National Parks of Dalmatia

Šime Unić
National Parks of Dalmatia

The natural beauty of Dalmatia is world-renown, as is its clear sea and fresh air. For this reputation, Dalmatia has to thank its national parks – from a total of eight national parks in Croatia, six are located precisely in the region of Dalmatia. And that’s not counting the eleven nature parks, six of which are also in Dalmatia. 

The national parks we wanted to highlight here include: Northern Velebit NP, Paklenica NP, Plitvice Lakes NP, Kornati NP, Krka NP, and Mljet NP. Although each of them could have an entire article dedicated solely to itself, we want to emphasize a smaller selection which we think deserve some special attention.

Krka National Park

Krka NP covers the length of 50 km following the river Krka and encompasses its upper and middle course. It begins 2 km downstream of Knin, all the way to Skradin, and includes the lower course of the Čikola river (including its estuary and 3.5 km of its canyon). The park falls under the territory of the nearby cities of Knin, Drniš, Skradin, and Šibenik.

It’s easy to get to the park from the nearby cities because you’re guided all the way via a number of road signs. Because of the beauty of the natural landscape in this area, it’s become increasingly popular to buy real estate in the nearby cities of Šibenik, Skradin, and other towns around Šibenik.

Krka NP includes seven waterfalls altogether which formed over the years through the process of tufa deposition. So, in some areas, you’ll be able to enjoy the babbling river flowing through the deep canyon, and in others bask in the calm surface of one of the many lakes.

Skradinski Buk Waterfall

The historic town of Skradin, after which this waterfall got its name, is located close by this national park. The waterfall itself is one of the most enchanting in the entire park. It’s the largest tufa waterfall in Europe, reaching 45.7 m in height! A larger part of it is younger than 10.000 years, but nearby the present-day river is some tufa as old as 125.000 years!

skradinski buk waterfall

Why Visit Krka?

A trip to Krka NP is ideal for a day trip from Šibenik (20 minutes by car), Zadar (1 hour), and Split (90 minutes). During the summer, you’ll be able to enjoy the cool air, while the other seasons each have their own allure – the autumn leaves or the flourishing flora during the spring. The entry tickets are also significantly cheaper in low season, and children up to 7 years of age have free entry.

The park is adapted for visitors so you’ll find a lot of things to do there: go to a cafe or restaurant, visit one of the viewpoints, old mills, go on a boat trip, and so on. You can find out more about your visit, the prices, and various attractions on Krka NP’s official website.

Mljet National Park

Mljet NP is located on the western part of one of the most beautiful islands in the Adriatic. Its unique shape is due to the two deep “lakes”, or rather two narrow, deep bays which flow into the open sea. Apart from the natural beauty and rich vegetation (Mljet is called the “green island”), you’ll find a whole host of cultural sights in Mljet NP.

mljet np

Sights to See in Mljet NP

The cultural and historic sights on Mljet tell the tale of its entire history. The preserved Illyrian hill forts (called gradine) and mounds (burial sites) tell of Mljet being populated even in the 2nd century B. C. Numerous ancient Roman remains scattered throughout the entire island reveal that the Romans inhabited it as well.

The situation during the Middle Ages was significantly different. Instead of a population focused on raising livestock and agriculture, the island was gifted to Benedictine monks from Apulia in Italy in the 12th century. On Mljet, they built a monastery and a church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary (on an islet in the Big Lake i. e. Veliko jezero). Besides all of this, you’ll be able to see a Renaissance palace beneath Babino polje (which loosely translates to “Grandmother's Field”) and many other valuable historic remains.

You can get to Mljet via ferry by taking any of the usual lines, and you can even organize a stay in a hotel once you get there. You can find a complete price list and all other information you might need to prepare for a visit to Mljet NP on their official website.

Kornati National Park

Kornati NP overs the Kornati archipelago which is made up of 140 islands, islets, and reefs, which makes it the most indented group of islands in the entire Mediterranean. And all of this spanning an area of only 69 km2. The islands are mainly uninhabited, and the most populated, also the largest island in this cluster – Kornati – has a bit over 20 regular inhabitants. The islands are mainly populated (or visited for agricultural purposes) by the inhabitants of nearby Murter.

The interesting ambient of this island is dominated by rocky pastures, while only the north-east part of the island is covered by holm oak land. Though you will come across a large number of olive and fig trees, vine, and citrus fruit trees. The islands abound with sheep, and the sea is full of fish.

kornati np

The Most Interesting Locations in the Kornati Archipelago

Considering the large number of islands within Kornati NP, it's difficult to mention all of the sights, but here are just a few worth visiting:

  • The Illyrian hill-forts and funerary mounds on the island of Kornati;
  • A square fortress on the Toreti hill on Kornati;
  • The Medieval church of St. Mary and another Old Christian church also on Kornati;
  • The remains of an ancient Roman villa in the strait of Mala Proversa;
  • Traces of a Roman Villa Rustica on Trtuša on Kornati;
  • Salt warehouses on Lavsa;
  • The fish pond on Svršata as well as the old fisherman's’ houses and the remains of a sixteenth-century church on Piškera, and so on.

How to Get to Kornati?

In order to get to Kornati, you first have to get to Murter. The easiest way to do this is by bus. Direct lines go from Zagreb and Biograd na Moru.

You arrive by car by taking the highway or A1 (Zagreb - Split) motorway. You then have to take the exit for Pirovac and continue via the D59 and D121 roads towards Murter. From Murter, you're just a ferry ride away.

Boat rides, apart from Murter, are occasionally organized from Zadar and Šibenik, but you can find more on these routes and corresponding prices on Kornati NP’s official website.

Paklenica National Park

Located on the southern side of Velebit, the highest mountain in Croatia, it comes as no surprise that the most notorious attractions of this national park are also some of the highest peaks of this mountain. Paklenica NP encompasses the mountain gorges of Velika and Mala Paklenica (Big and Small Paklenica), as well as several caves, and a myriad of plant and animal species which you’ll find on every turn.

paklenica np

Hiking Trails in Paklenica

The very fact that Paklenica NP is located on Velebit hints at its popularity among mountaineers and climbers. This national park includes the most popular climbing destination in all of Croatia - the steep Anica Kuk (Anića kuk in Croatian).

But if rock climbing isn’t your favorite option, don't worry. Paklenica NP is full of kilometers of marked hiking trails (it’s estimated that they add up to about 150 - 200 km!) and includes a mountain lodge and the Lugarnica foresters house. All of these trails are markated and include signs so that you know which peak you’re heading to.

If you want to plan out your route through Paklenica on time, we recommend you visit Paklenica NP’s official website where, alongside the park map, you can also find a lot of useful info related to hiking and climbing in this national park.

If you decide to visit any of these national parks, we wanted to mention that they are all very easy to get to, have extremely well-priced entry tickets, especially considering the beauty they have to offer. You can buy tickets to any of these parks on their corresponding official websites or in person at the entrance to each. Also, their working hours are long so you can practically go whenever your heart desires. And we believe that once you do visit any of them, you’ll want to visit all of them!

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