Croatia’s 10 Best Hikes
Two countries have stood out for me after 5 years of full-time travel: South Africa and Croatia. What do they have in common? Rugged mountains, beautiful coastlines…and incredibly scenic hikes.
Curious about Croatia’s Best Hikes? Here they are:
Located 46km from Zadar is Paklenica National Park, located on the Southern slopes of Velebit Mountain. At the heart of the National Park are two gorges – Velika Paklenica and Mala Paklenica – which offer some of the most scenic hiking in Croatia (the park is also the most visited climbing site in Croatia).
Recommended day hikes: 1) a 4 hr (return) hike up to Anića Kuk featuring incredible views of all of Zadar county and the bay of Starigrad. Although not the highest hike at 712m, it has a 400m high vertical cliff on the Northwest face. 2) an 8hr (return) hike up to Sveto Brdo, the 2nd highest peak of Velebit Mountain. Great panoramic views as well as high mountain meadows (you might even see wild horses grazing).
2.Northern Velebit National Park (Zazivan area)
Above photo credit: Northern Velebit National Park
Zazivan, in the Northern Velebit National Park, is known for several things. The first is the road. The road to Zazivan (the “Zazivan Road”) is the 2nd highest (1594m) in Croatia – you’ll see rocky peaks, rolling meadows, and incredible views of the Adriatic and its islands along the way. Zazivan also has the highest weather station in Croatia. The 3rd remarkable feature is the 57 km Premuzic Trail, a 3 day trail (which you can truncate into a 1-day hike) that skirts the coast with amazing views of the islands.
Location: near the town of Senj, 64km south of Rijeka.
3. The rocks of Bijele & Samarske Stijene
Translated as “White and Pack-saddle rocks” this area is very different from the other hikes listed here. The rocks are white and sharp limestone, shaped in towers (some as high as 50m) and other strange karstic shapes. The landscape is similar to the karstic forests found in Madagascar. The area is a natural reserve and the location is remote and inland, the starting point (the town of Jasenak) located 104 km south from Rijeka.
Recommended route: from the car park follow the marked path to Ratko’s shelter where you’ll see a mountain hut located in a cave. You can come back along a different route, total walking time approx. 2 ½ hrs.
Above photo credit: hpdpliva.hr
Want to experience the best of Croatia’s islands and hikes? Sail Croatia has a 7 day Sail and Hike tour which covers the most beautiful islands combined with some of Croatia’s best hikes. It’s the most efficient (and cost effective) way to see the best of Croatia.
4. Ucka Mountain
In Istria, not far from Rijeka, is 1400 m high Ucka Mountain. The mountain has several memorable hikes, but the best is a half-day hike to the stone tower on the summit of Vojak peak. There you’ll be rewarded with 360 degree views of the Istrian peninsula, northern Adriatic islands, mountains of the Gorski Kotar region, all the way to Venice and the Alps.
5. Risnjak National Park
East of Rijeka, on the Rijeka – Zagreb route, is Risnjak National Park. It is one of Croatia’s prettiest national parks (Croatia has 8 national parks) thick with forests, meadows and wild life. The recommended hike here is the 3 hr hike from the main entrance to the park at Crni Lug to the Sclosser Hut (known as one of the most beautiful mountain huts in Croatia).
6. Biokovo Mountain
Biokovo mountain and Nature Park is the most dominating presence on the southern Dalmatian coast. Proclaimed a nature park in 1981, this mountain towers over the Makarska Riviera and affords unforgettable views over the sea and outlying islands. It is one of Croatia’s most popular destinations for hikers with myriad paths that wind up the hills past olive groves, vineyards and pine forests.
Biokovo also has the highest road in Croatia, reaching the highest peak of Sveti Jure at 1762 m.
There are many hikes available and many people drive up to one of the mountain’s lookout points and follow a trail from there.
Read more here on driving up Mt. Biokovo. It is spectacular.
See the official website which lists many hikes of varying difficulty and length on this massive mountain.
Note: 20km behind Biokovo, towards Imotski are two deep crater lakes that will leave you breathless: Crveno Jezero (Red Lake) and Modro Jezero (Blue Lake).
