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Paklenica National Park – In Winnetou's Footsteps


With more and more flights to Zadar people often ask us what should I do while in the area? One of the items on the list has to be to visit Paklenica National Park. We recently decided to go to Paklenica to experience it for ourselves.
Fortunately for me, Mrs Chasing the Donkey had pre arranged a local guide named Željko from the Paklenica National Park Service to show me around while she and the baby donkey enjoyed the beach.

Paklenica National Park was established in 1949 and is Croatia’s second oldest national park behind Plitvice Lakes national Park (a must see!) in Northern Dalmatia. Croatia is home to 8 stunning national parks, all offering something different.

Paklenica National Park is 95 km2 and consists of of two dolomite limestone canyons called Velika (big) Paklenica & Mala (small) Paklenica in the Velebit mountain, which is Croatia’s largest mountain range. The Velebit mountain range is a part of the Dinaric Alps which also runs through, Slovenia, Montenegro, Serbia, Kosovo, Albania, Macedonia & reaches its highest point in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Mrs. CtD is always saying that the Velebit often looks like a hollywood backdrop on a clear day.

The park has around 150km of hiking trails, which if you have the legs for it, will ultimately take you up to the highest peak of Vaganski Vrh at 1757 metres. The mountains rise sharply from the sea and while the park initially looks very rocky you’ll be surprised to find out that 75% of the national park is in fact forest, which is primarily Beech and Black Pine.

The parks entrance is from Starigrad at the base of the Velebit mountains and is located just 40 kilometres from Zadar, 260 kilometres from Zagreb, and 170 kilometres from Split. The national park has car parking facilities available right at the entrance.

Paklenica National Park can be reached by the A1 Highway which stretches from Zagreb to Split. Take the Maslenica exit and then join the D8 state road and follow the signs to ‘Starigrad’.


Way back in the 1960s, Paklenica National Park doubled as the American Wild West in 11 movies filmed onsite about the fictional Native American hero Winnetou. Based on a series of popular novels written in German by Karl May, the movies have since developed a cult following and each year many flock to Paklenica to retrace Winnetou’s footsteps.

Fun Facts about Starigrad Paklenica
Not very far from the entrance to Velika Paklenica there is manmade cave and tunnel system that took several years to build. It was commissioned by the Yugoslavian leader Tito during the Cold War as a fallout shelter, as he believed that Croatia (then known as the Republic of Yugoslavia) would be attacked. These tunnels are planned to be turned into exhibits at some point in the future.

After reading this introductory blog post on the Paklenica National Park, be sure not to miss Chasing the Donkey's account of various kinds of adventure sports available at the Paklenica National Park. From rock climbing to trekking and safari, this unspoiled part of the Velebit Mountain offers it all.

Chasing the Donkey is the #1 Croatian travel blog, an award-winning project authored by an Australian expat and her Croatian husband who live in the Croatian countryside.


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