When we visited Croatia we opted to forego the more well known spots like Dubrovnik and Hvar in exchange for visiting Croatia’s many national parks. The biggest concentration of national parks lie in the northern part of the country so we made Dalmatia, namely Zadar, our home base as Zadar was within a few hours drive from each of the parks we wanted to visit. After Plitvice, Krka National Park was next on our Croatian bucket list.
Krka National Park
I will say that in general, when cruising about Croatia and neighboring Bosnia Herzegovina, waterfalls are everywhere. You see them along the side of the road, but a few are standouts and Krka National Park offers 7 waterfalls (buk or slap) in one park.
Krka is the second most visited national park in Croatia after Plitvice with over 1 million visitors each year. Krka has become so popular in recent years that it has begun to limit the number of visitors each day to 10,000. My advice, get there early or book online to reserve space. And bring your swim suit, because unlike Plitvice, at Krka, you are allowed to enjoy the cool, refreshing waters. At least for now.
Even prior to being designated a national park in 1985, the area’s splendor was enjoyed for centuries. The highlight of the park is its river and 7 major waterfalls. The Krka River, the source of the all the falls, is over 74 kilometers/46 miles long.
The protected flora and fauna is lush. The park is very clean and you will see fish, various birds, butterflies and dragonflies flitting about.
Within the park, Krka is accessible by a network of planked walkways, hiking trails, cycling trails, roads and boats. One can also add a 5 km/3.1 mile hiking and cycling path from Skradinski Most (Skradin Bridge) to Skradinski buk. Visitors who wish to hike or ride along the trail can purchase their tickets at the reception at Skradinski Most or online.
The park is unique in that in addition to its stunning topography, it also houses 2 monasteries and Roman ruins. Both monasteries, Visovac and the Eastern Orthodox Krka Monastery, date back to the Middle Ages. Burnam, the Roman ruins, date back to 33 BC.
From the nearest town along the highway, Šibenik, you will see signs for the park and a specific exit heading to Skradinski Buk.
The road will lead you straight into Lozovac and a large parking area. You will see a ton of tour busses, people, and parking attendants.
After you park, you will find a building where tickets are sold. You cannot miss it. The town is tiny. You will also see a very long line. Leave some of your people in the line and send someone else to get the tickets. The line is for either the bus or the boat (at Skradin) to take you to the falls. As this is one of the most visited sites in Croatia, in high season, the lines can be long so best to have someone saving your spot, while someone else queues for the entrance tickets.
Your entrance ticket includes the bus ride. It does not include the boat ride. As we arrived late, we opted for the bus but I really wanted to take the boat up the river. If you want to take the boats then stop in the town of Skradin to purchase your tickets and catch your boat.
Once the bus or boat lets you off, you have a short walk to the planked walkway around the park on the Skadinski Buk trail. The trail is a 1900 meter/1.1mile long loop leading you around the most amazing spots, rapids, waterfalls and gorgeous flora and fauna. Bring water. The trail is not suitable fo those with limited mobility. The trail is not that difficult in terms of intensity, it is just crowded, hot, and hilly. And there is water on each side of you and no barriers.
|INSIDER TIP: If you really just want to swim and see the falls, you can skip the trail and the crowds and walk in the opposite direction of the trail behind a building there are steps which go directly to the falls and lagoon.|
Sites In The Park
When people talk about Krka, they are usually referring to the famous Skradinski buk also known as Krka’s Blue Lagoon. Skradinski buk and its adjoining lagoon are the falls that you see on all the postcards and in Instagram stories.
Most people do not explore the other parts of the park. I do recommend that if you have the time, you explore the entire park. To see it all properly plan for a minimum of 2 days.
On the way to the famous falls and lagoon, there is plenty to delight your senses.
The crowds move slowly, but that is ok, it means more time to enjoy your surroundings. After about 30 – 40 minutes you will reach Skradinski buk. Skradinski buk is insanely pretty. Again, it is the stuff of postcards and Instagram moments.
And note that Croatia is hot in the summer and the water is cool, refreshing, inviting. We were so hot that once we reached the falls we cold actually feel the cool air. Believe me, all you want to do is get in that water. But first, you have to carve out a spot among the crowds.
The area as you arrive at Skradinski buk is crowded and dusty. There are a lot of people roaming around and unfortunately on the approach side of the lagoon it is difficult to find a spot to leave your belongings where you can see them while swimming. This means that at least one member of your group must stay behind to watch your valuables. If you are traveling solo I suggest asking someone to watch your belongings. You should not leave valuables while you go for a swim with your group. It stinks that you cannot all go in at the same time, but you risk losing all of your belongings if you do.
|INSIDER TIPS: You will see a bridge where everyone is taking photos. Cross the bridge and on the other side there is a lot more room to carve out your niche and spread out a blanket. The best part, it is in the shade and along the lagoon so you can see your people as they swim in the lagoon and you can take photos.
Also, bring water, water shoes, a blanket, a picnic. They sell all of it there, but you will pay tourist prices.
