Climbing in Paklenica, Croatia; Shutterstock ID 87656320; Your name (First / Last): Josh Vogel; Project no. or GL code: 56530; Network activity no. or Cost Centre: Online-Design; Product or Project: 65050/7529/Josh Vogel/ Destination Galleries

Shutterstock / Dziurek

Paklenica National Park

Top choice in Northern Dalmatia

Covering 95 sq km of the Velebit Range that divides continental Croatia from the Adriatic coast, Paklenica National Park contains some of the country’s finest mountain scenery, giving you the opportunity to trek up gorges, climb walls of stone and meander along shady paths next to rushing streams. The park encompasses two deep gorges, Velika Paklenica (Great Paklenica) and Mala Paklenica (Small Paklenica), which scar the mountain range like giant hatchet marks, with cliffs over 400m high.

The dry limestone karst that forms the Velebit Range is highly absorbent, but several springs at high altitudes provide a continuous source of water and nurture patches of lush vegetation. About half the park is covered with forest, mostly beech and pine, followed by pubescent oak and varieties of hornbeam. The vegetation changes as you ascend, as does the climate, which progresses from Mediterranean to continental to subalpine. The lower regions, especially those with a southern exposure, can be fiercely hot in summer, while the bura (cold northeasterly wind) that whips through the range in winter brings rain and sudden storms.

Animal life is scarce, but you may see golden eagles, striped eagles and peregrine falcons, which nest on the cliffs of the two gorges. Lynx, bears and wolves live in the park’s upper regions, but your chances of seeing them are minuscule. There is, however, a high chance of seeing chamois near the main park entrances.

The best time to visit is in April, May, June or September. In late spring the park is at its greenest and the streams become torrents. In July and August many of the streams dry up and it can be too hot to hike comfortably.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Northern Dalmatia attractions

1. Manita Peć

0.68 MILES

The only cave in Paklenica National Park that's open to the public, Manita Peć has a wealth of stalagmites and stalactites enhanced by strategically…

2. Museum of Salt

14.51 MILES

Nin's salt was prized in ancient times for its high iodine content, making it sought after for both culinary and medicinal purposes. This small museum…

3. Church of the Holy Cross

14.88 MILES

This appealing little pre-Romanesque white church, often called 'the smallest cathedral in the world' in recognition of its role as the ancient seat of…

4. Church of St Nicholas

15.42 MILES

This unusual early Romanesque church crowns its own hill off Rte 306 southwest of Nin. The small, pretty edifice was built in the late 11th or early 12th…

5. Vinarija Škaulj

16.14 MILES

Tours, tastings and cellar-door sales make this a fine detour just off the E71. The organic winery is best known for its reds (cabernet sauvignon, merlot…

6. Uljara Nadin

16.19 MILES

This fine place offers olive-oil tasting (including advice on how to tell the difference between good and bad olive oil), a tour of its production…

7. Sea Gate

17.79 MILES

Also known as St Chrysogonus' Gate (Vrata Sv Krševana), this port-facing archway was built in 1573 and sports the Venetian lion and part of a Roman…

8. St Rok's Gate

17.81 MILES

This humble gate is handy for reaching the ferries and excursion boats that line the harbour here.