The Externsteine: Stunning Rock Formation in Germany’s Teutoburg Forest

The Externsteine: Stunning Rock Formation in Germany’s Teutoburg Forest

This post has information about the Externsteine Rocks in Teutoburger Wald (Teutoburg Forest), which is Germany’s North Rhine-Westphalia State.

Would you believe me if I told you that Germany has it’s own Stonehenge like natural site with rocks that standing there since the ice age?

I wouldn’t believe me, but thankfully I have visited this place twice. It is called the Externsteine, and it is often called the Germanic Stonehenge because of Wilhelm Teudt, an archeologist who popularized this term.

AKA the Germanic Stonehenge – The Externsteine

The Externsteine rocks are massive, and have a strange beauty about them as they appear to be jutting out of the earth out of nowhere. 

Living in Germany, I have visited a lot of destinations within the country but this place left a strong memory in my mind. The sheer magnificence of the Externsteine rock formations will leave you in awe of the geology, the nature and the history. I loved this place so much that I visited it twice already.

The Stunning Externsteine in Winter

These rock formations are a part of the Teutoburg Forest and are protected. If you have read about the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest in 9 AD, then you probably recognize the name of the forest.

If you’re a history buff, or a nature lover or even an adventure lover, you will enjoy your time here. Here’s everything you need to know about visiting the Externsteine in Teutoburger Wald.

Everything You Need to Know for Visiting the Externsteine in Teutoburger Wald

The Externsteine – What’s with the Name?

The Externsteine in Teutoburger Wald, Germany

The oldest recorded names for the Externsteine were Agistersten and Eggesterenstein. The word “steine” means stones or rocks in German language but many historians and linguistic specialists have different thoughts about the name. 

Many linguistic researchers in the recent years say that the name “the Externsteine” means “sharp pointy rocks”. In older texts it was also written as “the Eastern Rocks”. 

The Externsteine, Teutoberger Wald, Germany

The most popular meaning of the name Externsteine is “the rock of the magpies”, which was popularized by Hermann Hamelmann. Now you’re thinking who is Hermann Hamelmann – well, he’s an important part of the Externsteine’s recent history and we will talk about him later in this post.

By the way, if you are into massive rock formations, then you should also check out my post about Jasmund National Park in Germany, which is famous for its white cliffs.

Where is the Extersteine, Teutoburger Wald?

The Externsteine Rocks from a distance

The Externsteine is in Germany’s North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) state. Many travelers don’t spend much time in this state because it is mostly industrial, except if they are visiting the famous city of Cologne. (Of course, there’s a lot more to see in the state like Burg Eltz, Winterberg, Münster city, etc.)

These rocks are a part of the Teutoburg Forest (Teutoburger Wald in German), which are forested hills that cover an area of 4000 square kilometers. The forested ridge of Teutoburger Wald are mostly in NRW and some in the Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen) state.

If you want to be specific, then the Externsteine is 30 KMs from Paderborn or 50 KMs from Bielefeld. The nearest town is Horn-Bad Meinberg.

How old are the Externsteine rocks? A MILLION YEARS.

It is shocking but it is believed that the Externsteine rocks are 120 million year old. No, it doesn’t mean that this exact structure is so old but the rocks are. They were laid down around 100 million years ago during the early Cretaceous era.

These rocks are from the Ice Age, more than 100 million years old

These rocks were originally horizontal layers but about 70 million years ago they were folded to an almost vertical position. The pillars look like this today after years of weathering as well as having been modified and decorated by humans over the centuries – wow!

It is interesting to know that these are outcropping of sandstone rocks in a region that is usually has no rocks. 

A Brief History of the Extersteine

I like knowing a little history of everything but I don’t like to go too deep in it every single time. So, keeping that in mind, I will make it short and sweet to include just the main points.

First Use of the Externsteine in the Prehistoric times

The Stunning Extersteine Rocks were first used in the Prehistoric times by nomads

The first use of these rocks was by nomadic groups who used them for temporary shelter. This was the prehistoric time and the stone tools daring back to 10,700 BC from 9,600 BC from the Ahrensburg culture were recovered. After that, there hasn’t been any evidence of the use of the Externsteine site in the bronze or iron age. 

The Externsteine as a Christian Sacred Site

The Extersteine in Teutoberger Wald, Germany

As per historians, the Externsteine site was mentioned in some historical documents to be used between the 10th and 15th centuries but these documents were destroyed in the Second World War. The thermoluminescence dating of the cave walls did suggest that this location was used between the the 10th and 15th centuries.

Some historians also say that the Externsteine was used in the 9th century as a Christian sanctuary.  

The rocks of the Externsteine have caves and passages within them, and there are inscriptions on some of the walls. One inscription suggests that the Externsteine was declared sacred in 1115 by the Bishop of Paderborn – Henrico or Heinrich II. von Werl. 

Use of the Externsteine as a Hermitage

There are historical documents that suggest that the Externsteine was also used as a Hermitage – a temporary place for refugees. It is important to keep in mind that the place wasn’t always called the Externsteine and the documents describe the place but not name is exactly as it is known today.

Between 14 and 16 centuries, the Hermitage at the Externsteine was used as a hiding place for bandits. It was then in the 16th century that the Hermitage was dissolved here and eventually all the church activity stopped too.

Externsteine as a Sacred Pagan Site

The Externsteine in Winter

Do you remember I mentioned the name Hermann Hamelmann in the section where I talk about the name of the Externsteine? Well, he plays an important part in the history of the Expernsteine around this time in the Early Modern Period.

Hermann Hamelmann was a reformer from Westphalia who believed in works of Martin Luther. He was a theologist who worked as a priest and later as a pastor. In 1564 he wrote that the Extersteine was used as a site for Saxon pagan worship. Till date, many Germans believe that the Externsteine was indeed a pagan worship site.

The Strange but Beautiful Externsteine

Even today the Externsteine is believed to be a sacred pagan site and thousands of people gather here every summer for the Walpurgis Night. I do mention this in detail in the section about “when to visit the Externsteine”.

Dilapidation and then Sudden Interest in the Externsteine

The Externsteine wasn’t taken care of in the early 18th century but revived soon after and then it became a tourist destination. Due to this, the interest in the Externsteine grew and people because curious about its purpose historically.

In 1860s – 1870s, many publications wrote about their speculations of what may have been the history of the Externsteine and what it was used for.  There were mentions again of pagan worship and around this time a lot of excavations were conducted.

Summer Flowers around the Externsteine in Teutoburger Wald

An important moment in the history of Externsteine was in 1926, when it was declared to be one of the oldest and important nature reserves in Lippe. It was around this time that the Externsteine was called “the Germanic Stonehenge” by the archeologist Wilhelm Teudt.

The Battle of the Teutoburg Forest

The Battle of Teutoburg Forest of 9 AD occurred most likely in or around this area. This battle was one of the most significant defeats of the Romans. This battle abruptly ended the period of expansion under Ceasar Augustus and stopped the Romans plans for conquering Germania.

 Archeologist and hiostorians have tried to conduct excavations in 1880s to find evidence of the Battle of Teutoburg Forest in and around the Externsteine, but none were found back then.

Wiembecke Pond

Wiembecke Pond next to the Extersteine Rocks

There is a small lake that’s next to the Externsteine columns. It is actually a pond that was created artificially by making a dam on a stream of River Wiembecke which was earlier flowing past the rocks.

Wiembecke Pond in Winter

This pond is called Wiembecke Pond and is offers stunning photo possibilities of the Externsteine and its reflection in the water.

Hermannsweg Hike or Hermann Trail

The gardens around the Externsteine in Teutoburg Forest

The Externsteine is also a part of the Hermannsweg Hike, which is a Germany’s one of the most beautiful high altitude hiking trails that goes through the Teutoburg Forest. 

This 156 KM trail starts at Rheine and ends at Lippe Velmerstot rock formation, which is another rock formation that’s close to the Externsteine.

How to Reach Externsteine

The drive through the Teutoberg Forest to Externsteine

Just like any other destination in Germany that’s not a main city, the best way of reaching the Externsteine is by driving to it. Put “Parkplatz Externsteine” on your navigation system and enjoy the drive through the beautiful forest.

I did mention hiking in the previous section. You can take a part of the Hermannsweg Hike, or do the full trail to reach the Externsteine.

It is easy to reach the Externsteine by train & bus too. Look for R51 train from Paderborn train station and get off at “H-BM-Horn, Jahnstraße“. H-BM is Horn-Bad Meinberg. From here, the walk to the Externsteine is 1.3 KMs.

If you want to minimize walking, then arrive in Horn-Bad Meinberg city by train and look for a bus 782 to Horn-Holzh – it is 450 meters from the Externsteine.

The Walk to the Externsteine from the parking place

The Externsteine car park is just 500 meters away from the rocks. There’s a visitor information center, a restaurant and a small playground for children. The parking charge is around EUR 4.50 per day.

