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Nature parks

There are 11 protected Nature parks in the Republic of Croatia:

Map of Nature Parks in Croatia

Nature park Biokovo

Nature Park Biokovo

Biokovo is a mountain along the central part of the Dalmatian coast. In the north-west, the Dupci Pass (288 m) separates Biokovo from the Omiš part of Dinara Mountain; in the south-east, a steep limestone mountain range continues all the way to Baćina, i.e. to the area around the Neretva mouth (36 km long, up to 9.5 km wide).

Biokovo descends toward the sea in very steep and bare limestone rocks, under which is a narrow and green littoral belt. Major peaks include: Sv. Ilija (St. Elias) (1,640 m), Šibenik (1,314 m), Štropac (1,145 m), Vršac (1,411 m), Sinjal (1,333 m). Only a couple of trails for people and animals lead along limestone cliffs. Sparse forests, barren karst valleys and scanty pastures offer rather limited resources.

Permanent and temporary water sources appear on the point of contact between limestone rocks and the Primorje flysh zone, important for the villages and crop farming. Coastal settlements developed in the 19th century (Makarska, Baška Voda), winning an important role in traffic and trade after the construction of roads around Biokovo.

In recent times, beauties of the landscape under Biokovo and tameness of its littoral attract many foreign visitors, facilitating thus a more rapid development of tourism. Biokovo offers several mountain lodges: the mountain lodge under Vošac, another one under the Sveti Jure peak and the Slobodan Ravlić lodge at Lokva.

The Biokovo Botanical Garden Kotišina has been established (1984) above the village of Kotišina, a horticultural monument (16.5 hectares) aimed at nature conservation, i.e. protection and cultivation of the Biokovo plant life.

The religious feast at the chapel of St. George (on the very top of Sveti Jure) is held on the last Saturday in July.

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Nature park Kopački rit

Nature Park Kopački rit

Kopački rit (Kopački tršćak), a nature park not far from the confluence of the Drava and the Danube (Dunav), situated at the very border, is one of the most important, largest and most attractive preserved intact wetlands in Europe. It comprises many backwaters and ponds along the Danube.

The vicinity of a big city of Osijek and its surroundings as well as excellent traffic communications (by road, railway, plane, ship) enable a high visiting rate. The beauty of intact nature, multitude of waters, flora and fauna attract not only excursionists and visitors but also many experts and scientists from the whole Europe. A part of Kopački Rit has been designated as a special zoological reserve. Around 260 various bird species nest here (wild goose, wild duck, big white heron, white stork, black stork, white-tailed eagle, big crow, coot, seagull, tern, kingfisher, woodpecker, green woodpecker, etc.), and there are many other species using this area as a temporary shelter on their way from the northern, cooler regions to the southern, warmer belts and vice versa.

There are 40-odd fish species (pike, ide, tench, bream, carp, catfish, pike-perch, perch, etc.). Several various mammal species inhabit the land (common deer, roe, wild boar, wild cat, pine marten, stone marten, weasel, sable, otter, etc.). Rich plant life, typical of wetlands, is found also in Kopački Rit. Tourist visits by panoramic ships, boats, team of horses or on foot, are guided. Some packages offer the possibility of photographing or video-recording animals, birds in particular. Angling and hunting is allowed in certain parts of Kopački Rit, which are put under less strict protection. The specialities of Kopački Rit (fish stew, grilled carp, venison, Belje wines, etc.) can be tasted in the nearby restaurant.

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Nature park Lastovo

Nature Park Lastovo

The Lastovo Island includes 44 Island and Islets. Lastovo is the biggest and Sušac is the farest. It is situated on 195 km square metres.

Its mainland is full of various animals and plants specimen, ans its underwater is one of the richest and most various of the Croatian Adriatic.

The whole area is also valuable as far as culture and history is concerned, with a particular traditional architecture and numerous archeological emplacements on the mainland and into the sea around the Island.

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Nature park Lonjsko polje

Nature Park Lonjsko polje

Lonjsko polje, a part of the flood plain between the Sava river and Moslavačka Gora Mountain, partly along the Lonja river; a retention basin for the Sava waters.

Lonjsko Polje Nature Park comprises an area of 506.50 sq km. It is famous for a variety of flora and fauna. Very interesting is also the architecture of a great large number of well preserved Posavina-style wooden houses, which are a true monument of architectural heritage.

