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Hiking in Croatia: the best trails and essential tips

Get ready for hiking in Croatia with these tips on the best trails and unique volunteering opportunities for a lifetime adventure.


hiking in croatia

Hiking in Croatia offers an unparalleled opportunity to explore the breathtaking landscapes of this Mediterranean gem. From novice to expert, the diverse range of trails in Croatia will take you through awe-inspiring mountain ranges and along stunning coastlines.

As you embark on your Croatian adventure, you'll discover well-maintained trails winding through the Dinaric Alps and along the Makarska Riviera. And the country's rich cultural heritage and warm hospitality will further enhance your experience.

In this blog post, we will delve into some must-visit hiking destinations such as Plitvice Lakes National Park and Paklenica National Park. 

Additionally, we'll discuss how volunteering with Worldpackers can make your hiking trip more affordable while connecting you with like-minded travelers.

Finally, we will provide essential tips for a successful hike in Croatia – from packing essentials to respecting nature and local regulations. 

So gear up for an unforgettable journey as we guide you through the wonders of hiking in Croatia!

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Reasons to go hiking in Croatia

Croatia is a hidden gem for hikers and nature enthusiasts, offering a diverse landscape that includes stunning coastlines, majestic mountains, and lush forests. Croatia's plentiful culture and inviting hospitality make it a great place to explore for those wanting to experience the excitement of an adventure while absorbing the local customs.

If you’re still not sure if it’s worth doing a hiking trip to Croatia, here are a few reasons to hop on a plane ASAP:

1. Beautiful landscapes

The geographical diversity of Croatia is one of its most alluring features. From the crystal-clear waters along the Adriatic coastline to the rugged peaks of Velebit Mountain Range or Plitvice Lakes National Park's enchanting waterfalls - there are countless breathtaking sights waiting to be discovered on foot.

Hiking through these varied landscapes allows you to experience firsthand what makes the country so unique.

2. Well-maintained trails for all levels

No matter your skill level or preferred terrain type, there are plenty of well-maintained trails throughout Croatia. Whether you're looking for an easy coastal walk with scenic views or a challenging trek up steep mountain paths - there's something here that will suit every adventurer's taste.

Many routes also offer informative signage detailing historical sites or points of interest encountered along the way.

3. Rich cultural heritage and warm hospitality

Hiking in Croatia provides ample opportunities to immerse yourself in local culture as you traverse ancient villages, historic ruins, and picturesque towns. 

The country's rich history is evident in its architecture, customs, and cuisine - all of which can be experienced firsthand during your hiking trip. Additionally, the warm hospitality of Croatians will make you feel welcome.

traveling in croatia is amazing

Must-visit hiking trails in Croatia

Can't wait to go hiking in Croatia, but don't know where to start? Let's dive into a few must-visit trails that showcase the best this country has to offer:

• Plitvice Lakes National Park

• Paklenica National Park

• Premužić Trail through Velebit Mountain Range

• Brač Island’s Golden Cape Beach trail

• Mljet Island’s Veliki Gradac hike

1. Plitvice Lakes National Park

Plitvice Lakes National Park is one of the most popular destinations in Croatia, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its 16 interconnected lakes and cascading waterfalls with turquoise waters.

The waters flowing over the limestone and chalk have, over thousands of years, deposited travertine barriers, creating natural dams which have formed beautiful lakes, caves, and waterfalls. On top of all that beauty, the forests in the park are home to bears, wolves and many rare bird species.

Plitvice Lakes park offers several well-marked routes ranging from easy strolls to more challenging hikes, making it suitable for everyone. This was first National Park in Croatia, established in 1949. There is an entrance fee, charged for the Park’s upkeep and protection.

The park is easy to reach from Zagreb, Split, Sibenik, and Zadar as well as from other surrounding places. You can also do a stopover in Plitvice if you travel from Zagreb to the Adriatic coast. If possible, visit during spring or autumn, when the crowds are thinner.

Plitvice Lakes is the most famous place for hiking in croatia

2. Paklenica National Park

Paklenica National Park, located on the southern slopes of Velebit Mountain Range, boasts over 150 km (93 miles) of marked trails through dense forests and rugged cliffsides perfect for hikers seeking adventure.

It is Croatia’s second oldest national park, right after Plitvice. While Paklenica may be lesser known, it’s definitely worth a visit, and usually a lot less crowded. It is easy to reach by car or bus from Zadar or Rijeka.

The park's two main canyons - Velika Paklenica and Mala Paklenica - offer various difficulty levels with picturesque views along the way. 

While you're there, try to visit the Manita peć cave, the Paklenica mill, the Ethno-house Marasović and its 4 educational trails: Velika Paklenica, Paklarić, Pjeskarica, and “Kratko putovanje kroz prošlost”.

3. The Premužić trail, Velebit Mountain Range

The Premužić trail stretches across 57 km (35 miles) within Northern Velebit National Park & Sjeverni Velebit Nature Reserve offering an exceptional trekking experience. It starts from the Zavižan mountain refuge and ends in the village of Baške Oštarije, with no big ascents or descents and plenty of glorious coastal views.

It’s an excellent opportunity for multi-day hikes or shorter day trips showcasing spectacular views from mountain peaks. This moderately challenging trail features the distinctive karst topography, a wide range of plant and animal life, and stunning views of the Adriatic Sea.

You can’t camp in the wild on Velebit, but there are several mountain huts and shelters along the way. It's recommended to hike this trail between June and September, when the weather is most favorable.

hiking in croatia

4. Brač Island’s Golden Cape Beach Trail

For a more relaxed coastal hike, head to Brač Island's Golden Cape Beach (Zlatni Rat). Starting from Bol town center, follow a 2 km (1.2 miles) long path along pine forests leading up to one of Croatia's most famous beaches, known for its unique shape formed by wind currents.

