The national park is a vast and primarily unaltered area of exceptional natural value, including one or more preserved or insignificantly altered ecosystems.
When you read most tourist blogs, articles and posts about Croatia, you probably notice that there is one thing most writers love to accentuate – its adversity on a pretty small space. You read about the coastline, the mountains,meadows, islands and plains, all in extreme vicinity and it’s just up to you where you’ll go. This is particularly true when we talk about natural landmarks and protected areas such as nature parks and national parks. Some of the most famous Croatian national parks are located in the region of Dalmatia and can easily be visited by daily tours from Split. Even some parks in other regions such as the mountainous region of Lika and the national parks of Plitvice lakes and Velebit can be visited in less than 24 hours from Split. But if you don’t want to spend a lot of time on the road, but rather enjoy your time in the national park somewhere in the nature, then Krka National Park is the best choice. It is also the best value for money tour since it can be reached cheaply and conveniently on a minibus or bus tours from Split. But first things first…
Where and what is National Park Krka in Croatia?
Krka is a river flowing in the region of Dalmatia (South Croatia) or more precisely in the Sibenik-Knin County, which borders with the Split-Dalmatia County. A county is simply an administrative term, while the region of Dalmatia is a geographical term. In terms of proximity to Split, Krka is located near the city of Sibenik, only about 1.5-2 hours from Split, depending which road you take. If you prefer driving along the coast it might take a bit longer, but you can reach it also from A1 motorway which is the fastest and the most convenient way to reach both Sibenik and the National Park Krka. If you’re wondering what it is so special about this river, then brace yourselves for some scientific details about the unique terrain, cascades and the slopes of the Krka River.
A quick Google search could give you many interesting information about the river and the park, but we will give you the gist of its extreme beauty and success. National Park Krka is located on a total area of 109 square kilometers (25,6 square kilometers of water) and includes a part of Krka River and a small part of Cikola River although most people think all they see is only the river Krka. The unique beauty of Krka River is achieved thanks to the karst terrain, forming cascades and slopes with seven waterfalls and a total drop of altitude of 242 meters. The river Krka is almost 73 kilometers long, sometimes gently and sometimes rather abruptly flowing to its mouth near a small town of Skradin and the Adriatic Sea. The entire national park is a specially preserved ecosystem and the main role of the park management is to preserve this ecosystem for future generations, but allowing people to enjoy visiting the National Park Krka and treasure its unique beauty. The most specific phenomenon of Krka River is the travertine waterfalls which we will further describe in the post.
Nature of National Park Krka
We cannot describe the river Krka without talking about travertine builders which have formed Krka inall its glorious beauty. Basically, growth of travertine barriers occurs only in calcium carbonate over saturated waters with water pH greater than 8. It also needs to include a low concentration of organic matter to be able to form famous travertine waterfalls. It is also important that these conditions are found in faster running waters, such as Krka River. To achieve that you need to have variations in height along the river. It is all connected… More water under high temperatures produce more algae; more algae produce more vegetation; more vegetation provides more shade, thus helping create new travertine surfaces.
Seven waterfalls of National Park Krka
These are the seven highest waterfalls of river Krka: Rosnjak (8,4 m); Brljanski waterfall (15,5m); Bilusica buk (19,6 m); Miljacka waterfall (23,8 m); Roskiwaterfall (26,5 m); Skradinski buk (45,7 m); Manojlovac (59,6 m). Themost famous and longest travertine barriers are not necessarily the highest waterfalls, so we will present the two most popular waterfalls/travertine barriers – Skradinski buk & Roski waterfall.
Skradinski buk – without question one of the most famous images and photos of the National Park Krka are the images of Skradinski buk, the seventh, final and longest travertine barrier on the Krka River. Skradinski buk was created by a merger of Krka and Cikola rivers over 17 long steps along the 800 meters in total length and 45,7 meters in total height.The width of all cascades varies between 200 and 400 meters and you can visit up close this amazing natural creation on a wooden trail along Skradinski buk. There are two ways to reach Skradinski buk, so your driver will drive you either to the Lozovac main entrance to Krka National Park or from the town of Skradin.
