A Road Trip Through Croatia’s National Parks

On the road again!

When we originally booked our trip to Croatia, we planned on taking a small charter plane from Split to Istria, the northernmost region of Croatia. But the longer we were in Split, the more we kept hearing about how incredible Croatia’s National Parks are, and how we just had to go.

Truth is, Pat and I really, really don’t like flying as it is. And flying on small planes ranks right up there with getting a root canal. So needless to say, it didn’t take much arm-twisting (or money, thankfully) for us to change our plans.

So off we went on our road trip to Krka Waterfalls and Plitvice Lakes!

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Getting to Krka National Park 

Krka National Park runs along the 45 mile-long River Krka, which extends from the Adriatic Sea near Šibenik (shi-behn-ick) through the mountains of inland Croatia.

There are five main entrances to Krka National Park: Skradin, Lozovac, Roški Slap, Krka Monastery and Burnum– all of which are easily accessible by car.

If you’re coming from Split, you’ll want to head to the entrance at Skradin. If you’re taking your own car, it will take about an hour and 15 minutes, door-to-uh…waterfall.

If you don’t have your own wheels, another option is to grab the daily bus from Split Airport or the Split Bus Station to Šibenik. From there, you can take another bus to Skradin. The entire trip should take you about an hour and 45 minutes.

Either way you get there, you’ll enter the park from Skradin via ferry. The ferry departs every 10-15 minutes from a dock off the main street in Skradin (you can’t miss it, and if you do, the biggest building in town is the tourist agency. They’ll help you).

We recommend setting aside a little time to walk around Skradin while you’re there– it’s a beautiful little marina town with great places to grab a bite to eat before or after your visit to the park.

The ferry ride is free, and the trip takes about 20 minutes to get to the park entrance.

You disembark at the ticket office, so make sure to bring your money with you. That should go without saying, but there was a group in front of us who apparently assumed that since the ferry was free, they wouldn’t have to pay to enter the park. You have to pay to enter the park. They had to sit at the dock and wait for the ferry back to Skradin. Don’t be those people– you ALWAYS need money. Click here for operating hours and prices.

After living in Colorado for the last for years, Pat and I are sort of, like, National Park snobs. In the beginning, Krka was a little anticlimactic – it looked like any other nature preserve. But once we made our way along the hiking trail to the waterfalls, that all changed.

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The lakes, caves and waterfalls of Krka National Park are formed in limestone that becomes travertine, which only grows about one centimeter every year.

So, this place has been growing for a really, really long time.

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Water is constantly flowing all around you. Whether it’s rushing down the waterfalls or just quietly moving through the woodlands and marshes, it was one of the most serene and unique places we’ve ever been.

Until we went to Plitvice Lakes.

Plitvice Lakes National Park

From Skradin, it was a little less than two hours’ drive to Jezerce, a small village right outside the entrance to Plitvice Lakes. We spent most of the day at Krka, so we didn’t arrive in Jezerce until the evening.

If you have extra time, we highly, highly recommend spending a night here. The Croatian countryside is absolutely beautiful– the landscape, the fresh air, the smell of nature– all amazing.

We stayed at a fantastic Bed & Breakfast called ‘Villa Verde‘. It’s a small guesthouse with less than a dozen rooms. When we arrived, we were excited to see other guests gathered on the patio outside, enjoying a cocktail and watching the sunset – it was nice to be around other tourists after spending so much time pretending to be locals in our apartment in Split.

The room was immaculate. The hosts were incredibly knowledgeable about the area and helped us plan our visit to the Lakes for the next day. There aren’t a ton of amenities in the area (i.e. food) so the best part about Villa Verde is the GIGANTIC breakfast – eggs, pastries, jams, cold cuts, crepes, cheeses, fruit, yogurt… you name it, she’ll cook it.

Heaven.

If you choose to stay at Villa Verde, which we recommend that you do, book with this link to get $20 off. And make sure you double check whether your room is paid in full before you get there, because if not, you need to bring cash. Everything is done by hand in the guest book and they don’t take credit cards. But if you do forget, there’s an ATM a few miles away…. because we forgot.

Plitvice Lakes was the most beautiful place we’ve ever been.

No, really.

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Every single photo you take looks like a postcard from Peter Pan’s Never-Never Land.

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The Park is made up of sixteen crystalline lakes that tumble into one another through a series of waterfalls. There are 10 miles of wooden footbridges that wind their way around and across the flowing water, as well as heavily forested trails that run from lake to lake.

It takes about six hours to explore the lakes on foot, or you can save some time by utilizing the Park’s free boats and buses. If you have limited time, the upper lake section can be completed in two hours. The lower section takes about three. The recommendation: if you do both, start with the bus ride and end at the ferry dock to save yourself a climb at the end of the day.

Unfortunately, swimming isn’t allowed here because of its UNESCO World Heritage designation. (But you can swim at Krka!)

Click here for operating hours and prices.

Getting to Plitvice Lakes National Park 

As I mentioned before, if you’re coming from Split, our recommendation would be to spend the night nearby the park. Jezerce is a five-minute drive from one of the main entrances, and it costs seven kuna per vehicle to park (about $1).

Although there are companies that do offer day trips to Plitvice from Split, I wouldn’t do it. It’s an incredibly long day (about 12 hours) with about half the time, or more, spent on a bus. Although the buses in Croatia are great, they aren’t that great.

If you’re coming from Zagreb or Zadar, a day trip is totally doable. Buses run regularly from both towns to the park, or it’s about an hour drive by car.

Now for the question everyone has been asking…

Obviously, we wholeheartedly recommend visiting both parks during your stay in Croatia. But, if we could only pick one, we’d go with Plitvice Lakes. Hands down. Krka was amazing, but Plitvice is just on an entirely different level.

Off to Istria!

We headed back toward the coast to make our way up to Pula, the largest town in the Istrian region of Croatia. We opted for the slightly longer, more scenic route, which took four hours.

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Istria is our last adventure in Croatia. We’ll be exploring several different towns in the region over the next several weeks, including Pula, Rovinj, Novigrad and Porec.

Most importantly, we’ll be getting as many world-famous Istrian truffles as we can get our hands on 🙂

Cheers!

–PS

 

 

 

4 thoughts on “A Road Trip Through Croatia’s National Parks

  1. John Baker AKA Popa Bear says:

    Really beautiful. Trying to pronounce these names in my head is a trip. Once I tried out loud. I’ll just wait until ya’ll are back! Hurry

    Like

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