Paklenica - Croatia's 2nd National Park, Mountain Paradise by the Sea with Forest and Flowers

Beautiful Green Valleys were once inhabited by Paleolithic peoples.  Many archeological artifacts have been discovered in this region.
Beautiful Green Valleys were once inhabited by Paleolithic peoples. Many archeological artifacts have been discovered in this region.

Paklenica National Park is Croatia's second national park. Like its "big sister" Plitvica National Park, it was declared a National Park in 1949. With an area of area of ​​96 km2 (a little over 50 square miles) it consists of an unusual combination - mountains leading directly into the sea. Lush and abundant forests cover the mountains.

With 150 of hiking and walking trains on both the mountains and in the valleys, it is a paradise on earth for its many visitors - estimated at approximately 100,000 every year. The most popular trails are those with breathtaking views of the sea below.

Geology wise, the Park also provides a home for rare and ecologically protected flora and fauna.

Geologists estimate that there exist as many as 70 caves, pits and underwater caverns. Some, like Manita Peć, which is about 175 meters deep. Its walls are covered with stalagmites and stalactites, estimated at an astonishing 80,000 years. Almost like discovering the underwater cave of Ali Baba!

Deep canyons are cut into the mountain landscape at Mala Paklenica at 12 km deep and Velika Paklenica at 14 km deep. It is truly a beautiful place to visit, and best of all, you don't have to be an experienced hiker to enjoy it.

Picturesque Beauty

Paklenica National Park is located at one of the most beautiful parts of Velebit, the central mountain range in Croatia (Hrvatska).
Paklenica National Park is located at one of the most beautiful parts of Velebit, the central mountain range in Croatia (Hrvatska).

Mala and Velika Paklenica

An aerial view of Mala Paklenica.  The two, deep green canyons are limestone based and 12 and 14 km deep.
An aerial view of Mala Paklenica. The two, deep green canyons are limestone based and 12 and 14 km deep.

Velika Paklenica and Mala Paklenica

The two well known canyons of Velika Paklenica (14 km deep) and Mala Paklenica (12 km deep) are part of the southern Velebit mountain range. In these canyons can be found a variety of geological deposits. These days, no water flows in Mala Paklenica. Mountain springs in Velika Paklenica provide torrential power and further deepen the limestone foundations of the canyon floor.


Flower, Plant and Animal Life at Paklenica

Flora and Fauna

The Park is known for 1000 different types of flowers and plants, 79 of them particular to the park grounds itself. It is a very important flower reserve, not just for Croatia but all of Europe and for the entire world. The forested areas on the park's premises is truly remarkable. A combination of so many varieties of beech trees, black pine, fern forestation, oak, and oriental hornbeam, can all be found within its less than 100 km2 area.

Animal Life

230 bird types have been recorded and documented, with over 100 of them being of the nesting variety. The park is also well known for its beautiful butterflies, which are well recorded. There are other animal types that need further exploration, like invertibraes. There a 40 types of amphibians and reptiles.

Endangered Species

The golden eagle and two types of endangered woodpeckers - the spotted and white backed varieties - make their home at Paklenica. The short toed eagle also lives at Paklenica.

53 species of mammals also occupy the park, including the brown bear. The caves contain various other animals, including bats, crabs, pseudo-scorpion, beetles, and too many others to name.

The many faces of Paklenica

Famous Anica Kuk, a mountain climbing challenge for experienced climbers!
Famous Anica Kuk, a mountain climbing challenge for experienced climbers!
Deep caves and caverns containing stalagmites and stalactites.
Deep caves and caverns containing stalagmites and stalactites.
The map of Paklenica National Park in relation to the whole of Croatia.  It's about an hour's drive north east from Zadar.
The map of Paklenica National Park in relation to the whole of Croatia. It's about an hour's drive north east from Zadar.

Caves Filled with Staligmite

With 70 or more caves, the most beautiful caves are undoubtedly Manita Peć cave

and water birds.

Manita has an elevation of the cave entrance to the cave about 550 m length of 175 m is divided into two halls abound in stalactites, stalagmites, and dripstone pillars. It is estimated that the decorations around the age of 80.000 years.

Prehistoric Settlement till Today

Paleolithic peoples lived in this area at the end of the ice age. The sea level was much lower than it is now, and frozen glaciers at the higher parts of Velebit were beginning to melt. People lived in the many cave dwellings in this area. Flint tools have been found from this time frame.

Around 8,000 years ago the first hunters and gatherers returned, farming and breeding domestic animals like sheep and cattle. Some clay pots and eating ware, as well as domestic tools have been found. The emphasis from hunting was transitioned into domestic breeding and growing wheat for bread and other staples. The caves were suitable dwelling for both humans and their animals.

About 2000 years ago, the indigenous Liburnians (Illiric peoples based near the Zadar area) inhabited the area. Circular rounds which served as lookout posts were used to spot invaders. The seat of government was held in these parts due to the sea view and mountain fortifications. Ancient burial grounds of kings and others were generally robbed, but some remains of these graves can still be found in the area. After the Liburnians were conquered by the Greeks, the area gradually came under Roman control. Many important arifacts, including a collection of glass, can be viewed at the Zadar Museum of Archeology.

Mountain Climbers among us

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Mountain Climbing by the Sea

Paklenica is pretty much the mountain climbing and hiking center of Croatia. This is a good place for most amateurs to start out at. It's considered a top notch location up to standard with other climbing areas available in the Europe. Of course, its most heralded feature is the view of the sea while climbing. Most mountain ranges are located far enough inland that the sea is a blurred horizon away. This particular national park offers that unique combination of sea + mountain within the same geographical area.

Hiking Trails

With different levels of difficulty available, there are actually 400 different paths to choose from. For those afraid of heights, there the Park offers about 150 kilometers of hiking trails through the canyons.

Did you like this HUB?

I am doing a series on Croatian National Parks so be sure to check the others out if you like to hike, enjoy nature, or come to the Mediterranean for travel. At the bottom of this hub lie other links with two of the eight parks and one Geopark within the Republic of Hrvatska (Croatia).

If you liked this Hub then please click on the green button "vote up" - I appreciate your votes! Feel free to leave a comment, and bookmark it for handy reference in the future.

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Comments 4 comments

livelonger profile image

livelonger 4 years ago from San Francisco

Unless I'm mistaken, Paklenica means something like "little hell" - quite a name for such a gorgeous park. I've been to Plitvice before, but not Paklenica. Might have to add it to the agenda next time I'm in the neighborhood!


EuroCafeAuLait profile image

EuroCafeAuLait 4 years ago from Croatia, Europe Author

Hi, Livelonger, yes, you're right about the resemblance of the name to "hell". There are some theories about that. The rugged shapes of the sharp peaks look a bit scary, and the open flat areas in the heat could also be a possibility (heat = hell). There is also an old Croatian word, Pakol / Paklina, referring to the resin from the pine trees. It doesn't look like Hell to me either, LOL, and thanks for commenting!


livelonger profile image

livelonger 4 years ago from San Francisco

Nisam to znao - I know Croatian, but only a little bit. Did not know about pakol/paklina but that makes more sense given the topography!


EuroCafeAuLait profile image

EuroCafeAuLait 4 years ago from Croatia, Europe Author

You're giving me an idea to do a Hub on some basic Croatian terminology... like a traveler's guide... Thanks, livelonger :))

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