National parks in Croatia: Paklenica

It is generally known that Croatia has been one of the most popular holiday destinations for Austrians for many years. On the one hand, this is due to the good connections, which means that you can reach the sea from Austria in just a few hours and enjoy the Mediterranean flair to the full. On the other hand, it is also due to the fact that Croatia is an incredibly versatile country that has a lot to offer its guests. Be it in terms of cuisine, history, culture or nature. The latter is particularly characterised by the impressive national parks, which invite you to explore them.

I would like to introduce one of them to you in more detail today: The National Park Paklenica.

It is located in the region of Dalmatia, about 50 km north of the historical city of Zadar and has an area of 96 m². The area is situated between the coast and the highest peaks of the Velebit Mountains, Vaganski Vrh (1,757 m) and Sveto Brdo (1,753 m). The deep gorges Velika Paklenica and Mala Paklenica form direct access from the mountains to the sea.

Flora & Fauna of the National Park Paklenica

The National Park is a scenic jewel that attracts many visitors from all over the world every year. The natural landscape here shows itself in all its impressive diversity: over 800 species of plants, 400-metre-high rock faces, grottos and caves as well as imaginative rock formations. However, the national park consists not only of the typical karst landscape but also of often densely wooded slopes and rocks. Here you will find above all the typical Mediterranean pine trees, which grow unusually high due to the prevailing climatic conditions and the composition of the soil.

The national park is also home to over 200 bird species, such as the protected short-toed eagle and the griffon vulture. There are also numerous reptiles, such as the poisonous horned viper and the adder. The park also provides a habitat for the protected brown bears, wild cats, wolves and lynx.

Special highlights & sights

The visitor centre offers extensive information about the “Underground City of Paklenica”. In the Velika Paklenica gorge, there are underground tunnels, also called “bunkers”. These paths used to be top secret and today history is visually illustrated. In the 2nd part of the Visitor Centre, the guests can get information about the first climbers in Paklenica. The centre is open from 01.05. to 30.09.

The canyon Velika Paklenica is about 14 km long and between 500 – 800 m wide. At the narrowest passage, the gorge is only 50 m wide. To the left and right there are mighty rock walls rising up to 700 m high. This is also one of the entrances to the national park. Here you can buy your tickets and park your car.

With a length of 12 km, the canyon Mala Paklenica is not as big as Velika Paklenica. At the narrowest point of the gorge, which is 10 m wide, the rocks on both sides measure up to 650 m in height. This is the 2nd entrance to the park, which is located directly in front of the Mala Paklenica gorge in Seline.

The Manita pec cave is the only one in the whole area of the National Park that is open to visitors. Since 1937 tourists have been able to marvel at the uniqueness of the formations. In addition, various species of bats have settled here. To date, 52 species have been recorded! The entrance to the cave is about half an hour’s walk from the Velika Paklenica car park.

There are several nature trails in the National Park Paklenica. The most famous one is the Velika Paklenica nature trail. This path leads from the Velika Paklenica gorge to the mountain hut. Along the route, there are several educational boards informing the visitors about the natural conditions and cultural monuments.

The Paklenica Mill is situated by the Velika Paklenica stream, where 13 mills were built in the 19th century. Today none of the mills is still in operation. However, this mill has been restored and prepared for visitors.

The Lugarnica Forester’s Lodge is an inn situated directly by the brook in Velika Paklenica on the route of the main hiking trail. From the car park, you walk for about 4 km until you reach the forester’s house. The forester’s lodge is open during the day from May to October.

Leisure & Sport

Enthusiastic hikers get their money’s worth in the National Park Paklenica on a total of 200 km of signposted hiking trails. To visit the most important sights in the course of a hike, the circular routes are the best suited. A large number of information boards and signposts show the right way. A hiking map is also available on request at the entrance.

If you want to reach high altitudes, this is also the right place, because the National Park Paklenica is the most important climbing centre in Croatia and is known far beyond the country’s borders. Today there are about 500 well-marked routes in different levels of difficulty. The most famous climbing wall is “Anica Kuk” with a length of 350 m. The climbing season runs from spring to late autumn.

In addition, every year at the end of April or beginning of May the international meeting of climbers takes place in the National Park Paklenica. Various competitions are offered, in which the participants can compete against each other. There are competitions for adults, but also especially for children.

At the same time, a film festival is also held in the park. This can easily be seen as an evening programme after the competitions during the day.

The National Park can also be wonderfully explored on a bicycle. The 8 km long route from Starigrad to Reljani, for example, is ideal for this. The nature trail “Short journey through history” can be explored both on foot and by bicycle. The trail is equipped with a total of five educational boards, on which the history of the area from prehistoric times to the present is vividly presented.

Worth knowing & tips

Film lovers who are familiar with the locations of Winnetou films in Croatia will already be familiar with the area. The most famous filming location of the film series is indeed the Plitvice Lakes National Park. However, only scenes for “A Treasure in Silver Lake” were shot there. Most of the Winnetou films were actually shot in the National Park Paklenica. In honour of Winnetou, there are different events on this subject every year.

The National Park Paklenica has two entrances, which are about 3 km apart.

The entrance in Starigrad is the main entrance, as the path leads right through the large canyon Velika Paklenica. There are several parking facilities at the entrance. Worth seeing right at the beginning of the national park is the Paklenica Mill and the Velika Paklenica gorge. Entrance 1 is ideal for hikers who want to walk to the mountain hut Paklenica, the forest hut Lugarnica or the cave Manita pec.

The southern entrance to the National Park is located in the suburb of Starigrad, in Seline. The hiking trail leads through the smaller canyon Mala Paklenica, where there are several caves. This entrance is ideal for guests who want to hike to the peaks of Sv. Brdo and Vlaski grad.

The National Park Paklenica is unfortunately not barrier-free. The only exception is the path from the main entrance of the National Park to the gorge Velika Paklenica (length: about 2 km).

Dogs are allowed in the National Park Paklenica, but all dog breeds must be kept on a leash. Some dog breeds must also wear a muzzle.

In the National Park, it is possible to go to the Paklenica mountain hut or to one of the shelters, to spend the night there or to seek shelter in bad weather.