Paklenica National Park is located in northern Dalmatia, Croatia, near the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea. It is nestled between the Velebit mountain range and the picturesque coastline, offering a beautiful blend of sea and mountain landscapes.
How to get there?
To get to Paklenica National Park, you should first fly into Zadar Airport (ZAD), the nearest international airport. From there, you have two main options for reaching the park: by car or by bus.
If you choose to rent a car, the drive from Zadar Airport to Paklenica National Park takes about an hour. Head north from Zadar on the Adriatic Highway (D8), which runs along the coast, until you reach the village of Starigrad-Paklenica. From there, the park entrance is just a short distance away.
Alternatively, you can opt for public transportation by taking a bus. From Zadar’s main bus station, you’ll find buses running regularly to Starigrad-Paklenica. The journey takes approximately 1.5 hours. Once you arrive at the bus stop in Starigrad-Paklenica, it’s just a brief walk to the park’s entrance.
History of the Park
Paklenica National Park is located in Croatia and was established in 1949. It covers an area of over 95 square kilometers and is located on the southern slopes of the Velebit Mountains. The park is home to two impressive gorges, Velika and Mala Paklenica, as well as a diverse flora and fauna.
The park has a rich history, as traces of human settlement date back to prehistoric times. The area was once inhabited by the Illyrians and later by the Romans. In the Middle Ages, the gorges of the park served as a hiding place for criminals, and later the area was known for its charcoal production.
In the 20th century, the park became a popular destination for hikers and climbers, who were attracted by the breathtaking scenery and challenging terrain. Today, the park is a protected area that is home to over a thousand species of plants, dozens of bird species and various mammals such as brown bears, wolves and lynx.
Attractions of the Paklenica National Park
First of all, the trails are out of this world! You can explore over 150 kilometers of well-marked trails that will take you through different landscapes, from rugged canyons to dense forests and the Velebit mountains. You’ll admire the ever-changing landscape around you as you walk along the trails.
And if you like climbing, you’ll get your money’s worth! Paklenica is known for its fantastic climbing opportunities, with more than 360 climbing routes on the limestone cliffs. I means that whether you’re just starting out or you’re an experienced climber, you’ll find a challenge to suit your skills.
A must-see in the park is the lovely Manita Peć Cave. It’s filled with fascinating stalactites and stalagmites, and you can join a guided tour to learn all about the cave’s history and the unique life that thrives inside.
When you’re ready to experience the local culture, head to the nearby village of Starigrad-Paklenica. Here you’ll find friendly locals, delicious Croatian cuisine and cozy accommodations. This way you can immerse yourself in the authentic atmosphere of the area.
Don’t forget to spend some time by the sea as well! The park is just a stone’s throw away from the beautiful Adriatic coast, where you can relax on the pebble beaches, swim in the crystal clear water or just enjoy the sun.
For animal lovers, Paklenica National Park is a treasure trove of biodiversity. Look out for the elusive lynx, various bird species and the rare plant Velebit degenia, which is found only in this region. There’s also the Velebit Botanical Garden, where you can learn even more about the park’s flora and the importance of protecting this unique ecosystem.
Hiking in Paklenica National Park
Paklenica National Park is best explored on foot to experience all it offers. With over 150-200 km of trails and paths, many options exist for hikers of all levels. Some of the most popular trails are the tourist trails that lead to popular attractions such as the Velika Paklenica Gorge, Manita peć cave, Lugarnica forester’s lodge and Paklenica mountain lodge. For those looking for a more challenging hike, there are also trails leading to the highest peaks of the Velebit mountain range.
The trails in the park are easy to find, with red and white signs marking the way and information boards at trail junctions. If you want to walk the suggested trails, consider the time to return from the route.
To help you plan your route, we recommend the interactive hiking map of Croatia. Here you can download the gpx tracks of all marked trails and find additional information about the park’s trails.
Overall, hiking in Paklenica National Park is a must for anyone who wants to explore this beautiful region on foot. With so many trails, you will find the perfect hike for your abilities and interests.
Activities suitable for families, seniors, and people with disabilities
One activity we loved was visiting the Velebit Botanical Garden. It’s a beautiful place that showcases the park’s diverse flora, and it’s an easy walk suitable for all ages and abilities. You’ll learn about the various plant species native to the Velebit mountain range and the importance of preserving this unique ecosystem. It’s both educational and enjoyable!
We also recommend taking a scenic drive through the park. This way, you can admire the stunning landscapes without having to hike or climb. There are many viewpoints along the way, where you can stop, take in the views, and capture some fantastic photos. This is an excellent option for seniors or people with disabilities who may have difficulty navigating the park’s trails.
