Those of you who follow us know how much we love waterfalls. Iguazu, Niagara Falls, Semuc Champey… you name it, we’ve been there. In June 2019, we explored Plitvice Lakes, and there was absolutely no question: we would also check out Krka National Park in Croatia. Not only did we have an awesome time, but we can also now provide in-depth advice having experienced both.
While not a UNESCO world heritage site like Plitvice Lakes or Dubrovnik, the easy to reach sights at Krka are getting more than their fair share of tourists in summer. If you’d like to experience Krka National Park without the crowds (and without a car), this post is for you.
Why is Krka National Park so popular?
Krka is Croatia’s second most visited National Park (after Plitvice Lakes) and a designated natural heritage since 1985. Just over 100 square kilometres in size, the park is only one-third of its more famous sibling yet it feels larger, as Krka’s main sights are more spread out.
When people talk about Krka National Park, they often have the park’s widest and most photographed waterfall in mind: Skradinski Buk. It is stunning, no question, and you are even allowed to bathe in the river just below the falls. But what makes Krka so attractive to many is how easy it is to get to. It’s a short 30 minutes’ drive from Šibenik and less than 1 1/2 hours from Split. Which means, most people visit on a day trip, and Skradinski Buk is all they get to see.
Krka National Park (thankfully) though is more than Skradinski Buk. The park stretches from the outskirts of the town of Knin in the north all the way to the small town of Skradin in the south, along the Krka river valley that slowly descends towards the Adriatic over seven travertine waterfalls. Skradinski Buk is the final and widest one of the seven.
But it’s not just beautiful waterfalls visitors come to admire. The park is also a resting point for birds on their twice-annual migration between Europe and Africa. And it is home to medieval monasteries and fortresses, and archaeological sites that date back to Roman times.
Which National Park is better – Krka or Plitvice Lakes?
- You can bathe at Krka National Park in a designated area at Skradinski Buk. And in summer, many people do just that, which means you might be sharing the natural pools with hundreds of other people.
- Krka is more versatile than Plitvice Lakes with plenty to keep you busy for days: gorgeous waterfalls (of course), tranquil boat rides through deep river canyons, hiking and mountain bike trails, medieval monasteries and fortresses, even Roman archaeological sites if that’s your thing.
- Because the main sights at Krka are quite spread out it’s more difficult to explore the park without a car, and you need more time if you want to see more than Skradinski Buk.
If you want to visit both (on the same trip) and are looking for an order, we recommend visiting Krka first and then Plitvice Lakes National Park.
When is the best time to visit Krka National Park?
As with most places around the Mediterranean and Croatia in particular, avoid the peak summer months. Half of Europe seems to flock to the Adriatic during the school holidays in July and August. And entry tickets are the most expensive between June and September.
Instead, come here in the shoulder months April/May or October if you can, when the temperatures are pleasant but it’s way less crowded and less expensive. The added benefit: Spring and Autumn are beautiful times of the year to come here and experience the blooming of the trees and wildflowers in Spring, and the colouring of the trees in Autumn.
You could even come in the winter months between November and March when it’s cheapest, but be aware that the boat and bus services that bring you to the main sights during the rest of the year are not available in Winter, which means having a car is pretty much unavoidable.
How do I get to Krka National Park (without a car)?
Krka National Park is located about half-way between Zadar and Split, around 20km inland from the Adriatic coast and the city of Šibenik. The park has entrances at five locations. The most important ones for independent travellers are
- those near Skradin and Lozovac in the south (which are closest to Skradinski Buk); and
- those by Roški Slap (near the settlement of Laškovica) about 20km upriver towards the town of Knin.
As mentioned above, one of Krka’s biggest drawcards is how easy it is getting there. Buses from Šibenik to Skradin take around 30 minutes – check out the timetable to Skradin and from Skradin. You can also reach Skradin from Zadar in about an hour and Split in less than 1 1/2 hours. The bus journey between Plitvice Lakes and Skradin takes about 3 hours.
Onward bus tickets can be bought from the booth at the bus stop (coming from Zadar) or at Active Destination, a travel agency in town.
How do I get around the park, and what are the trails like?
As mentioned, there are seven waterfalls in total but the easiest ones to visit (without a car) are Skradinski Buk and Roški Slap.
The settlement of Lozovac is in walking distance from Skradinski Buk (~1.5km). From April to October, there is also a shuttle bus – the return journey is included in your entry ticket.
If you come from Skradin, you have two options:
- From April to October, there is a boat shuttle service – the return journey is included in your entry ticket. The boat leaves from the jetty in Skradin (a few steps behind the visitor centre) and takes about 30 minutes each way.
- You can also walk or cycle between Skradin and Skradinski Buk. The flat 4.5km trail runs parallel to the river (along its northern shore) and offers some nice views along the river valley.
