Croatian National Parks

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Croatian National Parks

22 April 2012

National Park Plitvice Lakes

Plitvice Lakes

Plitvice Lakes National Park is a phenomenon of karst geology and hydrography. The National Park was established in 1949, and it is the oldest, largest and most popular Croatian national park. The Park includes a forested mountain area and 16 lakes of distinctive blue and green colour and various sizes. The lakes receive water from numerous rivers and streams, and are interconnected with cascades and waterfalls.
The largest waterfall in the park, and in Croatia, is the Veliki slap, at 78 meters. Apart from its height, this waterfall is different from others because it is created through the sloughing of a stream down a steep cliff, while all other waterfalls are formed by the cascading of the lakes.
One of the most unique characteristics of the Park are limestone barriers that were formed over a period of some ten thousand years.
Vast forest areas, exceptional lakes and waterfalls, rich flora and fauna, fresh mountain air, contrasting autumn colors, wooden walking trails and bridges all contribute to the uniqueness of this site which was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1979, one of the first of its kind in the world.
The Korana River springs from the Lakes. Plitvice Lakes are not only rich in water, but also abound in forests and its inhabitants, including the three major European predators - the brown bear, the lynx and the wolf. Local forests are rich in endemic plants, such as the narrow-leaved bell and buttercups. There are as many as 1146 different plant species in Plitvice, 44 of which are protected in Croatia.
The first noteworthy tourist visits to Plitvice started in 1861, and last year more than one million visitors were reported for the first time.
The National Park stretches across 29,685 acres, 200 of which are covered by lakes, 13,320 by forests, and the rest by grassland and other surfaces.



Paklenica National Park was established in 1949, just a few months after Plitvice Lakes. It stretches over 96 square kilometres.
The Park offers a surprising richness of forests in a predominately non-forested area of the south side of Velebit, in particular of the black pine trees whose resin (Paklin) used to be extracted in the past and gave the Park its name.
The most interesting and impressive geomorphologic characteristics are in two canyons, Mala Paklenica and Velika Paklenica, which cut deep into the Velebit mountain. Paklenica Park attracts more than 100,000 visitors a year, and the most loyal visitors are rock climbers, who can be seen climbing its rocks from spring to autumn especially on Anic kuk, the highest Croatian cliff at 712 meters.
Several caves are part of the Park, such as the Manita Cave - the largest and best known cave in Paklenica, the cave above the canyon of Velika Paklenica, and Jama Vodarica cave between the canyons of Mala Paklenica and Velika Paklenica.
The richness of the Park`s flora is reflected in 1,000 species and subspecies living in Paklenica, 79 of which are endemic.
The Park’s varied habitat and vertical stratification provide home to a diverse fauna. Paklenica is home to 230 species of birds, 53 species of mammals, 31 species of amphibians and reptiles, and 11 species of snakes.



Risnjak National Park is situated in Gorski Kotar, the most forested area of western Croatia, in the hinterlands of Rijeka and the Kvarner coast, only 15 air kilometres from the sea.
Risnjak National Park was established in 1953. From the initial 3,014 acres, the park was expanded to a total of 6350 acres in 1997. In addition to the central part of Risnjak, the Park also includes Snježnik Mountain, and the source and upper course of the Kupa River.
The Park is divided in two zones – the zone of complete care, and the zone of mutual care. More than 4,300 acres fall in the first zone which is devoid of any human activity. As a result, there are many natural attractions of exceptional beauty in this part of the Park. The Risnjak mountain massif, with its peaks and steep white cliffs dominates the greenness of the mountain forests. The Great Risnjak (1,528 m), one of the most beautiful Croatian lookouts, stands as a crown of these stony heights. It offers spectacular views of the Kvarner Bay, the Kamnik and the Julian Alps – including Snežnik (Slovenia), Klek, Bjelolasica, Velebit... Accommodation in the Park is available in the mountain home of Dr. Joseph Schlosser Klekovski, directly below Risnjak peak. It offers 43 beds and it is open from early May until the end of October.
The spring of the Kupa River, one of the many still unsolved karst "puzzles", is one of the strongest, widest, and deepest Croatian river springs. At 321 meters above sea level, the water mass forms a small turquoise-colored lake. The upper area of the river, located in the park, is known as the magic valley for butterflies, because as many as 69 species of butterflies have been found here. A large number of mammals and other animals live in Risnjak, including bears, wolves and lynxes, and 114 species of birds.
The Snježnik massif, located northwest of Risnjak, is rich in vegetation. The top of Snježnik (1506 m) is rocky and surrounded by flower meadows, offering incredible views.
Apart from Risnjak's summits, nature lovers are advised to take the Leske educational tour (4.2 kilometers long and with 23 information boards), and explore mountain meadows Lazac and Šegina, and the vast selection of preserved forests.



