Croatia is divided in three large, different areas. Almost each area has a national park or nature park and in total there are eight national parks in Croatia.
Heading from the western coast of Istria we encounter National park Brijuni, renowned for the mild climate and lush vegetation and five thousand years of human activity have made cultural and historical legend of Brijuni islands.
Our journey is followed by the Kornati archipelago and in close vicinity of Sibenik there is the national park Krka named after the river which rises in the western foot of Dinara mountain and which formed a steep and deep canyon on its way towards the sea.
National Park Kornati
Since 1980 the National Park Kornati has been the keeper of the most beautiful part of the Croatian side of the Adriatic Sea – 89 out of 152 islands of the Kornati archipelago. The Kornati are the densest island group in the Adriatic Sea and even in the Mediterranean there are no islands quite like them. They attract attention with the famous Kornati “crowns” – tectonic cliffs which rise steeply from hundred meters deep sea and reach heights of over 80 metres. These are rifts in the Earth's crust which rose at the place of collision of the African and Eurasian tectonic plates. The largest Kornati “crown” is on Mana and the highest on Klobučar. Although it seems that any form of life is impossible on those high stone walls exposed to the sun, wind, salt and mighty waves from the open sea, here special species that have adjusted to extreme life conditions live. The undersea part of the Kornati “crowns” are a true paradise of biodiversity and therefore they are the main reason why the Kornati were proclaimed a National Park and put under protection as an invaluable part of the Croatian and world natural heritage. The National park Kornati extends over 218,000,000 square metres. More than three quarters of this area is the sea, and one quarter is comprised of 73 islands and 16 cliffs.
National Park Krka
The National Park Krka was founded with the aim of preserving the natural and cultural-historical values of the 46 kilometres long central part of the Krka River flow and 3.5 kilometres of the lower part of the Čikola River flow. The main natural sight of the National Park Krka is Skradinski buk – one of the highest and most beautiful Croatian waterfalls. Apart from Skradinski buk, you can reach two more of the seven waterfalls on the River Krka. These are the Roški waterfall and the Manojlovac waterfall, which with its height surpasses all other waterfalls in Croatia. At Skradinski buk and the Roški waterfall there are many ethnographic collections and entirely preserved pre-industrial water facilities, while it’s also worth seeing the remains of the hydro-electric power plant “Krka” which was finished only a few months after the first world hydro-electric power plant built on Niagara Falls by a genius from Croatia, the famous Nikola Tesla. A part of the most important cultural-historical values in Croatia is the Franciscan monastery which dates back to 1445 and is situated on the island of Visovac, in the middle of the Visovac Lake and the Krka monastery which was first mentioned in 1402. A total of 860 species and subspecies of plants, 36 mosses and water plants species grow in the area of the National Park Krka, 222 bird species and 18 bat species fly over it, 46 mammal species live here, as well as 10 snake species, and in the waters of Krka and Čikola live 18 fish species of which no less than 10 are endemic. Krka is the richest river in terms of fish in the Adriatic basin, and the most valuable ornithological area in Europe.
Sailing further towards the south, as the icing on the cake, there is the National park Mljet with mostly forest vegetation. Since it is located at the South Dalmatian archipelago, as other islands, it is best experienced from the sea.
The National park Risnjak is located in the continental part of the North Adriatic, in the western part of Gorski kotar. It is a hidden refuge for various animals amongst which the most famous is lynx, a very rare species in the world.
The longest mountain range in Croatia is Velebit, another national park distinguished with rocky peaks, limestone depressions and valleys. The northern Velebit was declared National park Velebit for its specific forest vegetation and the most valuable areas are the botanical garden and the reserve.
The southeast part of Velebit is characterized by the phenomenon of the National park Paklenica. The contrast of mountain and sea gives a particular enchantment to this wilderness which is also the most famous climbing centre.
National park Plitvice lakes are located at the source of the karsts river Korana. The scenery is idyllic, merged in the waterfall gurgle and serenity of sixteen lakes. This lake paradise, due to its geographical position, is marked at some maps as the Devil’s garden.