When you think Croatia, you may think sunny beaches, charming fishing villages, historic towns, and crystal clear sea. And you’re not wrong even though this image of a popular Eastern European destination is slightly distorted. Yes, you heard us! It may come as a surprise, but there’s much more to Croatia than the perfect beach holiday destination or Game of Thrones backdrop.
All the nature lovers who love escaping narrow streets of towns and cities, rejoice! The best national parks of Croatia are here to spoil you on land and on sea, whether you’re in for cool waterfalls and lush greenery, walk through history, or adventurous sea retreat.
Best National Parks in Croatia
Even the national parks have a lot to offer for every taste. Since they’re spread throughout the country, you can visit those that are most convenient for you. Below, we listed the best parks (according to the preference of our customers), but the list is, naturally, a completely subjective matter.
Before you read further, have a look at the Croatia national parks map for a better idea of their locations.
1. Plitvice Lakes National park
This is by far the most popular and famous national park in Croatia, as well as the oldest. The park has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site and simply looking at a few photos can help you understand why.
Plitvice Park attracts more than a million tourists every year; a desire to witness that picture-perfect landscape from what seems like another world is just too tempting to miss out. There’s hardly any tour of Croatia that doesn’t include Plitvice in their itinerary, even those coming in from abroad, such as tours from Slovenia or Austria.
Keep in mind that no swimming is permitted, but you are allowed to soak in the stunning landscape and collect breath-taking memories and photos. After all, spending an entire day in the park may still be too short.
The best part? Passing seasons work their unworldly magic in this national park, which allows the visitor to stop by every all year long. The park changes seasonally from fiery red in autumn, to snow fairy-tale in winter, vivid with life in spring, and lush green with deep turquoise waters in summer.
2. National Park Krka
Krka is the second most popular national park, but if the name doesn’t ring a bell at first, you may also know it as that Croatia national park with waterfall. Whether you’re wondering if Krka national park is worth visiting, the answer is a definite yes. The park is smaller than Plitvice but it’s just a short drive from Split or Zadar.
Krka National Park is an oasis of green and blue waterfalls, walkways, and attractions that are spread throughout the park. Some of the most popular sights are the Skradinski Buk, the largest waterfall in the park, and the Visovac Island with a small church (similar to Lake Bled in Slovenia).
3. Brijuni Croatia National Park
If you prefer to stay on the coast instead of moving inland, stop by at Brijuni National Park, just off the Istrian peninsula in the North. It’s a national park near Pula, and the archipelago consists of 14 islands. While most islands are off-limits to tourists, you can visit Veliki Brijun.
Discover cultural monuments and archaeological sites while taking a hike on one of many trails spread across the park, and soak in the history that surrounds you on the islands, all the way from the dinosaur footprints to former Yugoslavia. Not into history? Enjoy an afternoon of sports and explore the island by bike.
4. Paklenica National Park
Hikers, adventurers, and outdoor lovers should head to Paklenica National Park, located just 47km north of Zadar. The park stretches over a large area on the south slopes of Velebit mountain. The park can be an excellent day trip option from many towns on the coast, but be sure to pack hiking shoes and comfortable clothing. Some tour agencies also include it into their itinerary for a more unique Croatian experience.
What to expect? Numerous hiking trails, two mountain peaks over 1700m, mountain huts, deep canyons and caves, pine forests, climbing trails, freshwater springs, and diverse wildlife in peaceful surroundings with zero crowds.
5. Croatia National Park Mljet
For those who demand adventure with a backdrop of a stunning landscape, Mljet National Park is the place to visit. Located on the island of Mljet in the deep south of Croatia, the island is one of the rare hidden gems in Croatia.
Mljet enables plenty of outdoor activities, such as kayaking, hiking, along with relaxing on one of its beautiful beaches. Wear comfortable shoes and head out exploring saltwater lakes or a small 12-century monastery turned into a café. Expect clear blue waters dotted with lush pine forests and white sandy beaches.
FAQ On Croatia National Parks
How many national parks are in Croatia?
There are 8 national parks in Croatia; apart from the 5 we mention above (Brijuni, Plitvice Lakes, Paklenica, Krka waterfalls, and Mljet), the other three are Northern Velebit, Risnjak, and Kornati. Some lists also include Kamenjak National Park in Istria, but most just tend to leave it out. If you happen to be in the area, we suggest you pay it a visit.
Apart from that, there’s also one and only UNESCO Geopark in Croatia, Papuk Nature Park in Slavonia, with lush greenery, a waterfall, a lake, and rock pillars, created by volcanic lava flows, and so much more.
What’s the best way to visit Croatia national parks?
Most of these parks are easily accessible when traveling around Croatia by car, but perhaps not as much when using public transport to get around.
If you want to visit one or two on the list, you can do so by renting a car or booking a trip at a local agency. If you’re short on time and want to make the most of your Croatian vacation, we suggest booking a vacation package that’ll save you time and money, and let you enjoy your stay stress and carefree.
Croatia national park pass: where to get it?
Unfortunately, there isn’t such a thing as a pass for Croatian national parks. You have to get tickets for each park separately.
Which is better; Krka or Plitvice?
If you’re staying on the coast, Krka waterfalls are more easily accessible from Zadar or Split. The park is smaller but you are allowed to swim there. On the other hand, Plitvice NP is a bigger park with more to see; it’s a beautiful spot to visit all year round, but it’s further inland and you’re not allowed to have a swim.
Where is Croatia Mljet national park?
It’s located in the south of Croatia, just after the Korčula island and before Dubrovnik.
Which one is Croatian national park near Split?
That would be Krka national park, which is famous for cascading waterfalls with lush greenery in the background, and people cooling off in the summer heat.
Camping in Croatia national parks
There are several camping options in the vicinity of the national parks, where you can stay during your visit. Some have glamping options, others full-facility sites, while some offer limited facilities.
A short summary: which national park in Croatia is best?
As you can see from the list (and photos) above, there is not one single best national park of Croatia. In fact, the decision to choose your own best is entirely up to you. After all, they’re all unique in their own kind of way.
If you’re set on experiencing Croatia properly and bringing home memories to share with your loved ones, then visiting just one park simply won’t do. Unfortunately, there isn’t one single pass for all the national parks, buying separate tickets for more than just one can be slightly pricey and inconvenient.
If you’re like us and prefer your vacation time to be exclusive and stress-free, booking a complete vacation package is one of the more practical options since it takes a lot of unnecessary stress off your to-do list (the language barrier, finding a reliable rent-a-car, driving in a foreign country, tolls and tickets, car park problems, etc.). That means you can soak in the best national parks of Croatia in a manner you deserve it: luxuriously carefree, with a smile on your face.