Roski waterfall – this is the sixth waterfall on the river Krka, known for its cascades. Here the canyon forms a funnel shape with many small cascades and islands. The total length of the entire travertine barrier is about 650 meters.Total height of the waterfall is 26,5 meters. The last cascade falls into the famous Visovac Lake. Both on Skradinski buk and Roski waterfall many old mills have been preserved and restored; some were turned into souvenir shops and restaurants. You can reach Roski waterfall by road, or even better with a boat from Skradinski buk.
Besides cascades and waterfalls there are many interesting caves and pits all around the National Park Krka, perfect for speleology lovers. Some of the most famous caves are: Miljacka cave, Torak Lake pit, Ozidana Cave and Jazinka cave.
Archeological findings in National Park Krka
Besides natural beauty National Park Krka is a very important Croatian archaeological site with some of the most ancient monuments in this area. The aforementioned Ozidana cave is a very important “in situ” museum of a prehistoriclocality with evidence of human settlement. The cave is located on the left bank of the river Krka and is 59 meters long, 7 meters wide and 2,5 meters high. You can enter the cave and walk along the path of the cave. Ceramic artifacts have been found in 1988, tracing the human presence in this area all the way back to the Neolithic and Bronze Age from about 5000 BC to 1500 BC.
Roman military camp Burnum is the most famous archaeological discovery in this area next to Ozidana cave. The military camp was erected by a Roman army in the 1stcentury AD in the village of Ivosevci and you can walk among its ruins even today. This was strategically a very important spot and the perfect place for the Roman military who occupied this area. After the army had left the military camp gained status of a town. It even had an amphitheater, aqueduct, place of worship and roads. Amphitheater could have accommodated between six and ten thousand people and was a gift from the famous Roman Emperor Vespasian.
Medieval fortresses and monasteries in NationalPark Krka
If you want to explore other historical sites in this area then visit several medieval fortresses on the river Krka. These fortresses have mostly been built from the 14th century, and they are among some of the most important ruins of this category in Croatia. The most important ones are Kamicam, Kljucica,Troselj… This area was an important border during the Middle Ages and a perfect place for settlements of Croatia’s noble families of that time. Today you may mostly see only ruins of walls and towers at the edge of a canyon of the river Krka.
Besides historical buildings and their ruins you may visit important sacral buildings within the borders of National Park Krka, such as the Franciscan Monastery on Visovac Island and the monastery of the Holy Archangel in Carigradska Cove. Visovac Island is located on Visovac Lake and you can reach it by a short boat transfer inside the park. The full name of the monastery's the Franciscan Monastery of Our Lady of Mercy, and the Church of Our Lady of Visovac. This island and its monastery have been incredibly important during tumultuous centuries of Croatian history.Inside the monastery there is a very valuable archaeological collection, a collection of historical church cloth and dishes, and arch library with many valuable books and incunabula. The most important piece of art with the utmost meaning and importance to the Franciscan order is a painting of Our Lady of Visovac, brought by the Franciscans from Bosnia. The monastery of the Holy Archangel in Carigradska Cove is thought to be a gift from a noble woman called Jelena Subic, a very important Croatian historical figure. This monastery belongs to the Orthodox Dalmatian Eparchy that is seated in Šibenik. Monastery includes a church in the shape of a Byzantine building with a dome. Here you may even visit ancient Roman catacombs since they are open to the public. There is also a library containing many historical books and incunabula within the monastery.
