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Croatia has become one of the Europe’s hottest tourist destinations. Mostly because of its coastline and the warm, clean Adriatic Sea. But the country has a lot more to offer! There are 8 national parks in this small country and they are places of exceptional beauty and astonishing wildlife. Here’s a brief overview of these largely unknown pearls of Croatia.

Northern Velebit (Sjeverni Velebit)

Croatia, Velebit Mts.
Croatia, Velebit Mts. (Photo credit: Peter Fenďa)

Northern Velebit National Park, is the youngest Croatian National Park, found in 1999. It spreads across 109 km2 of the Velebit mountain, the largest mountain in the country.
The park is known for its mountaineering trails, enabling the visitors to observe the most beautiful places of the park. Its two most popular attractions are the Hajdučki kukovi and the Rožanski kukovi. The name ‘kukovi’ is of folk origin and depicts large stone masses which rise up over the surroundings of the mountain, providing a look of the whole area.
Tourist agencies in major Croatian cities (such as Zagreb, Zadar and Split) offer organized transportation to the Park and the neighboring town of Krasno, so the easiest way to reach the Park from abroad is to fly to any of the enumerated cities and just pick a suitable tourist bus.

Paklenica

Paklenica valley
Paklenica valley (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Paklenica National Park is located in northern Dalmatia, close to the shoreline and the city of Zadar. It’s the second oldest Croatian National Park, found in 1949, famous for climbing and hiking trails and paths. There are around two hundred kilometers of paths, enabling the visitors to explore the Paklenica river canyons or the highest peaks of the Velebit.

It is also the second largest climbing site in Southeast Europe and has over 360 climbing routes of all difficulties – from amateur to professional. Tourists from abroad can reach it simply, by taking a plane to Zadar, where it is possible to either rent a car (since the Park is close to Zadar) or hire a tourist agency which provide organized trips to the Park on a daily basis during the tourist season.

Risnjak

English: View to the Schlosser lodge from the ...
English: View to the Schlosser lodge from the Veliki Risnjak. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Risnjak National Park lies in the Gorski Kotar region. It is known for its thick forests and mountains. The park itself is located on the mountain of Risnjak and its peaks (such as Veliki Risnjak, Snježnik, Guslica etc.) are the most popular attractions, along with the source of river Kupa.
It contains rich and diverse flora and fauna, most notably the bird population and the lynx. It is located near the Rijeka-Zagreb motorway and thus can be easily reached from both cities.

Brijuni

English: Byzantine Castrum at Brijuni
English: Byzantine Castrum at Brijuni (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Located in the northern Adriatic, a few kilometers west of the Istrian peninsula. Brijuni is made of a fourteen small islands, praised for their natural beauties and preserved environment. The islands host more than six hundred indigenous plant species, an ethno park and the Safari park, with its autochthonous animal species. It also contains several archeological sites, since the islands have been populated since the Roman times. Also, there are around two hundred dinosaur footprints on the Veliki Brijun Island.

Mljet

Mljet at sunset
Mljet at sunset (Photo credit: jp3g)

Mljet National Park is located on the island of the same name. It is the southernmost of the larger Adriatic islands and the National Park lies in the western part of the island.

The area was proclaimed the National Park because of its unique ecosystem, such as the Great and the Small Lake, heavy forests, islets and the well-indented coast. The island of St. Mary, with its ancient Benediction monastery, and Polače archeological site, with ruins from the Roman times, make the Park a notable archeological focal point.

Kornati

Kornati
Kornati (Photo credit: zergu)

Kornati National park is a part of the Kornati Archipelago, a cluster of 140 islands in a sea area of about 320 square kilometers. The archipelago is the densest in the whole Mediterranean and its islands are the places of many natural beauties such as reefs, forests, lakes, as well as the home of many animal and plant species, including 69 species of butterflies.

Tourist agencies offer organized excursions to Brijuni, Mljet and Kornati national parks. Also, there are many boat charter companies, based in virtually every city on the Croatian shoreline, where you can rent a boat and explore these places by yourself.

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