You are finally in Croatia and you want a day off. You have done the beach, the water sports, the shopping and of course exploring the gorgeous coastal towns and now you are wondering what to do? Well, I do have an idea but trust me it will be a difficult choice….
Croatia is a small country but a diverse one, from the Dalmatian coast and beautiful islands, all the way to the Istria region and the beautiful Slavonia region there is so many things to do. One of the first things that come up when you google Croatia active family holidays are the national parks (8 of them in total) and especially the most famous of them all, National park Plitvice lakes.
Plitvice lakes was founded in 1949 and became protected by UNESCO in 1979. This stunning park is one of the most visited places in Croatia and the park has a reputation as the place from fairy tales, no matter which part of the year you visit this park you will enjoy the magical 16 lakes that are connected with cascading waterfalls and pristine nature.
The Turquoise water will leave you speechless and the fresh air and gorgeous nature will charge up your families batteries for that sad time when your active holiday in Croatia comes to an end. So, wondering ‘what is the best way to visit Plitvice lakes National Park?’
Well, the Park has two entrances with big parking places and from there you start your walk toward the main ticket office. My advice is to stay on Entrance 2 and then explore the Upper lakes first and then go to the Lower Lakes and the Big waterfall (biggest waterfall in the country 78m high). Doing it like this, you will avoid most of the big tour groups that go in the park on Entrance 1. After that, you hop on the train and you go back to Entrance 2. If you want to see the entire park area around the lakes, it will take you about 5 hours.
If you are staying in Split it will take you about two and a half hours to the National park Plitvice lakes (248 km). It is a long drive but trust me it is definitely worth it. When you finish with the park you can visit one of the farms near the park because the region of Lika where the park is located is very famous for cheese and honey and everything is very fresh and GMO-free. Not that far from the park near the city of Gospic, there is a little village called Smiljan. Probably one of the most important villages in the world, wondering why?
Well in this village one of the brightest minds of humanity was born, and his name is Nikola Tesla. You can visit the house where he was born and there is also a nice educational centre with his inventions and a museum. Sounds like a nice day up in the mountains of Croatia.
But if you don˙t feel good with driving that far there is also a nice option quite close to Split. Only an hour and twenty minutes away National Park Krka is a destination worth visiting indeed.
This park is famous for travertine dams creating gorgeous waterfalls, the two most famous being Skradinski buk and Roški slap.
When you start your journey from Split you will go on the highway and head toward the city of Skradin. Over there you can leave your car and start your family adventure in this national park. In Skradin you can buy your tickets and then hop on a boat that will take you upstream to the park. Once you reach the park there is a nice circular path that you can take, not a very long one ( 2km) and the most popular one because it takes you around Skrandinski buk, the most famous waterfalls in Croatia, and the place where Krka river pours into the lake Prokljansko that goes to the Adriatic sea.
In front of this waterfall in the summer season, you can also go for a swim, this is the reason a lot of families prefer this park, kids can jump in the water and enjoy the lovely environment and you can have some time for yourself [hopefully or maybe wishfully ].
On this route, you will also find the remains of one of the oldest power plants in Europeand the oldest one that electrified one city, that was the city of Šibenik that got public lighting thanks to this power plant. This power plant was built in 1895 thanks of course to Nikola Tesla; who had built a power plant on Niagara falls and encouraged local scientists to do the same. I know its a family activity holiday but its good that the teenagers learn a few things too!
On the same route, you will find also find restored water mills that were a symbol of the economic power of this region and over here you can see how people used to live in this area. From the presentation of milling wheat, washing clothes, weaving different fabrics, horseshoe smithing, ploughing and many other things you get to appreciate the authentic environment; traditions and customs of the people that live here.
Not that far from Krka National park is the city of Sibenik which is located on the Adriatic coast and is a city worth visiting on your way back to Split. The oldest town in the country founded by Croatians, the city where Game of Thrones was filmed and a beautiful cathedral of St. Jacob that is protected by UNESCO. (One of the many Game of Thrones filming locations here in Croatia).
It was very difficult for me to write this blog because there are no appropriate words that can describe the beauty of these parks. There is a legend that says that when God was creating the Earth he created Plitvice lake last as a place where he could rest.A divine and gorgeous place that will leave you breathless.
On the other hand, Krka national park is quite close to Split and you get to go for a swim in warm summer days and let me be honest, with kids the less you walk the happier they will be. Both parks have something special and its up to you to decide but if you ask me which park you should visit, I will say: ”Send us photos from both parks”.
I wish you a truly epic family adventure holiday in Croatia!