Discovering Croatia’s National Parks

Mike's mile high view of the Makarska Riviera and  beyond

Mike’s mile high view of the Makarska Riviera and beyond

Note:  I have been touring Croatia as a guest of Dhar Media in the role of journalist/blogger for most of September.  Due to constraints on time and internet connectivity, my blog has suffered some neglect, although I managed to post a couple of stories in fulfillment of the expectations of our hosts.  We return to Scotland at the end of September when I will explore in detail more about our travels through Croatia.  For example, we visited seven of Croatia’s national parks and I have posted only one related story to-date, the story about Plitvička Lakes.  This series continues with the following story about two of Croatia’s beautiful parks.

One of the most impressive qualities about Croatia is their preservation of the most beautiful public spaces for posterity through their system of national parks and parks of nature.  The distinction between national parks and parks of nature is the legal limitations on land use.  A good analogy would be the difference between a national park and a national forest in the United States.

Paklenice National Park

The steep canyon walls of Paklenica National Park

The steep canyon walls of Paklenica National Park

Paklenice (pawk-leh-NEES-eh) National Park is above all a climbers’ paradise near the Dalmatian archipelago island of Pag.  Solid karst rock walls rise 1,000 feet and higher in some areas to form a narrow, deep canyon.  Most routes are numbered and protection anchors are drilled permanently into the rock for clipping in carabiners for climbing ropes.  Small plaques on each pitch label the difficulty rating with a numerical designation.  Some pitches are no more than ten feet away from the next adjacent pitch, and during the Spring and Fall, climbing ropes lay about like spaghetti as climbers take turns climbing various routes.  Colorful names for the routes are given to each pitch, an honor reserved for whoever was credited with the first ascent.

Climbing walls tower overhead

Climbing walls tower overhead

The national park covers 95 km² (23,000 acres) and the terrain which straddles the coastal mountain ridges is an ideal setting for backpackers.  A ranger informs me that camping is only allowed in designated sites where shelters have been built.  Their purpose is primarily to protect surrounding areas undisturbed in their natural state.

A backpacker could hike the high country from one end of the park to the other in a few days.  This would make for an invigorating and rewarding outing and instill the desire to return to one day further explore the park’s hidden treasures.

Biokovo Park of Nature

View of the Dalmatia Coasts and Adriatic Sea

View of the Dalmatia Coasts and Adriatic Sea

Biokovo Park is named after the peak that towers over the Riviera town of Makarska.  The road to the summit winds up and up, switchback after switchback for 23 kilometers (14 miles).  Our drive climbs 1,700 meters (over 5,500 feet elevation) from the sea to a viewpoint marked by a radio relay tower.  The temperature drops 6°C (11°F) from our seashore point of origin, and a brisk wind reminds me I should have brought a jacket.

We can see all the way to Bosnia from Biokovo Mountain's summit.

We can see all the way to Bosnia from Biokovo Mountain’s summit.

Although weather can change rapidly and extreme weather is possible any day of the year, we arrive at the summit on the perfect day.  Looking east I can see Bosnia.  To the west I am able to see over the Dalmatian archipelago to the Adriatic Sea and beyond to catch a glimpse of the coast of Italy.

I should warn any prospective visitors who aspire to reach the summit of Biokovo Mountain.  The road is adequately maintained.  However, it is single lane over much of the route, and you will encounter oncoming cars.  Be prepared to find the closest wide spot in which you are able to squeeze past one another.  It may seem challenging, but the view is worth it.  Many tourists rent scooters for the drive, and that is a great solution on a typically warm sunny day.

During our trip I visited seven national parks.  You may be surprised by the diversity of natural settings as I share with you more of the natural beauty of Croatia in my next story. 

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16 comments on “Discovering Croatia’s National Parks

  1. It really does look like a lovely place – I look forward to more of your Croatia posts! You guys sure are busy! Celeste 🙂

    • Mike Lince says:

      You are right about being busy, Celeste. We are hitting one special interest, cultural or scenic sight after another for almost all daylight hours. Being the senior members of the group keeps us hustling to keep up sometimes. We love Croatia. We just are not used to taking in a country in such big gulps at a time! Ah well – we will be back in Scotland in a few days. – Mike 🙂

      • Although I’m sure you’re having fun, it sounds like you’ll appreciate being back to doing things on your own terms. Paul and I are more leisurely travelers ourselves. When we traveled with my parents, they had a checklist of things they wanted to see and this took some of the fun out of it for us. Celeste 🙂

  2. nantubre says:

    So good to read you again! Absolutely gorgeous country and it is a delight to see it through your eyes. can’t wait for more. Blessings and safe travels to ya’ll ~

  3. Stunning, Mike! Can’t wait to hear more about this trip… it looks spectacular!

    • Mike Lince says:

      Thank you, Dawn. If there is one take-away for travelers from this trip, I think it is to see Croatia before it becomes over-touristy. I love the pace of life here and the attitude that work is important, but it is not everything. If you do not sit down to a meal for at least an hour and a half, people wonder what the heck is the hurry! I will write about that soon, too. 🙂 – Mike

      • Sounds like a great location for the Six Monthers! Had you considered Croatia as destination? I look forward to reading more… I noticed on the Bucket List site, that you didn’t post a Header photo… so, your post isn’t as visible. You might want to add one, in edit. I had to do that too. 😉

  4. Steven says:

    Nicely done, and definitely added to my hiking list. Cheers.

  5. reocochran says:

    Your regular followers understand and believe your responsibilities are awesome! We are in awe that you were chosen and are doing a great job of being an ambassador! You have been very good, in the past, sometimes you remind me: Your blog will be there when you get back! Well, you are still posting and also, carrying other duties. I love the photo of you, the distant blue, hazy background looks like a painting. Something ethereal and majestic in those mountains and lakes!

  6. Looking good, Mike and Florence! I think life in Croatia agrees with you. Croatia certainly seems to be blessed with some pretty spectacular national parks, and it sure says a lot about the country that they have preserved their national treasures. I’m so enjoying this series. ~Terri

  7. blade3colorado says:

    Ack! Mike, I had no idea you were a Dodger fan . . . You’re still cool, but I wish you would lose the hat . . . A San Francisco Giants hat would look so much better on you. 😉

    • Mike Lince says:

      In truth, Steve, I am a Mariners fan, being from Seattle, and generally a fan of the designated hitter, thus an American League guy. The LA hat was a gesture to ingratiate myself to my in-laws who live a few miles from Dodger Stadium (although the Dodgers did come on strong this year after a weak start). 🙂

      • blade3colorado says:

        OK . . . I love the Mariners (partially due to Tim Lincecum being from the Pacific Northwest). I haven’t been to their new stadium and want to some day return to Seattle to attend a game there.

        The last time I attended a game in Seattle – On June 5, 1980, they played against the Tigers and Willie Horton hit what seemed to be his 300th career home run, but it struck a speaker hanging from the roof of the Kingdome and bounced onto the field for a single. Hilarious (except to him)!

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