As we’ve been planning our trips this year, we did some general googling for travel inspiration. We’ve always been drawn to sunny weather and sandy shores, but living with the grey skies in Cambridge, England has made us a bit more desperate for Vitamin D. When a pictures similar to the one above popped up — people relaxing in a serene pool of blue green water, surrounded by trees and amazing waterfalls, I knew I’d found our next trip. And so, we booked our tickets to Croatia to go swimming in Krka National Park.
When to go
Peak times for Krka National Park are July and August, which means a busy park and higher entrance fees. The warm temperatures (30℃/85℉) are perfect for swimming, but you’ll be sharing the water with a lot of visitors.
Shoulder season is April through June and September through October. We visited in May, when the weather was warm and the park wasn’t overrun with visitors. The swimming area of Skradinski Buk got pretty busy as the day went on, but the other parts of the park were practically empty.
Off season in November through March. The daily high hovers in the low 10℃s/50℉s December through February, so it’s not exactly swimming weather. But, if you do decide to take a polar(ish) plunge, you’ll probably be doing it alone. Something else to keep in mind is that most of the park provided transportation is not operating during the winter period. This includes the ferry from Skradin to Skradinski buk and the buses from Lozovac to Skradinski buk.
Getting to Krka National Park
Krka National Park is in the middle of Croatia’s stretch along the Adriatic Sea, about halfway in between Zadar and Split.
We decided to stay in Zadar because we also wanted to visit Plitvice Lakes National Park. Zadar is a good mid-point between both Plitvice and Krka. Since we were covering so much ground on our trip, we rented a car. Car rentals are fairly cheap in Croatia and the main roads are well-maintained. The drivers did seem a bit impatient, but it wasn’t a big deal. It takes about 1 hour to drive to Krka from Zadar. Most of it’s easy freeway driving, but do note there is a toll. If your first stop is Skradinski Buk, parking is available at Skradin and Lozovac. See the orange markers on the map below.
If you want to use public transit, the FlixBus runs a direct round from Zadar to Skradin (the main entrance to Krka) during high season. A roundtrip ticket costs €7.50 and the trip takes 1 hour. You can book your ticket here.
The drive up from Split also takes a bit over an hour, and it’s on the same toll road. The FlixBus runs a direct round from Split to Skradin (the main entrance to Krka) during high season as well. A roundtrip ticket costs €9.50 and the trip takes 1.5 hours. You can book your ticket here.
Staying near Krka National Park
To avoid early morning travel, there’s good accommodation options near the park. Here are a few places that are rated above a 9 and less than $100 per night on Booking.com.
Krka National Park has three main areas you can visit that are all linked by the Krka River: Skradinski buk, Visovac and Roški Slap.
We arrived at the Skradin entrance and caught the first boat into Skradinski Buk (included in the entry price) the morning we visited Krka National Park. If you want to swim, make this your first stop as it is the only area you can get in the water. Plus, it has some of the best waterfalls, so it’s a must visit even if you don’t plan on jumping in.
I recommend arriving in time for the first ferry of the day. The ferry ride into the park is scenic and beautiful, and being on the first boat ensures that you’ll have the park mostly to yourself. If you’re pressed for time, it is possible to drive and park in the town of Lozovac, about 10 minutes up the road. From the parking lot at Lozovac, you can take the free shuttle buses down into the park.
While pictures of these waterfalls are beautiful, they really don’t do it justice. The water is cool and clear, with travertine formations in the middle of the pools and waterfalls pounding down as the backdrop. The park is signposted with interesting educational information, including an explanation of how the limestone is continually building the waterfalls.
It was a surreal experience to enjoy the pools to ourselves for almost an hour. While I jumped in for a dip and jumped along the rocks to get deeper into the pools, Aaron relaxed on the shady shores with Hudson. He was taking a nice, long morning nap thanks to all the white noise courtesy of the amazing falls. After my swim, we took the path up and around the falls to see all seventeen from different angles. We headed back to the main pool for Aaron and Hudson to take a dip. By this time, there were plenty of others enjoying the water and this part of the park was feeling pretty packed. After our final swim, we headed back on the boat to drive from Skradin to Roški Slap, with a stop at Visovac Island.
If you want to be super prepared, water shoes are a good idea as the limestone rock can be sharp and slippery, but we managed just fine without.
There is large shaded area with picnic tables and a few vendors across from the waterfalls. It’s a good place to grab lunch or some ice cream.
While you can take a four hour boat excursion from Skradinski buk up to Visovac and Roški slap, we decided to drive so we would have more time to explore each area. By taking the boat, you’ll have about 30 minutes to explore the tiny island of Visovac, including the monastery founded by Franciscan monks in 1445. Since we were driving, we could only see it from the water’s edge.
If you’re looking for a decent hike, there’s an 8 km trail that starts at Stinice, near Visovac, that leads to Roški slap. See details here.
After our quick stop, we continued on to Roški slap (slap means waterfall in Croatian). The entire drive between Skradin and Roški slap took about 40 minutes.
Roški slap was a peaceful place to retreat after what was turning into an overcrowded afternoon at Skradinski buk. Here, the waterfalls are a bit further away. There is a no swimming sign, but that didn’t stop someone from jumping in for a quick refreshing dip. There is shaded grass area on the water’s edge, which from here looks like a large, calm lake. There’s a few smaller waterfalls landing in a stream nearby, and a restaurant a bit up from the water where you can enjoy these beautiful views. This part of Krka was practically empty, and we relaxed under the shade of the trees (and by that I mean constantly got up to stop our son from eating duck feathers, sticks, or trying to crawl directly into the water).
After spending some time near the lake, we headed up the river to explore the “necklaces” and the cave, Oziđana Pećina.
The necklaces are a series of banded rapids, which we thought would look best if viewed from above. In order to get the better view, we headed up the nearby wooden staircase that leads up to the cave. After 517 steps, we arrived to find the gate to the cave locked. A sign at the bottom noting that the cave was closed would’ve been nice, but the stellar views from the top were worth it.
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