The trail leads you past secluded beaches before reaching Zlatni Rat, and seeing this beauty from the highest point on all of Croatia’s Adriatic islands, Vidova Gora (at 778m/2552ft), is worth every minute of the trek. The turquoise waters contrasted against white pebbles make for an idyllic setting for swimming or sunbathing afterwards.

zlatini rat

5. Mljet Island’s Veliki Gradac hike

Mljet National Park, located on Mljet Island, offers various hiking trails including an ascent to Veliki Gradac peak at 514 meters (1686 feet). The hike takes you through dense Mediterranean vegetation with stunning vistas over two saltwater lakes - Veliko jezero & Malo jezero - as well as surrounding islands.

This hiking trail is open year-round and is great for birding, hiking, and mountain biking. It’s usually much less crowded at the top than at the popular Montokuc.

Besides hiking, Mljet is a great destination for swimming, sunbathing, and kayaking. The only way to get to the island is by ferry, either from nearby islands or the mainland of Croatia. You can go there from Dubrovnik or Hvar, for instance.

Don't forget to check the ferrys' schedules, since they might change depending on time of the year, day of the week, and the ports you’ll be arriving at.

mljet island is a great place for hiking

Hiking in Croatia while volunteering with Worldpackers

These are just a few examples of the incredible hiking opportunities available in Croatia. With so much to explore and experience, it's no wonder that more travelers are discovering this captivating destination for their next adventure.

And if you want to enjoy Croatia to its fullest, you can take advantage of Worldpackers' work exchange opportunities in different parts of the country. In exchange for a few hours of volunteer work, you can stay for free in hostels, homestays, eco villages, guest houses, farms and much more.

Besides saving a lot of money, these volunteer experiences will allow you to engage with local communities, learn about their customs and traditions, and gain a deeper understanding of Croatian culture.

In addition, you can make your journey even more memorable by interacting with fellow travelers who share a passion for hiking and exploring. That’s also a great way to find travel buddies, especially if you’re traveling alone and don’t want to go hiking by yourself.

Check out some of the Worldpackers volunteering opportunities in Croatia:

  • Help out in the biggest hostel in Zagreb: help with bartending, organising and promoting parties, cleaning and housekeeping with 2 days off per week in exchange for free stay in the team dorm, breakfast and lunch, discounts on parties and restaurantes, free laundry, free drinks and free hiking tours.
  • Gardening and construction help in Pakoštane: help with repairs or building and growing and cultivating gardens to make this hostel look better in the summer, in exchange for free stay, lunch, free laundry, free drinks and bikes at your disposal.
  • Housekeeping on the sunniest island: help cleaning this hostel and get free accommodation and lunch and free laundry, with enough time to explore and enjoy the beautiful Hvar Island.
  • Your home away from home in Zadar: the laid-back owners of this hostel are looking for someone to help with cleaning and party promoting. They offer 2 days off per week, free stay in the team dorm, dinner, discounts on drinks and tours, free laundry and use of their equipped kitchen.
  • Help with repairs, refurbishing, painting and art in Dubrovnik: get a free stay, free laundry, free hiking tours, workshops on herbs and edible plants and use of the equipped kitchen at this guesthouse in exchange for your help improving the place.

volunteer in croatia

Essential hiking tips 

Ready to explore the stunning landscapes of Croatia on foot? Don't forget to keep these tips in mind:

Pack properly and wear the right footwear

Don't let blisters ruin your hike. Choose sturdy hiking boots or shoes with good traction and support. Pack lightweight, moisture-wicking clothing, sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, and a waterproof jacket or poncho. Bring a first aid kit and enough snacks and water to keep you fueled throughout your journey.

Respect nature and follow trail markers

Help preserve Croatia's diverse ecosystems by sticking to marked trails, following local regulations, and avoiding littering or picking plants. Keep a safe distance from wildlife to avoid disturbing their natural habitats.

Stay hydrated and carry a map or gps device

Drink water regularly and take breaks in shaded areas to prevent dehydration. Carry a physical map or GPS device to stay on track and inform someone of your hiking plans before setting off.

hiking in croatia

FAQs about hiking in Croatia

Is Croatia a hiker's paradise?

Definitely. Croatia offers a plethora of hiking opportunities with its stunning coastlines, mountains, and forests, and well-maintained trails suitable for all levels of hikers.

Some popular destinations include the breathtaking Plitvice Lakes National Park, the challenging Paklenica National Park, and the awe-inspiring Velebit Mountain Range.

What's the best hiking trail in Croatia?

The Premužić trailthrough the Velebit Mountain Range is highly recommended for its diverse landscapes and stunning views of both coastal and mountainous scenery.

Which country offers the best hiking experience?

It's subjective, but Nepal, New Zealand, Switzerland, Canada, Peru, and the Patagonia region in Argentina and Chile are known for their exceptional trails that cater to various skill levels and offer unique natural beauty. Croatia might not be one of the most popular hiking spots in the world, but it’s definitely amazing.

explore the best hiking trails in croatia

Ready to go hiking in Croatia?

Looking for a unique hiking experience? Croatia should be at the top of your list! With stunning coastlines, mountains, and forests, there are plenty of trails to explore.

Whether you're a seasoned hiker or just starting out on your first trekking adventure, hiking in Croatia has something for everyone. And volunteering with Worldpackers is a safe, cheap and fun way to experience hiking in Croatia while meeting locals and like-minded travelers. 

So what are you waiting for? Lace up your boots and start exploring!

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