Thursday, 7 February 2013 9:00 AM
Croatia is famous for its historical cities – like Dubrovnik and Split – as well as stunning natural areas both along its coast and inland. Its natural attractions in particular make it perfect for all kinds of walking holidays.
One of the great things about Croatia's landscape is that there are challenging hiking routes, as well as less-strenuous options, which means the destination can cater for all kinds of travellers.
Companies like Explore Worldwide run trips to the nation, giving you the chance to visit various parts of Croatia on a single tour, rather than having to base yourself in one place. An eight-day walking tour of the country starts from £649 without flights.
Here is some information about the protected natural areas in Croatia, which is one of many reasons why the destination lends itself so well to hiking getaways.
Croatia is home to eight national parks, which have helped preserve its rugged natural beauty. This not only gives you plenty of locations to choose from when going walking, but also provides a series of safe havens for the region's flora and fauna.
There are several protected species found within Croatia, including the brown bear, griffon vulture, white stork and wild horses, which are found in the Posavina region. It isn't only the wildlife that is worth seeing, though, as the landscapes can be very spectacular. Here is an overview of some of the country's top national parks.
• Paklenica – Although Paklenica is only small (just 96 sq km), it boasts some stunning scenery. Within its boundaries are the Velika and Mala Paklenica gorges, the latter of which you'll have the chance to explore on foot. Paklenica is also home to sites of historical interest, like the stone monuments to the dead known as Mirila.
• Plitvice – This UNESCO World Heritage Site is renowned for its beautiful lakes, waterfalls and caves. There is a network of paths – including boardwalks – to give visitors access to the waterfalls, while you can also travel around the reserve in a noiseless electro-powered boat or on a panoramic electric train. Make sure you take a walk to one of the higher vantage points that will give you amazing views across the lakes and waterfalls that Plitvice is so famous for.
• Krka – This national park was formed around the river of the same name, which boasts seven stunning waterfalls and numerous landmarks of historical importance. Among them is the Franciscan monastery on an island in the middle of the river and several old mills that once used the power of the water to grind wheat.
In addition to the national parks, Croatia is also home to 11 nature parks, each of which has its own charms. Among the places you can visit on a walking holiday in Croatia are:
• Biokovo – Located on the central Dalmatian coast, Biokovo is where several 1,500 m high mountains tower above the sea. There are numerous hiking trails in the region, allowing you to enjoy the tree-covered mountain slopes and soak up some stunning views.
• Ucka – This nature park is renowned for its fascinating limestone rock formations that attract mountaineers from all over the world. The canyon of Vela Draga is one of the best places to walk if you want to see how natural forces have shaped the landscape over the years.
• Lonjsko polije – This is the biggest nature park in central Croatia, covering some 506 sq km. It is also one of the largest preserved wetlands in Europe and is a haven for birdlife, with more than 250 species recorded in the area. However, it is the storks that nest on the roofs of houses that attract the most attention.