It is hard to imagine that such a lush, wooded paradise can be found only a few miles away from the stunning Croatian coast.
When the whirlwind of the tourist season takes over popular coastal towns, there is a green oasis off the conventional tourist trails you can escape to.
In the most mountainous region of Croatia, blanketed with thick woods and exceptionally abundant in life, lies Risnjak National park. Equally appealing through every season, Risnjak is the place where mountaineers come to conquer its impressive heights and nature enthusiasts wander through its unparalleled natural beauties.
Such ethereal travel experience doesn’t come often, so let’s try to number some of the countless reasons why you need to visit Risnjak National Park.
Risnjak National Park nestles comfortably in Gorski kotar, the region known marked by undulating mountains and luxuriant forests combined with wildflower-speckled landscapes. Meticulously protected from the sometimes destructive hand of men, the park’s virgin-like forests host an outstanding flora and fauna.
The park occupies the area of 63 km2 and stretches over the central area of Risnjak, the Snježnik mountain range and the spring of the Kupa River – unquestionably one of the most beautiful natural phenomena in the region.
The park’s most distinctive feature are its remarkable forests. The park covers the area where the coastal area gently gives way to inland Croatia and where the Dinaric Range and the Alps merge, creating a unique forest and subalpine world.
Whilst the lower areas are decked with beech and fir trees, the highest peak is home to incredible rare and endangered species. The black vanilla orchid, alpine yellow violet and alpine snowbell are only some of them.
When you hear the rustling of the leaves and silent padding among the bushes, know that this is due to three most outstanding representatives of European wildlife roaming the pristine nature of the park. Among other incredible mammals, Risnjak is home to the bear, the wolf and the lynx.
In fact, it was the lynx Risnjak was named after: the Croatian word for lynx is ris – hence Risnjak.
Above the lush green forests white rocky peaks soar. The highest peak Great Risnjak climbs to the impressive 1,528 meters, followed by Snježnik at 1,506 meters. And from there the most breathtaking views of the Kvarner Bay Archipelago, Istria and the Julian Alps unfold. The finest reward for persevering mountaineers, wouldn’t you agree?
The plant life persists even on such soaring heights. Accustomed to living in harsh conditions, they persevere through extreme summer heats and icy, snowy winters.
Things to see and do in Risnjak National Park
With over 100 kilometres of marked hiking trails, it comes as no surprise that hiking is one of the most popular activities in the park. Many venture into conquering the park’s highest peaks for the spectacular views, but there are also many less demanding options.
If you are not inclined or unable to take enduring hikes towards mountain peaks or through thick forests, the park welcomes you on the Leska Educational Path.
For 4,200 meters the path trails through impressive nature, using plates with descriptions in Croatian and English to inform its visitors on the most important objects and phenomena characteristic both for Risnjak and Gorski kotar region.
Another popular activity is taking a walk to the source of the magnificent Kupa River. This natural phenomenon is one of many unsolved karst mysteries. Namely, no one knows at which depth the source of Kupa lies!
This natural well is one of the deepest in Croatia. The deepest anyone dived was up to 154 meters, achieved by Italian diver Luigi Casati.
With the immediate surrounding area, Kupa is protected as a natural monument. It represents a typical karst spring surrounded by trees and rugged rocks, where an abundance of clear water spreads in an enchanting turquoise green and blue pond, which is sure to leave you breathless.
The Kupa continues to flow through a unique river valley. Called “The Valley of Butterflies”, the upper stream of the Kupa is home to more than 500 species of butterflies of exceptional beauty and uniqueness. Some of these striking beauties are endemic, which means you won’t find them anywhere else in the world except here!
If you wish to explore the park on wheels, you can always rent a bike. For a true winter adventure, why not rent snowshoes and explore the park when it is decked in beautiful wintery whites.
The park organizes a special treat for wildlife lovers! If you’d like to see bears, wolves, deer and other magnificent creatures in their natural habitats, it is possible to arrange a watching experience.
Is Risnjak National Park family friendly? You bet it is! In addition to wonderful aforementioned activities your child is sure to enjoy, there is a newly-opened adrenaline park just for children, designed with the safety and fun of your little ones in mind.
Recreational fishing is allowed from April until October for an additional fee, whilst winter is the perfect time to go skiing on the slopes of Risnjak!
The park organises many educational workshops, which are ideal to get a better picture of the way of life and the traditions of this area. One of the most popular programs includes the shingles making workshop. It is a traditional method of working with wood and making wooden planks, autochthonous to this area.
Swoon into the storybook atmosphere of Risnjak National Park and fall in love with its lush wildlife, enchanting nature and heavenly views. Welcome to Croatia, mother nature’s masterpiece!
Photo Credit: Risnjak National Park, Photonet (Siniša Abramović, Tatjana Petranović)