A carved tree trunk near the Externsteine Car Park in 2017

The same carved tree trunk near the Externsteine Car Park in 2022

The walk from the parking place to the Externsteine rocks is easy and goes through the forest. In the middle, there is a lovely moment of wonder at the first glimpse of the rocks through the trees. 

What to do around the Externsteine

Walk around the Externsteine & Wiembecke Pond

The most obvious thing to do when you arrive here is to walk around the rocky columns. There is a path that goes through between two of the columns which is probably the first thing you will notice.

The view of the Extersteine across the Wiembecke Pond

This is a small trail that goes through the rocks and around the Wiembecke Pond. The trail will just take you 5-10 minutes and you can catch a glimpse of the rocks from the other side of the Wiembecke Pond.

Climb on top of the Externsteine rocks for the view 

Climb on top of the Extersteine Tower

The rocks are connected to each other with a series of steps. The path is narrow and can be slippery in rain if you’re not wearing the right shoes. It isn’t free to climb on top of the towers and I remember the fee per person being EUR 3.

View from top of the Extersteine Rocks

One the days when the Externsteine is closed, a small part of the staircase is open and the remaining is closed. So you can still go a little higher and look at the view from top.

See the Grottos of Externsteine

The Grottos of the Externsteine

There is a cave inside the rocks with three chambers that are connected by passages. This part is called the Grottenfels – or the Grottos. These are man made grottos. 

See the Markings and Drawings on the Rocks

The Carving showing showing Christ’s Descent from the Cross on Externsteine_

The marking and drawings on the columns of Externsteine are all different. They are very interesting to see. There is a carving that depicts the Christ’s Descent from the Cross.

One of the rocks of the Externsteine shows the coat of arms of the Counts of Lippe, which of course is one of the newest markings.

Explore the Beauty of Teutoberg Forest

Don’t forget that the Externsteine is just one of the many places in the lovely hilly forest of Teutoberg. Take out some time to explore the nature.

We did a slightly longer walk that went through the forest and it was very enjoyable in summer. On our second visit, we picked the smaller trail because there was snow and everything was slippery.

Exploring the forest around Externsteine – Teutoberger Wald

You can explore the forest on foot or you can bring your bicycle too. Pick one of the marked trails and see the beauty of the nature.

Please be careful of ticks while walking around the forest, some of them can be poisonous.

Enjoy a Picnic next to Externsteine

Picnic next to the Externsteine and Wiembecke pond

If you’re visiting on a warm day, then you can also carry your picnic mat and snacks for a memorable day here with friends.

When to visit the Externsteine?

All the seasons are good for visiting the Externsteine and offer something different. 

Snow on the grass around the Externstein in Winter

If you visit in Winter, with a bit of luck you can catch the beauty of the forest with snow. We did too. Although the main tourist office of the Externsteine isn’t open in winter weekdays but only the weekends, but you can still do everything except climb on top of the towers.

Unfortunately the grass and the benches will most likely be wet during a typical winter day, so you can’t sit and enjoy the nature, but that shouldn’t stop you from visiting.

Wildflowers around the Externsteine

Spring and summer months are when the most of the people visit this site. The forest is sense during these seasons and you will see a lot of flowers and bees. Carry a mat and some snacks, because it’s the perfect time for picnic.

Wildflowers around the Externsteine in summer

On April 30 – May 1 every year, many locals camp here and jam (perform music together) – to celebrate Walpurgis Night. It of course helps that there’s national holiday of the labour day on May 1.  However, it didn’t happen during the peak of corona pandemic in 2020-2021.

The Externsteine Looks Lovely in all Seasons

Autumn is the best time for me to visit the Externsteine, particularly right before the leaves start to fall because of the stunning bright colors of an otherwise green and grey landscape.

Closing Thoughts on the Externsteine

The Externsteine is a an incredibly beautiful rock formation which will leave you in awe of the geology, the nature and the history. The sheer size of the rocks will amaze you and this is sure to be a place which will remain on top of your list of memorable places.

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Triglav National Park Hiking Guide: Top Trails + Tips + Camping Sites [Slovenia]

Triglav National Park Hiking Guide: Top Trails + Tips + Camping Sites [Slovenia]

Slovenia isn’t short of natural beauty, there are mountains, alpine lakes, gorges, clear rivers and waterfalls. During our road trip in Slovenia one place that really stood out was Triglav National Park with its stunning Lake Bohinj and multiple hikes all around.

We’re not sure how it happened but somehow we turned into a National Park couple. Honestly we did not see it coming because we started as a music festival couple. Triglav National Park was our seventh National Park in the Balkans and was Karma’s second National Park. At the time of the visit, she was around 8 months old. 

Hiking Trails in Triglav National Park, Slovenia

The Soča Trail

Soča Trail, Triglav National Park, Slovenia

Soča Trail, Triglav National Park, Slovenia

This 25km trail has a TON of things to see. It is an excellent choice for families or solo hiking enthusiasts alike. The Soča Trail (or Soška pot as it is known locally) follows the picturesque turquoise alpine river of the same name from Trenta to Bovec. This is definitely one of Europe’s hidden gems.

It takes an estimated seven hours to hike the whole Soča trail but if you are limited on time, you can choose a section of the river that interests you the most and spend the day at the amenities surrounding it. This is why the Soča trail is a  bucket list worthy item for adventurous families.

There are maps and information boards sprinkled around the trail to guide you on all of the attractions that are located in your area of the river.

Mostnica Gorge Trail

Mostnica Gorge train, Triglav National Park, Slovenia

Mostnica Gorge train, Triglav National Park, Slovenia

If you are looking for a scenic and relaxing trail, head towards Mostnica Gorge. This relatively short 2 hour hike will take you on a mild trip through Voje Valley to Mostnica Falls. Consider taking this hike in autumn as it is especially beautiful due to the leaves changing colour from green to their warmer hues.

This hike can be started at Stara Fužina near Lake Bohinj and has a handful of detours to customize your visit to the Mostnica Gorge. Voje Valley itself is a glorious example of the natural beauty of Slovenia and you can continue on through to view the 21m waterfall. 

A lot of people also highly recommend a stop at the Voje Waterfall Alpine Hut to have a short rest and refuel on delicious local dishes before retracing your steps back home.

Suggested: The Spectacular Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia

Triglavska Bistrica Trail 

Triglavska Bistrica River Trail, Triglav National Park

Triglavska Bistrica River Trail, Triglav National Park

The Triglavska Bistrica Trail is another mellow hiking trail that allows you to tour the breathtaking alpine terrain of Triglav National Park. The path lies parallel to the Triglavska Bistrica River and leads you from the Slovenian Alpine Museum to the Vrata Valley.

A trip to the Vrata Valley is not one that you want to miss. The trail up to Triglav from the Vrata Valley is a challenge but that doesn’t mean you have to skip a hike through this magnificent karst plain, which is possibly the most stunning plain in Slovenia.

Tolmin Gorges of Tolminka River

Tolmin Gorge, Triglav National Park Hiking Trails, Slovenia

Tolmin Gorge, Triglav National Park Hiking Trails, Slovenia

While in Triglav National Park, a visit to the natural wonder or the Tolmin Gorges is a must. The short circuit around the canyon allows visitors to safely view some of Trigalv’s most unique sites. Some say that Dante’s Inferno was influenced by a visit to the area around Tolminka River and there is even a cave that you can stop at that is named after him.

Tolmin Gorges Hiking trail, Triglav National Park, Slovenia

Tolmin Gorges Hiking trail, Triglav National Park, Slovenia

Tolmin Gorge is often compared to other canyons such as the Vintgar Gorge near Bled. Much like other sites in Triglav and the charming Lake Bohinj, the Tolmin Gorges are often much less crowded. Giving you and your family more space to discover all the secrets that they hold.

Goreljek Bog Nature Trail

The Pokljuka forests are a protected wetland that is located atop a karst plateau in Triglav. This area draws visitors to it due to its incredible scenery which has resulted in some serious damage to the bog itself. You can now hike the trail that has been made in order to protect the ecosystem in these parts.

Goreljek bog is now the site of a trail that lets you experience this environment without risking more damage to the rest of the boglands that are in Triglav National Park. The short, 1km, circular trail is equipped with sturdy passages and information boards in order to educate its passengers about the peat boglands and the factors that put them in danger.

Planica Tamar

Planica Tamar, Slovenia

Planica Tamar, Slovenia

If you are looking for a breezy hike with sublime views, then you should consider taking the Planica Tamar trail. Expect a pleasant, gravel-laid trail to take you through a remarkable glacial u-shaped valley.

Throughout the trail, you will find information boards depicting the process in which the Planica was created. In the Pleistocene Period; which ended almost 12,000 years ago; they believe that a slow-moving glacier carved out the valley that you can now see today. 

Mount Triglav Hiking Trails

Mount Triglav, Triglav National Park, Slovenia

Mount Triglav, Triglav National Park, Slovenia

There are many ways to go about hiking the highest peak of the Julian Alps and the namesake of Triglav National Park. Each route ranges in difficulty level and offers their own unique journey to the peak of Mt. Triglav. 

