Discovering Croatia’s national parks

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You’ve probably sailed Croatia or got it on your bucket list, but what about heading inland to some of the country’s spectacular national parks? Croatia’s national parks are among the most beautiful I’ve ever seen and there’s a couple I recommend adding to your itinerary.

The crown of inland Croatia is given to Plitvice Lakes National Park – located in between the coastal town of Zadar and the capital city Zagreb.

Instagram filters aren’t needed to showcase the natural wonder of Plitvice National Park – the place is just that beautiful at every turn. Even after 45 countries, it’s still one of the most stunning places I’ve been to.

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As you stroll along the wooden boardwalk linking the most popular areas of the park, you’re greeted with vibrant earthy tones of blue and green in the form of waterfalls, forests, caves and crystal clear waters.

Plitvice is the largest and oldest of Croatia’s eight national parks and is also a UNESCO World National Heritage Site – which unfortunately means you can’t swim anywhere in the park even though the water looks so inviting. But you can take a boat ride across a lake in the park to make the most of your visit.

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There are 16 lakes in total to visit, and keep an eye out for the wildlife calling the park home such as deer, birds and more than 300 species of butterflies.

 Make sure you visit the lookout across to the 70 metre Veliki Slap waterfall. Then head down the stairs, across the boardwalk spanning one of the many turquoise lakes and hear the roar of the water and spray on your face from the park’s many waterfalls.

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Entry to the park is $A36 in peak season with reduced prices offered before and after summer. Allow a full day here to explore. Opposite the boat jetty is a small café serving snacks or bring a picnic.

A couple of hours south is Krka National Park, which costs $A22 to enter in the high season months of July and August. The park takes you over a series of boardwalks to reach a great swimming hole and the park’s namesake Krka Waterfall. I took way too many photos here – I loved it.

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Try and swim to the rope barrier in front of the waterfall and feel the power of the water – it’s harder than you think against the current.

Continue on the trail past Krka Waterfall to discover more waterfalls and lakes and loop back to the carpark.

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Krka National Park is a couple of hours north of the seaside town of Split. Tours run from Split both to Krka and Plitvice national parks.

Split is a heady mix of beaches, history and nightlife – and is full of Australians. You’ll struggle to hear a non Australian accent walking down near the port when the sailing boats come in and prepare for the next departure.

You can explore the islands and port towns of Croatia easily by booking a sailing tour from either Split or Dubrovnik – but book ahead, they’re popular in the summer months.

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Tours are offered by a number of tour companies including Med Experience, SailCroatia and TopDeck.

The sailing tours leave every week from Split or Dubrovnik. Some go one way, while others loop back to your departure point.

Before you leave Split, spend at least a day wandering through the historic town. Stroll down the portside promenade, get a great view from the 57 metre bell tower of the St Domnius Catherdral bell tower and wander the streets inside the Diocletian’s Palace walls.

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The Diocletian Palace has spent its life as a fortress, royal residence and is now essentially the town walls.  There are more than 200 buildings inside the palace boundaries, including some great cafes and restaurants.

The port side entry of the Diocletian Palace features a bustling commercial marketplace or there’s also a wide and pretty pedestrian mall to cater for all your shopping needs.

Things You Should Know:

  • Krka and Plitvice National Parks offer easy walks to check out the sights.
  • You might find it easiest to hire a car to see the Plitvice and Krka national parks, but there are tours available from major Croatian cities. My tour left from Split.
  • While the water looks inviting, unfortunately you can’t swim in the waterholes at Plitvice National Park due to its UNESCO World Heritage status.
  • You can pay by cash or card to enter the national parks.
  • Split can get very busy in the summer months so book ahead for tours and accommodation.

 

 

 

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