Some areas of the Nature Park (ornithological reserves Rakita and Dražiblato) are even under a stricter regime of nature conservation. Marshy meadows, ash, willow and poplar forests in the Reserve are an important nesting place of ducks, while the flood oak forests, meadows and pastures of Lonjsko Polje are the natural habitat of a number of rare European bird species (white-tailed eagle and short-toed eagle, white egret, grey heron, black stork, etc.).

This flooded area, where high waters hold for up to six months, is one of the largest European hatching grounds of pike. Amply represented are also other animals typical for this area (spotted Turopolje swine, wild boars, the protected horse breed - Croatian Posavac, deer, roes, otters, beavers, wild cats).

Bird watching, cycling, walking, boating, horseback riding, bathing and hunting and angling to a limited extent are major sports and recreational activities. The local cuisine (fish paprika stew, so-called "krapec na procep", venison goulash, etc.), excursions and photo-safari in Lonjsko Polje are unforgettable experiences.

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Nature park Medvednica

Nature Park Medvednica

Medvednica (Zagrebačka Gora), a mountain in the immediate vicinity of the northern part of Zagreb; the highest peak Sljeme (1,032 m). It stretches in the southwest-northeast direction in the total length of 42 km; area about 240 sq km. It is formed of green slate.

Lower parts are covered with Mesozoic and Tertiary layers. Veternica Cave is located in the south-western part. The mountain is forested (common oak, sessile oak, beech, fir). The road Zagreb-Stubičke Toplice runs through the central part, while the road Kašina-Laz-Marija Bistrica leads through the eastern part. Medvednica was populated in the prehistoric times (Veternica Cave). The first mention of it is found in the records from 1209; Mons Ursi (lat. Bears Mountain).

Tourism on Medvednica has a long tradition. The first hiking object in Croatia was erected here in 1870 - a small, wooden pyramid. The beauty, variety, size and condition of hiking and walking trails and mountain lodges in the immediate vicinity of the city of Zagreb ensure a large number of regular visitors throughout the year. Medvednica is also the best-equipped skiing centre of the entire northern Croatia.

There is a longer chair lift, several ski slopes with ski lifts and several sleighing slopes. The cable-car operates throughout the year, connecting the foot of Medvednica in Zagreb with its peak. Due to a number of natural beauties and the necessity to protect this mountain, situated actually on the very edge of the city of Zagreb, the entire mountain massif of Medvednica has been set aside as a nature park. Within the Nature Park there are several special forest vegetation reserves, which are protected on a higher level.

Well preserved forests of Medvednica constitute the major recreational zone of the large city of Zagreb, with the population of almost a million. Apart from walking through the forests, Medvednica attracts its visitors by several nice caves. The most interesting of them is Veternica, one of the largest caves in Croatia. There are also a number of attractive gorges, waterfalls (Sopot Waterfall), karst phenomena, etc.

The most beautiful cultural and historical monument is the restored mediaeval fortification of Medvedgrad. Next to it is the Homeland Altar, commemorating the Croats who fell for the freedom and independence of Croatia. It is regularly visited by foreign statesmen on the occasion of their visits to Croatia, as well as by numerous visitors from the country. Apart from Medvedgrad, major attractions also include the ruins of Susedgrad, Zelingrad and several Sljeme chapels. The most frequently visited part of Medvednica is its peak, Sljeme (1,032 m), which may be reached by car, by cable-car or on foot.

Next to it are the television tower with a vista point (closed at present), the Tomislavov Dom hotel, the Sljeme chapel and several mountain lodges and catering establishments.

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Nature park Papuk

Nature Park Papuk

Papuk, a mountain in the region of Slavonia, on the northern and north-western border of the Požeška Valley in Slavonia; the highest peak Papuk (954 m). Springs and sources of many water bodies (the Čađavica, the Karašica, the Pakra). Forest vegetation (oak, beech). Vineyards on the southern slopes of the foothills. The road Čačinci-Velika-Požega leads over the Perivoj peak (725 m).

Thanks to the Voćin nobleman Josip Janković, the central part of Papuk was arranged in the first half of the 19th century, especially Jankovac. Mountaineering societies were also founded, the first one in 1895 in Jankovac (one of the oldest in Croatia) and in 1932 also in Daruvar and elsewhere. This marked the beginning of organized hiking tours on the biggest Slavonian mountain, Papuk. After the construction of mountain huts and other facilities and the marking of trails, Papuk became a frequent destination of excursionists and mountaineers.