Once at Skradinski Buk, there is an easy 2km loop trail, a mix of gravel/forest trail, some cobblestone paths and boardwalks, to explore everything there is to see. The trail takes you past restored mill houses (which now contain exhibitions and souvenir shops) and the remains of the old hydro-electric plant, over the waterfall and to the different viewpoints. There are also information boards explaining the flora and fauna of the area dotted along the trail. The course is quite undulating (with some steps) which might be difficult to navigate with a wheelchair or stroller, though some parts of Skradinski Buk are wheelchair and stroller accessible (and there are signposts to direct you accordingly).
To explore more of the park you need to bring your own mode of transport (a mountain bike, for example – more on that below) or join one of the boat excursions that connect
- Skradinski Buk with Visovac Monastery, Roški Slap and Oziđana Pećina Cave; and
- Roški Slap with Krka Monastery, and the medieval fortresses of Nečven and Trošenj.
The boat excursions are not included in your entry ticket.
The jetty for the boat excursion to Visovac Monastery and Roški Slap is located upriver from Skradinski Buk, about 500m along the Lozovac shore. The jetty for the boat excursion to Krka Monastery is about 500m upriver from Roški Slap, near the trailhead to the Oziđana Pećina Cave. There are signs between the jetties so don’t worry, you can’t get lost.
You can also reach Roški Slap by mountain bike, taking the R1 route through Dubravice, Rupe and Laškovica. You can hire mountain bikes in Skradin. If you think ‘why not combine both?’ be warned: It is currently not possible to cycle to Roški Slap and then take the boat excursion back (or vice versa). So make sure you have enough energy to cycle both ways. It’s ~35km return from Skradin (if you return the same way) with ~900m elevation gain.
Upper falls and Burnum archaeological site
The northernmost sights of the park, comprising the five upper falls – including Manojlovac Slap (the tallest waterfall at Krka) – and the Roman archaeological site of Burnum, can only be reached by car or (if you have the stamina) by mountain bike. In total, Krka boasts over 470km of cycling trails.
How much time do I need to visit Krka?
How much time you should set aside for your visit really depends on what you want to see.
If you just want to see and (maybe bathe) at Skradinski Buk you can do that easily on a day trip. If you need to store your luggage for the day, Active Destination offers a luggage storage service. Otherwise, just take a stroll through town and look for signs as some of the hotels also offer luggage storage to non-guests.
If you’d like to see Skradinski Buk and Roški Slap and have the option to visit the monasteries, we recommend staying at least one night. This gives you the chance to experience Skradinski Buk in the morning without the crowds and join a boat excursion from there to Roški Slap (note: you need to book excursions in advance). Add even more days if you’d like to explore the park’s 470km of cycling and 47km of hiking trails.
Either way: Be aware that the operating hours of the park vary by season. So make sure you check those before you book anything else.
Is there an entrance fee? How does ticketing work?
Croatia’s natural heritage requires protection, and protection needs funding. So yes, there are entrance fees.
Similar to Plitvice Lakes, you have the choice between a single entry ticket that allows you to visit the park for the day or a multi-day ticket. In Krka’s case, the multi-day ticket allows you to visit the park on 3 days over a 7-day period, perfect if you’re planning to spend a week in the area but don’t want to be in the park every day.
You can buy entry tickets for Krka National Park online via the same website you can buy tickets for Plitvice Lakes or at the park offices located near the entrances. We bought ours at the Visitor Centre in Skradin.
When we visited in June 2019, the Visitor Centre only sold tickets for the same day. As boats only start operating when the park opens, we headed to the Visitor Centre right when it opened (an hour before the park) to make sure we caught the first boat.
If you want to experience Skradinski Buk earlier (without another soul in sight), buy your ticket online, hire a bike and ride to Skradinski Buk as soon as the sun rises.
Also, note that visitor numbers at Krka National Park are limited to 10,000 at any one time. So, if you’re visiting in the summer months make sure you book your entry tickets online (a few days) in advance to avoid disappointment.
Where do I stay/eat at Krka National Park (without a car)?
Within the National Park
The only accommodation option within Krka National Park (that we’re aware of) is the Hotel Roški Slap located in the middle of the falls. We didn’t stay there but had lunch in its tranquil beer garden. The hotel is only reachable by car (or mountain bike).
While it lacks accommodation options within the park compared to Plitvice Lakes, Krka makes up for it with dining options.
At Skradinski Buk
There is a great variety of food stalls dotted around a large beer garden on the side of the falls where the boat from/to Skradin docks. Food is prepared in front of you (the pancakes are yummy) or available for purchase (including freshly baked sweet and savoury pastries) without nasty packaging. There is also a restaurant with views over the falls on the Lozovac side of the falls, though we can’t comment on the food quality/prices.
At Roški Slap
You can choose between three restaurants/beer gardens – one each on either side of the falls (Panorama Roški Slap and Alte Mühle Kristijan) and one right in the middle of the falls (at the Hotel Roški Slap). We ate at the latter and can only recommend it.
Bins (including recycling) are available all around the park. We also saw two water fountains, on either side of Skradinski Buk.
