic, photo credit by Tourist Board of Croatia
Lonjsko polje, a nature park in Croatia, photo by Bojan Haron-Markicevic, photo credit by Tourist Board of Croatia
Lonjsko polje, a nature park in Croatia, photo by Bojan Haron-Markicevic, photo credit by Tourist Board of Croatia

Kopački rit nature park of wetlands

Kopački rit – a wetland home to thousands of biological species. A bird’s paradise. Shelter for hundreds of bird species. Natural triangle of Danube and Drava. The largest inland delta of the Danube.

Among the most extensive European wetlands. Space never looks the same. Each new visit – a unique insight into nature. A mystical place to return to an area soaked in life.

Kopački Rit, nature park in Croatia, photo by Ivo Biocina, photo credit by Tourist Board of Croatia
Kopački Rit, nature park in Croatia, photo by Ivo Biocina, photo credit by Tourist Board of Croatia
opački Rit, nature park in Croatia, photo by Ivo Biocina, photo credit by Tourist Board of Croatia
Kopački rit, nature park in Croatia, photo by Goran Šafarek, photo credit by Tourist Board of Croatria
Kopački rit, a nature park in Croatia, photo by Goran Šafarek, photo credit by Tourist Board of Croatia
VELEBIT TULOVE GREDE, nature park, Croatia

Mighty Velebit nature park

Velebit is a gigantic stone wall between the land and the sea. A web of rocky sinkholes, reefs, hips, valleys, ridges, and peaks captivates biodiversity and beauty.

Velebit attracts its fans with some incredible power that brings them back to that powerful mountain again. Velebit is a fascinating nature park of stone and wind and all those adoring untouched nature.

Učka nature park of Istria

The highest Istrian mountain, Učka, is an area of ​​numerous imprints of human life on the mountain and with the mountain. Humans left only good traces here. People changed the original landscape’s appearance only with what was needed for a harmonious survival in nature – and nothing more.

For centuries, livestock, farming, and forestry have survived here. Dry stone walls, shepherd’s dwellings, and field shelters are today silent and and constant witnesses of a new, different ecosystem of Učka. The mountain has changed its face over time but retained its biodiversity.

Učka, nature park, Croatia, photo by Ivo Biocina, photo credit by Croatia tourist board
Učka, nature park, Croatia, photo by Ivo Biocina, photo credit by Croatia tourist board
Dinara, nature park, Croatia, photo by Aleksandar Gospic, photo credit by Tourist Board of Croatia
Dinara, nature park, Croatia, photo by Aleksandar Gospic, photo credit by Tourist Board of Croatia

Future nature parks in Croatia

Dinara was declared the 12th nature park in the Republic of Croatia in February 2021.
The park includes the Croatian part of the Dinara, Troglav, and Kamešnica mountains, the source and upper part of the Cetina river and the karst fields Hrvatačko, Paško, and Vrličko. It covers ​​two counties – Split and Šibenik and covers an area of ​​almost 63,000 hectares.

Dinara is the most valuable natural karst unit globally, with a thickness of deposits exceeding eight kilometers. It is rich in endemic and endangered species. It is home to over a thousand plant species. By declaring a nature park, the natural and other values ​​of the Dinara massif based on ecological, landscape, and other values ​​will be protected.

Srebrna Bay, Vis Island, Croatia, photo by Aleksandar Gospic, photo credit by Tourist Board of Croatia
Srebrna Bay, Vis Island, Croatia, photo by Aleksandar Gospic, photo credit by Tourist Board of Croatia

We have listed all national parks and all nature parks in Croatia. There are also some indications for the archipelago of the island of Vis.
The Vis Archipelago is now listed on a prestigious list of geo-parks of global importance.
Vis Archipelago’s area consist of the island of Vis and the surrounding islands of Biševo, Sveti Andrija, Brusnik, Jabuka, and Palagruža.

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