The asphalt road from Velika to Jankovac runs through the highest part of Papuk (the Nevoljaš pass, around 700 m) and divides it in the eastern (lower) and the western (higher) part.

There are several mountain lodges and tourist facilities on Papuk: the mountain lodge Lapjak (335 m) 3 km from Velika, the thermal spa Toplice (296 m) in the vicinity of Velika, the mountain hut Trišnjica, 7 km from the Lapjak lodge, the facilities of the mountain rescue team on Nevoljaš (725 m), the ski-lift above Jezerce (descends from Nevoljaš), the mountain lodge Jankovac (475 m) on the northern slopes of Papuk.

Usual accesses: Lapjak lodge Duboka Jezerce Nevoljaš (2 hrs); Lapjak lodge Mališćak Papuk (4 hrs); by road, Lapjak lodge Veličanka spring Jankovac (16 km); Velika Papuk peak (17 km).

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Nature park Telašćica

Nature Park Telašćica

Telašćica, a large cove in the extreme south of the island Dugi otok; around 10 km long and between 160 and 1,800 m wide, with several expansions with sandy and mud bottoms; the depth in the inner part attains 12 m, and in the outer part reaches up to 60 m.

The eastern coast comprises the inlets Ćuška, Dumboka, Ošćenica, Gozdenja, Rakvić, Kraševica and Mangrovica, while the coves Strižna, Tripuljak, Mir, Jaz and Pasjak are in the west. The western expansion comprises the small islands Donji and Gornji Školj, the central part the islet of Farfarikulac, and the cliffs Gozdenja, Galijola and the small island of Korotan are in the eastern part which reaches the islands of Velika Aba and Katina.

The north-eastern coast of Telašćica is predominantly bare, and the south-eastern part is covered by forest of pine, olive and fig trees; macchia, interspersed with forests, grows further from the coast. The southern coast of Telašćica is separated from the sea by a narrow, forested crest, terminating in a 50 to 100-m high and steep seashore.

A brackish lake (beach) is located in this region; area 0.23 sq km; depth 5.8 m. Telašćica is one of the largest and most beautiful coves on the Croatian coast. A path from the western part of Telašćica leads to the village Sali, situated on the eastern part of the island. The cove represents good anchoring ground and shelter for yachts.

The following sentence could best describe the beauty of Telašćica, visited by many tourists in form of guided excursions: When God created the universe, he was particularly generous to this place. The cove has 25 inlets, five islets and a special natural attraction - the salt lake. The medicinal lake water has a higher salt content and temperature from the surrounding sea, being thus especially attractive for swimmers. The steep cliffs, rising up to 166 m and protecting the cove from the raging sea, are very impressive. The mysterious legends of buried gold and strange original inhabitants with five small horns on their heads fit into this marvellous and beautiful scenery.

Boaters and visitors to this cove, one of the best-protected on the Adriatic Sea, can enjoy a safe yachting experience as well as top-quality fish food and domestic wines. Kornati National Park is not far from Telašćica (1.6 Nm).

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Nature park Učka

Nature Park Učka

Učka, a mountain in the eastern part of Istria; it stretches in the total length of 20 km from the Poklon pass (road Rijeka-Pazin leads over it) to the Plomin Bay.

It has an aspect of a prominent sheer rock, with peaks descending toward the south: Plas (1,285 m), the highest peak Vojak (1,401 m), Suhi Vrh (1,333 m), Brgud (907 m), Kremenjak (827 m) and Sisol (835 m). Both slopes abound in water sources; some of them are capped for the purpose of waterworks, while the other form water streams, rather powerful in winter months (Banina, Medveja).

The slopes feature several canyon and transverse valleys (Vela draga) and there are many other karst formations (sinkholes, caves). Učka represents an important climatic barrier which forces air masses to rise; this in turn causes considerable rainfall. With its luxuriant vegetation Učka differs very much from other mountains in the region of Primorje.

The coastal belt is covered by Mediterranean vegetation, the prevalent species is laurel. Lower parts of the slopes are covered with oak and chestnut forests; hornbeam, ash and maple are also rather amply represented. The forests of Učka provide pleasant freshness in summer and its peaks offer a unique view. The Primorje slope of Učka Mountain is densely populated, especially in the northern part, where villages are found on the elevation above 500 m. On the continental slope, villages are not found above 250 m and there are only a few of them. Exceptions are the villages of Vela and Mala Učka, at 900-950 m, with permanent sources of water and some plots of arable land and pastures.

