Paklenica is one of the 8 national parks in Croatia. The park which covers an area of 95 km2 is located on the southern slopes of the Velebit Mountain. The only entrance to the national park is located near the city Starigrad-Paklenica which is a relatively small but very nice coastal town.
What to do at National park Paklenica?
The two main activities at the national park Paklenica are hiking and climbing but there is also an option to ride a bike on specific trails in the park.
Climbing: more than 30% of visitors at the national park are climbers; the park has around 400 marked climbing trails of different difficulty grade and majority of the short sport climbing routes are situated in Klanci, the narrowest part of the Velika Paklenica canyon.
If you are a newbie to climbing you can some days even rent equipment on site, alternatively you can contact these guys and arrange everything prior to your arrival.
Each year around the 1st of May the national park hosts an International climbers meeting.
Hiking: national park Paklenica has around 175 km of hiking trails, so you will need more than an afternoon to hike them all.
The hiking trails are well marked so you will have no problem finding your way around. If you plan to spend more days in the park you can buy a trail map but for a one day visit that is not necessary.
The hiking trails are available in all difficulty grades but as you will be walking up and downhill you will need to be in some sort of minimal shape. From the entrance in Velika Paklenica canyon the two most popular hikes are
- To Paklenica Mountain hut, which takes about 2 hours, the total ascend of this trip is 400 metres.
- To the cave Manita Peć, which is a walk of about 2 hours and 30 minutes, the total ascend is 450 metres. Note: if you wish to visit the cave, contact the park administration and ask about the opening hours before you go there.
For those who think that is to much they can just hike the Velika Paklenica educational trail to the Paklarić Fort. This trail is 550 m and has an elevation of 121, once up you have a beautiful view on the Adriatic Sea. Regardless of which trail you pick you will be stunned by the beauty of the park; parts of the trails follow the Paklenica river which is full of small waterfalls.
If all this sounds like too much walking, you can also have a look at the hiking trails on google, which had a guy walking the trails with a camera (Street view option)!
Check the parks website for more info about Hiking in Paklenica here:
What to bring and consider when visiting Paklenica:
Well if you are a climber you would know :-), for a regular tourist like me visiting the park for a bit of hiking, I would recommend the following:
- Bring plenty of water! (you can refill your bottle at a few places but on warm summer days you need a lot of water, so bring 1 litre of water per person).
- If you walk on the main tourist trails, normal good walking shoes / trainers are more than fine. Avoid flip flops because they are not suitable, if you plan to go on one of the more difficult trails bring hiking shoes / boots
- You are in real nature, so you will not find a toilet around the corner; make sure to adjust to that before starting your hike.
- If possible, start your hike early, then you avoid ascending during the warmest hours. (this also means you can park closer to the starting point of the trails)
- If you reach the Paklenica hut, you can enjoy their grilled sausages which are quite good. Alternativly, there is a great restaurant on the way back to the main road.
- If you are more people you should consider hiring a guide from the park.
How to get to National park Paklenica?
By car: this is for sure the best way of getting to Paklenica. The park entrance is located about 1 km from the main coastal road where there are signs clearly marking where you have to turn (see photo). From where you pay the entrance fee you have about 1.7 km which you can still go by car; along this part cars are parked at the right side of the road and how far you can get depends on when you arrive.
By bus: you can also reach Starigrad Pakelenica by bus. The buses will stop at the coastal road (see stop locations here) from where you have about 1.3 km to where you pay the entrance fee (3.0 km to trails). Buses come from either Zadar or direction Rijeka. When picking the bus, you should go for those operated by Slavonjia bus since they start in Zadar and end in Starigrad-Paklenica or vice versa. All other buses come from destinations further away which means that they are often delayed, especially in the summer.
Also this is good to know:
If you have visited National park Plitvice lakes or National park Krka during summer months, you should know what crowded means, so you will be pleasantly surprised when visiting Paklenica. Not that the park is empty, but compared to those the number of visitors is considerably lower.
There are wild animals in Paklenica, also that kind of animals which you do not necessarily want to engage with, so be considerate when you move around in the park.
The Paklenica mountain hut offers sleep for about 50 people; during summer months you should make a reservation. There are also other smaller mountain huts in the park.