Mljet National Park is the oldest national park on the Adriatic. It covers northwestern third of the island, which today covers 5,375 acres of protected land and its surrounding sea. The National Park was established in November 1960, and the sea section was added in 1997. Mljet was established as a National park for both its outstanding cultural and natural heritage. Historical heritage dates back to the days of Illyrian tribes, the Roman Empire and the Dubrovnik Republic. On the other hand, Mljet’s natural richness lies in its "salty-sweet" lakes, lush plant life, unique panoramic views of the coastline and its cliffs, reefs and numerous islands, and the rich, evergreen vegetation on the surrounding hills that rise steeply from the sea with numerous rocky fields and ancient stone villages.
The salty lakes system on Mljet is a unique geological and oceanographic karst phenomenon, important not only to Croatia but also to the world. Lakes Veliko and Malo have attracted nature lovers for decades with their beauty and undiscovered secrets, especially tourists who are attracted to the untouched nature. The sea retracts into the body of the island in the Soline strait, creating a large lake, and then a smaller lake which is formed by narrow waterways. Although the lakes are made of seawater, they are perceived as lakes because of the nature of landscape.
The Mljet National Park is unique in the fact that more than 90 percent of its total area is covered in forests, giving it the name the Green Island. The Aleppo pine trees surrounding the lakes are considered to be the best-preserved and most beautiful trees of their kind in the Mediterranean.
The Great Lake is home to another natural, historical, and cultural tourist attraction - the picturesque island of St. Mary’s, with a church and a 12th Century Benedictine monastery. This small island has become the symbol of both the island and the National Park because of its outstanding aesthetic, cultural and spiritual magnitude. The small island is known locally as "Melita", thanks to the eponymous hotel and restaurant that until recently used to be housed in the monastery building.
The waters on Mljet are monk seal's favourite environment. Jacques Cousteau, the famous French oceanographer who dived in these waters 40 years ago, said these were one of the cleanest waters in the world.
You can visit the Mljet National Park by ferry from Dubrovnik, and by boat from Korcula, Hvar and Split, which can dock in Polače and Sobra ports, both of which have hiking trails leading to the lakes.



The Kornati Islands, situated in the central part of the Croatian Adriatic, are an incredibly unique group of islands. Kornati National Park was established in 1980 because of the exceptional beauty of the landscape, the interesting geomorphology, indented coastline, and in particular because of the rich biodiversity of the marine ecosystems.
The Park covers an area of 220 square kilometers and includes 89 islands, islets and rocks. More than 90 percent of the land on the islands are owned by the residents of the island of Murter.
The Park boasts many natural and cultural features, including islands' cliffs that face the open sea – also known as the “crown” effect, and they correspond to the large tectonic rift that extends from Istria to middle Dalmatia.
The Kornati have many lookouts, the highest and most impressive of which is Metlina on the island of Kornat.
Underwater area of the Kornati "crown" is particularly interesting to visitors. There are seven diving zones within the Park, and only authorized diving groups are permitted to dive.
The Park is justly referred to as "nautical paradise" in tourist publications, because navigating the "slalom" between these 89 extraordinary islands, islets and reefs is an unforgettable experience.
There are around 20 restaurants throughout the Park that offer local food, mainly seafood and lamb form the islands.
Overnight stays in Kornati are only possible in boats, and there are 20 sites in designated bays that are suitable for anchoring.
The first colonization of the Kornati archipelago was recorded in the time of the Illyrians, who left behind small, rectangular dwellings that confirm the islands were populated in prehistoric times. The "Tureta" fort on the island of Kornat dates back to the Byzantine period. It is believed the fort dates back to 6th century and for many it is one of the most important buildings on the islands. The Fort most likely had a military purpose - security and control of the navigation on the Adriatic at this unsafe period in history. An interesting building from the same period is the early Christian basilica at the foot of the Fort - the church of Our Lady of Tarca is an impressive building dating back to the Middle Ages. The remains of a salt warehouse, together with underwater remains of a saltpan in the bay Lavsa are also from the medieval period, probably dating back to the second half of 14th century. In the 16th century a Venetian castle was built on the island of Vela Panitula, and it was used primarily to tax the fishermen for their fish. Late 19th and early 20th century are the strongest periods of agricultural activity on these islands. A mosaic made entirely of dry stonewalls emerged at this time, and it is one of the most interesting attractions in the Park today.



