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Croatia’s 1,800 kilometres-long coastline and glistening Adriatic is a show-stealer, but the country’s geography is also characterised by an array of grizzled peaks and spectacular mountain ranges. Croatia’s summits don’t soar to the dizzying heights of nearby Slovenia or Austria, with its tallest peak reaching 2,000 meters, but its mountainous landscapes offer a labyrinthine range of hiking trails. Take a walk on the wild side with our guide to the best hiking trails in Croatia.
Located in the Gorski Kotar, the most densely forested and mountainous region of Croatia, Risnjak is where the Balkans and the Alps intersect. The park is characterised by rough-hewn mountains, with pine trees jutting out into the distance, and odd patches of meadow strewn with mountain flowers. Veliki Risnjak is the highest summit, reaching 1,528 meters; ascending this is a year-round pursuit, however, only experienced climbers should tackling it during winter when freezing temperatures descend upon the snow-frosted mountain range. Risnjak takes its name from the lynx wildcat, ‘ris’ in Croatian, and the park range is teeming with wildlife, in particular species of brown bears, wolves and deer.
One of Croatia’s most dazzling mountain ranges, Ucka Mountain presides over the Istrian peninsula, defined by stark, precipitous peaks, while its sea-facing side is a treasury of green vegetation. The forests around Lovron produce acres of sweet chestnuts, and its highest point, Vojak, offers stunning views over Istria, the Italian bay of Trieste, the Julian Alps and a string of Adriatic islands. There’s an excellent array of routes which vary from an hour’s walk to a nine-hour hike.
Paklenica is one of Croatia’s wildest national parks. Just south of the foreboding Velebit, Croatia’s largest mountain range, the park features spectacular peaks and pine-covered foothills. The park is defined by its two canyons, Mala (small) and Velika Paklenic (big) with plenty of routes for hikers and cavers, from laid-back meandering hikes to extreme mountain climbing.
One of Croatia’s most imposing mountain ranges, Northern Velebit is a spectacularly harsh landscape, with steely-grey massifs and smatterings of alpine trees spread out over 150 kilometers. Rarely visited and impeccably preserved, this wilderness is an area of extreme biodiversity, a natural habitat for bears, wolves, deer, eagles, snakes, vultures and long-eared owls. Velebit is perfect for hikers looking to get away from overbearing crowds in Dalmatia’s seaside resorts. Walking the entire stretch of the ridge takes just over one week, following Premuzic’s path and stopping off in mountain huts along the marked route. Shorter treks are undertaken from Oltari and Krasno, requiring between three to four hours to complete.