Croatia is so naturally beautiful that it is almost unfair to compare it to another European country. Surely, I’m leaving aside all the impressive man-made constructions and a whole lot of historical places (worth visiting too) out of the question but bear with me. The purpose of this article is to highlight the less known raw natural wonders of Croatia.
Something that struck me during my Croatian reconnection-with-nature quest is that you don’t need to search too much to find it. If you shift your gaze from the ground chances are you will spot a majestic mountain, go further inland and you are greeted by river canyons, caves, picturesque lakes and waterfalls. And as if that’s not enough, you still got incredible coastal towns with waters that invite you to swim under the Adriatic sun.
I could go on… but in all honesty, if you are interested in not-so-touristy places where you can disconnect and capture picture-perfect landscapes combined with a few cultural options then you seriously need to consider what Croatia’s natural wonders have to offer. Whether you are up for doing some outdoor sports, like hiking, kayaking, climbing or chilling by the seaside I’ve got you covered with some of the best, unspoiled and less visited Croatian natural wonders.
Krka National Park
A true natural jaw-dropping paradise with its vistas over the mountains and along the Krka River. It is a great spot for nature lovers and anyone seeking a good hike, there are well-defined trails for this purpose, or simply for enjoying wonderful views and the cultural heritage of Croatia. It is also important to mention that Krka is one of the few national parks where you can actually swim close to the waterfalls.
The many waterfalls and pedestrian-only zones such as the Orthodox Monastery, Skradinski Buk and Visovac island are some of the places that add uniqueness to this natural heritage.
Main natural wonders to visit:
- Skradinski Buk the longest waterfall in the park and the 19th-century watermills
- Visovac Island and the Franciscan Monastery are one of Croatia’s most valuable sites
- Manojlovac slap waterfall with its 59 m is considered the largest and loveliest waterfall in the park
- Archaeological site Burnum a gem of ancient Roman history
- Roski slap waterfall and its beautiful Necklaces (barrier of small cascades)
Other interesting sites:
- Krka Monastery a spiritual centre of Orthodox faith located in a bay on the river
- Hydropower plant which provided electricity to the area before most European cities had done so
Location and access: Krka is located in the central part of the eastern Adriatic coast. The nearest railway station to the park is Sibenik station. However, the best way to access it is by car (A1 Motorway), as you are more in control of the time you dedicate to each area and also because it is quite extensive.
Opening Hours: is open all year round. From April to October, all entrances are open 8:00 am to 8:00 pm. For more info check the official site
Brijuni Islands National Park
Also known as Brioni in Italian, is a beautiful archipelago consisting of two main islands and 12 islets off the coast of the Istrian Peninsula. While most people head south to the popular Dalmatian coast this archipelago is somewhat less known and remains very protected. So much so, that you can only access it by visiting the largest island Veliki Brijuni and from there you can organise other boat excursions to the rest of the islets.
These islands became President Tito’s summer residence from 1945 when they officially became part of Yugoslavia. But above their interesting history, you can expect clear blue waters perfect for kayaking, a calm atmosphere with very few tourists, great snorkelling, a charming little train that will take you along the shore on largest island Veliki Brijuni.
Location and access: The closest cities from which you can get to the Brijuni islands are Pula and Rovinj. There are daily boat trips departing from a town called Fazana which is only about 8 km from Pula that will take to the main island. For more info check Brijuni official site
Paklenica National Park
It’s the absolute heaven for climbers and people who enjoy trekking and mountaineering. The wonderful vistas of the canyons, its flora and vegetation make it a top spot for adventurers and outdoorsy types.
Interesting fact: while I was there I learnt that the name Paklenica is believed to derive from black pine sap named paklina used by the locals for its medicinal properties.
The park has many hiking and mountaineering trails and routes with different levels of difficulty for everyone, so don’t worry if you are not a pro. There’s also amenities and viewpoints for taking great photographs.
Location and access: this natural wonder is located in northern Dalmatia not far from Zadar. The quickest way to get here is by car taking the motorway A1. There are also good connections by bus from Zadar to Paklenica, it will take about 45 minutes to get there. For info about opening times click here
Plitvice Lakes National Park
The Croatian wonderland of water. With its interlinked pools and waterfalls, it is by far the country’s first national park, and one of Europe’s premier natural wonders. Plitvice Lakes extend over 5 miles creating a pool in one and from there flowing into small streams, springs and waterfalls. It has many wooden footpaths that allow visitors to explore the lakes without disturbing the fragile environment. Veliki slap (big waterfall) is the biggest fall dropping 78 meters into a canyon.
Plitvice lakes are perfect to visit all year round. In the summer they offer a great escape from the heat while in winter time natural stalactites formations can be found. Just bear in mind that swimming is not allowed there due to its UNESCO Heritage Listing but that doesn’t mean you cannot enjoy this stunning natural wonder.
Location and access: located in central Croatia about an hour away from Zadar. Easily accessed by car or bus from either Zadar or Zagreb. Park is open all year round from 7:00 am to 8:00 pm for more info check here
Highlights of some of my favourite Croatian Natural Wonders
Let me know in the comments section below which of these natural wonders you are most excited to visit next. Do you have any other favourites that I left out?