I’m a country girl at heart and although we have visited many stunning towns and cities in Croatia, I will remember the country in blues and greens… for its coastline and its national parks. With such a long stretch of coast, which is dappled with more than a thousand Islands, the warm aqua Adriatic Sea has never been far away.
The visibility is amazing in these crystal-clear waters,
so snorkelling has been a dream. I even plucked up the courage to go diving again after 5 years. With the sunlight penetrating the surface, it was an underwater delight to find schools of Anchovy’s, strange looking cuttlefish swimming through the sea grass and large crabs scuttling across the sea bottom. But Croatia has much more to offer than its coastline and a visit to one of Croatia’s 8 national parks takes you into another world, a green world which is also full of water. You will be in awe, there is no question about it. We visited 3 national parks whilst we were here and I would recommend you add them to your bucket list now, if you haven’t done so already!
The oldest national park in Croatia, Plitvice Lakes National park
is a UNESCO world heritage site, and a magnificent gift from nature, unlike anything I have ever seen before. Situated between the mountains of Mala Kapela and Ljesevica it attracts more than 1 million visitors a year, so, it’s very busy. There are 16 turquoise coloured lakes interconnected by waterfalls ranging from 25 to 78 meters tall. The water in Plitvice has eroded rocks over the millennia, and the dissolved calcium carbonate has sedimented to create a porous stone, or ‘travertine’ forming barriers (falls and cascades) between the lakes.
This ‘travertine’ or ‘tufa’ also coats and petrifies trees which have fallen into the lakes. So, as you walk on the boardwalk trails which wind across the lakes, cascades and waterfalls and peer into the clear turquoise water there is another world beneath…one where petrified trees and leaves form an underwater forest. Brown trout gather to face the current, bright blue butterflies and dragonflies’ dart across the surface and birdsong echoes in the forest. Around every bend is another beautiful view and despite the throngs of tourists, if you can stop for a moment and take in the view, listen to the water and to the forest, here is a place that you can be at one with nature.
In Plitvice mother nature blew me away and reminded me just what a wonderful world, we live in…. this park is a definite 10.
We bought a 2-day ticket and spent our time wandering around the marked-out walking trails……but come early, by midday busloads of tourists had arrived, stopping at every conceivable spot for selfies!
I visit Krka National park as a day trip from Trogir.
The park is focused around the Krka river and has 7 impressive waterfalls. It’s like Plitvice in that there are outlaid promenade board walks and paths, but here you can also take a dip in the lake’s cool clear waters at the base of the striking Skradinski Buk waterfall.
I’m picked up from our campsite early and delighted to be greeted by 4 ladies from Paisley in the minibus. It’s been a while since I’ve heard Scottish voices (apart from John’s obviously) and even longer since I’ve had female company. So, we have a good natter on the bus, and enjoy some girlie banter!
After boarding the boat at Skradin we glide across one of KrKa’s emerald green lakes
and arrive at the Skradinski Buk trail. As a day trip my time here is limited and there is so much more to see in the park; 47km of walking and 470km of biking trails, 6 more waterfalls, 2 traditional watermills, 5 medieval fortresses, a roman military fort, 2 monastery’s and an island in the middle of one of the lakes! So, next time I will have to come for longer!
The final park we visit is Kornati National park,
which is a spectacular archipelago of 109 mostly uninhabited islands, islets, reefs and craggy rocks scattered like jewels over an area of 320 square kilometres. So, we need to do visit by boat from Zaton.
As we glide along the water the early morning sun dances across the surface of the ocean like a symphony of sparkles.
In contrast the island terrain, karst-limestone is dry and dust yellow and there is little vegetation to be seen. These islands arose from sediment from the sea many millennia ago, forming stark, almost lunar like bizarre shapes, unexplored caves, areas of flat rock and towering cliffs. It’s a sailor’s paradise.
Below the surface there is a seascape of caves, tunnels and walls that host an incredible variety of marine life, an underwater diver’s paradise too. We stop at the south-eastern end of Dugi Otok, in the Telascica Nature Park near Mir Lake. This Salt Lake is fed by the sea which seeps in through underground cracks. We swim in the water, which is always at least 6 degrees warmer than the sea and walk to the cliffs reaching height of 166 meters on the other side of the island.
After a late lunch onboard, we slowly head back criss-crossing through the islands, the wind in our hair.
I sit here writing this blog as the sun sets and watch a luminous green Italian wall lizard as it scuttles across our path and a blackbird couple, who frequently join us for the evening, dart in and out of the bushes with their necks stretched forward, collecting grubs and extra nesting material for their family. And I reflect on what a truly wonderful world it is that we live in. I believe that we are the custodians of this planet, and as such have a responsibility to protect Earth and to limit the damage, we as humans are inflicting on it. There are changes we can all make individually, but we need to work together at a global level and start taking our responsibilities more seriously. Spending time in these national parks has underlined how amazing our planet is and has given me some hope for its future. We can protect our natural habitats and wildlife in the parks, so with a big effort surely we can start making a difference on a larger scale…….maybe I’m just a dreamer, and sometimes dreams come true.