7. Mosor Mountain
Right next to Split – Croatia’s 2nd largest city – is Mosor Mountain. Easy to access, it has wonderful views of the Adriatic as well as Split itself. I hiked Mosor last spring, the highlight being the views at Vickov Stup (a 5 hr return hike). I saw mountain goats along the way and ate beans and sausages at the mountain house. A memorable hike.
All you need to know about hiking Mount Mosor
8. Vidova Gora, on the island of Brač
This is the only hike listed here located on one of Croatia’s islands. That’s because Brač has the highest island peak on the Adriatic, 780 m high Vidova Gora. From the town of Bol, the peak is a 2 hr hike up and you’ll be rewarded by fantastic views of the Adriatic as well as of famous Zlatni Rat beach (the most photographed beach in Croatia).
Related: Hiking Vidova Gora from Bol
9. Peak Bat, Kijevo Bat Mountain
Approximately 90 minutes from Split is the mountain of Kijevo Bat in the Dinaric Alps. There a hike to Peak Bat (3 ¼ hrs) is recommended. From the top you’ll have a wonderful panoramic view of all the major Dalmatian peaks, the big blue Peruča Lake, and the Cetina river, the longest Dalmatian river.
10. Plitvice Falls National Park
The last hike on this list is the easiest – as well as the most famous – of them all. Plitvice Lakes National Park is the oldest national park in Croatia and one of the most famous parks in Europe. This is not a peak hike (although the surroundings are mountainous), it is a hike through canyons, waterfalls and the streams that make up this park. I call it a “waterworld”. It is spectacular. See my post on Plitvice here. And make sure to spend at least one night at the Hotel Plitvice.
Related: Plitvice Lakes: Impressions, Tips and Regrets
TOP (DAY) TOURS IN CROATIA
Have you done any of the above hikes? What was your highlight?
Related: Hiking Mount Kozjak to Klis Fortress
Related: Travel Bloggers on their favorite hikes around the world
Related: Hiking in and around Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland
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Excellent list of hikes in Croatia. Well done. Do you think that there will be snow at the 1500 m level in early May on the hikes in Istria?
Hi Peter. Thanks for the comment. No, unless something freaky happens there’s 99% certainty of no snow.
Frank & Spanky
I don’t’ know if the last mail was sent or not, we are in Dubrovnik the telephone number where you an reach me at any time is +34-653-266-759 or with WhatsApp connection +1-305-498-5785. For a reason I don’t understand I have not been able to log Into my regular [email protected] mail since in Europe so Ian using my aol mai. Hope to see you soon.
I wrote you a few weeks ago about changes to our plans – we had to change them. We’ll be in Split in October and Dubrovnik only in December (we changed the order of our plans).
I’m very sorry about that, would have been a pleasure meeting you.
I am planning for a 6 day hike with nights to stay with a roof over my head (not in tents), so basically day or 8hr hikes and loops. And I am planning to do it in April. I was wondering about the weather. Would it be possible to hike over some of these places at this time?
Thanks in advance.
Should actually be the perfect time Ram. If you look at some of the the different hikes covered in the Croatia section, many were done in early spring or even winter.
This is a very nice list! I’m leaving in september with my boyfriend and our van for a 3 months trip to croatia.
I’ll added all these hikes to my list 🙂 thanks
We are going to take our bikes with us, race bikes and mountainbikes. Is there a chance you can give us some cycling tips?
Thank you Jolien. You are going to have a great time, there is a lot of great geography especially in Central Dalmatia. 3 months is a long time, if you need any
tips or recommendations don’t hesitate to ask.
I haven’t done much cycling in Croatia so I can’t tell you much there. But we’ve just had our bikes shipped to Split (which is now home) and I’m looking forward to cycling to Omis and Makarska. That whole stretch of coast is gorgeous.
Enjoy your trip and let me know if you need anything.
I’m a very active traveler, who loves to cycle, swim, run and hike when travelling! Croatia is still on my list to explore and hiking in Northern Velebit National Park sounds like a plan! 🙂
Great selection and I fancy quite few of them. Croatia is such a beautiful country, but I have only visited Dubrovnik and Split. I am looking forward to see what you get up to in Croatia.
Thanks Gilda! We’ll be seeing a lot of the places that most people don’t get to this time around so I hope I can come up with some recommendations for you. If there’s one place I can really recommend it’s Omis, which I had never heard of but which we visited last year.
