With its medieval towns and sandy beaches Croatia is undoubtedly one of the most picturesque countries to visit in Europe. Yet venture beyond the red roof seas, the Game of Thrones tours and the colourful markets, and you’ll discover that nature is what makes Croatia truly special. This jewel of the Adriatic is packed with opportunities to explore wild forests, thundering waterfalls and high peaks, as well as being one of the best places in the world for coastal activities.
Here are some of our favourite off-the-beaten-track ideas to help you plan your very own Croatia outdoor adventure holiday.
Explore Dubrovnik by Sea Kayak
Yes, you really can! Get a different perspective of this famously popular and often crowded city by jumping in a kayak and paddling around the city walls. It’ll feel like you have the city almost to yourselves, and bobbing along on the ocean is such a peaceful way to experience one of the busiest sights in Croatia. Head out to the Island of Lokrum and paddle around the rocky shore, checking out sea caves, swimming and snorkelling in the clear waters, and even trying a bit of cliff jumping if you’re feeling brave. When it comes to lunch, eating your picnic on a secluded beach will be something you won’t forget in a hurry. If you’re after a bit of summer fun in Croatia it doesn’t get much better than this!
Zip line Across Čikola River Canyon
Be like a bird and soar over tiny treetops and through dramatic ravines as you glide across the breathtaking Čikola river canyon, dangling on the end of a zip line. If you’re after a bit of adrenaline along with superb views and fantastic bragging rights back home, then this is it! There are three zip lines at Čikola which make up the 1.4 km course, the longest of which is 650 m, allowing you to reach speeds of up to 70 km per hour. Now that’s fast! Suitable for anyone with a sense of adventure, participants can opt to go individually or as a pair, which is great news for families with smaller children. This trip can be easily combined with a visit to Krka National Park for a swim in the waterfalls, making it one of the best days out you can have in Croatia.
Swim in Waterfall Pools at Krka National Park
When it comes to waterfalls, visitors to Croatia tend to make a bee-line for the popular Plitvice Lakes National Park. The falls here are indeed absolutely stunning, but during the summer they’ll be crowded and you’ll struggle to photograph them without people in the shots. Plus, you can’t actually swim there! So instead we suggest you make your way to Krka National Park in Dalmatia. It’s just as beautiful as Plitvice but less crowded, and you are allowed to swim in the lakes here. Krka falls could possibly be the best swimming pool you’ll ever have the joy of experiencing! There are several hiking trails here too so stay and make a day of it, cooling off afterwards in the water on a hot afternoon.
Go Hiking or Climbing in Paklencia National Park
Located about 47 km north of Zadar, Paklencia National Park is one of nature’s most scenic adventure playgrounds. The area covers around 100 square km with dramatic mountain summits, fragrant pine forests and two emerald canyons snaking through the wild landscape. There’s lots of wildlife to spot here including, if you’re very lucky, bears, wild cats and lynx. You’re more likely to come across deer and eagles though! Come here to explore the wide variety of hiking trails, with everything from challenging treks to gentle strolls, perfect for hard core adventurers and families alike. Heading off on foot is a great way to get to know the park, surrounded by nothing but nature, and hikes can be done independently or on a tour. Paklencia is also one of the best places in Croatia to go climbing, with some incredible views from the cliff faces. Routes vary in difficulty and are best for those with experience under their belts. During the summer visitors can also explore the vast caverns of Manita peć cave, with its thousands of subterranean formations and 52 types of invertebrate!
Try Island-Hopping in a Sailing Boat
Leave the towns and beaches behind as you unfurl the sails of your dinghy or yacht and glide over the water in search of your very own coastal adventures. Enjoy sailing day trips (and even longer excursions if you prefer) which are on offer from many of Croatia’s sea settlements, with some of the most popular being around Split and Hvar. There are several options for boat rental in Split, including skippered charters and go-it-alone adventures. Which will you choose?
Kick off your shoes and become a sailor for the day, even if you’ve never done it before. There are over 1000 islands dotted along the coast of Croatia, and arriving by boat is a fun way to explore them. With stops for swimming in sheltered bays, lunch at a local restaurant or a picnic on the beach, and sightseeing from a unique angle, this really is a fun way to discover the natural wonders of this photogenic country.