The town of Sibenik near the National Park Krka
Most tours to the National Park Krka include a visit to the ancient Croatian town of Sibenik, located near the national park. Sibenik has a special place in Croatian history - this was the first town founded exclusively by Croatian people, since most towns on the Adriatic coast have been founded by Romans or Greeks as their colonies. The town of Sibenik is a town of exceptional beauty and is like most towns on the Croatian coast shaped and formed by its terrain. The town is known for its stone paved streets, old medieval town center with charming streets and stone houses. The promenade Riva and the fortresses surrounding Sibenik are the perfect enclosure of this magnificent town. By far the most important historical building and monument in Sibenik is the cathedral of St. James (St. Jakov in Croatian), made entirely out of stone. One of the main builders and sculptors of St.James' cathedral was Juraj Dalmatinac, who is considered to be one of the most talented sculptors and architects in the Croatian history. The cathedral has been on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list since 2000. This Renaissance beauty is actually a triple-nave basilica with three apses and a dome which is 32 meters high. Besides Juraj Dalmatinac or George the Dalmatian (or Giorigioda Sebenico), some of the most talented and famous artists and architects of that time were involved in the construction of the cathedral at some point. Definitely the ones most worthy of a mention are Bonino da Milano and Niccolo di Fiorentino. Already judging by their names it is clear that Italian Renaissance influence has been strongly present. That is also why the presence of a native artist and architect (born in Zadar when it was Venetian) has been accentuated, not without merit. Some of the most important elements of the cathedral are Lion’s Gate – the main portal at the entrance to the cathedral, the dome of the cathedral and sculpture of St. Michael, Renaissance putti (baby angels), human head sculptures around the cathedral and the baptistery.
Other Croatian national parks in Dalmatia
If you are staying in Split and want to visit more than National Park Krka, there are several other parks that you can visit within 24 hours from Split. Getting to the National Park Krka is definitely the most convenient national parkour, since it includes a rather short drive, diverse sites and isn't expensive, but if you can spare more time and money, visit more than Krka. Two national parks that you may visit from Split are National Park Kornati islands in the region of Sibenik and Zadar, orthe National Park Mljet which is also an island and is located inDubrovnik area. You can visit Mljet by driving to the Peljesac peninsula and then taking a boat to Mljet, or you may take a ferry from Split. The timetable is a bit tricky, so it is always better to take a private tour and be back in Split by evening, because otherwise you would have to sleep on Mljet. Mljet is a wild island with little human settlement in comparison to other Dalmatian island sand has very rich vegetation. It is known for its thick forest and lakes on the island where you can enjoy bike riding or canoeing. The other national park is Kornati archipelago. You may drive to Sibenik and Zadar and then take a boat tour around the archipelago, have a swim and then drive back to Split once you disembark the tour boat.This is much easier than visiting Mljet, but these two parks are completely different so it is not possible to compare them.
If you don’t mind a bit longer drive and are a huge nature lover, then by all means don’t miss out on amazing National Park Plitvice Lakes in the region of Lika. It is a bit further from Dalmatia in a completely different climate and scenery but is definitely doable in a day and is very popular among tourists coming to Croatia. This tour, although the furthest away, is much simpler to organize than tours to the national parks of Kornati or Mljet, because it doesn’t include switching between cars, buses and boats.But it really always comes down to how much time you have and how much you want to visit a certain natural wonder.
As we have said before, Croatia is quite small in comparison to other European countries, and not even comparable to other big countries in the world, but its unique shape and position made it exquisite and versatile. On such a small territory you can jump in the sea, have a bike ride among the plain sand hike the highest mountains with snow in August, all in one day.This is also why it is good to include a tourist agency in your vacation planning even if you come here by yourselves. You can simply send your wishes, skills and affinities and inquire about the best way to spend your active holidays in Croatia. Even if you’re a couch potato the rest of the year and want to spend most of your vacation in Split lounging on the beach or by the pool, but still want to visit some important sites, you can simply book a ticket to a National Park Krka and have experience chauffeurs drive you to the park and a certified guide walk you through it. Oh, have we mentioned that it is allowed to swim and cool off inside the Krka River? So, don’t forget to pack comfortable shoes for wooden paths around the river slopes and cascades and a bathing suit for a swim in Croatia’s number 1 national park. If you get hungry there are also restaurants within the National Park Krka with authentic food and great wine to quench your thirst after a nice walk and a swim.