Hiking Croatia: A Guide To The Best Trails

Hiking in Croatia is one of the best ways to discover more about the country, where each step unveils natural beauty and diverse terrains. Croatian hiking trails range from easy walks to challenging hikes, thus catering to different skill levels, from the beginner to more experienced hiker.
Whether you’d prefer to explore the tranquil islands dotting the Adriatic Sea or the majestic peaks of the Dinaric Alps, we’re here to tell you about the best hiking trails this country has to offer.

Why Hike In Croatia?

There’s a reason why Croatia is one of the most popular holiday destinations in Europe. The country is a hidden gem that offers a unique blend of natural beauty, diverse landscapes, and cultural experiences that you won't find anywhere else.
Croatia's coastlines and islands provide stunning views of the Adriatic Sea, while its national parks are home to waterfalls, lakes, and dense forests, perfect for exploration on foot. Additionally, you'll find history, culture, and warm Croatian hospitality along the way. It's an experience that combines physical activity with the beauty and culture of Croatia, making every hike memorable.
Croatia hikers
Hikers in Croatia

6 Must-Try Croatia Hiking Trails

Ready for an unforgettable hike in Croatia? Here are the best trails:

1. Starigrad Fortress, Omiš

Starigrad Fortress (or Fortica), is a historic fortress perched above the town of Omiš, Croatia. This hike offers a unique opportunity to explore the rich history of the region while enjoying panoramic views of the Adriatic Sea, the Cetina River, and the rugged Dalmatian landscape.

Difficulty

The hike to Starigrad Fortress is a moderate challenge for hikers with a basic level of fitness. The trail involves a steep ascent on rocky paths, so sturdy footwear is essential.

Unique Features

There are two main trails to the fortress – the North Trail and the South Trail. The South Trail is less strenuous and more popular among casual hikers.
You will enjoy stunning vistas of Omiš and its natural surroundings, including the emerald waters of the Cetina River, and the vast Adriatic Sea.
After descending from the fortress, you can explore the Cetina River, which offers a variety of activities to complement the day's adventure. Skyhook takes you rafting, canyoning, and kayaking as you experience the river's natural beauty up close.
Fun Fact: Starigrad Fortress dates back to the 15th century and served as a lookout and defence point against Ottoman invaders.

Why It's Popular

The Starigrad Fortress is a favourite for its historical allure and the stunning natural scenery it offers. The strategic vantage point offers unparalleled views, making it a highlight for history enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.
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Plitvice Lakes

2. Plitvice Lakes National Park

The Plitvice Lakes National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is located in the Lika-Senj region of Croatia. It is a 9.4-mile (approximately 15.1 kilometres) loop that takes an average of around 4 hours to complete. The trail gains an elevation of 1,315 feet (about 401 metres).

Difficulty

Plitvice Lakes National Park presents a moderately challenging hike and is accessible to hikers with a moderate level of fitness.

Unique Features

Plitvice Lakes National Park is distinguished by its series of 16 terraced lakes, joined by waterfalls that extend into a limestone canyon.
You can pass by a series of both Lower and Upper Lakes by choosing either Entrance 1 or Entrance 2, respectively.
The lakes include Prošćansko Lake, Ciginovac, Okrugljak, Batinovac, Veliko jezero, Malo jezero, Vir, Galovac, Milino jezero, Gradinsko jezero, Burgeti, and Kozjak in the upper section, and Milanovac, Gavanovac, Kaluđerovac, and Novakovića Brod in the lower section.
These lakes are known for their distinctive turquoise waters, which, along with the limestone and chalk bedrock, contribute to the park's unique and vibrant ecosystem.

