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Croatia’s Best National Parks

There is much more to Croatia than blissful beaches and dreamy historic towns with cobbled streets and centuries-old architecture. As impressive as they are, for those who want to enjoy unspoiled nature, you’ll find plenty. This versatile country is also home to eight stunning national parks and 11 nature parks, including some that have become world-famous thanks to their striking beauty with images often going viral, such as Plitvice National Park with its endless waterfalls and lakes in dazzling shades of brilliant greens and blues. In Croatia’s national parks, you can forward to breathing in fresh air while enjoying stunningly wild landscapes with eagles soaring through the skies, bears roaming the forests, and bottlenose dolphins leaping through pristine Adriatic waters. 

This country has been prioritizing and preserving nature, with great respect for the environment, balancing the demands of the increasingly growing tourism industry while protecting the land and water, flora, and fauna. While its villages and cities have plenty to offer, from Dubrovnik and Split to Zadar and Zagreb, a visit to these national parks practically guarantees that all stress melts away while immersed in some of our planet’s most glorious nature. Welcome to Croatia’s best national parks.

Plitvice Lakes National Park

Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

Plitvice Lakes National Park is Croatia’s largest, oldest, and most famous national park. It includes 16 individual lakes, each of which flows into the next with the water an array of emerald and turquoise hues. Flowing over limestone and chalk for centuries, over time, natural dams created this series of magnificent lakes, along with numerous waterfalls and caves. Walking through it is like walking through a fantasy – while its images often go viral, there’s nothing like seeing the features of this park in person.

How to explore Plitvice

There are hiking paths and boardwalks that make it easy to explore and marvel at the incredible panoramas while enjoying the songs of the birds and the cool mist of the waterfalls. The park is divided into the Upper Lakes and Lower Lakes sections, with the Upper Lakes home to a dozen lakes with their shorelines encircled by dense forest. The Lower Lakes formed on limestone, carving deep into a canyon with dramatic cliffs. Areas of the park are also connected by a “panoramic train” and electric boats. 

Flora, fauna, and the highlights of Plitvice

The park also provides a habitat for diverse plants and wildlife, like the brown bear, grey wolf, and lynx. One of the not-to-be-missed highlights includes the country’s tallest waterfall, Veliki slap, which means “large” or “great” waterfall, cascading nearly 256 feet at the end of Lower Lakes. Sastavci Slap is widely regarded as the most beautiful in the national park.

How long do you need in Plitvice National Park

Viewing the entire park would require a very long day, so you’ll want to arrive early. The longer trails, like Trail K, take about six hours to complete, while trails like C or H are shorter, taking three to four hours while covering the main highlights. The train/bus and free shuttle boats reduce the total time.

Best time to go to Plitvice

If you visit during the peak tourist season, May through September, aim to go early in the morning to avoid the crowds. Autumn can be ideal with few others around while brilliant fall foliage blankets the landscapes.

What to bring to Plitvice

Bring plenty of water to stay hydrated out on the trails.

Check out our tours to Plitvice Lakes National Park>

Krka National Park

Krka National Park, Croatia
Krka National Park waterfalls

Over thousands of years, the Krka River cut through a deep canyon in the mountainous Sibenik hinterland and along the way, natural barriers were created, turning the landscape into a wonderland of waterfalls. The stunning scenery has made it a must-visit for any Croatia itinerary- it’s the second most popular national park in the country, behind only Plitvice. The park boundaries stretch for over 43 miles along the middle and upper courses of the Krka River, and there are miles and miles of hiking trails to explore. Paths for biking and boat excursions are available too. Either way, you’ll enjoy a remote landscape far from the crowds in popular Dubrovnik, while gazing out at rivers, waterfalls, and gorges.

What to do in Krka

Most visitors come to see the magnificent waterfalls in Krka National Park, but there are also monasteries here. The best is Krka Monastery, Croatia’s most significant Serbian Orthodox monastery. A local guide is available between mid-June and mid-September if you want to learn more about its nearly 700-year history. It’s also possible to join a boat excursion to the monastery from Roski Slap waterfall. If you visit Roski Slap, be sure to see the watermills which were once used to grind wheat. It’s also possible to hop onto another boat for a ride to visit Skradinski Buk, a series of waterfalls stretching for over 2,600 feet, spilling into an emerald green river. Mill cottages nearby were transformed into small eateries, craft workshops, and souvenir shops.

The most famous trail to hike in Krka is Skradinski Buk, with the trail located near the waterfall of the same name, the most famous and biggest in the park. It’s just 1.2 miles long and offers picturesque views of the rapids that crash from the waterfall nearby. 

Best time to go to Krka

There really isn’t a bad time to visit Krka, but if you want pleasant weather without the crowds, go in April or May, or September/October.

What to bring to Krka

While there are some facilities in Krka, it’s best to bring drinking water and snacks.

