The beautiful area of magnificent forests, extraordinary geomorphological structures, spates of the rivers Velika and Mala Paklenica and their wonderful canyons was proclaimed a national park in 1949. Its area covers 95 km2 full of biodiversity – protected forests and wildlife, caves, colourful flora, perfect rocks for climbing, mountain tops handing you spectacular views of the sea, mountains and continental area. The Park has two entrances – Mala Paklenica and Velika Paklenica, and each holds distinct canyons of the eponymous rivers.
Getting there is easy from the A1 motorway – take the Maslenica exit and follow the signs to Starigrad-Paklenica. Once you get to Starigrad, on the mountain side you’ll see signs leading you to the two entrances. Which one you take depends on your wishes and/or abilities – an easy stroll or a hard climb, or something in between. It’s always best to consult the Park’s guides – they can give you advice on which educational or hiking trail to take.
Our trail of choice was the two-hour Velika Paklenica educational trail leading you from the entrance through the Velika Paklenica canyon to the Mountain hut Paklenica. The trail is around 9 km long, but all mountaineering trails are measured in time – the average duration of the hike. The trail is one of the easiest ones in the Park’s offer and is great for beginner hikers. You could wear sneakers for this trail, but hiking boots/shoes are still recommended – your feet will thank you later. There are springs of potable water along the way so a small bottle that you can fill up should suffice for the hike. Also, there are benches and various resting places along the way, too. Just stopping and enjoying the views, breathing the fresh mountain air and absorbing the sun’s warmth will give you all the energy you’ll need for the hike. The river Velika Paklenica flows over its cascades all along the trail, and you pass by old abandoned mills, ruins of old houses and the Park’s Lugarnica forest cottage which is open for visitors during the summer season, offering simple catering services at around 400 m altitude. There’s a big chance you’ll see wildlife wandering about on the slopes of the cliffs, in forests and meadows – we were lucky to see a chamois for a few moments before it went away, faster than our cameras.
The final kilometre of the said trail to the Mountain hut is the hardest part, but take your time and you won’t even break a sweat. The lodge is open every day from June to September and on weekends the rest of the year. There, you can rent around 50 beds in multi-bed rooms with usage of the kitchen and dining room for a small price, but if you plan on staying longer than a day make sure you buy a multiday ticket for the Park – otherwise the Park’s authorities could fine you! Bring your own sleeping bag because they do not offer bedclothes. There are toilets and electricity (solar panels) in the hut. But who needs electricity in those amazing surroundings?
Because the catering facilities weren’t open during our visit, we brought our own food: homemade cured meats (ham, bacon, smoked sausages), bread, onion and the infallible part of every mountaineering trip – homemade rakija (fruit brandy). It’s a special kind of appetite you get after hiking through such a beautiful place. Make sure you offer some of your food to the stone spirits and forest fairies – they must live in the fairyland that is Paklenica.
Another 5-minute hike from the Mountain hut and you’ll find yourself mesmerised by a couple of old villages that still prevail in the harsh environment of the National Park. There is no road to the villages so the residents carry everything on their donkeys and take good care of them. We met an owner of one of the houses (available for renting) who showed us the room where he was born. His mother went into labour and there was no way of taking her to the hospital nor was it the way of life back then. Man took care of nature and nature took care of him – they grew vegetables and took care of their farm animals that provided anything they needed during the winter months when going to the coast was almost impossible. Our modern way of life has taken us too far from nature, but parks such as Paklenica National Park are our opportunity to go back to a simpler time and a more beautiful environment. Also, the owner offered us with some of his homemade rakija – pine leaves, cherry and locust bean – all delicious!
Going back to the Park entrance we noticed small figures on the cliffs and once we got closer we realised those were people! Paklenica is a haven for rock climbers and even offers basic training for beginners (4-hour course with their equipment and ticket costs around 40€/45$, with at least 2-day notice). If rock climbing is not your thing, you can always go swimming in the Adriatic – you can’t miss it, it’s right in front of you when you go out of the Park’s entryway.
Web page: www.np-paklenica.hr
Tel.: (+385) 23 369 155, (+385) 23 369 202
Find the detailed entrance fees list @
Photos by: Mario ParalShare this post