Why It's Popular

Plitvice Lakes National Park is popular for its breathtaking natural beauty and the immersive outdoor experience it offers.
It is accessible by rental car, bus, or private transfer, and with accommodation options such as hotels and cottages, the park is well-equipped for visitors planning an extended stay.
However, given the park's popularity, it's wise to start your hike early, around 7 am to 8 am, to avoid the crowds.
The best visiting months are from March through November (Spring, Summer, and Autumn seasons)) when you can enjoy the best stunning views of waterfalls, lakes, and wildlife. The summer and peak season is between July and early September, so expect to deal with more crowds at the park entrances, and on your hikes.
Still, this national park is a sightseeing haven, especially for wildlife lovers. You can see different animals like bears, deer, wild boars, hedgehogs, martens, voles, and mink.
Quick tip: Even though most terrain is flat, it can be slippery in the morning, so do wear hiking boots with good grip.
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Hiking the Velebit mountain range.

3. Velebit Hiking Trail

The Velebit hiking trail takes you through Croatia's largest mountain range: Velebit, an extension of the Dinaric Alps and a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve since 1978. The region is recognised for its rich biodiversity and unique landscapes.

Difficulty

This trail is a mix of moderate to challenging sections and perfect if you're up for a multi-day adventure. It is divided into nine sections, so the entire hike takes around nine days to complete.

Unique Features

You can start the hike in Zavižan, one of the best-known localities in the Northern Velebit National Park, accessible via a road leading from the coast near Senj.
The path covers around 100km from start to finish at Starigrad Paklenica. The trail is marked with red and white mountaineer markings, and it takes you through dense forests, over rocky passes, and across meadow clearings for a unique view of the Velebit's rugged beauty. Some of the trail's highlights include the Velebit Botanical Garden which was started by botanist Prof. Fran Kušan, and grows some of Velebit's endemic plants.
You will also hike several Velebit peaks, like the Gromovača peak, Zečjak peak, and the Sveto Brdo peak. Sveto Brdo, standing at 1751 metres is the last high peak of Velebit and a vantage point offering unparalleled views of both the Lika region and the coastal side. At the top, you find a large metal cross and a table with the Ten Commandments.
There are various permanently open shelters, which, though not supplied, are perfect for a night under the stars. They're free to use, but bring your food, mat and sleeping bag for comfort. You can also find water sources near the shelters - but be sure to purify with tablets before use.
Camping is generally forbidden outside designated areas, and fire is only allowed at arranged fireplaces near huts and shelters.
The best time for this hike is May to October, the warmer and drier seasons. You want to avoid the winter months (December to February) due to harsh weather conditions.

Why It's Popular

This trail is special for its accessible yet diverse terrain, the breathtaking scenery it offers, and its rich biodiversity and cultural elements.
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Brač, Croatia.

4. Vidova Gora, Brač

Vidova Gora is the highest peak on the island of Brač, Croatia, and the highest peak across all Adriatic islands. Located above the village of Bol, Vidova Gora is worthy of a visit if you're a hiking and nature enthusiast.
One of the peak's popular trails starts in Bol, and spans 10.6 km (6.6 miles) round trip, with an elevation gain of 715 metres (2340 ft), and takes about 2 to 5 hours to complete.

Difficulty

Rated as moderate difficulty, it's accessible to those with a good level of fitness but requires caution due to the rocky path and potential for heat exposure.

Unique Features

The hike offers breathtaking views of Zlatni Rat beach, one of Croatia's most famous beaches, and the surrounding Adriatic Sea.
The initial section of the trail may lead you along a road towards a stone quarry, showcasing Brač's famous stone, before transitioning into a more traditional rocky hiking path. The ascent is steady, with some sections sheltered by pine forests, a respite from the sun.

Why It's Popular

The popularity of hiking Vidova Gora comes from its status as the highest peak in the Adriatic Islands, with spectacular views and a challenging yet accessible trail.
Quick Tip: start early to avoid the midday heat, bring plenty of water and sunblock, and wear sturdy shoes for the uneven terrain.

5. Pljesevica Mountain

The Plješivica Mountain is located in the Dinaric Alps on the border between Croatia and Bosnia & Herzegovina. The hike spans 13.6km to the summit of Gola Plješivica at 1646 metres.