Most of these trails can be reached by connecting with a few of the other routes that we have already spoken about. This makes it easy to link your hiking trails and make the most out of your trip to Triglav. 

Climbing Mount Triglav is not a task that should be taken lightly, so please make sure to choose the best trail for your abilities and timeframe. All of these generally include needing to stay the night at a mountain hut or dom, which we speak a bit more about later on.

Climbing Triglav from Krma Valley

Krma Valley, Triglav National Park, Slovenia

Krma Valley, Triglav National Park, Slovenia

The trail led from Krma Valley is the most popular trail and arguably the most undemanding way to get to the top of Triglav. It takes an average of 14 hours to reach the summit which should be split into two days. This hike is recommended for travellers wanting to hike with their family or those that are less experienced hikers.

You will need very basic technical equipment which you can rent on site and is used to ensure your safety when traversing the via ferrata to the peak. Climbing Triglav from Krma Valley is also a first choice for those wanting to ascend the mountain in the wintertime due to its low technicality which means that choosing this trail is one of the safest and ideal for any time of year.

Climbing Triglav from Vrata Valley

The Mountains above Vrata Valley, Slovenia

The Mountains above Vrata Valley, Slovenia

From the easiest to the hardest Triglav mountain trail, the route from Vrata Valley is not for the faint of heart. The Vrata Valley trail is deemed the most difficult due to the steep ascension and the task of navigating a 1500 m via ferrata.

Again, it is recommended that you take the hike in two days with a night spent in a comfortable dom to help you regain the energy to take on the second day. The average time that it takes to get to the top of Mount Triglav is approximately 16 hours.

The hard work and stamina that you would put into this trail wouldn’t be for nothing as the Vrata Valley is one of the most impressive and picturesque valleys in Slovenia.

Climbing Triglav from Blato Meadow (Seven Lakes)

Most people know this as the Valley of the Seven Lakes and often travel on this route just to see the gorgeous emerald pools. This path extends off of the trail to the Savica Waterfall which we have spoken about in our post about Lake Bohinj.

As far as using this trail to get to the Mount Triglav’s summit, it is great for those wanting a longer, more scenic hike. Many travelers choose to hike through Blato Meadow in order to get those epic views throughout the adventure with a variety of different terrain the more elevated you go.

Climbing Triglav from the Valley of the Seven lakes is no easy feat and takes up to 19 hours to complete. It is recommended to split this hike into two days and even three if you are wanting to really take you time to appreciate the natural wonders that this hiking trail has in store.

Climbing Triglav from Zadnjica Valley

Zadnjica Valley, Slovenia

Zadnjica Valley, Slovenia

Taking the route starting from Zadnjica Valley is considered an excellent choice for beginner hikers. This trail is easy strolling until the last hour which can be a bit intense but safe for any level. It is much shorter than the others, taking only about 10 hours to complete. 

This trail is loaded with some incredible views of the Zadnjica Valley. History buffs however, will also enjoy learning about some of the paths on this trail that were built during the first World War. 

Once again, despite it being such a short journey, it is recommended to rest at one of the mountain huts along your way so that you can have the best possible experience on this hike.

Cycling in Triglav National Park

There are numerous epic mountain biking trails around Triglav but very few cycling routes. This might be the result of Triglav being the epicenter of the mountainous Julian Alps but there are a couple of  trips worth checking out for any cycling enthusiasts.

Radovna Cycle Route

The Radovna Cycle Route is proudly named the first route in Triglav National Park. It spans a total of 16km one way and ranges in terrain as you travel through the Radovna Valley. This route also allows you to reach and connect to the Krma Valley. 

Planning a trip on the Radovna Cycle route is a perfect plan for a day during a family vacation. You can stop in Radovna for lunch and effortlessly bike the trail, enjoying the magnificent landscapes around Triglav.

Bohinj Cycle Route

There are many cycling routes around Lake Bohinj but the most popular one takes you from  Bohinjska Bistrica alongside the Sava River to Stara Fužina and furthermore to Srednja vas. This 11km trail offers a diverse track that is easy enough for a family and an enjoyable trail to follow to do some sightseeing around Lake Bohinj.

Camping in Triglav National Park

A caravan parked next to a lake in Slovenia

A caravan parked next to Lake Bohinj in Slovenia

You might think it would be a fun time to camp in the wild while exploring all the trails that Triglav National Park has to offer. Wild camping is actually forbidden in an effort to preserve the natural beauty of the park but you do have a few other options.

Camp Bohinj Zlatorog

Small pier at Camp Zlatorog Bohinj - Lake Bohinj, Slovenia

Small pier at Camp Zlatorog Bohinj – Lake Bohinj, Slovenia

The first option is to camp in a campsite around Lake Bohinj. We camped at Camp Zlatorog Bohinj and had such a great experience there because you get to camp next to one of the most beautiful lakes in Europe. At the site, they have spots set up for trailers and vans like we had or tent camping if you would prefer. They also have clean facilities, a restaurant, and even a park for children to safely play at.

Many of the trails around Lake Bohinj are accessible from Camp Zlatorog Bohinj, specifically being a great starting point for Savica Waterfalls, the Mostnica Gorge, and the Valley of the Seven Lakes Trail. 

The Mountain Hut System

While this doesn’t necessarily include camping, it is an option if you find yourself stuck on a trail within the park during sunset. There are multiple huts (or doms) scattered around Triglav National Park where you can stop at to take a break, grab a warm coffee and shower, and even rest for the night.

Some people have reported being able to sleep in their sleeping bag outside the huts but do this at your own discretion. We recommend either pre-booking a bed in one of the huts or staying in a mandated camping area.

Hiking Safety while in Triglav National Park

A lot of these tips are no-brainers but we want to reiterate the importance of safe practices while hiking the incredible trails in and around Triglav National Park. The last thing you want is to have your vacation ruined because you might not have been aware of a few of these things.

Check the weather 

Most of the trails are closed or not recommended to visit during the colder season that occurs from December to February. You also want to be aware of any rain that might create a hazardous hiking experience and pack accordingly to the change in temperatures as you ascend to the peaks.

Be cautious about the trails you are taking

Make sure you are staying on well-known, established trails. Going off the beaten path is fun but in Triglav, it can be incredibly dangerous the more elevated you are. Along with this, ensure you have all the proper equipment you may need for your hike. Climbing shoes are a must but some more advanced trails may also require a specific amount of hiking and climbing gear to assist you.

Think smart about your health

There are numerous exhilarating trails around Triglav National Park with a range of difficulties. Be honest with yourself about how mentally and physically capable you are and choose a trail on par with your capacity. Equip yourself with a sufficient amount of water for yourself, especially in the warmer months.

Did follow our hiking recommendations for Triglav National Park?

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Kaudulla National Park Guide: Elephant Safari near Sigiriya, Sri Lanka

Kaudulla National Park Guide: Elephant Safari near Sigiriya, Sri Lanka

If you’re visiting Sri Lanka, then make sure you visit a national park to see wild elephants. – Said everyone I knew, even those who did not visit Sri Lanka. 

Thank god I listened because it was one of the best things we did in Sri Lanka. [Even though we did a lot because we spent a month in this country]. Visiting a national park to see elephants in the wild is one of things that everyone needs to do when they visit Sri Lanka, just the way one would walk along the canals if they visit Amsterdam; or visit Taj Mahal while in India.

If you’re anything like us, then you probably love forests too. If yes, you’re going to love Sri Lanka. This little island country has more than 20 national parks dotted all over and as a result, the entire Sri Lanka feels like one big national park.

An adorable elephant family at Kaudulla National Park, Sri Lanka

An adorable elephant family at Kaudulla National Park, Sri Lanka

While planning a trip to Sri Lanka, we saw pictures of the famous lion rock Sigiriya, the tea estates of the hill country, train ride that goes through this hill country (Kandy to Ella), the sandy beaches of Arugam Bay and of course, the elephants. These things are included in pretty much every decent itinerary for Sri Lanka.

One thing that stood out in Sri Lanka’s elephant pictures was that there wasn’t one or two or even 5 – but hundreds of elephants all together. This, my friends, is called an elephant gathering and you can see it in Sri Lanka. It has been compared to the great migration in Serengeti. I will explain more in the next section.

Watching Elephant Gathering in Sri Lanka

Elephant Gathering in Sri Lanka

Elephant Gathering in Sri Lanka

The elephant gathering in Sri Lanka is an extraordinary event. It’s the largest gathering of wild Asian elephants in the world at any given time. It takes place almost every day during Sri Lanka’s dry season, from July to November. 

As the water levels decrease, the elephants head to certain areas in the country where they know they will find water. These areas are mainly located in two of Sri Lanka’s National Parks: Kaudulla National Park, and the nearby Minneriya National Park, which is 17 miles (27 kilometres) from Kaudulla National Park.  

