Best National Parks in Croatia
Published on: January 16th, 2019
Last modified: July 28th, 2023
Croatia is a uniquely wonderful country with so much to offer: red-roofed houses, medieval city walls and vibrant ports sit alongside stunning expanses of nature here.
Ideal for romantic sojourns, family holidays and adventurous escapes, Croatia caters to every type of traveller. While you're there, don't miss out on the beautiful national parks.
From the emerald waters in Plitvice Lakes to the incredible rock formations in Kornati National Park, this is our expert travel designers’ pick of the best national parks in Croatia.
Plitvice Lakes National Park
The incredible Plitvice Lakes National Park is nestled between Rovinj and Zadar, making it easily accessible to travellers journeying between the two towns. Recognised as a national park back in 1949, Plitvice Lakes was the first area in Croatia to be designated national park status, and is recognised today as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The lakes here span an area of just under 300 square kilometres, a truly impressive sight. Sixteen named lakes connect to a series of smaller unnamed ones, with cascading waterfalls flowing between them. Open year round, this dreamy national park offers visitors seven different tours of the lake and four hiking trails; there’s something for everyone here.
There’s also a fascinating story behind the beautiful setting. According to local legend, the Plitvice lakes were created after a long drought, when the “Black Queen” took pity on the people and animals desperately crying out for water. The “Black Queen” summoned heavy rains to fall, which transformed into the lakes we see today. Even seasoned travellers will be astonished by the beauty of Croatia’s natural masterpiece. With waterfalls spilling over picturesque hills, an abundance of lakes and fascinating flora and fauna, Plitvice Lakes National Park is a must visit on any trip to Croatia.
Velebit Mountain Nature Park
Not too far from the city of Zadar, the Northern Velebit National Park encompasses 109 square kilometres of the northern Velebit mountains, the largest mountain range in Croatia. Here, travellers can be delighted by verdant rolling hills and incredible wildlife. A particular highlight is the Krupa Canyon and Modric Cave. Over time, the Zrmanja and Krupa rivers that run through these mountains have carved a spectacular canyon.
To journey through this incredible landscape, travellers can start in the village of Ravni Golubic. From here, hiking through the Vratolom ridge offers travellers incredible views over the Krupa waterfalls. The area is also home to the Modric Cave, which is filled with incredible stalagmites and stalactites.
Krka Waterfalls National Park
Krka National Park – known for its ethereal waterfalls – is one of the most well known national parks in Croatia. Named after the Krka river, the park covers around 142 square kilometres and includes one of Croatia’s most famous sights, the Skradinski buk waterfalls. Other highlights here are the small island of Visovac and the Roski Slap waterfall – both of these areas look as though they have been lifted straight from a fairytale, and add an ethereal element to their beautiful surroundings.
Along its green path, the River Krka has seven spectacular falls. Thanks to the constant process of travertine building, the Krka River is characterised by the rugged rocks dotted along it. The highlight here is the river’s incredible canyon that the famous waterfalls cascade into. Journeying from the foothills of the Dinara Mountains to the beautiful estuary under the walls of historic Sibenik, the Krka River is truly out of this world. Travellers can wander through the winding wooden paths through the main park or learn about the area’s history in the Ethno Museum and shops housed in the old mills.
Kornati National Park
Kornati National Park consists of 140 islands covering an area of 114 square miles (300 square kilometres). With its natural beauty, endless coves and crystal clear waters, it’s easy to see why the Kornati archipelago was given national park status. Due to their rocky terrain, these islands are peppered with cracks, caves, grottoes and rugged cliffs.
The deforestation and lack of fresh water here have left the islands mostly barren, exposing the wonderful sight of the mountains’ stark whiteness against the deep-blue Adriatic Sea. The story behind these islands is that after God created the world, there were still a few gems left in his hand. He threw them over his shoulders into the sea, and over time, these gems turned into the islands that now make up the Kornati islands.
Brijuni National Park
The Brijuni islands lie northwest of the picturesque town of Rovinj. Declared a national park in 1999, these islands have an incredible history and are home to some of the best sea life in Croatia. With dinosaur footprints found on many of the islands, it’s thought that these magnificent creatures roamed the islands millions of years ago.
Brijuni is also home to a safari park, so visitors to the national park can get up close to the animals exhibiting the area today. On Brijuni, travellers can also explore in a golf cart or see the remains of an ancient Roman villa.