Visit Krka National Park on one of our Luxury Balcony Cruises>

Mljet National Park

Mljet National Park, Croatia
Mljet National Park, Croatia

Located on Mljet Island, often referred to as the greenest island in all of Croatia as it’s covered by a dense Mediterranean Forest, Mljet National Park covers about a third of its terrain at the western tip. There are frequent catamarans and ferries that run throughout the day from Dubrovnik to the park’s entry points of Sobra and Polace, making it an easy day trip.

Mljet is a a unique and stunning park ideal for those who appreciate nature and want to enjoy a variety of outdoor adventures with a nearly endless list of things to do. 

What to do in Mljet

Relaxation and recreation are key here. Enjoy activities like hiking, cycling, kayaking, and swimming. The park is famously home to two saltwater lakes, one of which is home to a tiny islet that’s topped by a 12th-century Benedictine monastery and a church. There are sandy beaches along the lake shores that are ideal for refreshing dips in the water that ranges from aquamarine to emerald. There are many scenic trails and visitors can even take a boat trip into the heart of the larger lake known as Veliko Jezero (Big Lake), to visit the ancient monastery which now serves as a traditional restaurant. 

When to visit Mljet

July and August are the warmest and driest months in Mljet but also the busiest. For a more tranquil atmosphere minus a line for the boat ride in Great Lake, visit in May, early June, September, or October. Aim for early June or September if you want to enjoy sunbathing and swimming.

What to bring to Mljet

If you come during the warmer months of the year, bring a bathing suit to take advantage of the opportunity to swim in one of the saltwater lakes. Sunscreen and a hat are a good idea to bring along as well.

Visit Mljet National Park on one of our Deluxe, Deluxe Balcony, or Luxury Cruises>

Kornati National Park

Kornati National Park, Croatia
Kornati National Park, Croatia

The Kornati archipelago is made up of 140 nearly uninhabited, unspoiled islands and islets in Northern Dalmatia, 89 of which are part of Kornati National Park. A national park like no other, there are few year-round residents, but it offers a sailor’s paradise with a remote “desert island” kind of atmosphere. While they may not be easy to get to, it’s worth the effort for those plotting a route through the Dalmatian coast to experience this area with its unrivaled natural beauty.

How to get to Kornati

If you have a private yacht, or charter one, you can wind through the isles with their pretty grottoes and dramatic cliffs towering as high as 262 feet above the sea. Daily excursions are available from multiple points on the mainland, including the small town of Murter, which is optimal. Fully crewed trips include delicious lunches with fresh fish and local wine along with many opportunities to swim, snorkel, and simply enjoy the incredible scenery. It’s also possible to visit the islands on a small-ship cruise through Croatia. 

What to do in Kornati

Kornati is all about beaches and spending time in the Adriatic Sea. Visiting brings the chance to leap into the sparkling turquoise water surrounding this archipelago to swim or snorkel, between time spent soaking up the sun on one of the many postcard-perfect beaches. While you relax, look up and you might even see a rare peregrine falcon overhead.

When to visit Kornati

Kornati National Park is open year-round, but the best time to sail here is between April and September when you can enjoy gentle winds, a calm sea, and a warm climate for the most unforgettable experience.

What to bring to Kornati

You’ll need plenty of sun protection, including sunscreen, sunglasses, and a wide-brimmed hat, all of which are important when out at sea for avoiding sunburn.

Brijuni National Park

Brijuni National Park, Croatia
Brijuni National Park, Croatia

Brijuni National Park is made up of a string of 14 jewel-like islands off the Istrian coast, just north of Pula. The only one open to visitors is Veli Brijuni, the largest, which is known for its remarkable history that includes everything from perfectly preserved dinosaur footprints to attractive Roman ruins. Covering around 736 hectares, it’s also filled with spectacular natural beauty, with abundant flora and fauna, including over 150 different types of birds.

How to get to Brijuni

The park can only be reached by boat, but there are regular ferries to Veli Brunij which depart from the town of Fazana. Unless you have your own vessel, that’s the only way to get there but the ferry ride is included in the entrance fee.

What to do in Brijuni

Once in Brijuni, you can rent a bike or a golf cart to explore the island which includes an archaeological museum, a church with some interesting exhibits on display, and even a safari park with exotic animals. There are countless beaches for soaking up the sun and swimming with Sveti Jerolim Beach one of the most popular. You’ll also find walking trails that make it easy to explore the local nature, flora, and fauna, including the many birds.

When to visit Brijuni

The best time to visit Brijuni is from May through September when there is little precipitation and the weather is warm, with the average high in the low 80s Fahrenheit. The water will be comfortable too, at around the same temperature. Boats travel to and from the island throughout the year, but there is a much higher frequency during the summer.

What to bring to Brijuni

You can bring your own bicycle to the island for a fee with at least 24 hours advance notice. There is no supermarket, so you’ll need to bring all the food and drink you need. As it can get quite warm in the summer, carrying plenty of water is essential. Sun protection is important too, including sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat.

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