Us and the elephants at Kaudulla National Park, Sri Lanka

Us and the elephants at Kaudulla National Park, Sri Lanka

The large fields of water nurture the perfect environment for the animals to socialise, feed, and even breed. It’s one of the most incredible wildlife experiences to behold. You’ll see elephants of all sizes, from small babies to full-grown adults, drinking and frolicking in the water. 

I have visited Sr Lanka twice and in my opinion, one of the best places to see a gathering of wild elephants is Kaudulla National Park. This incredible sprawling landscape is famed for containing high numbers of Asian elephants. Being able to see these magnificent creatures up close and all around you is a truly extraordinary experience.

Elephant encounter at Kaudulla National Park, Sri Lanka

Elephant encounter at Kaudulla National Park, Sri Lanka

It feels as if the time stands still as you sit on your safari jeep and watch an insanely large number of elephants all around. As so, taking a trip to Kaudulla National Park makes for one of the best wildlife holidays in the world.

Many people talk about the bigger Yala and Udawalawa National Parks but in my experience Kaudulla’s plus point is that it is smaller, and at times you can see a larger concentration of the number of elephants per square meter. 

If you’re planning to visit Kaudulla National Park, here is a helpful guide that will supply you with everything you need to know for your visit. 

Where’s Kaudulla National Park?

Kaudulla National Park is in the heart of Sri Lanka, just 45 kilometers from the super famous Sigiriya. It is about 130 miles (207 kilometres) from the country’s largest city, Colombo. 

Sigiriya to Kaudulla National Park

View of the famous Sigiriya Rock from Pidurangala rock

View of the famous Sigiriya Rock from Pidurangala rock

As previously mentioned, many of the jeep safari tours of Kaudulla National Park offer hotel pick-up and drop-off services. However, if you’re driving from Sigiriya to Kaudulla National Park, it should only take you about an hour. 

If you’re staying in Dambulla, there is a route between the town and the park that crosses right through Sigiriya. Touring this site is an opportunity you don’t want to miss when visiting the area. 

Kaudulla National Park Ticket Price

Entery point at Kaudulla National Park, Sri Lanka

Entery point at Kaudulla National Park, Sri Lanka

The entry fee for Kaudulla National Park is 2700 Sri Lankan rupees, which is £12.00 GBP. When booking a jeep safari tour, the entrance fee into the park is usually included in the tour price.

How Much Does a Jeep Safari Cost in Kaudulla National Park?

Jeep Safari inside Kaudulla National Park, Sri Lanka

Jeep Safari inside Kaudulla National Park, Sri Lanka

Most jeep safari tours offered inside Kaudulla National Park cost between £42.00 GBP and £46.00 GBP per person. 

This fee includes the entrance fee into the park. Pick-up and drop-off from hotels around Sigiriya, Habarana, and Dambulla is also usually included in the jeep safari price. We were picked up from our hotel in Sigiriya for this.

The tour lasts for 4-5 hours. However, note that the 4-5 hour duration also includes your hotel pick-up and drop-off. So, your time in the park will be less than 4-5 hours, and as per us it was more than enough.

What Else is there in Kaudulla National Park?

I get it – the main reason why anyone would visit Kaudulla would be to look at elephants but there’s a lot more to experience in this amazing national park.

Firstly, the joy of riding in a jeep in the middle of a dense forest is like none other. It wasn’t my first safari experience, I did one in India’s Kanha National Park too, but I found Sri Lanka’s forests to be more beautiful because they’re greener.

Along the lake in Kaudulla National Park

Along the lake in Kaudulla National Park

Secondly, I have a thing for wide open spaces and there were many to find inside Kaudulla National Park. The entire area of the park isn’t a dense forest but there are lots of open areas. The main part is the water reservoir – which looks really amazing like most of the water bodies in the nature. There are white rocks around the reservoir and they add to the scenic beauty. You can also see pelicans near the water!

The reservoir inside Kaudulla National Park and pelican

The reservoir inside Kaudulla National Park and pelican

Thirdly, there are many other animals and birds that one can see in Kaudulla National Park. We saw a crocodile, a few lizards, deers and some beautiful birds that were super tiny. Sadly I didn’t have a zoom lens but only had a GoPro camera at the time of my visit.  The above picture is highly cropped, and the white dots are actually pelicans that are sitting on the rocks next to the reservoir. 

In addition to elephants and pelicans, you’ll get the chance to see some other animals in their natural habitat. These can include sambar deer, axis deer, monkeys, peacocks, wild boar, and various bird species. 

Minneriya or Kaudulla National Park?

Elephants in Minneriya National Park, Sri Lanka

Elephants in Minneriya National Park, Sri Lanka

If you want to see a gathering of wild elephants, you can not just pick one out of Minneriya or Kaudulla, but you have to find out where the elephants are. Both these parks have water supply but when one dries up, the elephants move to the other due to the close proximity. 

The elephants usually move from Minneriya to Kaudulla from September to February. During other months, they move to Minneriya tank to drink water during the dry season. Ask your hotel or one of the local tour guides to find out for you and they will tell you where you can see the elephant gathering on that particular day. This way, you’re practically guaranteed to see at least a few herds of Sri Lankan elephants during your trip. 

Minneriya National Park is nearby and is comparatively more famous than Kaudulla for elephant spotting in Sri Lanka. It’s located 17 miles (27 kilometres) from Kaudulla National Park. I have visited both, they’re similar but there is a difference in size – Minneriya is bigger. Also, Kaudulla tends to be less busy.

There are fewer jeeps that drive around inside Kaudulla as compared to Minneriya, it means you’ll have a better view of the animals. I visited Kaudulla in the month of February and there were not more than 2 jeeps around us when we spotted an elephant herd. On the other hand, I visited Minneriya National Park in the month of July and we were at least 10 jeeps together next to a large elephant gathering. 

Why Stay at Sigiriya to visit Kaudulla? 

The entry area of Sigiriya Rock and Fortress complex in Sri Lanka

The entry area of Sigiriya Rock and Fortress complex in Sri Lanka

Sigiriya is a small town located 28 miles (45 kilometres) from the park. It’s famous for containing an ancient stone fortress that rises up nearly 200 metres. The inside is decorated with well-preserved frescoes that have lasted hundreds of years. It’s a very popular tourist spot in Sri Lanka. 

Even though it is touristy, I highly enjoyed my time in Sigiriya town on two different occasions. The Sigiriya village is beautiful and you will love walking around here and seeing little monkeys and maybe even a few peacocks. Yes, the Sigiriya Rock is famous but you can avoid crowds by not climbing it. It is spectacular but you can admire the beautiful shape of the rock from top of the lesser known Pidurangala rock. 

If you stay at Sigiriya, then you can check off many of your typical “Sri Lankan” travel experience items off your list. You can climb the famous lion rock, sleep in a tree house, see elephants in wild, see the nearby Dambulla cave temple, rent a bicycle to enjoy Sri Lanka’s little villages, and of course eat a lot of amazing food. Be sure to read my post about Sigiriya with a detailed comparison of Pidurangala.

You’ll find a nice range of options for places to stay in Sigiriya, from basic budget hotels to resorts. We personally stayed in 4 guest houses, one tree house resort and another high end resort in Sigiriya and they all offered a different experience. In my opinion Sigiriya is the best place to stay to be near Kaudulla National Park. 

Hotels near Kaudulla and Sigirya

Our tree house in Back of Beyond, Dehigaha Ela - Sri Lanka Itinerary

Our tree house in Back of Beyond, Dehigaha Ela – Sri Lanka Itinerary

Kaudulla does not offer any accommodation within the park itself. However, there are a few towns you’ll be able to stay in for easy access to the park’s entrance. 

If you want to take your Sri Lankan wildlife experience to the next level, then consider staying in a tree house in Back of Beyond. This place is in the middle of Dehigaha Ela’s deep forest but still not far from Sigiriya and Kaudulla. You can sleep in an actual treehouse and listen to the sounds of the forest all night. San and I loved this place so much that we even published a post about our tree house stay in Sri Lanka. You can read more about this place on TripAdvisor or just click here to check the best deals and book a tree house for yourself.

Our tree house was 20 minutes away from Sigirya but if you want to be closer to the city, you can check out Back of Beyond – Pidurangala, which is as beautiful but is not in the middle of deep forest. 

We also recommend a place called Nethmini Homestay in the main Sigiriya town (check deals on Booking.com for Nethmini Homestay). It is a short tuk tuk drive away from Sigiriya Fortess and Pidurangala Rock. While here, we rented bicycles and explored the most of Sigiriya on our own.

Where Else to Stay near Kaudulla National Park

Dambulla is a town located 31 miles (50 kilometres) from the park. It contains restaurants, hotels, markets, historic temples, and other attractions. I stayed in a place called Jetwing Lake Dambulla and it was a stunning location.

Trincomalee is a city located 50 miles (80 kilometres) from Kaudulla National Park. Although it’s a bit further, it’s a popular choice because of its seaside location. It lies on the northeast coast of Sri Lanka and is a major resort port city. 