Difficulty

The hike is categorised as challenging due to its steep inclines, uneven paths, and the physical stamina required to navigate its length. Suitable for experienced hikers, the trail demands good preparation, including appropriate footwear and hiking gear.

Unique Features

The path starts in northern Croatia and travels through diverse landscapes including countryside, dense forests, and shrublands. It uniquely skirts around several peaks like Ozeblin (1657m) and Kremen (1591m), before reaching the summit.
At the trail's end is a plateau with iconic stage-like rock formations and remnants from the Balkan wars, including derelict military structures and abandoned barracks.
This is definitely one for the thrill-seekers as while hiking, you’ll need to watch out for active landmines which remain from the Yugoslavia war - you'll be warned by red signs with skulls and crossbones on the trees.

Why It's Popular

The hike offers an immersive experience into the region's natural beauty and its tumultuous past.
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The old walled town of Dubrovnik

6. Mount Srđ, Dubrovnik

Mount Srđ in Dubrovnik offers a unique hiking experience with spectacular views of the historic city and the Adriatic Sea.

Difficulty

The hike is relatively easy and can be completed in approximately 1 hour. Starting from Dubrovnik's old town, the trail ascends sharply to 412 metres (about 1352 feet) above sea level.

Unique Features

The path is well-marked, beginning as a dirt track through pine forests before turning into a rocky switchback route up the mountain.
Along the way, you'll find brass relief artworks representing the 14 Stations of the Cross, adding a cultural dimension to the hike.
Reaching the summit rewards you with breathtaking views of Dubrovnik Old Town and its historic walls, a UNESCO World Heritage site, against the backdrop of the deep blue sea. On an evening hike, the golden hues bathing the terracotta rooftops and the sun setting over the horizon offer a mesmerising sight.
If you prefer not to hike back down in the dark, the cable car offers a convenient alternative.

Why It's Popular

The trail offers an immersive experience in nature, with serene lake views that captivate visitors. Also, the hike's moderate difficulty level makes it suitable for a broad audience, from experienced hikers to families looking for an enjoyable day out.
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Croatia has beautiful locations to hike in.

How to Prepare for Croatia Hiking

Gear Up

Invest in good quality hiking boots or shoes that offer support and grip, and opt for moisture-wicking clothing to keep you comfortable.
A lightweight, durable backpack is essential for carrying water, food, and other necessities. And, don't forget to pack navigation tools such as a map, compass, or GPS device, as well as sun protection including sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat.
A well-stocked first aid kit and sufficient food and water are also vital.

Best Time to Hike

The best time to travel to Croatia is during the spring (March to June) and autumn (late September to October). These periods offer mild weather, making them ideal for hiking and outdoor activities.
Also, if you're up for a short hike, you can do so in summer (July to early September) but do carry with you sun protection essentials and water.

Safety Tips

Inform someone of your hiking plans, including your expected return time, and check the weather forecast before setting out, as conditions can change rapidly.
Familiarise yourself with basic first aid to manage minor injuries, and ensure you stay on marked paths.

Cost of Hiking in Croatia

Most trails in Croatia are open to the public, but certain areas, especially those within national parks or protected areas, may have specific rules regarding trail access and usage. It’s always useful to look these up when planning to visit a national park or protected area.
Croatia's national parks, such as Plitvice Lakes, require an entrance fee. These fees contribute to the conservation and maintenance of the parks. The entrance fee can vary by season, with higher rates typically in the summer months.
For example, entrance fees to Plitvice Lakes National Park start from 10 EUR per adult.
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There are often hikes which include incredible views of waterfalls.

Wrapping Up

Whether this is your first time hiking in the country or you’re looking for a challenging adventure you have many options when seeking a great hike in Croatia.
You can choose from short treks through Dubrovnik, or even opt for longer treks through national parks like Plitvice.
So lace up your hiking boots for an adventure that promises to challenge and invigorate and reveal the soul-stirring landscapes that make Croatia a hiker's paradise!

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