What to expect in Paklenica National Park, Croatia

So, we were in Zadar where we did a walking tour taking in the culture and history of Zadar city. We saw the 9 interesting places to see in Zadar. Now we had a full day in our itinerary to take a trip to Paklenica National Park and Island of Pag.

Reaching there.

Paklenica National Park is just less than an hour away from Zadar.. So if time is not your concern, this day trip is a must. It is located inland, a bit far from the coast – the nearest coast to the Park is the Starigrad.  But if you are based in Zadar, it is possible to do a day trip easily. It is 47 km from Zadar, If you have not rented a car then there are buses available too from Zadar to take you to the park.

About The Park…

It is located on the south of the Velebit mountain range- the largest in the country of Croatia. It has two limestone canyons – Velika (Big) and Mala (small), Karst rock formations, caves, flora, and fauna, wildlife like deer and bears. The park is also home to birds like falcons and eagles. It is a protected area because of the geological aspects and wildlife. There are many hiking trails as well as cycling tracks for those not interested in walking and hiking. The hiking trails vary according to the difficulty level. You need to research on the park website as to which trail you will want to take and plan accordingly. The park has few villages, none of which are inhabited now.

Paklenica National Park Croatia

Paklenica park is famous amongst mountaineers for beginners-you will find large groups come especially for climbing. Again there are many trails for mountain climbing depending on the difficulty level. There is the beginner, middle and advanced level of mountain climbing. But it is better to do mountaineering under the supervision of a professional climber.

Beginners Mountain climbing

The Weather

The best time to visit the park is from early spring to early autumn. We were there in the last week of May and yet it had rained heavily just a few days before we reached the park. So one must take a look at the weather report before the hike. When we checked, it showed rains in the latter half of the day, so we made sure we had reached the base camp by 3pm.

What to carry

A small haversack.

Fruits and some snacks

water bottle

a thin jacket

waterproof jacket



The Trail

The park was crowded so much so that the parking was not available nearby. Consequently, we had to halt our car and make our way to the park on foot. A little ahead of the entrance is a busy cafe serving fuel for tired mountaineers. I loved the look of the cave- cafe in the mountain – a cave turned into a cafe.

The park has 150-200 km of trails and paths. We took the one which will take us from Velika Paklenica Canyon to the Manita pec cave and the mountain hut. The hike up the mountain feels strenuous initially, but later you get comfortable with the climb. We saw streams turning into tiny waterfalls, amazing lavender plants along the trail, with many other herbal plants. The park has more than a 1000 species of flora and fauna. The canyons are well covered with black pine trees, the sight of which made us euphoric.

Canyons of Paklenica National Park
Paklenica National Park

As we were hiking, we saw beautifully colored butterflies playing along our trail as if welcoming us. You will find a variety of birds along the way, but somehow we missed seeing many of them as we were too involved in devouring the fascinating canyons which looked all the more colossal as we went higher. We were only too happy when we did not cross paths with bears or foxes. The park has its share of wildlife like fox, bears, wild cats, deers, and lynx.

The Cave

The cave, Manita pec, is open till 1pm on certain days of the week. So you need to enquire the days on which it remains open from the park website. But it remains open every day from July to September.

The cave is popular for geological aspects – stalagmite formations. It seems you can find a number of different bat species inside, thus you will require a tour guide to show you around for which it is charged extra. The cave tour takes around 20 minutes- we were informed.

Manita pec cave known for its karts formations and bats
Manita pec cave

We reached the cave a little short of 10 minutes to 1pm but we were confronted by closed gates. Our tour guide called out for the cave guide but in vain. Nobody answered!! Well, we settled ourselves on the rocks around, had cherries and peaches and water with the most breathtaking view of the canyons one can have.

There is a mountain hut too for those who would like to stay overnight here but will have to carry their own sleeping bags, water, food, etc. It is open from June to September and has 50 beds.

After gorging over the canyons, capturing ourselves in the camera and going on being happy with the enchanting scenery, we started our descent.

The descent down was very interesting as we stopped a lot to take pictures and enjoy more of the flora.

You need to be careful in rains as the mountain trail is very rocky and can get very slippery at times.

The rocky trail
The rocky trail

The cave – cafe

After the descend, it was time for some re-fuelling in the cave- cafe that looked inviting.

It did not have much to kill our appetite, but coffee can do more than that- refresh you. We enjoyed our coffee next to the stream where tables were laid out. Another beautiful stop to take in nature’s best.

The seating arrangement by a stream of water opposite the cave cafe.

The cave cafe and the seating arrangement for refreshments.

Paklenica National Park is a wonderful park and can be reached easily from many major cities of Croatia like Zagreb, Rijeka, Split, Sibenik.

So if possible, visiting it will definitely take one of the best parks of Croatia off your bucket list. It took us just about half a day to complete our trek and come back to our car park.

Our next half day will be spent on the island of Pag. Read about it in the coming blog.

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