Other National Parks near Sigiriya

Other than Kaudulla National Park, there are two other main National Parks in the area around Sigiriya. These are Minneriya National Park and Angammedilla National Park.

Minneriya National Park is a 30 minutes drive, or 12 miles (20 kilometres) from Sigiriya. This park was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1938, and designated as a national park in 1997. It offers morning and afternoon jeep safari tours similar to Kaudulla National Park.

Angammedilla National Park is about an hours’ drive, or 30 miles (48 kilometres) from Sigiriya. It’s one of the newer Sri Lankan National Parks, having only been designated a national park in 2006. It offers safari jeep tours, and guests are also able to walk around through the trails in the park. 

Best Time to Visit Kaudulla National Park

Super excited for our jeep safari at Kaudulla National Park in Sri Lanka

Super excited for our jeep safari at Kaudulla National Park in Sri Lanka

The best time to visit Kaudulla National Park to see elephants is during Sri Lanka’s dry season. This is when the elephants will make their way to find water at Kaudulla National Park. Within those months, August to October is considered peak elephant viewing. Usually, 150 to 300 wild elephants gather during these months. 

However, with that being said, Kaudulla National Park is a year-round destination. You’re practically guaranteed to see elephants during any month you visit but maybe not an “elephant gathering” everyday.

Jeep safari tours in the park are offered in the morning and the afternoon. The best time of day to take a tour is during the afternoon. This is when the elephants are typically out and about, and you’ll have a much higher chance of seeing them. The morning safari makes more sense for those who want to look at birds. Just make sure to wear proper safari attire to help shield yourself from the afternoon sun. 

Final Thoughts about Kaudulla National Park, Sri Lanka

Kaudulla National Park is one of the best places on the planet to see wild elephants in their natural habitat. Being able to see hundreds of these magnificent creatures up close is a truly extraordinary experience. Visiting the park is a must during any trip to Sri Lanka. 

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Krka National Park, Croatia: Travel Guide for the Perfect Waterfall Swim + More

Krka National Park, Croatia: Travel Guide for the Perfect Waterfall Swim + More

What’s the first image that comes to your mind when someone mentions Croatia? Perhaps Dubrovnik like beaches or gorgeous natural landscapes. After all, Croatia has its fair share of clear lakes, rivers and spectacular waterfalls. Guess what, the most famous waterfall of Croatia is located in Krka National Park – and you can swim in it. 

The area that comprises of Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina has many spectacular waterfalls and I have seen many of them. Two of them are in Una National Park, one in Kravice Waterfalls, many of them in Plitvice Lakes National Park, a few close to Plitvice Lakes in a town called Slunj and the last in Krka National Park.

Introducing Krka National Park (and Why you Should go there) 

Inside Krka National Park, Croatia

Inside Krka National Park, Croatia – Photo by my friend Selin (@sollunatic_photos)

Just 10 km away from the pretty riverside town of Sibenik, you will reach one of the most beautiful parts of Croatia, where the Krka and Čikola rivers meet and create an amazing natural karst phenomenon. With its seven waterfalls, a large number of lakes, world-famous aromatic lavenders, bees, and of course, with its surreal view, today, this area is known as the famous Krka National Park.

Named after the Krka river, this national park covers an area of 142 square km of magnificent scenery, including one of Croatia’s most famous sights, the Skradinski Buk waterfall. This waterfall is known as one of the most beautiful calcium carbonate waterfalls in entire Europe. 

You must have read about Krka river’s starting point in our post about Una National Park in Bosnia-Herzegovina. While Bosnia’s Una National Park shows the magnificence of rivers Una and Krka, Croatia’s Krka National Park shows the magic of Krka and Čikola rivers.

The similarity between Krka National Park and Una National Park doesn’t end there. Guess what, both the national park feature similar tufa formations that create spectacular cascades and waterfalls. Even the nearby Plitvice Lakes National Park is famous for the tufa formations and feature multiple waterfalls and cascades. 

Cascades and waterfalls inside Krka National Park, Croatia

Tufa forms Cascades and waterfalls inside Krka National Park, Croatia – Photo by my friend Selin (@sollunatic_photos)

In Krka National Park, you can also visit beautiful monasteries, the gorgeous Roski Slap waterfall and its travertine islands, and of course, the best one should be a swimming session near the epic Skradinski Buk waterfall. If that is not enough, the park also has an outlaid promenade walk with wooden paths, which offers a serene walking experience to its visitors.

The Krka National Park is a unique park which has an unaltered area of exceptional natural value, due to its preserved ecosystems. That’s why in 1985, Krka National Park was proclaimed a national park, and today, it is the seventh national park in Croatia. The travertine waterfalls of the Krka River and its limestones are a fundamental phenomenon that should be visited once in a lifetime.

Where is Krka National Park?

Located within the territory of Šibenik-Knin county in southern Croatia, the Krka National Park stands along the Krka River. The Krka River, which has shaped the outstanding Krka National Park, streams all the way through the north-central part of the Dalmatian region between the plateau of the Čikola River and the Dalmatian Zagora region. 

Clear Krka river in Krka national park, Croatia

Clear Krka river in Krka national park, Croatia

The Krka River especially stands out with its constant process of travertine-building, which creates a beautiful karst phenomenon that attracts more than 700,000 visitors every year.

How to Reach Krka National Park?

Ferry from Skradin to Skradinski Buk, Krka National Park, Croatia

Ferry from Skradin to Skradinski Buk, Krka National Park, Croatia

If you are planning to rent a car in Croatia, driving is generally easy. Croatia is an amazing country for a road trip because you can see a lot of different kind of landscapes in a short time. You can enjoy the smooth roads and even speed up to 130 km/h on highways. Check out our Croatia road trip itinerary for ideas and information.

When it comes to reaching the Krka National Park, there are several ways. First of all, you need to know the entrances of the national park. Krka National Park has five entrances:

  • Skradin for Skradinski Buk,
  • Lozovac,
  • Roški slap / Laškovica,
  • Burnum / Puljane, and
  • Kistanje / Krka Monastery. 

The most common are the entrances at Skradinski Buk and Roski Slap, but if you are planning to drive to the park, the most preferred entrance is the Lozovac, which offers free parking spaces. From the Lozovac entrance, you can also go further to Skradinski Buk very easily by using the National Park Krka buses.

If you are planning to use the Skradin entrance, you have to enter the park by ferry boat. To do that, you need to visit the little town of Skradin, and then find a parking space. After that, you can purchase ferry tickets at the Krka branch office. The tickets can also be purchased online. After having your tickets, you can board the ferry and enjoy the great view of Krka National Park.

Ticket Office at Skradin - Krka National Park, Croatia

Ticket Office at Skradin – Krka National Park, Croatia

If you are planning to use public transport, you have to buy tickets at the bus terminal. If you are in a hurry, you can also buy the tickets on the bus if they are still available. To enter the national park, you can use two entrances; Lozovac and the Skradin. 

To reach the Lozovac entrance, you have to take a bus from Šibenik or another town in the area. The timetables can be found easily at every bus station. If you travel from Šibenik, you have to make sure that the bus stops at the park entrance. Otherwise, you will be dropped on the main road, which means that you have to walk 1.5 kilometers to reach the entrance.

To enter the park through the Skradin entrance, you can take a bus from Šibenik, Zadar, Zagreb, or Plitvice Lakes National Park. The bus will leave you just 200 meters from the ferry stop at Skradin. From there you can use the ferry.

How Many Days Do You Need for Krka National Park?  

Cascades in Krka National Park, Croatia

Cascades in Krka National Park, Croatia

In my post about Plitvice Lakes National Park, I recommend at least two to three days because there’s so much to see. In comparison, Krka National Park has fewer things to see. If you have a packed itinerary for Croatia, then I’d say spending just one day is sufficient if you start early. You can drive here early morning from Zadar, park the car near the ferry point in Skradin, get your tickets, hop on to the ferry from Skradin to Skradinski Buk, spend most of the day inside the National Park and then spend the night in Skradin.

Ideally, you should stay for two nights near the park for a relaxed experience. This way you can sleep in Skradin (or any other nearby village) the night before your visit and also the night after your visit. This is how we did it. (We had no other choice because we were traveling with a baby)

Should You Make a Day Trip to Krka National Park? 

If you’re visiting Croatia during peak travel months – especially August, then making a day trip to Krka National park will be a stressful experience because of the crowds. It definitely won’t be easy because you will have to spend more time in the queues. 

Entrance Tickets for Krka National Park

KRKA National Park Entrance Tickets - Croatia road trip itinerary

KRKA National Park Entrance Tickets – Croatia road trip itinerary

The entrance fee for Krka National park €20 (150 kunas) per person and it includes the ferry ride from Skradin to the National Park. Yes, it is much cheaper than the entry ticket for Plitvice Lakes National Park. Consider booking a Krka National Park tour to see all the park’s attractions and the best trails. 

