If you are in search of the ultimate outdoor vacation getaway, Croatia should be high on your bucket list. While this Adriatic country is renowned for its sandy beaches, its walled cities and its vibrant festivals, it also is home to some amazing nature parks and reserves. The scenery is lush, colourful and idyllic, the perfect escape you have been craving—and a great chance to break in those new hiking boots.
Where should you head to in Croatia if you want to take in the country’s most spectacular natural wonders? Here are our top recommendations for hitting the trails.
This rugged island is located in the Kvarner Gulf. It is crisscrossed by over 300 kilometres of trails. As you trek over Cres’s hills and walk along its beaches, you will discover caves, ancient hamlets, and more.
Most stunning is Lubenice, which is a fort city dating back around 4,000 years. Located on a ridge, it offers a wonderful view of the sea. Actually, unlike some of the abandoned villages you may discover on your hikes, Lubenice is still inhabited. According to the latest data from UNESCO, around 24 permanent residents call it home.
You should also hike to Beli. This settlement is also around 4,000 years old, and can be explored quite quickly as it is very small. The view from the hilltop where it is located is breathtaking, and while you are here, you can look for griffon vultures, a protected species which finds sanctuary in the old town.
Another island which makes for excellent hiking is Šolta. Šolta is a bit off the beaten path, which is a good thing if it is peak season and you are trying to get away from the crowds.
While you are here, you should take the hike up to Vela straža, a 237 meter high summit which is the island’s highest point. You will be able to enjoy many amazing views as you climb, and the view from the very top has to be seen to be believed.
While on the popular island of Brač, you have another opportunity to hike to a high summit for a beautiful overlook. Brač’s highest point is called Vidova Gora. From the top, you can get a commanding view of the island of Hvar as well as the lovely Golden Horn Beach.
Another hike to consider is Dragon’s Cave. This is not for the faint-hearted; you will be climbing 300 metres over the course of an hour, so it features quite a steep, intense grade. Once you arrive, you can check out a mysterious archaeological site which might have originated in either of the 4th or 15th century (no one seems sure, just as nobody knows why it was constructed or what its purpose might have been). There are beautiful carvings there which tell a mystical tale which currently is open to interpretation.
4. Biokovo Mountain Nature Park
Not far from the city of Makarska, you will find the Biokovo Mountain Nature Park. The lower parts of the park feature vineyards, olive groves and evergreen woods. As you climb higher in elevation, you will find yourself on limestone ridges overlooking land and sea.
There are a couple of mountain peaks to summit here. The first is Vošac, which rises 1,421 metres and which is only a couple of kilometres away from Makarska. The second is Sveti Jure (“Saint George”), which rises to 1,762 metres, making it the highest point in the park. Hike the top and you can see a chapel dedicated to Saint George.
In Split, you can take an urban hike through the winding streets of a magical city like no other. Along the way, you will find lots of boutiques and restaurants where you can shop and dine. When you are ready, hike through pine forests up Marjan Hill. The summit stands 178 metres over the city and features a picturesque view of the area.
The park’s history spans back through the centuries; indeed, it was originally established by Emperor Diocletian, who needed a recreational zone for the estimated 8,000-10,0000 people who lived in his tremendous palace. While you explore its trails, you will stumble across a number of historical sites, including a 13th century church dedicated to St. Nicholas, and a 15th century church dedicated to St. Jerome.
6. Krka National Park
This park’s name is derived from that of the Krka River, which runs through it. You will find the entrance several kilometres northeast of Šibenik. Because the land here has been so well-protected, you will encounter more than 800 species and subspecies of plant life on your hikes here. This is also a fabulous place to watch birds such as ospreys, golden eagles, and peregrine falcons.
While you are in Krka, be sure to check out Skradinski buk. This is the most popular feature in the park, a gorgeous pool of crystal clear water with a waterfall and a set of cascades. You can also visit another set of cascades called Roški Slap, and take a tour on the island of Visovac, which features a historic monastery.
Conclusion: Croatia is a Paradise for Hikers
Now you know some of the most exciting locations where you can hike during your Croatia charter cruise. Any one of these ideas can provide you with hours of enjoyment, and some of these spots are so beautiful they will make you wish you could stay for days. Indeed, you will probably find yourself marking down trails on your map which you didn’t find time to explore—which will be the start of your itinerary the next time you come back to visit the Dalmatian coast!