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A guide to Croatia’s natural wonders

A guide to Croatia’s natural wonders

Croatia has been blessed with an extraordinary natural beauty. For a small country, it manages to pack incredibly diverse landscapes within its eight national parks, 12 nature parks, nature reserves and geoparks. Then there are the 1,000 or so islands dotted around the Adriatic, making Croatia one of the most appealing countries for an island-hopping tour.

The mighty Dinaric Alps snake their way throughout the entire length of the country, while inland and coastal regions abound with sparkling rivers, waterfalls, lakes, wetlands, canyons and caves. The wildlife is just as enchanting, with more than 400 bird species and protected animals including lynx and brown bears.

Croatia’s first national park is also one of its most spectacular. Plitvice Lakes National Park is a wondrous collection of more than 90 lakes and countless waterfalls plunging into clear rivers, all within a vibrant limestone landscape. Venture into the remote upper lakes and you might see signs of lynx lurking in the forests.

Plitvice Lakes National Park is a stunning collection of 16 named lakes and countless waterfalls

(Source: CNTB / Luka Esenko)

A rival for Plitvice’s waterfalls is Krka National Park, whose Krka River produces magnificent cascades including the so-called Necklaces near Roški waterfall. If you follow the Krka to its source, you’ll find one of the most vivid sights in Croatia. Nicknamed the Eye of the Earth, the source dazzles you with its deep shades of turquoise and blue. To add to the bewitching setting, it sits near the foot of Croatia’s highest peak, the 1,831m Dinara.

Carry on following the route of the Dinaric Alps for more drama, including the thick forests of Risnjak National Park near the Slovenian border and the stark beauty of the Velebit Mountains that make up both Paklenica and Northern Velebit National Parks. Hike to the peaks of Učka Nature Park on the eastern side of the Istrian peninsula and you’ll get fabulous views of the islands of the Kvarner Gulf, including Krk and Cres, where you’ll also find a rare colony of griffon vultures. Hanging off the bottom of Cres is the fragrant island of Lošinj, home to a colony of bottlenose dolphins.

Expect stunning views from the village of Lubenice on Cres

(Source: CNTB / Ivo Biocina)

In complete contrast to the soaring peaks of the Dinaric Alps, parts of inland Croatia have some of the lushest landscapes, particularly in the wetlands of Kopački Rit and Lonjsko Polje Nature Parks. Here in these serene…

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