Ferry Pier Skradin

Skradin Ferry pier and river front - Krka National Park travel guide

Skradin Ferry pier and river front – Krka National Park travel guide

Skradinski Buk waterfall can be visited by boat from Skradin from April to October. This amazing boat ride is definitely recommended, if you want to sail to the national park while gazing through the amazing scenery. The price of the boat ride is also included in the price of the entrance tickets! 

Just note that due to the overcrowded tourist population during summer, if you want to visit the park via boat with a large group of friends, you have to contact the Krka National Park in advance. The tickets can be purchased through the Park branch office or online either with the printed ticket or the barcode on a smartphone.

Parking near the Ferry Pier

Views of Krka River from the ferry that goes to Krka National Park, Croatia

Views of Krka River from the ferry that goes to Krka National Park, Croatia – Photo by my friend Selin (@sollunatic_photos)

To take the boat from Skradin Ferry Pier, you have to park your car in Skradin, and then take the ferry to get into the park. There will be a lot of parking lot owners outside of the Skradin city center that will try to “lure” you into their parking lots, but keep in mind that you can find a lot of parking lots very close to the center of town. And if the city center ones are full, you can always go back to those parking lots outside of the city center.

Our van parked near Skradin ferry pier

Our van parked near Skradin ferry pier – this parking was full at the start of the day

The parking near Skradin ferry pier isn’t cheap and I do remember paying an hourly rate. Don’t get fooled by our picture here. This parking was completely full in the begening of the day and we managed to find a parking spot at the end that thankfully had a tree for a shade. This is how empty it got at the end of the day after we spent our evening in Skradin to eat some snacks. Looks like daylight? Yes, that’s a typical European summer evening.

Keep in mind that there are a few overpriced restaurants that offer free parking and they’re not so close to the ferry pier. We got burned on our first day here. We ate lunch in one such restaurant and ended up paying 200 Euros for 4 people – oops!

What to See inside Krka National Park?

You can start enjoying the Krka Rivers wonderful waterfalls and the impressive landscape of its canyon with limestone hills. It is an outstanding view, but if it is not enough, here you can get to see a wide variety of both flora and fauna.

Clear water and fish in Krka National Park, Croatia

Clear water and fish in Krka National Park, Croatia

Located on the Southern European region, the Krka National Park is the home of over 800 species of plants, including several endemic Illyrian-Adriatic species, over 200 species of birds and also home to different amphibian and reptile creatures!  You can also get to see 18 species of fish, including 10 endemic species, which makes the Krka a natural landmark of the highest category. If you are interested, here are some splendid activities to do in Krka!

Skradinski Buk and swimming in its emerald-green water

Skradinski Buk in Krka National Park

Skradinski Buk in Krka National Park – Photo by my friend Selin (@sollunatic_photos)

There are several must-do activities in here, and the biggest of them all is definitely visiting the Skradinski Buk waterfall. Being the highlight of Krka National Park, Skradinski Buk is the park’s largest waterfall surrounded with amazing greenery and full of endemic fishes!

Skradinski Buk - the biggest waterfall in Krka National Park, Croatia

Skradinski Buk – the biggest waterfall in Krka National Park, Croatia

Skradinski Buk is the reason why 95% of the people visit the national park. They enter, swim in Skradinski Buk, relax around it and then leave. Which isn’t a bad way to spend the holiday for family travelers. With its emerald-green water and amazing limestones, it is the perfect spots to swim.

As soon as you enter the Skradinski Buk entry point, you will hear the waterfall. There are small hills around and you can explore the area around to find different viewpoints. Walk a little further, you will notice how big this waterfall is, and how small people look when they swim in it. See for yourself in the picture below.

KRKA National People swimming in Park's Main Waterfall - Skradinski Buk - from up above - Croatia Itinerary

KRKA National People swimming in Park’s Main Waterfall – Skradinski Buk – from up above – Croatia Itinerary

There is a bridge that goes over the swimming area of the waterfall where you can stand and get an excellent picture. Across the bridge, you can also find a couple of historic cottages that are currently offering craft workshops and souvenirs.

Toilets, restaurants, drinking and eating places are on one side of the bridge. There are many different kinds of little shops that sell snacks, bakery items, drinks, souvenirs and some also sell swimming gear. 

These Smaller Falls formed natural showering points in Krka National Park, Croatia

These Smaller Falls formed natural showering points in Krka National Park, Croatia

The is a spot near Skradinski Buk where the cascades form a natural showering spot. The area is lovely and you should definitely experience it. I visited Krka National Park in August, which is the peak season. I never found an empty spot in this showering area since many people hogged this place for a photo. Instead, I ended up clicking a picture of someone else who was enjoying a shower here. 

Natural Shower in Krka National Park, Croatia

Natural Shower in Krka National Park, Croatia

The swimming area in next to Skradinski Buk was too full for my liking but I did find a smaller swimming hole nearby where swimming was allowed. I will share more details in the swimming section of this post. 

The entire area of Krka National Park that has Skradinski Buk has many other smaller waterfalls and cascades all around. You can spend all day here if you want and see everything possible. 

One of the smaller waterfalls inside Krka National Park, Croatia Road Trip itinerary

One of the smaller waterfalls inside Krka National Park, Croatia Road Trip itinerary

In our case, we took the path that was supposed to be for strollers and wheelchairs but it took us to the end of the Skradinski Buk area. This way, we completely skipped the waterfall and started exploring from the back to front. It was pretty funny because no one was walking in this direction. 

Roški Slap and its travertine islands

Roški Slap and travertine pools in Krka National Park

Roški Slap and travertine pools in Krka National Park by oliver.dodd – (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr

Roški Slap, which is also known as the vast waterfall, offers you a magical scenery with its countless backwaters, cascades and travertine islands. There are also lots of other things to see here.

Roski Slap in Krka National Park, Croatia

Roski Slap in Krka National Park, Croatia

If you check out the left bank of the waterfall, you can visit the original water mills, which are the prized ethnographic monuments in Dalmatia and Croatia, that were used to grind wheat. And over the waterfall, there is a wooden road that dates back to Roman times! To reach here, you have to take the boats from Skradinski Buk waterfall, since it is complicated to find the entrance with a car.

Krka Monastery – the spiritual centre of the Orthodox faith

visovac island with Krka monastry, Krka National Park Croatia

Visovac island with Krka monastry, Krka National Park Croatia CC0 via Pixabay

Being the most important Serbian Orthodox monastery in Croatia, the Krka Monastery is one of the monasteries that features the unique combination of Byzantine and Mediterranean architecture. It lies on Visovac island.

Located above the Krka river, this monastery is the spiritual center of the Orthodox faith. Also known as the Holy Archangel, the Krka Monastery was first mentioned in the written records in 1402, as the endowment of Jelena Šubić.

You can also check out the ancient Roman catacombs, which are below the monastery. To visit the Krka Monastery, you can book an organized boat excursion, which lasts 2.5 hours from April to October, or by driving from the cute village called Kistanje.

Krka National Park Swimming

A semi hidden swimming spot in Krka National Park, Croatia

A semi hidden swimming spot in Krka National Park, Croatia

If you are interested in swimming at Skradinski Buk, depending on the weather and the level of water, the waterfall is open for swimming between the 1st of June till the 30th of September!  

Me in Krka National Park, Croatia

Me in Krka National Park, Croatia

The water is really refreshing, and swimming near a waterfall is an experience that shouldn’t be missed. Unfortunately, you can’t swim under the waterfalls, but you can swim at the base of the Krka Skradinski Buk. Just keep in mind to go there early – due to the crowd – and be careful walking on the slippery limestones.

If you’re like us and enjoy quieter surroundings, then you will be pleased to know we discovered a little quieter spot to take a dip. The main Skradinski Buk waterfall’s main swimming area gets crowded and that’s the only one where you’re allowed to swim. However, there is a smaller swimming hole in this area, you just have to go a little up and you will find it. 

Our secret swimming spot in Krka National Park, Croatia

Our secret swimming spot in Krka National Park, Croatia

Just walk up the little hill but not out of the Skradinski Buk waterfall area. There’s a small pool with cascades that’s almost hidden and you’re allowed to swim there. That’s where we spent all our afternoon to cool off.

Eating or Drinking Inside Krka National Park

Finding food in the Krka National Park is no problem, however, if you are looking for a fancy meal, you won’t find it in the borders of the park. There are several small restaurants with buffets and snack bars with some sandwiches and drinks in the parking area. But if you want to pack your own sandwich, you can also enjoy it in many picnic areas in the park.

If you are looking for a full Krka National Park experience, you can go to Roški Slap waterfall tavern which is called Alte Mühle Kristijan, or also known as Christians Place, and enjoy your food with your feet in the water! You can also find several water fountains to get some freshwater in the park. For fancier lunch and dinner options, check out the harbor where lots of restaurants and stores are lined.

What to Carry to Krka National Park

Me in Krka National Park - Ultimate Croatia Road Trip

Me in Krka National Park – Ultimate Croatia Road Trip

I should not have to mention this, but I can’t help saying it – make sure you carry your swimming gear. Carry a small and compact backpack with your swimsuit, towel, extra pair of underwear (just in case you’re unable to dry your swim suit), sunglasses, water and something to eat. We also carried a picnic mat.