Outside the park
Since you can only get to the vicinity of Skradinski Buk by public transport, we won’t list here accommodation options further north.
The two settlements closest to Skradinski Buk are Lozovac and Skradin. From Lozovac, you can reach Skradinski Buk by walking ~1.5km or taking the bus shuttle (which operates between April and October). To reach Skradinski Buk from Skradin requires a 30 minute boat ride (between April and October) or 4.5km bike ride/walk.
While Lozovac is closer on paper, it has less character than Skradin and is more difficult to get to. Only the local bus to/from Šibenik stops in Lozovac – check the timetable here (from Šibenik, to Šibenik). If you don’t mind the trouble, accommodation options in Lozovac closest to the falls include:
Lozovac lacks a decent size supermarket, so if you want to self-cater here bring your groceries with you.
If you come by bus from further afield, your best choice is in Skradin. The small town has lots of charm, a stunning waterfront location and several historic sights. We can highly recommend spending a few days here. Accommodation options are plentiful too, for example:
Skradin has several supermarkets, making self-catering even for longer periods very easy.
How do I best visit Krka National Park (without the crowds or a car)?
If you’ve only got time for a day visit, we recommend to visit outside the peak season (June-September).
If you can’t, take an early bus to Skradin from Šibenik, Zadar or Split (or to Lozovac from Šibenik) and head straight to Skradinski Buk. If you can’t be there when the park opens, we recommend getting there later in the afternoon. Entry tickets are discounted from 16:00, and most day visitors tend to leave from around 17:00.
Joining a day tour from Sibenik, Zadar or Split is of course also an option.
If you stop over for the day (on your journey between Zadar and Split for example) and need to store your luggage Active Destination and several of the hotels in Skradin offer a luggage storage service (just keep an eye out for the signs).
Stay one night
If you’d like to see Skradinski Buk (in the morning without the crowds), a medieval monastery, Roški Slap and a cave dating back to the neolithic age (5,000 BC), we recommend staying at least one night.
Arrive in the afternoon/early evening and explore Skradin. Head up to the ruins of Turina Fortress for sunset. Then enjoy freshly caught seafood or the local speciality Skradinski Rižot at one of the town’s many restaurants.
If you don’t have your entry ticket yet buy it first thing when the Visitor Centre opens the next morning, then take the boat or hire and ride a bike to Skradinski Buk and explore this stunning waterfall doing the loop walk. Make sure you check out the exhibitions in the restored mill houses. Exploring the falls will take you 2-3 hours.
Afterwards, join the boat excursion to Roški Slap (make sure you book in advance), stopping at Visovac Monastery along the way. Enjoy lunch at Roški Slap. Then walk off the calories, hiking up to Oziđana Pećina Cave (with artefacts from between 5,000 and 1,500 BC, and stunning views over Roški Slap).
Complete the loop walk around the part of the falls called The Necklaces before taking the boat back to Skradinski Buk. The excursion to Visovac Monastery and Roški Slap will take around 4 hours.
If you have time, go for a swim at the beach in Skradin (rather than at the waterfall) – the water is cleaner, and it’s less crowded.
Stay two nights
Option 1 (no fitness required)
This suggestion takes in the two lowest falls (Skradinski Buk and Roški Slap) and the Visovac and Krka Monasteries, and can be done by people who don’t look for physical exercise.
Leave exploring Skradinski Buk for your second morning. Instead, on your first morning, join the boat excursion/s to Visovac Monastery and Roški Slap, and from there to Krka Monastery and the medieval fortresses Trošenj and Nečven (make sure you book in advance). Have lunch at Roški Slap upon your return from Krka Monastery. Including the boat ride between Skradin and Skradinski Buk (and the walk between the jetties), the excursions will take up the whole day.
On your second morning, take the boat (back) or hire and ride a bike to Skradinski Buk. Take your time exploring the waterfall on the loop walk and checking out the exhibitions in the restored mill houses. Exploring the falls will take you 2-3 hours.
If you have time, go for a swim – at Skradinski Buk or at the beach in Skradin (where the water is cleaner).
Option 2 (requiring a degree of fitness)
This suggestion allows you to explore the two lower waterfalls (Skradinski Buk and Roški Slap) as well as Visovac Monastery AND gives you plenty of physical exercise with a 35km mountain bike ride and an almost vertical hike to Oziđana Pećina Cave.
Explore Skradinski Buk in the morning (refer above) and then join the boat excursion to Visovac Monastery (make sure you book in advance).
Have lunch when you return to Skradinski Buk and enjoy an afternoon swim at the beach in Skradin (rather than at the waterfall).
Hire a bike the next morning and ride to Roški Slap, taking the R1 route through Dubravice, Rupe and Laškovica. Enjoy lunch at Roški Slap. Then hike up to Oziđana Pećina Cave to check out the archaeological collection and the stunning views over Roški Slap. Complete the loop walk around the part of the falls called The Necklaces before starting your ride back to Skradin (the same way you came).
Feature image by Agnieszka Mordaunt on Unsplash