Sand In My Suitcase
Wow! What gorgeous hikes! So you’re going to go from hiking in South Africa to hiking in Croatia – very nice :-). April and spring will be a great time. We’ve visited Croatia a couple of times – both times by a small cruise ship. Even though we spent long days in port (and 2 days each time in Dubrovnik), we’d love to stay put for longer in several places and really get to know Croatia more – like Hvar and Mali Losinj.
Nong Khai Silverback
Beautiful scenery! Makes me want to take a hike.
Yeah, you do that Bart 🙂
Always nice to hear from you. How are things in Nong Khai?
Well, I haven’t hiked a single one of these but those sure are some incredible views, which would seem to make the hike worth the effort. I’m more of a long distance walker than a hiker. I’m always at a point of self debate when it comes to the lessor of two evils: uphill or downhill. It’s a coin toss. I hope you do get to make some of these treks because I’d like to hike along with you – vicariously, of course.
It seems Croatia isn’t all about coastline and beaches after all! Didn’t realise it was such a stunning mountainous country, maybe there’s something there for us after all 🙂 Love the little mountain bothies too, can you actually stay in them? I wonder though, is the sky always so impossibly blue?
Hi Heather – yes, you can overnight in most of the mountain shelters, they double as restaurants and little hotels and some Croatia friends told me they overnighted there on school field trips when they were young. Might not be true for all of them but I know for a fact that’s the case for the mountain hut on Mosor.
Sounds like a great way to break up a hike (although perhaps without the school kids 🙂 )
i dont know much about Croatia. I was there for a day in Dubrovnik in 2004. But these hikes look brilliant, especially the last one!
Just gorgeous! I was in Europe with a small caravan and my daughters last year… did not make it to Croatia. If we could live our lives with the benefit of hindsight… I’d be there in a flash! Great article, I am saving the link for when I do make it there!
Thanks for the comment Jane.
Wow that’s amazing! I love the Balkans – these hikes are spectacular! I didn’t know that you can actually see the Zlatni Rat beach from such perspective! I’ve tried hiking in Slovenia and Albania and it was quite similar, now I’d love to do those trails in Croatia – next time I’m there I’ll make sure I won’t miss them! Amazing post and photos 🙂 I’m planning also to go to Cape Town and Namibia next month! Hope it will work out 🙂
You’ll have a great time Tomasz, I’m so jealous! I hope you do some of those Cape Town hikes. If you only have time for one go up Lion’s head.
I’d love to go to Namibia and look forward to hearing about how you structure your trip there.
You travel a lot Tom – how do you manage it?
Unfortunately, I have to skip Namibia this time as the visa is required and where I live there is no Namibian embassy, I don’t have enough time 🙁 I will visit South Africa – if you had been there, we could have met! I found ridiculously cheap flight from Dublin to Johannesburg for 500 EUR return! I might try to visit Lesotho for 3 days but also the visa is required so I’m not sure about it. I’ll definitely go to Cape Town and places around.
Many people ask me how I manage the money – the truth is I live on my own as an immigrant in a foreign country, I receive less than minimum wage and of course have to support myself, I don’t have a rich family etc… And I’m not quite sure how I’ve been able to travel so much (50 countries within last 3 years). Maybe because I don’t waste money on materialistic stuff such as the newest phone, I hate watching TV and shopping in malls. I couldn’t care less for famous brands. However, I do love restaurants and going out and in no way I feel the lack of money. I might write an article about some alternative ways to save money on some things we think are necessary but in reality they’re not. Example – for a price of 10 beers in a bar in Dublin, you can get a return flight to the Mediterranean 🙂
Interesting Tom…I guess it helps making wages, even if low, in a place like Ireland where wages still high (when converted) in comparison to the rest of the world. And lots of cheap flights from the UK/Ireland which helps. Still, quite amazing that you’ve been able to accomplish all that.
I think you’ll love South Africa. I hope you rent a car, its really the way to see the place. I wish I could go back right now! Look forward to hearing your impressions.
I have to admit that all these places look lovely, and l am sure they are just as lovely on terra firma.. 🙂 . Croatia is still very much on our list, thanks to your many posts about it. No hiking for me though, thank you very much. Wine and food and pampering. That is the life for me 🙂
Thanks for commenting Kemkem. Yes, I know you don’t like hikes 🙂
beautiful pictures all of them, make you wanting to buy the ticket immediately.
