Dayhike and Explore Croatia’s Seacoast, Islands and Mountain Parks

Croatia: sun-drenched seacoast and islands, inland parks with expansive lakes, waterfalls and limestone mountain ridges along the Dinaric Alps, forests where truffle-hunting dogs unearth treasures, and cities and towns where ancient history resides side by side with modern comforts. The country offers many long and short trails for hiking along with amazing beaches for relaxing and water sports, excellent food and museums, and ancient, compact walled towns perfect for exploring.

Croatia is one of those very appealing places in the world where white sand beaches, sapphire water and hundreds of islands along its many miles of sunny Adriatic and Dalmatian coastline, are juxtaposed against the steep karst mountains of the Dinaric Alps just inland.  Scattered through these mountains are parks and trail systems to appeal to visitors from relaxed wanderers to seasoned long-distance backpackers.  Among the many spots that can appeal to walkers are:

  • Plitvice Lakes National Park, with wooden walkways meandering along its network of 16 interconnected turquoise, blue and grey lakes interspersed with dozens of waterfalls. Best for day-tripping
  • Krka National Park, a river and waterfall paradise and biodiversity hotspot that is home to over 850 different types of plants. The highlight of the park is Skradinski Buk, an expansive lake with beautiful waterfalls at both ends.  In the center of the lake is Visovac Island which features the Krka monastery (you can take a boat to the island!).  The park features a variety of mostly shorter trails that are perfect for day hikes.
  • Mljet National Park is named for the island where it is located. The park features two saltwater lakes – Veliko and Malo Jezero (Large and Small Lake). In the center of Veliko Lake is an islet called Sveta Marija with a 12th-century Benedictine monastery which can be reached by boat.   Mljet island now has a 43-km long dedicated hiking trail that is split into four shorter routes which can be done as day trips with great views over the Island, neighboring islands and neighboring sea channels.
  • Risnjak National Park. The 1528-meter mountain for which the park is named is located in the Gorski Kotar region of the Dinaric Alps, the most mountainous and forested area in Croatia.  From the park entrance it takes about 3 hours each way to walk to the top of Risnjak. There is even a mountain hut just 100m below the summit!  The ridge descending from the peak slopes away on both sides, providing stunning panoramic views of the Adriatic sea in the background against the surrounding grey-white rock and green trees.  Brown bears, deer, wolves and wild boars may be seen here.   The park features 7 other peaks over 1300m that are great for walkers and hikers.
  • Paklenica National Park is marked by steep cliffs and gorges, and a mountain ridge with stunning views. With over a thousand plant species in the area, it is a biodiversity hotspot and home to a number of endangered and rare birds that nest among the rocks.  The park offers about 200 kms of marked hiking trails, the most popular being the ones that run in the two huge canyons, Velika and Mala Paklenica (Big and Small Paklenica).  The park also features some of the best climbing in Southeast Europe with routes of varying difficulty levels.
  • Sjeverni Velebit National Park encompasses the Velebit Mountains, the largest range in Croatia and a UNESCO Biodiversity Preserve. Craggy peaks, canyons and caves abound, intermixed with the ruins of old lodgings that have succumbed to the harsh climate.   The 57-km Premužićeva Trail crosses the park and features mountain huts along the way.  But hikers beware:  that the park has the largest annual rainfall in Croatia with an average of 50% of extremely wet days, snow that can linger for 7 months or more, a weather station that has the lowest temperature in the whole of Croatia, and the bora, an easterly wind that can even reach a speed up to 185 km/h. 
  • Ucka Nature Park on the Istrian peninsula features coastal karst mountains clothed in deep evergreen forest. The highest peak Vojak (with several trails to the top) provides stunning views of the Croatian Riviera and sea below, though much of the trail is along or near roads.  Less developed parts of the park provide more solitude and wild nature through beech forest.
  • Biokovo Nature Park’s lower slopes provide many paths and trails through olive groves, vineyards and pine forests, as well as craggy limestone peaks that loom over 1500m and offer sweeping panoramic views from the ridge above. The highest peak in the park, Sveti Jure (Saint George), is 1,762m high and there is a spectacular walking route from the village of Veliko Brda (a road also goes to the top).   Interspersed among the peaks and cliffs are a number of caves to explore as well as a rich array of fauna and flora including over 1500 types of different plant species. 

