There is no doubt that the Adriatic Sea along Croatia’s coastline is a stunning stretch of water. Throughout the day, the crystal clear seawater ranges in color from cobalt blue to turquoise, varying in intensity depending on sunlight and depth. But Croatia’s appealing aqueous beauty isn’t exclusive to the shore. Flowing rivers and teal lakes in the interior of the country have a series of tumbling waterfalls that rival the splendor of the sea…and are what lured us to Krka National Park.
The falls, created by the phenomenon of naturally-made travertine barriers, are a mesmerizing sight. Two of the most astounding occurrences – at Plitvice Lakes and the Krka River – are within the borders of national parks, making them accessible, yet protected. Krka National Park often takes a backseat to the more famous Plitvice Lakes, as it did for us when we were exploring the country in the late winter. On our return trip to Croatia in the autumn, visiting Krka National Park was at the top of our list.
The park encompasses 42 square miles around the Krka River and, in addition to the waterfalls, includes archeological ruins, churches, islands and caves, all reachable by organized excursions. Our use of public transportation to and from the park capped our time and we spent nearly all of it at the main attraction: Skradinski buk, the longest waterfall on the Krka River.
Krka National Park has five separate entrances, two of which put Skradinski buk in easy reach: Skradin and Lozovac. Our direct bus from Zadar made our choice simple, as it dropped us off in the town of Skradin and about 50 meters from one of the park’s ticket offices. Once we had our tickets in hand, we then had to board a ferry that would take us to the official park entrance. During the 30 minute ride, we stood at the side of the boat with the wind on our faces, delighting in nature under the golden autumn sun. Swans glided at the edge of the rolling green hills and we caught sight of a few fishermen tucked between the reeds.
We docked at the entrance gate and could hear the rush of water before we came face-to-face with Skradinski buk. Thanks to the previous days’ rain, thundering water was gushing over the multileveled waterfalls. Under a cloudless sky, the rays of light magnified the mist that dampened our cheeks.
A path – part wooden plank, part concrete, part dirt trail – loops around and over the water, allowing us to see the river from nearly every angle. We started our tour of the park by crossing the bridge on the right. Once across, we better understood the heavy flow of water as it bubbled over the railing and we were enthralled by the sheer force of power we were witnessing.
After climbing a short series of steps, we reached a viewing platform that provided a new perspective. The quick moving water created rapids of white and a rainbow appeared in the billowing mist. Water, the color of sage, flowed over smooth rocks and, caught in the sunlight, it was a stream of glittering seafoam green as it spilled over a rocky ledge.
Before we continued over the falls on the wooden footpath, we did a quick tour of the area. A small church remains from long before the area was designated a national park. Museums highlight the culture of the civilizations that once occupied the area, including displays of traditional clothing and tools. A restaurant with a riverside location looked inviting, but we passed by and began our walk over the falls.
Water swiftly moved under the elevated boardwalk that had no railing. We meandered through trees and past small patches land, completely enveloped in lush vegetation. The water clarity was impeccable; we could see rocks and roots in the shallow pools, long reeds being pulled by the flow and playful fish. The constant movement of water was our soundtrack as it poured down smaller falls toward Skradinski buk.
We could see water in every direction we looked and felt as if we’ve entered a magical water world. People pushed past us, but we kept our slow, steady pace, soaking it all in. Through breaks in the trees, we could see across the valley. The scene looked like a painter’s masterpiece, but only blue, green and yellow were on the artist’s palette.
We started the descent and took the detours to the lookout points – viewing the length of Skradinski buk, but from the other side. Again, we’re astounded by the swollen and gushing river that resembled something only Hollywood could create. We actually wondered if the joke was on us: Would someone simply turn off the tap once the park closed? Was it all staged? It seemed too unbelievable to be real.
When we completed the last section of the loop back to the bottom of Skradinski buk, we entered what felt like an enchanted forest. Water cascaded over rocks and momentarily collected into pools before spilling over into yet another pool. The scene was so surreal, we almost expected to see glowing fairies zip through the air.
We completed the rest of the trail, but weren’t quite ready to leave. Instead, we found a rock in the sun at the edge of the water. Swimming is allowed at the base of Skradinski buk, but the cooler temperatures and swift water kept most people on dry land. Only a few brave souls ventured in for a dip, but none lasted in the water for long.
It was mid-afternoon, but already there were fewer tour groups entering the park. The sun was angling toward the horizon and, in the time that we sat, long shadows spread over the falls. Even though we saw only one small part of the park, we were awestruck by it.
Note: Getting to Krka National Park via Public Transport
From Zadar, we took a bus directly to Skradin for 90 kuna ($13 USD) each. Our online research indicated that the route wouldn’t be possible during our mid-October visit – instead we would have to go to Sibenik and then catch a different bus to Skradin or Lozovar. However, when we inquired at the bus station, we were able to buy direct tickets to Skradin. Once in Skradin, the ferry to the park entrance, which departs hourly, is included with the price of admission.
Click here for the Krka National Park official website.
We want to know: Have you been to Krka National Park – or Plitvice Lakes – in Croatia? What is the most magical nature-made attraction you have visited? Tell us in the comments!