Best Hikes in Croatia – Lonely Planet

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Croatia is known for its beautiful coastline dotted with islands, but the country also has plenty to offer when it comes to hiking.

Embark on easy forest hikes just outside the capital, or trek through rugged mountain wilderness on multi-day hikes. Roam forested national parks for an up-close look at magnificent waterfalls and colorful lakes. Or climb colossal mountains for sweeping coastal views.

Croatia’s diverse hiking opportunities are the country’s best-kept secret. Here are five of the best.

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Discover the Plitvice Lakes in Croatia

For the best national park hike, visit Plitvice Lakes

5 miles (8 km) round trip, 4-5 hours, easy to moderate

The verdant water wonderland of Plitvice Lakes is the showcase of continental Croatia. With its dazzling array of 16 crystal-clear lakes, cascading waterfalls, limestone cliffs, deep gorges and shady forests, Croatia’s oldest and largest national park is a delightful place to roam.

Although lakes only make up 1% of the park area, they steal the show. The lesser known highlights of Plitvice are its forests of beech, fir, silver pine, spruce and hop beech. You can choose between eight different hiking routes that lead through forests and lakes; four from the park’s north entrance (Entrance 1), marked in green, and four from the south entrance (Entrance 2), marked in orange.

For a complete lake and forest experience, opt for Program C, a circular loop that starts at Entrance 1. Along the way you will see both the lower and upper lakes and their magnificent waterfalls. The route also includes a short excursion on an electric boat and a panoramic train ride back to the start.

It’s virtually impossible to avoid the crowds at Plitvice Lakes, which are on the bucket list at most Croatian circuits. If you start the lake cruise first thing in the morning, you might gain a chance to see the spectacular beauty before the hordes descend.

The forest trails and boardwalks get slippery, so wear sturdy shoes.

Northern Velebit National Park lies at one end of Velebit, Croatia’s highest mountain range © sinisaplevnik/Getty Images

Take a multi-day mountain hike on the Premužić trail, Velebit

35.5 miles (57 km), 3-4 days, moderate to difficult

The mighty Velebit mountain is a hikers dream: an untouched wilderness with alpine meadows, deep gorges and ancient forests where bears, wolves, deer and lynx roam. The Premužić trail, which starts at the Zavižan mountain hut and ends in the village of Baške Oštarije, meanders through this stunning landscape with no major climbs or descents, coupled with magnificent views of the coast.

Named after forest engineer and mountaineer Ante Premužić, who designed and marked this stone path, it’s an incredible work of craftsmanship, completed in 1933 without the use of mortar. The first 16 km (10 miles) takes you through the Northern Velebit National Park with its karst area of ​​rounded peaks and sinkholes and straight through Rožanski Kukovi, a landscape of white limestone cliffs, towers and domes. The trail continues to Velebit Nature Park, a biosphere reserve with 2000 species of plants, including some rare ones like the window campanula and the Croatian grass campanula.

You cannot camp in the wild on Velebit, but there are several mountain huts and shelters along the trail. Some are manned, quite cozy and serve meals (like Alan and Zavižan), while others are unmanned (Skorpovac). If you want the cozier option in a mountain cabin or refuge, book in advance; Velebit is quite crowded with hikers.

For an extensive multi-day adventure along this Croatian section of the Via Dinarica mega-trail, you can continue from Baške Oštarije to Starigrad Paklenica on the Adriatic state road and complete the entire Velebit hiking trail (approx. 100 km or 62 miles, nine days in total). ). Another option is to sign up for Highlander, a long-distance group hike across Velebit in five days through the Northern Velebit and Paklenica National Parks.

Picturesque view of the sea against clear blue sky
Vidova Gora is the highest peak on the island of Brač with a height of 850m © Milos Stanojevic / EyeEm/Getty Images

For an unparalleled island hike, climb Vidova Gora, Brač

6.6 miles (10.6 km) round trip, 3-5 hours, moderate

The Golden Cape (Zlatni Rat) beach on the island of Brač is the most photographed beach in Croatia. It is an exquisite natural wonder of fine pebbles spewing into the Adriatic Sea in a triangular shape. Seeing this beauty from the highest point of all Croatian Adriatic islands, Vidova Gora (778 m/2552 ft) is worth every hot minute of the hike.

