As well as being home to eight stunning national parks, there are also twelve intriguing and beautiful nature parks in Croatia that are well worth exploring.
Plenty of information on the nature parks in Croatia (as well as the national parks) can be found on the Parks of Croatia website. You can also buy entrance tickets to some of the nature parks on that website.
Nature parks in Croatia are protected (natural) areas of land or sea, whilst national park status is given to an area deemed to have ‘extraordinary’ natural value with an ecosystem that requires protecting.
Biokovo Nature Park
On the slopes of Mount Biokovo just above the Adriatic by Makarska, the park offers lots of hiking opportunities with amazing viewpoints out to sea. The highest point is Sveti Jure (1,762m high), whilst Vosac peak (1,422m) is just under 3km away from Makarska town centre.
A Botanical Garden exists close to the village Kotisina exhibits some of the natural vegetation of the mountain. For animal life, there are also numerous species – from reptiles to goats and more.
Easy to reach from: Makarska, although unless you are a serious hiker, you may like to head towards the higher points by car. Organised travel to Mount Biokovo is also available – ask at a local agency.
Mount Dinara Nature Park
This is Croatia’s newest nature park – proclaimed so in February 2021 – bringing the new total number of nature parks in the country to twelve. The nature park includes parts of the Dinara mountain range (which also extends into Bosnia) – Mount Dinara, Mount Kamesnica and Mount Troglav and the upper part of the Cetina River. Mount Dinara is, at 1,831m tall, in fact the highest peak in Croatia.
There is a wide range of plant species in this region, and the area is also home to birds such as pheasants and eagles, plus bears, lynx and foxes.
Easy to reach from: A popular destination for experienced hikers and climbers, Mount Dinara Nature Park is not far from either Sibenik or Split although you would need your own set of wheels to come here.
Kopacki rit Nature Park
Located in the very east of Croatia, close to the border with Serbia, this park covers a wetland area (one of the largest in Europe, in fact) where the Danube and Drava rivers meet. The park is best visited by boat on one of the tours offered, which include about 1 hour on the boat as well as a guided tour about the park.
The park is home to a large deer population, and also numerous bird species. It is a birdwatcher’s paradise!
Bikes are also available to rent at the park if you’d like to explore further in this way.
Easy to reach from: Osijek is the nearest largest town to the park, and it’s just a short drive – about 15 minutes.
Lastovo Islands (Lastovsko otocje) Nature Park
This nature park in southern Dalmatia includes 46 islands, islets, rocks and reefs – the largest being the island of Lastovo. Established as a nature park in 2006 – making it the ‘youngest’ of all of the nature parks in Croatia – you can get to know the wooded Lastovo by hiking, walking or cycling, taking in the island’s viewpoints (including the highest point Hum 417m above sea level). The island’s bays and coves and even underwater caves and passages (for those keen on diving) are also worth exploring.
Should you be lucky enough to be visiting with your own boat, you can also explore the other nearby islands. Some excursions are also available on Lastovo itself.
Easy to reach from: Depends on your definition of easy! There are direct connections, year-round, from Split (and Hvar and Korcula) to Lastovo. There is also a year-round catamaran, but this only sails a few times a week. However, as one of the most remote islands in Croatia, there is a relatively long journey time to reach Lastovo.
- Lastovo Islands Nature Park official website
Medvednica Nature Park
On Mount Medvednica, just ‘above’ Zagreb, this is an wonderful area to explore as a day trip from Croatia’s capital at any time of year. 81% of the park’s area is covered by forest, and so temperatures are lower – a nice escape from the heat of the summer, or fun to visit during the snowy winter months!
You can also visit Medvedgrad Castle towards the slopes of Mount Medvednica – built in 1254, it was abandoned in 1590 following and earthquake. Zrinski Mine (created to extract silver in the 16th century) can also be explored, as can the first few hundred metres of Veternica Cave.
Biking, hiking and walking are all more than suitable, and there are also mountain huts to stay in (with prior arrangement) if you’d like to spend more time on the mountain. There are also a few restaurants and cafes for refreshment.
Easy to reach from: Zagreb! You can take tram numbers 8 or 14 to the northern end (Mihaljevac) and then number 15 to Dolje. You would then need to walk a fair amount to really get into the heart of the park; otherwise, you may consider a car for getting high up on Medvednica.
Papuk Nature Park
Centred around the Papuk Mountain in Slavonia, eastern Croatia, this 336 square km is immensely forested park is very suitable for visitors looking for a bit of outdoor adventure. There are numerous trails to explore with plenty of natural highlights, as well as 13th/14th century fortifications (most in poor condition, however). As at the park’s info centre for details on these paths – they vary in difficulty, and the more keen amongst you may like to explore the mountain paths. (Mountain climbing is also a possibility!)
Around the outskirts of the park you do also have other sights of interest – St Nicholas Monastery in the east and the Kutjevo historical complex in the southeast.
You can actually stay inside the park, at the campsite Duboka. Open from April to October each year, the campsite is set up to welcome guests in campervans/caravans, as well as those camping with tents.
Papuk was Croatia’s first entry on the list of UNESCO Global Geoparks.