Where to Stay near Krka National Park?

When you keep in mind the natural beauty of Krka National Park, a lot of campers would love to camp in the national park. Although, camping is not permitted in the national park, there are several campsites in the direct area of the park.

Skradin

If you want to stay in a hotel or book an Airbnb, you have to check out the town of Skradin, which is very close to the national park. This cute riverside town with brightly painted stone houses and a ruined fortress will mesmerize you. You can stay in famous hotels like Hotel Skradinski Buk or find a few private accommodations as well.

Park Camp Marina

San and I in Camp Marina near Krka National Park - Croatia Road Trip itinerary

San and I in Camp Marina near Krka National Park – Croatia Road Trip itinerary

Just 5 km away from the Skradin, Camp Marina is another beautiful camping area near the National Park Krka. This is where we stayed for two nights and loved it. The area all around looks like a desert and it is unbelievable that there’s a river with many spectacular waterfalls nearby.

Surrounded by Mediterranean pines, olives, and grape wine, this massive camping park offers a great location and serene time. If camping is not your thing but still want to be in nature, you can also rent one of their rooms and enjoy the meals from its restaurant.

Lozovac

Camp Krka

If you like being surrounded by pine trees, you can pack your bags and stay in many tents of Camp Krka. This family camp is only 2.5 km away from the Lozovac entrance and was established by a local family called Family Skocic.

Camp Krka doesn’t just only offer tents, but also rooms and apartments suitable for couples and groups with a large group of members. You can also get to taste much local food like milk, cheese, wine, prosciutto, and olive oil in here!

The delicious meals are served by the family as well. The essentials for campers like wash machine, showers, toilets, warm water, even an internet connection is provided by the camp. If you want to stay in a room or in an apartment, you can also get to cook your own food and even grill.

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The Spectacular Lake Bohinj in Triglav National Park, Slovenia [Bohinjsko Jezero]

The Spectacular Lake Bohinj in Triglav National Park, Slovenia [Bohinjsko Jezero]

Imagine a lake with clear blue-green water that’s surrounded by mountains. To make things even better, there are multiple beaches where one can chill and enjoy the magic of Mother Nature. Yes, that’s exactly what Slovenia’s Lake Bohinj is – paradisiacal. It is called Bohinjsko jezero in Slovenian.

Bohinjsko jezero - Lake Bohinj, Slovenia

Bohinjsko jezero – Lake Bohinj, Slovenia

We ended up visiting and camping next to Lake Bohinj by just chance. Honestly, we did not even know about this awesome lake but we were looking for a place to camp in Slovenia. At that time, we were on our camper van and driving to Croatia. We saw a big lake marked as “Bohinjsko jezero” on Google Maps, saw the pictures and immediately decided to check it out. 

Clear blue water of Lake Bohinj and the Mountains, Slovenia

Clear blue water of Lake Bohinj and the Mountains, Slovenia

The area around Bohinjso jazero is mountainous and full of trees, so we did not see the lake till the time our van was parked in Camp Zlatorog Bohinj. Our jaws fell as soon as we reached close to the lake and stood on one of its many beaches. The landscape was right out of a travel movie, and we were in it! Of course, we decided to stay here longer than just one day. After all, it is one of Europe’s most beautiful lakes.

Where is Lake Bohinj

Lake Bohinj Map by Camp Zlatorog Bohinj

Lake Bohinj Map by Camp Zlatorog Bohinj

Most of Lake Bohinj is located in Triglav National Park; the only national park within Slovenia. It is often overshadowed by its more popular cousin Lake Bled which is a short, 30-minute drive away. 

Triglav National Park sits in the northwestern part of Slovenia. It is named after it’s primary peak; Triglav; which is the highest mountain in the Julian Alps. The glacial Lake Bohinj is located south of Mount Triglav.

Bled is the closest major city, however, Lake Bohinj is surrounded by many small villages that are highly worth a visit. Each village around Lake Bohinj can offer you a different way to experience the grand lake and Triglav National Park.

How to reach Lake Bohinj

A couple on the beach by Lake Bohinj, Triglav National Park, Slovenia

A couple on the beach by Lake Bohinj, Triglav National Park, Slovenia

Getting to Lake Bohinj is not too difficult as many visitors enjoy travelling into Triglav National Park for a day or two while visiting Bled. In fact, Lake Bohinj is only a quick 30 minute drive from the popular Lake Bled. If you are travelling from the capital Ljubljana, expect an hour and 45 minute drive.

The closest train station is in Bohinjska Bistrica which is a large settlement near Ribcev Laz; a small village that lies on the eastern side of Lake Bohinj. Despite it being fairly close, you will still need to take a cab to get to Ribcev Laz.

There are buses that will shuttle you from Bled to Lake Bohinj all year round. They run less frequently during the wintertime so make sure to check out the schedule before planning your trip.

If you’re flying to Ljubljana or any other part of Slovenia and if you don’t intend to rent a car, then booking a tour to Lake Bohinj may make more sense. This way, you can visit both Lake Bled and Lake Bohinj as well as Savica waterfall without the hassle of finding out and booking your public transport. Of course, we only recommend this “short cut” experience if you don’t have much time on your hands.

Book Lake Bled + Lake Bohinj + Savica Here

As mentioned at the top of this post, we arrived here on our camper van. We highly recommend you to drive here on your own whether you live in Europe or not. You can land in Ljubljana (or anywhere else in Slovenia) and rent a car from there. (you can rent one for cheap

Renting a car to explore Slovenia (and Eastern Europe in general) is highly recommended as it gives you more freedom to explore all the small towns and natural sites that are off the typical tourist trail. Despite being able to get around Europe quite easily by trains and buses, driving yourself will give you the time to stop whenever and wherever you are drawn to; because Slovenia has a lot to offer.

The Julian Alps Card Bohinj

Lake Bohinj surrounded by mountains, Triglav, Slovenia

Lake Bohinj surrounded by mountains, Triglav, Slovenia

Planning to spend a few days around Lake Bohinj? Consider getting a Julian Alps Card; also referred to as the Bohinj Tourist Card; to save on the many attractions around Lake Bohinj.

This pass is only available from April to October and only travellers staying at least two nights within Bohinj are eligible to purchase one. They can be purchased from any of the Bohinj Tourist centres around the lake. You can choose one of three options depending on how long you are wanting to stay in the area; they have you covered for 3 days, 5 days, and 10 days.

Not only does this card grant you free admission into sites such as the Savica Waterfall and Mostnica Gorge, but it also covers parking at most car parks around Bohinj. It also offers discounts on other activities and transport around the Lake and you are sure to get your money’s worth if you are wanting to see as much as possible during your visit.

Lake Bohinj Things to do

Lake Bohinj Camping

A caravan parked next to a lake in Slovenia

A caravan parked next to a lake in Slovenia

The best way to enjoy this Slovenian beauty is by camping next to it. If you have a camper van, you can take it right next to the lake and camp – we did too. Look for “Camp Zlatorog Bohinj” on Google Maps and just drive to it.

We talk a little more about Camp Zlatorog further down in our Lake Bohinj accommodations section but we can’t urge you enough to give them a go!

If you are like us and love being surrounded by nature, then you won’t be disappointed by waking up from your tent or camper in the midst of Bohinj. The Lake Bohinj camping sites also give you easy access to the numerous trails around the lake so you can start surveying the land around Triglav National Park as soon as you wake up.

Kayaking on Lake Bohinj

Kayaking on Lake Bohinj, Slovenia

Kayaking on Lake Bohinj, Slovenia

One of the most popular activities to take part in at Lake Bohinj is kayaking. You can rent your kayak for an hour if you’re a beginner or for half a day. This way, you can take your kayak to some of the other beaches that you can’t easily reach by walking. But it all depends on your kayaking skills. 

Relaxing on our rented kayak on Lake Bohinj, Slovenia

Relaxing on our rented kayak on Lake Bohinj, Slovenia

Kayaking is one of the easier adventure sport activities as compared to many. I have kayaked a lot in my life but for some reason I wasn’t so good at it here. My good friend Isi and I rented a kayak together. For some reason, we kept kayaking around in a circle instead of going towards the distant beach. It may have been because our coordination was disastrous but it made us giggle like little girls. 

Lake Bohinj Kayaking - Slovenia

Lake Bohinj Kayaking – Slovenia

If you are looking to go on some kayaking adventures, you can actually do it directly from Camp Zlatorog Bohinj. That’s how we did it. In case you’re not camping, then the best village to stay in is Ribcev Laz. You can choose from a few rental places that are situated right on the lake to rent canoes and kayaks. 