Another activity we think you’ll enjoy is birdwatching. The park is home to a wide variety of bird species, making it an ideal destination for bird lovers. It’s a peaceful and relaxing activity that everyone can participate in, regardless of age or physical ability. Don’t forget to bring your binoculars and a bird guidebook to help you identify the different species!
People looking for accommodation near Paklenica National Park often ask us for recommedation. So we’ve picked out three options for you. Each one has its own unique charm and style, so let’s dive right in!
First up is Pansion Kiko, located at Dr. Franje Tuđmana 14, 23244 Starigrad-Paklenica. This family-run guesthouse offers a warm and welcoming atmosphere, making you feel right at home. The rooms are clean and comfortable, and some even have balconies with beautiful sea views. Plus, it’s just a short walk away from both the park and the beach, so you’ll be perfectly situated for all your adventures.
Another great option is Bluesun Hotel Alan, which you can find at Dr. Franje Tuđmana 14, 23244 Starigrad-Paklenica. This hotel is right on the beachfront, giving you easy access to the Adriatic Sea. The hotel has a variety of amenities, including an outdoor pool, a spa, and a buffet restaurant serving delicious local cuisine. Staying here will give you that extra touch of comfort and relaxation after a long day exploring the park.
Last but not least, we recommend Camp Plantaza, situated at Ivana Pavla II 9, 23244 Seline. If you’re into camping and being close to nature, this is the perfect spot for you. The campsite is well-maintained, with clean facilities and friendly staff. It’s located near both the park and the beach, giving you the best of both worlds. Plus, you’ll have the chance to meet fellow travelers and share your experiences around a campfire!
Our first recommendation is Bistro-Pizzeria Dinko, located at Dr. Franje Tuđmana 112, 23244 Starigrad-Paklenica. We absolutely loved their pizza and pasta dishes, made with fresh, local ingredients. They also serve a variety of tasty seafood options, and the laid-back atmosphere makes it the perfect spot for a casual meal after a day of exploring the park.
Next up is Restaurant Pece, which you can find at Dr. Franje Tuđmana 221, 23244 Seline. This family-owned restaurant serves delicious traditional Croatian cuisine, with a focus on fresh seafood and grilled dishes. We really enjoyed their homemade bread and olive oil, as well as the friendly service. The cozy setting and lovely views of the sea make it an ideal place to unwind and enjoy a hearty meal.
Lastly, we want to tell you about Konoba Marin, situated at Dr. Franje Tuđmana 137, 23244 Starigrad-Paklenica. This charming little tavern offers a wonderful selection of local dishes, including succulent lamb and octopus prepared under a bell-like iron lid called a “peka.” The staff here are incredibly welcoming, and the rustic atmosphere adds to the authentic dining experience.
When is the best time to visit the park?
The park is beautiful year-round, but the most popular time to visit is between May and October when the weather is warm and dry.
Is there an entrance fee for the park?
Yes, there is a small entrance fee, which helps support the park’s conservation efforts. The fee may vary depending on the season and your age, so it’s a good idea to check the park’s website for the latest information.
Are there any guided tours available?
Absolutely! There are guided tours of the Manita Peć cave and other outdoor activities led by local tour operators. You can find more information online or by asking at your accommodation.
What should I bring with me to the park?
Make sure to pack comfortable clothing, sturdy walking shoes, sunscreen, a hat, and plenty of water. Don’t forget your camera, as you’ll want to capture the beautiful scenery!
Is the park suitable for families with children?
Definitely! There are plenty of family-friendly activities and attractions within the park, such as easy hiking trails and the educational Velebit Botanical Garden.
Are there any facilities for people with disabilities?
While some areas of the park may be challenging to access for those with mobility issues, there are still many attractions that are accessible, like the Velebit Botanical Garden and scenic drives with viewpoints.
Can I bring my dog to the park?
Dogs are allowed in the park but must be kept on a leash at all times. Make sure to clean up after your pet and respect the park’s rules.
Where can I find accommodation near the park?
There are several options in the nearby village of Starigrad-Paklenica, including guesthouses, apartments, and hotels. You can also find campsites in the area if you prefer a more nature-oriented stay.
Are there any dining options nearby?
Yes, there are a variety of restaurants and eateries in Starigrad-Paklenica and the surrounding area. You’ll find everything from casual pizzerias to traditional Croatian cuisine.
What is the best way to get to the park?
The easiest way to reach Paklenica National Park is by car, but you can also take a bus from nearby cities like Zadar or Split. Once you arrive at the park, there’s plenty of parking available near the entrance.
Is there a mountain hut?
Yes, there is. It is situated alongside the Velika Paklenica stream, approximately 6 km from the main parking lot. If you decide to walk directly to the Hut from the parking lot, it should take you about 2 hours to arrive on foot.