Thank you Carlos! I know you like to travel – you definitely have to visit Croatia! (you know that Split is an easy ferry ride from the Adriatic coast of Italy?)
Frank – another great Croatia post from you! I absolutely love that you’re writing about less obvious places and activities to explore in the country. Go beyond the sun and the sea, eh? 🙂
I’ve done my share of hiking in Croatia and must say that some of these places – especially Bijele i Samarske stijene – are a tough hike. For a non-experienced hiker, I would always recommend teaming up with a local for the best experience. Thanks for a great post!
Thank you Andrea. Yes, it’s always recommended to go with someone else, preferably a local – not just because you might get lost, but you can fall and not be able to get up. The thing about most of the rocks in Croatia as that they’re jagged and sharp. You don’t want to get stuck on one of those peaks.
When I researched this post I found that there is a lack of comprehensive information on hikes in Croatia. I had to put the above together from many different sources. I haven’t been on many of these hikes but I hope it’s helpful to people looking for the best spots to hike in Croatia.
You’re right, there aren’t many good hiking guides. Rudolf Abraham: Walking in Croatia (Cicerone guide) is a good one. Look up my post ‘How to conquer a Croatian mountain’ for a funny story about hiking Samarske stijene in the middle of the winter. 🙂
Well… I guess I better go back to Croatia and skip the tourist spots like split and dubrovnik and do these hikes next time. Thanks for the great information!
Thanks Hung Thai. Great hikes, but make sure to see Split and Dubrovnik as well – beautiful cities!
Yeah I’ve seen Split and Dubrovnik and even Zagreb but it was winter so we didn’t get to do any hikes. Next time!
Thanks for taking time to comment Hung Thai!
Dee (Dee's Butterfly Garden)
WOW!!!! Beautiful amazing photos, they are stunning!!! This is a great list, every traveler should see this wonderful places with their own eyes.
Thank you Dee! 🙂
How much does it cost to hire a car and what are fuel costs like?
Hi Tom. I haven’t rented a car yet in Croatia, but I think rates about what you’ll find throughout Europe. But some blogger friends just wrote about a lease buyback program where you can essentially rent a car for a minimum of 15 days. I looked into it and it comes to about $25 US/day which is excellent. I think we may do that next time in Croatia.
That’s a nice list, we haven’t done any of them but I’ve made a note for any future visit. I wish I had known about the number one (Paklenica National Park out of Zadar). We liked Zadar and could have done with an excuse to stay a while longer! Mosor Mountain from Split also appeals.
I agree with you about Paklenica, I didn’t know about it at the time either and it’s very close to Zadar. Mosor was a great hike and I can recommend it for sure.
That’s a perfect way of introducing visitors to the beauty that is Croatia. I’ve been to Dubrovnik and Rovinj, both beautiful old cities steeped in history. What I love about Croatia is the agreeable climate and the unspoilt nature. Hiking tours are the perfect way of discovering that! Thanks for sharing these tips!
Thanks Silke. Actually Rovinj is a place we want to explore next time around. Our highlight so far was Split, which we used as a base for 2 months.
I’m not much of a hiker, but I might change. We spent the day at Plitvice Lakes and were very impressed. It seemed well run and pristine. The White and Pack-Saddle rocks looks interesting and the views from Biokovo Mountain. We drove along the lower coastal route and took a mountain diversion up behind Omis, which was pretty amazing and then back down on the edge of Biokovo Mountain.
Sounds like you saw quite a bit of Croatia!
I wanted to mention Omis also – I had a nice hike up to the fortress where the views are just stunning. But it’s only a 45 min hike and wouldn’t qualify here…still I would recommend it to anyone, especially someone maybe not interested in a 6-8 hour hike.
The thing is that there are so many beautiful walks and climbs in Croatia, it’s a country made for it.
Uh oh…now it’s going to be really tough deciding what to do in – go biking, eat truffles, or go on one of these terrific hikes!
Truffles are for pigs. I’m going hiking 🙂
Tanja (the Red phone box travels)
How awesome! I haven’t done half of them:) Učka is above me:)) and the village in the first photo (the one with Paklenica mountains ) is called Vinjerac;)
What a small world! So you live somewhere in Istria Tanja? We’re planning to spend some time in the area in April.
Vinjarac – good to know. We were in Zadar and could see some of the mountain range from there. Next time I want to hike it.