After your swim, you may want to take a boat up river to Visovac Island and monastery. Visovac first welcomed its religious inhabitants in the late 1400’s. At that time Franciscan monks decided the island location was perfect for a hermitage where monks could study in solitude.
By 1576 building of the existing monastery was complete. Over the centuries, the monastery acquired a rich collection of paintings, relics and folk art. The monastery also has a small museum featuring historic church clothes, manuscripts, and rare books, including an illustrated copy of Aesop’s Fables printed in 1487.
Visovac is still an active church and the priests who live there maintain a lovely flower garden worth having a look. They also perform mass if you are there on a Sunday. Mass is held at 11am every Sunday all year long.
Visovac Island is only reachable by boat. You can take the excursion boat from Skradin or special monastery mass boats from Brištane on Sundays.
The waterfall Roški slap can be reached by road and by the excursion boats from Skradin. We drove into the park at Roški slap and then made our way down to the famous falls. The drive past Laškovika was stunning.
The natural beauty of Roški slap can be viewed year round.
If archeology is your thing, you have 2 sites to visit at Krka. The first, Burnum, was a Roman military camp. The ruins and archaeological site are located above the canyon and waterfalls.
These Roman ruins officially date back to the year 33 BC, but many archeologists believe the site may be even older. Several Roman legions were located there in succession. the spot was chosen for its vital access to the river which was used for transportation. Also, its gorgeous!
Today, one can visit the ancient amphitheater which still holds concerts on special occasions and a smaller museum which holds the artifacts found on site.
The closest entrance to Burnum is at the Puljane enterance and one must take a car to get there.
OZIDANA PEĆINA CAVE
The second archeological site in Krka is the Oziđana Pećina cave. The cave is located near the very top of the canyon, on the left bank of the Krka River, just above the Roški slap. I could not get it to show up on Google Maps, but the park will have information on its exact location and whether it is open to the public or not. Because it is a working archeological site, it may be closed to the public at times.
The site displays artifacts and evidence of human settlement – things like ceramic dishes, stone artifacts, and human and animal bones dating back to the Neolitihic period from about 5000 BC to about 1500 BC. The Hvar and Danilo cultures are featured prominently.
I am claustrophobic, thus, this was not on my list to see even though I’d love to see the artifacts. The cave is 59 m long/7 m wide/2.5 m high tunnel. No thanks.
The Krka Monastery is a Serbian Orthodox monastery dating back to the 12th century. The monastery has had several reincarnations over the centuries, but was originally built on top of a Roman site and has catacombs underneath that can be explored.
The monastery is dedicated to the Archangel Michael and is considered the best known example of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Croatia. The monastery is officially protected as a significant historical site.
Like Visovac, Krka Monastery is still in use, thus, visitors are limited to visiting the catacombs and the church in the company of a national park employee. There are also restrictions on what can be photographed. On site there is a tiny souvenir shop which sells religious artifacts and wine made by the priests.
To reach the Krka Monastery you can take a car or the boats from Skradin. When driving, follow the signs to Kistanje. From there you will see additional signs for the monastery. Parking is limited.
|INSIDER TIP: After your visit, if you head down toward the falls, you can stop at a newly constructed viewpoint stop for cars offering a different view and perspective of the monastery. Great photo op!|
The park entrance ticket includes access to the entire park, including an expert presentation at Burnum, another presentation at the mills at Skradinski buk, Roški slap and Oziđana Pećina Cave, access to all walking trails in the park, and bus transport from Lozovac to Skradinski buk and return.
Park entrance prices are subject to change so always check the website for the most recent prices.
Boat Prices – The Skradin excursion boats are not included in the price of your park entrance ticket. All visitors must acquire or purchase their tickets in a Krka National Park branch office in Skradin before boarding the boat. Visitors who purchased their tickets online can board the boat directly with their printed ticket or the bar-code on a smart phone.
As with the park entrance ticket, always check the website for the most recent boat prices. Also, your ticket price will vary according to the location within the park that you choose to visit.
While swimming is allowed, and is a definite highlight, there are other rules inside Krka that are strictly enforced:
- One must not stray from clearly marked bathing areas.
- You are not allowed to dive into the swimming area.
- You are prohibited from hunting, catching, frightening or disturbing the wild animals.
- You must not pick or damage indigenous plants.
- You must not break or damage the travertine.
- You must not camp or light fires outside of clearly marked areas.
- You must dispose of waste in clearly marked garbage bins.
- You must not stray from the clearly marked trails.
- All dog must be kept on a leash and have a muzzle on at all times. Dogs are not permitted on Visovac Island.
- Drones or other unmanned aerial equipment are not allowed in Krka National Park.
As you can see, Krka offers so much more than the one waterfall and lagoon. Skradinski buk is awe inspiring and it seems to stop visitors in their tracks, but it is shame that most people never explore Krka beyond Skradinski buk as there is so much to see and do. If you do visit Krka National Park, I hope that this information may inspire you to look beyond the waterfall.