If you are a nature lover, adventure – seeker, enjoy hiking and are interested in Croatia´s fauna and natural heritage, than Paklenica NP might be your choice. Me and my partner we are true nature lovers, and for our spring break we chose to travel to Croatia. Read why croatia is the perfect spring trip destination. Being only 47km north (northeast) from Zadar it makes an excellent day trip option. Our first full day in Croatia started with a bus ride and the following 6 h fitness test.
About the park
The Park is south of the Velebit range of mountains (the largest in Croatia) and covers an area of 95 square km and consists of 2 dolomite limestone canyons called Velika (big) and Paklenica & Mala (small). National Park Paklenica was proclaimed protected area in 1949, while the entire mountain Velebit has been listed as UNESCO biosphere reserve since 1977.
Did you know?
The Velebit is part of the Dinaric Alps which also runs through other Balkan countries and reaches its highest point in Bosnia and Herzegovina?
It has a mixture of high peaks with stunning views, deep gorges and beech and pine forests. The Park is an ideal place to visit for the adventurous – well known between alpine climbers and hikers. They even have an annual speed climbing competition on 1st of May, we were a few days early tho.
Getting to know Starigrad
Starigrad is a coastal small town/village only 40 min away from Zadar. You will be going along the Adriatic Sea with dazzling crystal clear water and a view of nearby Pag island. Once you arrive you will see a camping. There are several shelters in the park which are designed for those who are doing several day trekking up until one of Velebit summits. The highest, Vaganski peak, reaches 1757 m.
By public transport
If you go by public transport – bus is the only option, count with 1 hour. When I was searching for the timetables, they were never matching in the web. One thing is sure – in high season buses are more frequent. We caught a bus at 11 am. The bus stop is on the main road – near the gas station, you should speak with the bus driver, so that you know when you should leave. From there it is still a 20 min walk until the entrance.
If you use your car, there are two parking fields – one at the ticket house and the other right next to the beginning of the trail.
The entrance price is 5 eur per day, or more for several days (low season price). From the entrance you still need to walk 15 min until you reach the second parking – which is where the “normal people” start off.
Our adventures and activities
Be ready to feel every inch of your lower body! The park is huge, green, full of trees and trails all over the place. The main trail – the one that goes up until the mountain hut takes roughly 6 h. You will be hiking along a river full of freezing cold water that’s quite refreshing actually. By the time we reached the actual trail, we were left with only 4h hike.
We were moving slowly, enjoying the wilderness. A couple of hours later we reached a forest coffee place that serves drinks and some light meals. We could finally have a well deserved rest and eat our prepared lunches, then we headed back to the entrance.
Highlights – rescuing an injured bird and hitch-hiking
That’s something we ended up doing. On the way back we found an injured bird. We couldn´t leave it behind, he was struggling with its wing half broken. We decided to bring it to the entrance or give it to one of the park rangers. I held the bird in a cloth, he was trying to escape. Finally we met a ranger, showed the bird. He didn´t speak English, but with pity on his face picked a paper bag from a trash container. Then he put the bird in the bag… and draw away. Well… we did our part, hopefully the bag with the bird inside didn’t return to the garbage. We reached the entrance and were exhausted. Joana laid down on the bench, I saw a car with park rangers stopping and about to leave, I asked for the ride and we were lucky! The park rangers were kind and saved us a 20 min walk. Trust me – after a day long hiking it is fortune.
Tip: even if they don´t speak English – everybody understands the international hitch-hiker sign. Thumbs up!
Activities recommended for the full experience
- Rock climbing, alpinism // For those who want to try, they offer rock climbing lessons. From what we saw, the locals gather there in late afternoon, walking around in flip-flops and climb in groups – just a few steps from the entrance.
- Manita peć cave // A trail starts in Anića luka toward the west side of the canyon. To reach it you have to leave the main trail and walk half an hour to the west. In low season it is open only on Saturdays and only during certain time – it’s a paid, guided tour.