Over the past two decades, the number of tourists who flock to Croatia each year has steadily risen. In 2018, 18.6 million people visited the small Balkan republic, more than double the number that came just seven years before.
Most of these tourists come in the summer and are destined for the country’s impeccable coastline, where picturesque villages full of ancient architecture – some dating back to Roman times – overlook white pebble beaches and the turquoise blue waters of the Adriatic Sea.
Top Outdoor Activities in Croatia
Aside from swimming in the summertime, Croatia is chock-full of other excellent outdoor activities that are best experienced in the shoulder seasons of autumn and spring. At these times of the year, the prices have subsided from summer highs and the weather is perfectly suited for spending the day outdoors.
There are a number of great ways to explore Croatia’s incredible natural beauty in the shoulder seasons, below are just five of the top outdoor activities.
Situated on the country’s central coast, roughly 30 miles from the city of Zadar, Paklenica National Park boasts some of the best rock climbing to be found in Croatia.
The small section of the Velebit Mountains, often hailed as Europe’s last true wilderness, offers more than 500 routes composed of high-quality limestone karst. Everyone from first-time outdoor climbers to experienced pros will find the perfect route in the picturesque national park.
The park is composed of two gorges, the Velika Paklenica and Mala Paklenica, however only the former allows rock climbing.
Velika Paklenica is perfectly oriented for climbing all day, with different parts of the canyon walls exposed to the Mediterranean sun at different times of day.
Kayaking in the Adriatic Sea and the Žrnovnica River
Running from the Mosor Mountain Ridge down to the Adriatic Sea, the Žrnovnica River is a great place to head for a kayaking adventure.
With mostly calm waters and expansive views over the Dalmatian coastline, just outside of Split, heading out to paddle on the river is the perfect way to spend a spring or autumn day. Visitors to the river have plenty of options, from exploring Epetium, one of the oldest cities in Croatia, to paddling from the river out into the sea.
For those unable to make it all the way down to the coast, Karlovac, a small but lively city nestled into the Croatian highlands not far from the country’s capital, Zagreb, is another great kayaking hub. At the confluence of four tributaries of the Danube, paddling on any one of them provides excellent views of small waterfalls and the autumn foliage of the surrounding native woodlands.
Hiking in Europe’s Last Wilderness
Yes, not only is Paklenica National Park the ideal spot for a rock climbing trip, but a hiking one as well.
Heading out on foot is a great way to explore the various canyons that compose the national park as well as gain some altitude in a different manner.
Hiking through Velika Paklenica canyon and ascending up to the top of Anica Kuk (2,335 feet) is one great way to get panoramic views out over the park. On the way, hikers will pass mountain meadows and crystal-clear spring waters too.
Away from Paklenica, Croatia’s Dinaric Alps boast plenty of other great hiking opportunities. Risnjak National Park, known as the lungs of Croatia and sitting not far from Zagreb, is another great way to be at one with nature and explore some of Croatia’s most gorgeous scenery, especially when the leaves change in the autumn.
Running from Peruca Lake down to the Adriatic Sea, the canyons on the Cetina River present plenty of excellent opportunities for all sorts of great outdoor recreation.
The deepest part of this river canyon is located nearby the idyllic village of Zadvarje, just an hour west of Split. Heading here is the best way to take advantage of the area’s natural splendor and enjoy an action-packed day of watersports.
While the river winds through the coastal highlands for 64 miles before reaching the sea, this section is perfectly suited for hiking, swimming, sliding down rapids and even the option of cliff jumping.
Trail Running in Paklenica
Everyone knows that running is always better with a view and Paklenica National Park is the perfect place to get just that.
Complete with about 100 miles of trails leading up into the mountains as well as through the two main canyons, touring Paklenica on foot is the best way to experience the national park’s forests and unique geomorphologic structures.
While the terrain can be a bit rough and the running quite intense – expect an average trail running day to cover a distance of 15 miles and gain a total of 3,600 feet in elevation – the views and feeling of seclusion in this pristine wilderness are well worth the effort.
Drawing up plans to head to Croatia this autumn or next spring? Check out Explore-Share.com, an online booking platform for guided adventures worldwide, where you can find different options for an outdoor adventure in Croatia with a local certified guide.