How NOT to visit Croatia’s Krka National Park

In just about every travel blog we’ve read, visiting Krka National Park is listed somewhere in the “top five things to do in Croatia”. As you can imagine, we were really excited that the weather has warmed up and we were finally able to take a day trip out of Split to go visit the famous park with its waterfalls and religious and cultural monuments. And from what we could see, it IS absolutely gorgeous!

Skradinski Buk: the most popular waterfall in Krka National Park, Croatia

Also in just about every travel blog we read, the writer recommended getting to the park early as it is very popular and gets really crowded in the peak summer months. Pro tip: LISTEN TO THE TRAVEL BLOGGERS!! We did not, and we paid the price.

To be fair (and kind to ourselves), we figured we didn’t have to get to the park super early because a) we weren’t visiting in the peak summer months of July and August; b) the weather is JUST warming up — the park boats weren’t even running two weeks ago; and c) we went on a weekday, not the weekend. Also to be fair, we had no idea whatsoever that the day we chose to go — the nicest day of the week weather-wise — also happened to be the Monday after Easter and a national holiday in Croatia.

So we took our time, ambling into the park around noon. And it was the biggest mistake we could have made. The main waterfalls — the Skradinski Buk you see in everyone’s photos — were MOBBED. Throngs of people absolutely everywhere. From the boat ride in to the main picnic meadow, the falls viewpoints, the bus at the Lozovac entrance, and the boat down the river and back out to the village of Skradin, it was a people-packed mess.

All those people are on a narrow bridge; the (only) nature trail for available viewing Skradinski Buk

And all the people crammed onto the nature trail that winds around Skradinski Buk? Egads! It was a beautiful walk — the nature is truly outstanding — but we didn’t take a single photo. To do so would have meant risking a nudge into the rushing water as the constant stream of humanity left no room to do anything but stay in your lane and move with the flow. And yet, there were people shoving through as they walked the wrong way through the throng. And others who stopped as an entire group to take photos of themselves and their families — with the photographer inevitably backing up into bystanders who want nothing more than to pass and get the hell off the ride as soon as possible. There were so many people that even the idea of personal space was laughable.

Now try doing that with two big dogs in tow. It was worse than Disney World. And I hate Disney World. Not enjoyable in the least.

Trixie says “Please, please get me out of here!”

Unfortunately, unless you want to be the ass going the wrong way on the one-way trail (yeah, right, remember the aforementioned dogs?), you have no choice but to follow the trail to the end. We tried to remove ourselves from the situation by hiking up an alternate section of the park, but that was packed as well and ultimately would have served only as a delaying tactic.

After following the trail walkway about 2/3 of the way around the falls, we did find a pram/wheelchair path that took us out of the throng. It did not have any views of the falls (the park is not all that handicapped accessible), but it did give us a bit of breathing room. Not wanting to wait in the line for the boat back out to the Skradin gate, after the falls we opted to walk the 3.3 km pram/wheelchair path back into town. At that point, it was the most pleasant part of our day and did a lot to ease the people pressure.

Since we started our journey, John and I have felt incredibly lucky to not only be able to travel, but to be able to travel now. Tourism is down because of the pandemic, and we’ve been so fortunate to visit outstanding destinations without the normal cavalcade of other visitors. While I certainly don’t want to gripe about the world getting back to normal, I will very much miss being one of only a few tourists. I’ve always appreciated solitude; after the last two years it seems I’ve started to expect it.

On the way out of the park, we talked about how we might change our behaviors so that we don’t have to fight crowds. We want to enjoy where we go without the weight or pressure of others. That may sound selfish and unrealistic, but I think it’s also why we both enjoy hiking so much — when we’re in the woods and on the trail, we feel like we’ve made it out of the madness. The world is opening up again, but we want to keep that feeling. That means we’ll likely start forgoing the big attractions and taking the paths less traveled. We’ll get back to being us.

Which we did later that afternoon. We weren’t ready to give up on Krka altogether, so made a push for redemption and visited the waterfall bloggers had noted was the most remote and least visited of all the falls in the park, Manojlivacki Slap. It took us about a 1/2 hour to drive from the Skradin entrance to the Burnum entrance of the park. Once we were there, we had a decent hike down (which means a hard hike back up!), but it was SO worth it. By this time it was late afternoon and as advertised, there were very few people at Manojlivacki Slap. And the views were incredible. After the day we’d had, it felt like we’d made it to heaven.

If we do ever get back to Croatia, I’m not ready to take another visit to Krka completely off the table. Next time, though, I will listen to those who know more than I do. I will get to the park first thing in the morning. I will go even more off-season than we did this time around. I will visit the less popular sites (there are still a lot of things to see at Krka — additional waterfalls, Roman ruins, prehistoric caves, and medieval fortresses, churches, and a monastery). And I will definitely NOT go on a national holiday.

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