Every summer, the Adriatic coast draws hordes of sunbathing beach potatoes from Europe. While the rugged beauty of the rocky Croatian beaches cannot be underrated, the more active (or sun-sensitive) vacationer should seek out the shadowy requiescence of Krka National Park, located in central Dalmatia. About 20 minutes from the coastal town, Sibenik, Krka offers a gorgeous alternative to spending a yet another day sprawled on the beach.
When entering the park, you can pick from two different entrances: the southern one leads to the Skradinski Buk and the public road goes further north to Raški Slap. Choosing the Skradinksi Buk entrance, as we did, maybe the more logical option as the upstream boat tour to Raški Slap and the Visovec Monastery begins from Skradinski Buk. The bumpy bus ride down from the entrance of the park to Skradinski Buk is an adrenaline rush of its own as the Croatian squeeze by each other in the twisty turns of a narrow mountain road, but the luscious greenery around the Krka river below is a reward enough. Walking down the asphalt road from the buses, you will soon see the tour boat. Whether you choose to go up the Krka river and or not (we could not as the river cruise takes 3 hours), you should definitely spare an hour or two for exploration of the “Ria,” or the beginning of the delta of the river Krka around Skradinski Buk.
Every sight in this part of the park is a treat, so explore away! Less and more traveled, the web of pathways winding along the azure streams of the Krka ria will astonish with sights of grassy dens hidden by the overarching trees and spangled with the golden sunlight permeating through the luscious canopy above. As you saunter along the footpaths and bridges, keep an eye out for the spectacular diversity in the regional flora and fauna. Since the Krka Ria offers an exceptionally rich environment, many endangered birds make their home here and more than eighteen species of fish inhabit the river, some of which can only be found in this ecosystem. But careful! While the fish and the birds seem fairly harmless, the Krka Ria is also a home to numerous species of water snakes that slither and swim around the hidden ponds. A pleasure to watch, perhaps less so to encounter up close. Not an ornithologist or herpetologist? Fear not! There is still the endangered European otter that might be spotted around the park.
Although the animal and plant life of the Krka Ria is certainly a point of interest, the crowning gem of this section of the park are the waterfalls, the largest travertine cascade system in Europe. The many rivulets running along the footpaths in the park feed into the larger many-tiered waterfalls as they descend to Skradinksi Buk. The crystal water comes in more than 50 shades of green and blue, so diverse and rich that it would make a painter’s heart heave with joy. What’s better than enjoying the sight of such a magnificent natural wonder? Swimming in it, of course! The area around Skradinksi Buk is also open to swimmers and many visitors go in for a dip to cool down or to take a bikini-clad picture in front of the waterfalls– equally worthy missions. Either way, it is best to go earlier in the day to avoid the crowds.
After drying off, why not take the hike up the hill to see the remains of the historical mill and explore the exhibits about how the earlier inhabitants used the river? Along the way, you can taste and buy some homemade olive oils and dried figs from the locals who keep stands along the path. Besides, this side of the river offers still another panoramic view of Skradinski Buk, which you can observe with ice cream in hand. The way back to the buses from the mill is quite simple, and so this is the perfect point to end the tour.
P.S. Almost every time I come to Croatia, I make sure to stop by Krka National Park as the park possesses singular natural beauty, hardly seen anywhere else in the world. The tranquility of Skradinksi Buk never fails to instill a sense of repose in me after many days of traveling. Definitely worth the trip!