Croatia has so many natural wonders to explore when the hustle of the city becomes a bit too much (especially with the tourists!). I recently had the pleasure (thanks to Claudia’s willingness to act as my shuttle!) of travelling to Paklenica National Park, which is part of Velebit mountain. Paklenica is approximately 40 km (~25 miles) from Zadar in Starigrad and is one of Croatia’s more famous national parks due to all the rock climbers that it attracts. The first thing you see when you get to this 95 sq. km park are the sheer rock faces speckled with climbers of all skill-set. Half of the trail at the beginning to the park was covered in climbing gear! I stopped and took a minute to watch and follow the routes posted in the map below.
I slowly made my way up the trail with a pretty full daypack and soon noticed how serene the park was. Sure there were a few people here and there, but overall it was relatively empty apart from the beginning section. These areas were not very technical so they welcomed families with children and some older individuals. But as you progress through the trails become tighter and steeper. Travelling through I saw some beautiful waterfalls, pools and caves (parts of Paklenica were inhabited back in the prehistoric times). The trails were marked very well and there were placards talking about the history of the park and the different species that inhabit it.
I spontaneously chose one trail and couple hours later I ended up reaching one of the peaks, which opened up nicely to a little plateau with an amazing view. I spent a good while at the top before merrily coming down. I remembered one particular pool an hour or so into the hike and decided that I needed to jump in it – felt a shame not to really!
It was a great experience seeing what Croatia has to offer immediately outside of Zadar. You could tell that they are very proud and fond of their natural habitats and resources. After all, much of Croatia is still relatively wild and untamed!
And with that in mind, on our drive back to Zadar I noticed quite a bit of smoke off in the distance and as Claudia and I drove closer we saw flames. Much like parts of the US, forest fires are a rather common occurrence during this time of year as it’s been dry for the better part of the past two months. About a month ago I was hiking in MA and saw a smaller forest fire (which was quickly tamed by the fire department). But this one in Croatia was pretty massive. Driving past I got an incredible view of the airtanker swooping right above the blaze and dropping it’s belly full of water. That was definitely a first for me!