Easy to reach from: If you’re exploring this region of Croatia, Papuk is certainly worth a stop. Otherwise, it’s about a 2/3 hour drive from Zagreb.
Telascica Nature Park
Located on the southeastern part of the island of Dugi Otok, Telascica has been a nature park since 1988. Centred around Telescica Bay and 13 nearby islands and islets, this nature park is a mix of contrasts – lush forests and barren areas, the bay with its numerous beaches on one side and steep cliffs rising high nearby. Telascica is also famously home to salt lake Mir, a 900m long lake just inland from the sea that only has a depth of 6 meters. The lake gets its salinity from from underground connections to the sea, as well as the Adriatic spilling over during very stormy weather. The lake is warmer then the sea during summer, and colder during winter.
The park is also home to numerous species of flora and fauna, both on land and in the sea.
Easy to reach from: Zadar! If you have your own set of wheels, take one of the ferries over to Dugi Otok and then drive down. Otherwise, ask locally in Zadar for an organised excursion by boat – which is a wonderful way of reaching this nature park.
This nature park takes in Ucka mountain range and part of the Cicarija mountain range as well. Ucka Nature Park is really one of the hikers amongst you – there are many wonderful trails within the confines of the park, as you can see from this page on the park website. For those that want to learn more whilst exploring, you can also join a guided tour, or even join the park’s rangers as they go about their daily activities. And for the even more adventurous, there are also plenty of routes suitable for mountain biking.
70% of the park is covered by forest, with beech trees being plentiful, as well as black pine and spruce trees. The highest peak is Vojak (1,401m above sea level), and Vojak Tower – originally built in 1911 but renovated in 2004 – is one of the symbols of the park. It now contains an information centre, shop, and observation deck. From here you have gorgeous views out over the Adriatic Sea and even over to Slovenia. There are also small villages (some inhabited, some not) dotted around which are interesting to visit, among some other sights.
It is even possible to stay within the nature park – as well as several mountain huts and small boarding house-style offerings, there is even a small but very smart 4 star hotel – the Hotel Draga di Lovrana.
Velebit Nature Park
The largest of all of Croatia’s nature parks, covering an area of 2,000 sq. km, this protected area includes two of Croatia’s national parks: North Velebit and Paklenica.
With numerous opportunities for hiking/walking, climbing and mountain biking, check out the recommended trails from the Nature Park’s info centre for the best way of exploring based on your ability/energy levels.
It is also possible to go rafting or kayaking on part of the Zrmanja River in the park, but only if organised through one of the tour companies.
The Cerovac Caves are also an interesting sight to visit (although currently close during 2019/2020 to improve visitor facilities). Normally open between April and November, 700 metres of the caves can be visited.
Also within the park is the gorgeous Zavratnica Cove, a 900m-long cove surrounded by cliffs of up to 100m high, highlighting the marked contrast between the deep blue sea and the grey stone of the cliffs.
Easy to reach from: Located as it is north of Zadar, this would be an ideal starting point for visiting. Again, visiting with your own car would be easiest.
Vransko Lake Nature Park
Vransko Lake – also called Lake Vrana – is just inland from the coast, between Zadar and Sibenik in Dalmatia. It is the largest lake in Croatia, at just under 31 square km in size, although the area of the nature park stretches beyond just the lake.
At certain points, the lake is just 1km away from the coast making for a very unique sight (particular from overhead – perhaps if you are flying in to land!). Some of the lake also lies below sea level.
The Park is an ideal place for keen birdwatchers – many different types can be sighted there, including four bird species that are considered endangered in Europe. If you look at the park’s complete bird species list, there are 261 different birds listed!
Fishing enthusiasts would also be very happy here – with a correct license and abiding by certain rules, fishing is possible in the lake (aside from the area deemed the ornithological reserve).
The lake can also be enjoyed by walkers on one of the numerous different trails, and cycling by the lake would also be a joy. You can also rent kayaks from the Prosika Info Centre at the southern end of the park.
Easy to reach from: Certainly from Zadar or Sibenik, or from anywhere in this part of north Dalmatia. However, the park is best reached by car.
Zumberak Nature Park
Established as a nature park in 1999, this park (actually “Zumberak and Samobor Mountains”) is located on the Croatian-Slovenian border. Covering an area of 333 sq. km, there are marked differences in the landscape of the park over this area – from valleys and wooded mountain ridges in the east to fields and meadows in the centre, to small hills covered with vineyards in the southeast.
Numerous small animals – birds, reptiles and amphibians – can be sighted in the confines of park, although bears and wolves can also be found here (although not all that often).
There are a number of accommodation offerings within the park area, including some lodges and mountain huts. (Most huts require prior arrangement to stay in them.)
There are numerous hiking trails, as well as some climbing possibilities. The park is also very suitable for cycling, and you can even rent one of the (small number) or e-bikes from the Visitor Centre in Budinjak. ‘Eco-Village Zumberak’ offers horse riding possibilities.
Easy to reach from: The park is about an hour/90 minute drive west of Zagreb. You could also reach it by public transport – take a bus from Zagreb to Samobor, and then another local bus from here to Slani Dol (where the main info centre is) or Budinjak, for example.