The path to the top begins in Bol, the charming seaside town on the south coast of the island. Begin your ascent along a road that leads to the quarry above the town. (Brač is known for its white limestone, which was used in the construction of many famous buildings around the world, including parts of the White House in Washington, DC.) The road gradually turns into a marked rocky trail through karst terrain and patches of pine forest , with a slow and steady incline and some switchbacks as you approach the ridge at the top.

The reward for the climb is the panorama of Vidova Gora. And it’s a treat: you see Zlatni Rat jutting out into the sea, as well as the island of Hvar and Biokovo mountain on the mainland. After descending back to Bol, a dip in the crystal clear Adriatic Sea is a worthy conclusion. To avoid the glare of the midday sun, you should hike either in the early morning or in the late afternoon.

Croatia-Dubrovnik-Antonio-Batinic-shutterstock_1856029756-RFC-min.jpg
Nothing beats the view from the top of Mount Srđ © Antonio Batinic / Shutterstock

See epic views of Mount Srđ, Dubrovnik

4.7 km (2.9 miles), 1 hour, easy

The postcard-perfect view of Dubrovnik’s walled Old Town is unbeatable from the summit of Mount Srđ (pronounced “Surge”), which rises steeply from the shore at 412 m (1352 ft). While you can hop on the cable car and be up in seconds, hiking to Srđ adds a whole new dimension to the experience as you’re working for the view.

To give the hike that extra something, head out in the late afternoon or early evening so you can enjoy the sunset from above. The light makes the view amazing: golden hues bathe the terracotta roofs of the old town while the sun sinks into the sea far out on the horizon.

You can start in Dubrovnik’s Old Town, which adds about 30 minutes to the walking tour. Otherwise, take bus 17 from Pile bus stop to the trailhead (get off at Bosanka bus stop). The trail is well marked and starts out as a gravel path through shady pine forests and then turns into a switchback route on rocky terrain up the mountain. Along the way, check out the brass reliefs on the hairpins depicting the 14 Stations of the Cross. This is a popular Easter pilgrimage.

As you zigzag up the hill and admire the views, keep an eye out for tricky loose rocks. Bring a headlamp or flashlight for the hike back down. Otherwise, get a one-way ticket to ride the cop-out cable car back down.

Medvedgrad Castle seen from the top of Mount Medvdnica
Medvedgrad Castle on top of Mount Medvdnica overlooking Zagreb © xbrchx /Getty Images/iStockphoto

Escape the city on Medvednica Mountain in Zagreb

2.1 miles (3.4 km), 2-3 hours round trip, one way

Rising above Zagreb like a green frame from the north, Mount Medvednica is the favorite retreat of locals from the hustle and bustle of the Croatian capital. Its highest peak is Sljeme at 1035 m (3396 ft) above sea level and offers stunning views of the city below. The entire western part of Medvednica is protected as a nature park and includes almost 180 km² of dense forests, including Pannonian beech, silver fir and sessile oak, and 1205 species of plants. Bears once roamed these forests, hence the mountain’s name (‘medvedi’ is Croatian for ‘bear’); Today you will find wild cats and wild boar, 70 species of breeding birds and 24 species of bats.

Medvednica Nature Park has 70 mountain trails for all fitness levels and hiking styles. The Miroslavec educational trail, also known as hiking trail 13, is one of the best easy hikes in the area. It was built in the late 19th century by a count named Miroslav for his wife who loved to roam these forests.

The trail begins at the Šestinski Lagvić restaurant in the Šestine neighborhood and meanders along the Kraljevec stream to the Queen’s Fountain. Along the way, check out informative displays explaining the area’s unique geology, such as green rocks and shale. At weekends, Medvednica swarms with hikers; Days of the week tend to be gloriously empty.

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