The Brijuni National Park was established in 1983. The islands represent "paradise on earth" for many, with their aura of luxury and glamour. Located to the west of the Istrian coast and facing Fažana, they consist of 14 islands and islets spreading over an area of some 34 square kilometers. The largest and most famous islands are Veliki Brijun and Mali Brijun.
Legend has it that the angels put the remains of the Garden of Eden here to be protected by the waves and preserved for the human race.
The archipelago has a history rich in cultural and historical monuments. One of the most famous buildings is Kastrum, a settlement which used to be fortified by thick walls. Next to it is St Mary’s Basilica, a 6th century church next to which a Benedictine monastery was later built.
Another important church is St. German; it dates from 15th century and today hosts an exhibition of the copies of frescoes and inscriptions in the Glagolitic script, originating from Istria and Kvarner.
Gradina is home to a settlement preserved from the Bronze Age, which includes walls and a cemetery, and it is located near the Verige bay, home to the remains of a Roman country villa and its complex facilities (temples, baths, pond, etc.)
Historically, the Venetians governed these islands the longest. However, today's Brioni is the work of Paul Kupelwieser, a 19th century Austrian magnate who bought the islands and transformed them into an exclusive part of the former Austro-Hungarian Riviera, where the European aristocracy came to be seen, be it on golf courses and at polo tournaments, or at the hotel and casino.
Over the coming decades the islands became a Presidential summer residence, hosting the political elite and celebrities from the world of film and music, including Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Sophia Loren and many others who stayed in luxury villas. In recent times Brijuni were also visited by celebrities such as Placido Domingo and Princess Caroline of Monaco.
The National Park also houses an ethno park, and a safari-park with animals from all over the world, including zebras, fallow deer, llamas, elephants and antelope, and indigenous ones - Istrian cattle (boškarin), Istrian sheep and donkeys.
Interestingly, more than 200 fossilized dinosaur footprints were found on the islands.
Accommodation in Brijuni is available in the Neptun-Istr and Karmen hotels, and Lovorka, Primorka and Dubravka villas.



Krka National Park was established in 1985 and it is famous for its many lakes and waterfalls. It is named after the river Krka, which forms part of the Park, and it is located in central Dalmatia, downstream from Miljevci, and only a few kilometers northeast from Šibenik. The Park stretches over 142 square kilometres and it includes Krka's flow from its spring near Knin, at the foot of the Dinara mountain, down the 75 kilometer-long canyon, through the Prokljansko Lake to its estuary in the bay of Šibenik. The river has seven waterfalls today and its beauty lies in the natural karst phenomenon of this area. Visits to the Park are recommended in spring and summer when the natural world can be seen in all its glory, and visitors can refresh themselves in the clear waters.
Although the Krka waterfalls are not very high, two waterfalls stand out: the Roški waterfall and the Manojlovac waterfall which, at 32 meters, is the highest in the Park. The Roški waterfall is 22.5 meters high and it falls into the Visovačko lake. It is one of the liveliest parts of the Park that includes mills and valuable ethnographic heritage. The flow of the Krka meanders further towards Skradinski buk, probably the most beautiful waterfall in the Park. Skradinski Buk is formed of 17 rocky steps that sprawl nearly 800 meters in length. Sights include an ethnographic collection and old mills. Visitors are encouraged to visit Visovac, a beautiful island in the middle of the Krka. The island is cared for by the Franciscans who have been looking after it for centuries, preserving the culture in this area. Many exhibits in the monastery museum testify to this: some of the items date back to 1st century AD and the Roman period, while the museum also houses a rich collection of documents from the period of Turkish conquests. As well as preserving many historical remains, the Franciscans are known as keen crop growers and the island has as many as 195 plant species.
The hydropower plant Jaruga, situated near the waterfall Skradinski buk, is an interesting part of the Park. It is the second oldest hydropower plant in the world, built on the 28th August 1895, just three days after the world's first hydroelectric power plant at Niagara Falls.
Like all national parks, Krka abounds in plant and animal life. It is habitat to 860 plant species. There are 20 different species of fish, 10 of which are endemic, making Krka not only an important natural monument, but also one of the richest rivers in Europe. Two endemic lizards also live in the Park – the Krk female lizard and the brown scaly lizard. With 221 species of birds, Krka s among some of the richest bird areas. Finally, 18 species of bats, which are mostly endangered and on the verge of extinction in the rest of Europe, add to the richness of life in the Park.


North Velebit

North Velebit National park was established in1999 due to the vast diversity of karst phenomena and wildlife in this relatively small area. Reserves Hajdučki kuk and Rožanski kuk represent specific geomorphologic phenomena, with more than 150 caves known so far. The most famous one is Luka's Cave, discovered in 1999, which is one of the deepest in the world. Two botanic reserves, Visibaba and Zavizan-Balinovac-Velika kosa, are located here, the latter of which adds to the richness of the alpine fauna. The Park includes the famous Velebit Botanical Garden, founded in 1967, and Stirovaca, the special reserve of forest vegetation which is located in the southern area.
The park, which stretches over 109 square kilometers, has numerous hiking trails. The most famous one is the Premuziceva trail, which passes through the most beautiful and interesting parts of the Park. Mountaintops provide breathtaking views of the Adriatic Sea and the islands of Pag, Rab, Goli, Prvić and Krk, as well as of the hinterland and Lika on the continental side.


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