Croatia is much more than its (otherwise extremely beautiful) beaches, and while the Adriatic coast is everyone’s favorite, gems are hidden at lots of places further from the coast, too. Like Risnjak National Park which could be a great stop for a couple of days on your way to Dalmatia or Istria.
If you love nature and mountains, and want to find places that are not too crowded, Risnjak, one of the least known national parks of Croatia is waiting for you. Is one or two days really enough to see it? Since there’s not that many hiking trails established in the park, I’d say a few days are enough to explore it properly, and two days are enough to comfortably visit its most famous attractions: Kupa River and Risnjak peak.
Why should you visit Risnjak National Park?
It’s a forest kingdom, with stony peaks rising above the dense, green forests. It’s home to the most beautiful Croatian river. Its highest peaks offer views all the way to the Adriatic Sea. Rising only to the 1500s, you can hike in these mountains in spring and fall, too, not just in summer.
It’s the only place where brown bears live in Croatia. This fact is not to scare you away, the park ranger actually told us that visitors rarely ever see bears – for good or bad, who knows? 😀 Risnjak National Park is a diverse habitat, anyway. It got its name after the animal lis which means lynx. There’s only a few lynxes these days, but there’s also wolves, wildcats and chamois.
Day 1: River Kupa
If you only have half a day, this is what you should do: hike to the source of River Kupa, Croatia’s prettiest river. It’s a special karst spring and one of the deepest water sources in Croatia. What you can see on the surface is a stunning, calm and cold lake from which the Kupa River starts its path.
It takes about 30 minutes to reach the source from the small village of Razloge, and the path is quite steep. After gazing at this incredible lake, reflecting the trees and the sky, we continued downstream along the Kupa River towards Kupari.
Hiking this trail all the way can make it a full day hike, but we decided to turn back from a point where the trail got further from the river. You can choose to return back to Razloge on an asphalt road to make it a loop, but we decided to hike back the same way we came, to enjoy the views of the river and the source again. It was a lucky choice as the source of Kupa was even more peaceful and beautiful in the evening mist.
Our little Tomi was already there with us on this trip, being barely more than one year old and walking on his own legs for quite a while (and being stubborn about choosing the direction…). Except the first section that descends to the source, it was a flat and easy route, suitable for him to practise his new walking skills.
If you have some time before or after this hike, you can visit Lokvarka Cave which is a stunning karst cave, or walk in the Forest Park Golubinjak.
Day 2: Hiking to Veliki Risnjak peak
1528 meters high Veliki Risnjak peak is worth to be conquered because of the astonishing 360 degrees panorama. We could see all the surrounding mountains at our feet, and the Adriatic Sea in the distance.
We started the hike from the park administration in Crni Lug. On the way there we did the Horvat Trail which is steeper (and easier to do when you ascend), then from Risnjak peak we took Markov brlog trail back to Crni Lug. Both trails run through dense forest, and we saw some rock formations on the way, too. The most impressive section was the last steep one from the mountain hut to Veliki Risnjak peak. First, it was the giant rock formations that impressed, then the views, too.
Unlike the trail along Kupa River, this one was less suitable for a baby who just started to walk, but he still managed to complete some shorter sections.
The ideal base for exploring Risnjak: Delnice
You can’t really find accommodation inside the national park, because it’s mostly uninhabited. But Delnice, a nice, upcoming little town is just 20 minutes drive from the entrance which makes it a great base to explore the park. The trailheads for the Kupa River and the Veliki Risnjak peak hikes are different, anyway, so you couldn’t spare a bit of driving.
We stayed at Apartment Apolon planinski which turned out to be a wonderful and family-friendly place. The apartment is spacious and well-equipped, with a cosy atmosphere and a large balcony. Our baby boy got very excited about all the toys in the living room, and we could feel such a kind attention to details and comfort everywhere in the apartment that made our stay the most pleasant one we booked in Croatia last year. (And no, we weren’t asked to or paid to promote it, we just liked it enough to mention the place by name. However, we’re Booking.com affiliates, and this link is an affiliate link which means we get a commission at no additional cost to you if you book through it.)
So have you ever heard about Risnjak National Park? Would you consider adding it to your Croatia itinerary?
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