If you are staying in Zadar region then you should know that you are in the area rich in natural beauty and in the immediate vicinity of 4 national parks. The fact that there are 8 national parks in total in Croatia makes it even more fascinating and it is among the ecologically best-preserved parts of Europe since the 10% of the country is protected. So lucky for you, Zadar is the perfect base for visiting national parks. Additionally, you can check 9 Exciting and unique things to do in Zadar and its wider area.
The untouched nature, beautiful landscape along with the diversity of flora and fauna of national parks won’t leave anyone indifferent.
Check out our list of 4 National parks that you can visit from Zadar and plan your trip with these magical destinations in mind.
1. Plitvice lakes National park, UNESCO World Heritage site
Plitvice Lakes National Park is situated in the mountainous region of Croatia, 1,5 hours of driving from Zadar.
Plitvice are Croatia’s first national park proclaimed in 1949. It became part of the UNESCO World Heritage List very early, since 1979 due to outstanding universal value of the process of sedimentation of tufa, special kind of limestone, which resulted in the creation of 16 lakes joined by unique travertine waterfalls. The process itself is continuous, and the lakes are constantly changing. The lake system is divided into the Upper and Lower lakes; the upper lakes lie on dolomite layers, while the lower lakes are cut into a limestone canyon.
The Plitvice Lakes National Park offers visitors seven different routes for easier sightseeing ranging from 2-3 hours to 6-8 hours. Notice that it is not allowed to stray off the marked trails, to cycle in the Park or to swim in the lakes.
However, you can take a walk along wooden trails, ride in a electric boat across the largest lake or ride in a tourist train to see numerous waterfalls and admire beautiful turquoise color of the lakes.
One particular waterfall in the Lakes is different from all the others. It is 78 meters high Veliki slap (eng. Great waterfall) – the highest waterfall of Croatia.
Another outstanding value of Plitvice is the beech and fir forest that cover almost 80% of the Park. Natural untouched forests represent ideal habitat for the best-known inhabitant – brown bear (Ursus arctos) and other protected species like wolfs and lynxes.
The Lakes belong to the most impressive places in the world. Even the CNN listed Plitvice on their list of 25 the most beautiful places around the world.
There is a legend built into the history of Plitvice Lakes, telling the tale of the Black Queen who came down from the mountain following a terrible drought and sent wind and thunder finally bringing the rain that eventually resulted in the creation of 16 lakes. Since then, the water flows endlessly, day and night, gently flowing through beautiful lakes.
Extra tip: if you want to visit Plitvice with a local guide in a private tour with organized transportation and tickets included in the price, click the link here.
2. Krka waterfalls National park
Krka National park is located near historical town of Šibenik, just an hour of drive from Zadar. It was named after Krka river and proclaimed a national park in 1985. This amazing river is 72.5 km long, making it the 22nd longest river in Croatia. Its course formed lakes and 7 magnificent travertine waterfalls that are referred as Magnificent seven. These waterfalls represent exceptional natural value and they are easily accessed and attractive for all true nature lovers because the area of the Park is designed in a manner that offers visitors educational trails, close and safe contact with nature and breathtaking sightseeing points.
The area of Skradinski buk is most frequently the main aim of the visitors. It is the biggest cascade on the Krka river, 46 m high with 17 barriers creating a wonderful sight.
Near Skradinski buk are the remains of the former hydroelectric power plant. It was the oldest such plant, built and put to work in 1895, only two days after Tesla’s hydroelectric power plant on the Niagara Falls. Thus, Šibenik got electric city lighting before many European cities.
The power of water was used by locals and for that reason water mills can be found on six out of seven waterfalls of the Krka National Park. Several water mills have been reconstructed and they were transformed into exhibition areas for ethnographic collections where old crafts, life of millers, traditional folk costumes and traditional food are presented. Etno Village at Krka National Park recently received the prestigious Golden Flower of Europe award in a competition among several thousand sites.
