Risnjak National Park

Risnjak National Park is based in Crni Lug near Delnice has 6,400 hectares of forest areas. With over thirty specific plant communities, a 4.2-kilometres long trail, a mountain lodge, a restaurant and accommodation capacities, it represents a special attraction and value of Kvarner and Gorski Kotar – a wide, heavily forested, karst plateau rising to jagged peaks. Easily accessible, owing to the proximity of the main ZagrebRijeka road, the area is a popular destination with Croats for walking, climbing and mountaineering. The Park is at the northern end of the plateau and covers over 30 sq km rising from the tableland at 620m to the main peak, Risnjak, at 1,528m.

hiking in Risnjak

The park’s varied climatic influences – the sea from the south-west, the Dinaric mountains from the south-east, the continent from the north-east and the Alps from the north-west – have enabled over 4,000 plant species to prosper. Accompanying these are over a hundred brown bears, lynx (ris in Croatian and after which the park is named), wolves, wild cats, wild boar, deer and chamois, as well as 500 species of butterfly.

There are also notable sights outside of the park itself. Lokvarska is one of several caves open to visitors in the summer. Over 1,000m long and dropping 140m in depth, the cave features an impressive array of stalactites, stalagmites and a calcified way through it to the 90m Zeleni Vir waterfall at the far end. The Cicarija mountains are just to the west of Gorski Kotar. A 40km long barrier that blocks Istria off from the rest of Croatia, the chain peaks at Platnik (1,273m). Being nearer to the sea the climate is considerably milder than at Risnjak, although there is often still snow on the summits in May.

Every once in a while, a true lover of nature is bound to come across places which are so intact by the human hand that it seems as if one is visiting some different period of history. That is the case with Risnjak, a national park in Croatia, which may not be so abundant when it comes to tourist rates, nonetheless it is more than abundant when it comes to the natural beauty.

This park is located in the region of Gorski Kotar, and it is comprised of the mountain massive called Risnjak. The park was founded in 1953 and initially took around 3000 hectares. However, over the years, it was enlarged to 6400 hectares, thus encompassing the source of river Kupa, as well as the mountain of Snjeznik. The park itself is divided into two areas- the area of strict and the area of directed protection. The division was enforced in order to protect some of the rarest specimens of flora and fauna that find their place in the park. Furthermore, Risnjak is prominent for the presence of the various species living in the same territory, such as the case with ash or yew when it comes to plants, or bears, deer, wolves and many different kinds of birds when it comes to fauna.

As it was previously said, Risnjak is located in the area of Gorski Kotar. This karst field in the northwest of Croatia is famous for its nickname “European Switzerland”. If one can not catch a glimpse of why it is called that way, another nickname “Lungs of Croatia” may set things straight. Namely, Gorski Kotar is covered in the forest across 63% of its territory. It is not greatly inhabited, nevertheless, this part of the country presents an important traffic knot, as it connects Hungary, as well as the rest of Croatia, with the city of Rijeka.

cycling in risnjak

Things to do in Risnjak

In terms of outdoor activities, Risnjak presents a little piece of heaven, really. First of all, cyclists can find pleasure in exploring the miles and miles of Risnjak mountains crags. The cyclist paths are marked and vary in length. Beginners can enjoy in short paths from four to eight kilometres in length, which are not far from the centre of the complex. Still, for more adventurous types, Risnjak provides cycling routes which are up to 40 kilometres long. In spite of their length, these paths are quickly passed, as one gets distracted and immersed in nature.

As for those who like their feet firmly on the ground, Risnjak is an exciting place as well, as it offers many hiking treks. The first association is, of course, the trail of Leska. This path which was formed in 1993 consists of the round walking path that stretches for four and a half kilometres in the area of Crni Lug. It is furnished with 23 informative signs which bring a visitor closer to the complex physiognomy of the park, its karst fields, the mix between Alps and Dinarides, the peculiarities of the soil and so on.

The greatest challenge of the park is certainly conquering Veliki Risnjak (Big Risnjak), the highest peak of the mountain, which stands tall at 1528 meters. It can only be approached on foot, hence improving the overall sensation. Another treat for hikers, or better yet those in love with mountaineering is reflected in the visit to the mountain of Snjeznik. This massive, which owes its name to the snow that more or less constantly covers its peak, presents an unusually accessible place to reach. It is famous for the lodge on its peak. Another interesting place for the mountaineering fans is Guslica. This mountain is only a kilometre away from Snjeznik, and it boasts with the peak of 1490 meters. It is marked by the presence of the desolate military base which belonged to the army and which was abandoned over the course of a war.

The one thing that Risnjak is certainly recognised for is the opulence of wildlife. This is of extreme importance for everyone deeply in love with nature, as here he can see its flourish at its highest. At the very beginning, the animal which gave its place to the park should be mentioned. Even though a bobcat (Lynx rufus)  locally called ‘ris’ (hence the name of the Park) was anything but exterminated in this area during the 19th century, today it is possible to see this wildcat in Risnjak, thankfully to the efforts of Croatian and Slovenian scientists.

Besides bobcats, Risnjak is renowned for the presence of different fauna specimens. The park is characterised by the presence of the big beasts such as brown bear, or wolves, all the way to different types of deer and smaller animals like weasels, badgers and many species of rodents. Risnjak is also a home for numerous amphibians and reptiles.

Birds belong to a special category as Risnjak is well known as a haven for birdwatchers. Many different and rare species can be seen hovering over the park, from smaller types like heather cocks or grouses, owls, and woodpeckers.

It is not only the fauna that makes life buzzing in Risnjak the flora is also rich in its variety. As it is only 15 kilometres away from the Adriatic sea, Risnjak is centred at the middle of influence between the coast and the continental part of the area. This results in various plant specimens, even the rare ones. Here one can see an endemic flower called an alpine rose, as well as other endemic species. The forest covers almost two-thirds of the complex and provides one with the unique feel of satisfaction and connection with nature.

The most recent addition to the area of the national park is the source of the river Kupa. This source is embodied in the beautiful lake, which, despite many attempts of the scientists, still lacks information regarding its depth. To depict the magical touch of the Kupa more closely, it is enough to mention the nickname of this place – ‘The wondrous valley of butterflies’. Now, that is a place worth visiting.

Getting to Risnjak:

The nearest bus station is Delnice, which is about 2 /12 hrs journey from Zagreb, about 40 minutes bus ride from Rijeka and 3 hrs from Pula.

Hotel near Risnjak

  • Hotel Risnjak
    Hotel Risnjak
    The newly renovated Hotel Risnjak can be found close to the Delnice exit of the A6 / E65 motorway and offers you tasty regional cuisine, free parking and free Wi-fi in all rooms. A large fitness hall can be found on site as well. Prices from €48 – Number of rooms: 21 – Check Hotel Risnjak, Delnice availability

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For the serious walker, there are four major long-distance routes in the area. One of them, the Rijeka mountain traverse, is a six to seven-day walk taking in all the important peaks. Starting from near the Cicarija mountains in the west, the route passes through Risnjak and then turns south over Velika Kapela to finish at Crikvenica on the coast. Paths are well marked and mountain huts provide overnight accommodation. An authorised guide is recommended. (© Walk Europe – a guidebook which provides holiday ideas for single travellers, couples, families and groups of all ages and abilities. Get the full Walk Europe guide from Amazon )

risnjak

National park website: www.risnjak.hr  (NP RISNJAK, Bijela Vodica 48, Crni Lug)