As well as several other highlights along its coastline that shouldn’t be missed:

  • Pelješac Peninsula: Jutting out from the Dalmatian coast around 30 miles north of Dubrovnik, the Pelješac Peninsula extends gracefully into the Adriatic Sea.  This bite-sized peninsula (just 40 miles long) includes picturesque towns like Ston, with of the longest fortification walls in Europe, salt flats that are still in use and open for tours, and sleepy Orebić, the center of a thriving wine industry – and some of the best seafood to be found in Croatia!  This quiet, sparsely traversed peninsula is perfect for navigating on a bike, and the Svet Ilija mountain range just north of Orebić is great for hiking.
  • Korcula island: Korčula is one of Dalmatia’s most relaxing getaways. The main town of the same name, has one of the best-preserved medieval centres in the Adriatic.  Korčula is scattered with small villages and hamlets filled with centuries-old stone buildings.  The sun beats down from March to early December, and swimming off the rocky shoreline is superb.   Hiking and biking is lovely between the island’s beaches and picturesque settlements, through its vinyards and farmlands (and catch a wine, olive oil or honey tasting along the way!)
  • Hvar Island is a posh sun-drenched island getaway that serves up a laid-back Mediterranean vibe rich with history. Visitors are presented with opportunities to hike along ancient goat paths to abandoned villages, sunbathe in beautiful turquoise coves, rent a boat to go kayaking or snorkeling, bike along dirt roads, and dine on abundant Adriatic seafood. The hiking and bicycling paths of Hvar go through olive groves, lavender fields, vineyards, up over peaks, and along quiet bays.  The highest point on the island is St. Nikola, and rom the summit you’ll be rewarded with views of Hvar, the Dalmatian Coast, and surrounding islands. The you can climb back down to Sveta Nedjelja to see the hidden cave church and the renowned vineyards of Hvar that lie on the steep south-facing coastline. Continue down to have a wine tasting at Zlatan Otok, and cool down in the waters below.

Croatia’s ancient walled cities are also a fascinating way to spend  time – including Split (with Diocletian’s Palace and Trogir Cathedral), Dubrovnik with it’s impressive city walls, Poreč and its Euphrasian Basilica, well preserved Roman ruins in Pula, Salona and Zadar, and Ston with its defensive walls dating back to the 1300s.

GETTING TO CROATIA

The quickest, easiest and cheapest way to get to Croatia is by plane. Zagreb, Pula, Zadar, Split  and Dubrovnik airports handle the majority of scheduled and charter flights from Europe and North America.   Croatia is also a part of the Eurail system and there are direct train lines from Austria, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Germany, Hungary and Slovenia.  Passenger ferries also can bring people to Croatia from various cities in Italy.

  • Suitable Activities: Day Hiking, Global Adventures, Backpacking
  • Seasons: Year-round, April, May, June, September, October, November
  • Weather: View weather forecast
  • Difficulty: *Varies*
  • Land Manager: Land Manager Varies
  • Parking Permit Required: see Land Manager
  • Recommended Party Size: 12
  • Maximum Party Size: 12
  • Maximum Route/Place Capacity: 12
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Global Adventure - Dayhike and Explore Croatia’s Seacoast, Islands and Mountain Parks

Global Adventures & Day Hiking Trip
This 15-day hotel-based day-hiking adventure (55 miles, 13,000 feet of gain) samples nearly the full
Difficulty: Strenuous
Sat, Sep 23, 2023 - Fri, Oct 6, 2023
No Prerequisites, Leader's Permission Required
2 participants on waitlist
Registration closes Jun 1
The Mountaineers Branch
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