KRKA NATIONAL PARK
Each of the islands within the Šibenik archipelago, arranged across the vast area of the open sea, hides an interesting feature. Zlarin has the most famous coral divers, while Krapanja, a small town on the smallest island in the region of the same name, is known for its sea sponge divers.
The Sibenik region is one of the Mediterranean’s quieter corners where there is still the space and time to make discoveries in a fascinating and varied landscape. The Krka National Park and the town of Sibenik are symbolic of the contrasts that are found in central Dalmatia. There are the rugged limestone mountains of the mainland set against the intricate archipelagos of the Adriatic Sea. And there is the diversity and natural beauty of the various parks and reserves in combination with the rich and well-preserved cultural heritage of the ancient coastal settlements.
It is a landscape that offers much to the interested visitor and which, thankfully, remains free from the concrete development of resorts. Mediterranean summers: Sibenik and the central Dalmatian coast enjoy a pleasant Mediterranean climate with warm, dry summers coupled with cooling sea breezes and the temptations of the Adriatic. Inland, in the national park, the river and the waterfalls counteract the heat. In winter it is mild and wet, but note that much is likely to be closed.
Krka National Park Hotels
Karst landscapes: Krka National Park shows the Croatian karst at its best. Karst environments are formed by the dissolving action of carbon dioxide and water on carbonate rock, which in Krka’s case is limestone. Over thousands of years this process has resulted in the formation of a series of distinctive geomorphological features, with the Krka river fighting its way through a long gorge and plunging over rapids. Karst landscapes also feature highly developed subterranean drainage systems, making them ideal territory for those interested in exploring potholes and caves. The area is rich in Mediterranean and sub-Mediterranean flora and fauna. The surrounding forest is mixed, with hornbeam, cypress, poplar, oak and willow represented, while over 200 bird species are found, including golden eagles, and the river is home to Visovac trout and Adriatic salmon.
The Adriatic is also the Mediterranean at its best. Elsewhere polluted and crowded, in Croatia the sea is blue and clear and clean. It also provides the rhythm of life on the coast, with time being marked in the small fishing villages with the departure and safe return of the boats.
Krka National Park: Established in 1985, the 142 sq km Krka National Park follows the line of the Krka river, from its source in the foothills of the Dinaric mountains on its short journey through the dramatic karst landscape to its finish in the Adriatic. The river flows through a limestone gorge, dropping over 220m in 50km, with eight sets of rapids. Only two falls – Skradinski buk and Roski slap – are in the park itself, although the former is the most impressive of all with a 46m drop over seventeen limestone steps.
Sibenik: First named in royal documents in 1066, Sibenik is the country’s oldest native town on the coast. Originally developing around St Michael’s castle, Sibenik grew haphazardly in medieval times, with a dense, interlocking web of houses and streets interspersed with resplendent ecclesiastical architecture. By the mid 17th century the original castle had been supplemented by three additional defensive fortresses, as the town, by then an autonomous region within the Venetian state, sought to defend itself from the encroaching Ottoman Empire.
The town’s most renowned feature is the Cathedral of St James. Designed in the Decorative Gothic style by Juraj Dalmatinac in the mid 15th century, and finished fifty years later by Nikola Firentinac, the building is recognised as a masterpiece of Croatian architecture with its unique skeletal stone construction.
Today, despite the effects of time and war, Sibenik has managed to preserve its character and is now a tourist and cultural centre. For the last forty years the town has held an annual International Children’s Festival, where groups from around the world perform in the streets.
Visovac and Skradin: After the noise and rush of the falls, visitors are surprised to find the tranquillity of Visovac. This small island is the site of an old Franciscan monastery, established in the 16th century. Now home to a library of books and manuscripts, the monastery is the best place for contemplating the serenity of the park in perfect peace and quiet.
At the mouth of the Krka, where the river mixes with the Adriatic to form a brackish estuary, is Skradin. Originally an Ilyrian settlement, the Romans developed it into a fortified town and remnants of the aqueduct and other municipal buildings are well preserved as a national monument. (© National Parks Europe)
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