If you love waterfalls, Croatia is a fantastic country to visit. Thanks to a jagged coastline and mountains flush with rivers, waterfalls thrive in this beautiful nation. Plitvice Lakes National Park in particular is world-famous for its waterfalls (in fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if 25% of the waterfall photos on Pinterest were from Plitvice alone!), and it is indisputably one of the top attractions in the country. But that’s not the only option in Croatia — there’s also Krka Waterfalls National Park in Dalmatia. And in some cases, it might be even better than Plitvice.
Krka Waterfalls National Park is another land of lakes and waterfalls that’s an easy day trip from Split or Šibenik. As another karstic terrain, the national park is full of porous rock through which the Krka river has carved lakes, cascades and caverns. It’s a truly remarkable site and one of Croatia’s eight national parks.
About 2/3 of the course of the Krka river is part of the national park which includes most of the river lakes and the two richest waterfall systems: Roški slap and Skradinski buk.
Although the Krka waterfalls were formed the same way as those in Plitvice, the amount of water is much greater. About 55 cubic meters a second flows down Skradinski buk, an amount that is four times greater after a strong rainfall. Skradinski buk is the largest travertine cascade system in Europe with 17 steps up to 400 meters wide.
As the Skradinski buk barrier grew, 13 kilometres of the Krka river were flooded up to the foot of the Roški slap system. This area is called Lake Visovac and there’s a 14th-century island monastery, the Visovac Monastery in the middle. Roški slap rises 27 meters in a series of shallow steps of extraordinary beauty.
The Krka Waterfalls National Park can be visited year round. When planning a visit, it is good to know that the Park extends over 109 km² and that the individual features can be several kilometers distant from each other and separated by natural barriers. Some areas are connected by excursion boats, while other sites in the Krka Waterfalls National Park can be reached by car. The planned trip can include several days for a full visit and experience of the park .
The Skradinski buk
The Skradinski buk waterfall, the longest waterfall on the Krka River, is one of the best known natural beauties of Croatia.
The cascades are composed of travertine barriers, islands, and lakes. They can be viewed throughout the entire year thanks to a network of paths and bridges that enable comfortable and safe walking. Several renovated water mills, rolling mills, and washing columns that for centuries have utilized the power of the river are also located at the Skradinski buk.
Preserving the traditional folk architecture individual mills have been turned into souvenir shops, while others have been transformed into exhibition areas for ethnographic collections. The Skradinski buk Ethno Village at Krka National Park recently received the prestigious Golden Flower of Europe award (Entente Florale Europe) from the European Association for Flowers and Landscape in 2006, in a competition among several thousand sites.
The Skradinski buk can be reached from the Lozovac entrance, with free parking, while from April to October free bus transfers for individual visitors are available from the entrance to the Skradinski buk. The other entrance is in Skradin, where from April to November visitors to the waterfalls are transported by boats of the Krka National Park. Nature lovers and fans of hiking can reach the Skradinski buk along a 875 m trail from the Lozovac entrance or from Skradin, along a 4 km trail that is also a bicycle path. Excursions can be taken by boat from the Skradinski buk to Visovac Island and the Roški slap waterfall.
Roški slap is also called the ‘vast waterfall’, and is made up of a 22.5 m high main waterfall and countless backwaters, cascades and travertine islands.
Roški slap is situated about 36 km downstream of the Krka River spring. The start of the barrier is made up of a series of small cascades (called the ‘necklace’ by the locals), followed by numerous backwaters and islets. Between Roški waterfall and Oziđana pećina cave there are 517 wooden steps.
Over the waterfall, there is a road that dates back to Roman times. Throughout most of Roški slap, the natural environment is pristine and of great interest to nature lovers. On the left bank are a series of attractive water mills, several of which have been restored and returned to their original function.
The complex of water mills at Roški slap is among the most interesting and prized ethnographic monuments in Dalmatia and Croatia.
The walking trails and viewpoints
The walking trails of Krka Waterfalls National Park and the stunning viewpoints are the best way to see the landscape and wealth of flora and fauna of the aquatic and terrestrial habitats, and to get a true experience of nature that encompasses all the senses.
The trails are equipped with educational panels providing detailed information about the plant and animal life in the park, and the cultural and historical points of interest. There are three circular trails: Skradinski buk (1900 m), Roški Slap (1360 m) and Krka Monastery (2100 m). A walking/cycling trail also leads to Skradinski buk from the Skradin bridge (3400 m), while from Lozovac, it is possible to take a forest trail (875 m) down to the park’s longest waterfall.
The shortest trail is 300 m long and leads to Bilušića buk, while the longest trail is Stinice-Roški slap-Oziđana pećina and covers 8.5 kilometres. The trail with viewpoint (360 m) leads to Manojlovac, the tallest waterfall on the Krka River. The beauty of rock and the fortress arising from it, Ključica, can be admired from the trails (1450 m) that leads from Brnjica to the Čikola River or along the opposite side of the canyon, the Ključica trail (1600) leads to a viewpoint with a spectacular view. There are three additional viewpoints in this stunning landscape shaped by the Krka and Čikola Rivers: at Bilušića buk, Brljan falls, and in Krnići Gornji, which overlooks the confluence of the Krka and Čikola Rivers.
Flora and Fauna
The Krka river is rich in fish with 17 different fish species including a species of trout that can only be found here. Marsh birds find it an appealing habitat.
Depending on the season, you may find heron, duck, goose, crane, sandpiper, snipe, water rail and warblers. In the gorges there are rare eagles, falcons and owls.
Thanks to geographic position and the large number of different habitat types, the plant life around the Krka River is exceptionally diverse and picturesque, with 1022 species recorded to date.
The Krka River basin is dominated by white hornbeam forests and thickets, macchia, garrigues, grasslands, rocky pastures, weedy and ruderal communities, and planted conifer stands. Even today, primary vegetation types can be seen along the Krka and Čikola Rivers, such as the flora of the aquatic and wetland habitats, and the canyon vegetation.
The most abundant species are the Mediterranean and southern European plants, though there are also many central European, European, and Eurasian floral elements, in addition to American, subtropical and tropical species.