Access to Učka Mountain: the main point on Učka is the Poklon Pass (in Croatian: bow - the pilgrims from Istria, while making a pilgrimage to the shrine of Our Lady of Trsat, used to bow when they saw Trsat). Poklon may be reached from all seaside resorts - Opatija, Ičići, Ika, Lovran, Medveja, Mošćenička Draga - and from there farther to Učka or Ćićarija.

From the Istrian side are walking trails from Lupoglav from the entrance to the Učka Tunnel.

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Nature park Velebit

Nature Park Velebit

With its area of almost 2,000 km2, the Velebit Nature Park is the largest protected area of Croatia, larger than all other protected areas taken together.

Within the Park, there is a series of smaller protected areas, including two national parks: Northern Velebit and Paklenica, and the strict reserves of Hajdučki and Rožanski kukovi. On this magnificent mountain that in its diversity, unique relief and richness of plant and animal life is one of the most significant in Europe, there is a whole series of natural sights ranking among the highest values Croatia has to offer.

Therefore, this whole 150 km long mountain is protected as UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, currently the only one in Croatia.

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Nature park Vransko jezero

Nature Park Vransko jezero

Vransko jezero (Vransko lake), a lake and cryptodepression in Ravni Kotari, northeast of Pakoštane; area 30.1 sq km (length 13.6 km, width up to 2.2 m, depth up to 3.9 m).

The water, supplied by the Skorobić brook and several springs, flows beneath the ground and through the artificial canal Prosika (850 m) into the bay of Pirovac. The highest summits in Ravni Kotari (standarac, 305 m), offering a nice view on the hinterland and the coastal strip, rise along the north-eastern, forested shore of the lake.

The lake is rich in fish (carps, mullets, eels, etc.). The area comprising 30 hectares is designated a special ornithological reserve. The easiest access to the lake is from the main road at Pakoštane (400 m) or from Prosika.

Today one of the famous freshwater fishing grounds in this part of Europe, known among Australians, Germans, Italians and other nations. Fishing can be individual or organized, as well as excursions to the lake.

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Nature park Žumberak

Nature Park Žumberak

Žumberak, a hilly region (around 300 sq km) in southern Prigorje (lower slopes) of the Žumberak range. Named after the old burg of Žumberak (burnt down in 1793; ruins above the village of the same name).

Mountain climbing, hiking, hunting and angling represent chief sports and recreational activities in Žumberačko Gorje. The region offers traditional domestic cuisine, venison and fish specialities as well as the Plešivičko wine.

Typical karst relief (sinkholes, caves, abysses, underground streams) with forests of beech and chestnut. Chief occupations are farming, viticulture and livestock breeding. The majority of the settlements lie above 400 m. The region used to be inhabited in the prehistoric (Budinjak, a habitation and necropolis from the Early Iron Age, Kalje) and Roman period (Gornja Vas).

The Žumberak range (in Slovenian Gorjanci) is a borderland between Croatia and Slovenia, with special tourist importance, primarily of mountain type, for the both countries. A smaller portion of the range - Samoborsko Gorje (Japetić, the highest top, attains 880 m) - is often separately presented and has been visited for more than a hundred years by many excursionists and hikers. Many marked trails and paths, such as Karlovac Hiking Transverse, the beautiful countryside (Sopote Waterfalls, 60 m, on the Kupčina river, the Slapnica brook, Eco-village Kravljak, Bio-park Gabrovica), villages and old hill-forts represent chief attractions in this hiking and tourist region.

Climbing the highest top, Sveta Gera (1,178 m) has a multiple symbolic meaning. There are several small, indigenous villages attractive for tourists (the whole region of Žumberak is an ethno-village). The hamlets of Sošice, Oštrc, Tomaševci, Kalje, Stojdraga and other on the Croatian side as well as many on the Slovenian side are connected by roads with bigger centres - Samobor, Bregana, Jastrebarsko, Ozalj, etc.

The ruins of old feudal castles not far from the village Stari Grad (Kekići) and the hill-fort near Tomaševci bear evidence of a rarely found, long continuation of settlement in the region of Žumberak. Some of the sacral objects (primarily churches) of Catholic and Uniate religions are interesting due to their beauty and specific features.

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