Within the Park, in the middle of Visovac Lake, there is a small island of the same name – a widely recognizable image of the Krka National Park. Due to its specific position and meditative ambiance, Visovac was first inhabited by the hermits of St. Augustine, in mid-14th century. They built a small monastery and a church there. After they left, the Franciscans came to the island in 1445 and in the 17th century, they reconstructed the monastery. There is valuable archaeological collection, collection of historical church robes and a rich library containing a number of valuable books and incunabula.
Visits to Visovac Island is possible by a boat excursion from Skradinski buk (paid additionally) and it includes a 30 minute tour of the island, the Franciscan monastery, church and museum.
Extra tip: visit Krka National park with local guide and find out more here.
3. Paklenica National park, UNESCO World Heritage site
Paklenica National park covers the most attractive parts of the southern Velebit mountain and it is about 45 min drive away from Zadar. Paklenica was proclaimed national park in 1949 due to its unique natural features, magnificent forests and extraordinary geomorphologic structures. Its most striking features are two magnificent gorges – Velika and Mala Paklenica. The mountain is the home to black pine forests and its name is derived from black pine sap called “paklina”. Sap was extracted from black pine until World War II, providing substance for lighting the houses and for coating wooden vessels.
The highest vertical wall on the Velebit Mountain is called Anića kuk. This rock, 400 meters high, is more than well known and the best-known location for rock climbing in Croatia. In Paklenica there are more than 500 equipped climbing routes and it is known as one of the top European rock climbing areas. The highest peak is called Vaganski vrh and it is 1757 m high.
In the Park are more than 150 km of hiking trails and you can reach excellent spots to admire the view of the sea and wider Zadar area.
In Velika Paklenica canyon after a short walk, you will notice a tunnel complex built into the rocks, under 400 m high cliffs. Those tunnels were top secret, built by Yugoslavian army in 1950’s. Nowadays underground tunnels were reconstructed into a modern visitor’s center with museum exhibits, souvenir shop and a caffe bar.
Another attraction within the park is the forest cottage called Lugarnica. You can reach it after 1,5 hours of hiking and great thing about it is that you can sit at one of the tables in front of it and take a tea, some cold drink or Turkish coffee while you admire the view from the mountain.
Extra tip: for a comfortable hiking trail with a guide and an entrance ticket click here.
4. Kornati archipelago National park
Kornati National park is archipelago consisting of 89 islands, islets and reefs south from Zadar. It is the most indented island group in the Mediterranean. Kornati were proclaimed national park in 1980.
Regardless of whether you look at the Kornati Islands from the air or from the sea, the view is equally impressive. Kornati islands are looking like scattered stones surrounded by crystal-clear sea. Perhaps the most impressive part of the archipelago is the side facing the open sea, where cliffs rise high above the sea surface. The highest cliffs are located on the islands of Klobučar (80 meters), Mana (65 meters) and many others. The sea is extraordinarily clean and translucent, with light penetrating deep creating a specific habitat for fish and various species of astounding corals.
Above the blue of the sea, there is almost nothing but the barren rock. Even though many are tempted to describe this area as “lunar landscape” there is recorded over 650 plant species. Also, on the Kornat island are the remains of Tureta or Toreta fortification that was built in the sixth century.
Yachtsmen perceive the Kornati Islands as “nautical paradise” as the islands and coves are providing a safe shelter and beautiful isolated beaches.
Extra tip: You can admire the Kornati National park from the sea – in a private boat tour or you can choose to enjoy breathtaking view of those stone pearls from the air during the panoramic flight.
PRICES AND SEASONS
Entrance fees in national parks vary, ranging from several EUR to the luxury entrance fees for the most popular like Plitvice lakes. The price differs and depending the season. For example, high season usually starts in June and lasts until October. During the high season it is likely to expect the crowds in the most attractive spots in national parks. For that reason you should consider visiting national parks off-season in the spring time (April and May) when the nature is in bloom and there is lots of water in rivers and waterfalls. Autumn is another period that is highly advisable for visiting national parks due to favorable weather conditions and beautiful colors of the woods.