Kayak rental - Camp Zlatorog Bohinj - Lake Bohinj, Slovenia

Kayak rental – Camp Zlatorog Bohinj – Lake Bohinj, Slovenia

The cost of renting a kayak for one hour from Camp Zlatorog Bohinj was just 10 Euros for one hour in summer of 2019. If you are looking for a little more guidance, sign up for a tour that will take you around the lake! For the more avid kayakers, book a tour down the Sava Bohinjka River to explore some of the gorges that tower above Lake Bohinj.

Lake Bohinj Swimming

Lake Bohinj Swimming,Triglav National Park Slovenia

Lake Bohinj Swimming,Triglav National Park Slovenia

The best way to enjoy Lake Bohinj is by swimming in it. Much like the more popular Lake Bled, the water of Lake Bohinj is especially inviting during the warm, summer months in Slovenia. Since Lake Bohinj is not as well travelled, you will have no problems finding your own space to take a dip.

Lake Bohinj is a glacial lake which means that it is constantly being replenished with water from the mountains. Due to this, the crystal clear lake is often fresh which makes it a blissful and safe place to go swimming in Slovenia..

Swimming in Lake Bohinj's cold water - Slovenia

Swimming in Lake Bohinj’s cold water – Slovenia

As an extra note, there are motorized boats that travel within the lake. This should not cause any problems in your Lake Bohinj swimming experience as the lake is big enough for everyone’s adventures.

Walk Around Lake Bohinj + See the Beaches

One of the many beaches along Lake Bohinj - Bohinjsko Jezero - Slovenia

One of the many beaches along Lake Bohinj – Bohinjsko Jezero – Slovenia

An amazing way to experience Lake Bohinj is by walking on the path that goes along the shore. No, you won’t be able to go completely around it but you can experience the beauty by walking along it for some part and reaching a few scenic spots. 

Mountains, clear lake and pretty beaches - Lake Bohinj, Slovenia

Mountains, clear lake and pretty beaches – Lake Bohinj, Slovenia

To make things more interesting, carry a mat, some food and drinks and set up a picnic if you reach a nice spot. Swim in the lake and then hang your towels to dry as you relax on the mat. Be sure to carry a bag for your trash and pick up everything before you leave the spot to leave no trace. 

Picnic next to Lake Bohinj in Triglav National Park, Slovenia

Picnic next to Lake Bohinj in Triglav National Park, Slovenia

San and I did this with our friends and we also managed to get our baby to sleep on her pram along the lake. Yes, you should check out our tips for traveling with baby.

Baby sleeping in her pram in Slovenia

Baby sleeping in her pram in Slovenia

Hike to Savica Waterfall (a.k.a. Lake Bohinj Waterfall)

Savica Waterfall near Lake Bohinj, Slovenia

Savica Waterfall near Lake Bohinj, Slovenia by Frerk Meyer CC BY SA 2.0 via Flickr

Savica waterfall is close to Camp Zlatorog Bohinj, but if you’re not staying here then you can consider staying in Ukanc village to have access to the lake as well as the stunning Savica Waterfall; also known as the Lake Bohinj waterfall. In Slovenian language, it is marked as Slap Savica on Google Maps. There are a few ways you can get to the falls, but the easiest way is to drive right to the Savica Hut; which is the starting point for a few hikes around Triglav National Park.

Savica Waterfall, Triglav National Park, Slovenia

Savica Waterfall, Triglav National Park, Slovenia by cpandmd (CC BY-ND 2.0) via Flickr

If you are up to it, you can also hike from Ukanc village to Savica Waterfall via a scenic circular trail that takes an average of three hours to hike. During the summer, you can also get on the hop-on hop-off bus from Ukanc that will take you to the entrance. If you’re an experienced bikers, you should consider renting a mountain bike. This way, you can take the cycling tour loop to get to and from Savica Falls.

Once you get to the entrance and pay your 3 euro to get in, there is a slightly steep hike up to the majestic Lake Bohinj waterfall. After about 20 minutes of hiking, you will be rewarded with the stunning view of the cascade pouring into its emerald green basin underneath. 

View from Prsivec

Lake Bohinj view from Pršivec, Slovenia

Lake Bohinj view from Pršivec, Slovenia by Anna & Michal (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr

Searching for that panoramic postcard-photo view of Lake Bohinj? Then consider climbing to the highest peak around the lake called Prsivec. There are two directions that you could tackle Prsivec from, the west and the east. 

Coming from the east makes for a more leisurely hike with the pleasant sights of the alpine meadows accompanying you on the journey up. The best village to stay near here is Stara Fuzina as you can directly access the road that takes you to the beginning of the loop.

From the westside of Lake Bohinj; next to the trail up to the Savica Waterfall; is a path that leads you to the challenging Komarča wall. This trail should only be attempted by experienced hikers but if you decide to go this way, you won’t be disappointed by all the site-seeing along the way.

Hiking to Savica waterfall from Lake Bohinj is a very small hike. If you’re a serious hiker, then you will love our post about hiking in Triglav National Park. This post details almost all the fun hiking trails and some of them even cross scenic gorges. 

See Mostnica Gorge

Mostnica Gorge near Lake Bohinj, Slovenia

Mostnica Gorge near Lake Bohinj, Slovenia – Julie Mac (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr

While staying in Stara Fuzina, spend a day exploring Mostnica Gorge. Flowing through the centre of the city is the Mostnica River which has carved the impressive gorge just north of the town. 

To get there you can drive up to one of the car parks located near the main entrance to the gorge or you can walk up from Stara Fuzina. There is an entrance fee of 3 euros per person which allows you to visit the gorge for as long as you would like.

Mostnica gorge itself is a gem of Slovenia that doesn’t get nearly enough recognition. There are so many things to discover within the 2 kilometres that the gorge spans including interesting flora and fauna, spectacular views of the gorge and the river, as well as some incredible natural marvels like the “Little Elephant” rock.

If you have time, don’t stop at the gorge! Continue on the trail through Voje Valley until you reach Voje Waterfall. Voje Valley will reward you with more breathtaking views featuring Mostnica river and rolling wildflower meadows. Once you make it to the falls; also known as Mostnica Waterfall; there is a food hut there serving traditional Slovenian dishes.

Soca River

The Turqouise Soca River in Slovenia

The Turquoise Soca River in Slovenia – Aiva (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr

Since you have already made the trip out this far west of Slovenia, you should take a peek at Soca River; a 138-kilometre long alpine river that intersects through Western Slovenia to Northeastern Italy. There are many quaint villages that the Soca River runs through but if you are driving, the settlement of Soča is not too far from Ukanc and is well worth a stop if time permits.

Soca River swimming, Slovenia

Soca River swimming, Slovenia by Erik Paakspuu – (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr

Soča River is a picturesque river that starts in the Trenta Valley and reaches all the way to the Adriatic Sea. It draws visitors to it with its icy aquamarine colour and lush forest that lines both sides of it. The river itself is refreshing and provides many activities that you can do in and around the valley such as swimming, kayaking, and white water rafting. 

Soča River in Autumn, Slovenia

Soča River in Autumn, Slovenia – by Bernhard Latzko – (CC BY-ND 2.0) via Flickr

If you are loving the area around Soca, you can also visit some of the well known villages that it passes through such as Kanal, Bovec, and Nova Gorica.

There are many types of adventure activities that you can experience on Soca river.  Consider booking a tour with an adventure activity – these tours usually also include back and forth transport from Bovec. Below are a few that we have handpicked for you:

Where to Eat near Lake Bohinj?

Our burger in Camp Zlatorog Bohinj, Slovenia

Our burger in Camp Zlatorog Bohinj, Slovenia

Camp Zlatorog Bohinj has an amazing restaurant that’s near the lake. Drink the beer from the tap and eat the Zlatorog burger here.

Lake Bohinj Accommodation

Camp Zlatorog Bohinj

Small pier at Camp Zlatorog Bohinj - Lake Bohinj, Slovenia

Small pier at Camp Zlatorog Bohinj – Lake Bohinj, Slovenia

We love camping! It gives us the opportunity to really experience the natural beauty of a place and Camp Zlatorog Bohinj is an excellent choice if you are looking for a campground. If you stay here, you don’t have to go anywhere else because you have access to a few beaches along the lake and many other scenic spots. 

Located in Ukanc on the shore of the lake itself, the grounds are protected by the shade of the forest and are equipped with everything you need to make your stay here comfortable.

The beach next to Camp Zlatorog Bohinj - Lake Bohinj, Slovenia

The beach next to Camp Zlatorog Bohinj – Lake Bohinj, Slovenia

The location is superb and in close proximity to Savica Waterfall and the trail leading to the Valley of the Seven Triglav Lakes. Camp Zlatorog Bohinj also offers resources and can help you book rentals for all kinds of exhilarating activities and sports around Lake Bohinj.

After Sunset at Lake Bohinj, Slovenia

After Sunset at Lake Bohinj, Slovenia

For us, the best part of our Lake Bohinj experience was staying next to it. This way, we saw the lake literally all the time for two days and appreciated how the colors changed as the sun went down. We did not feel a need to get out because our campground had an amazing restaurant, a bar and we had access to many different scenic spots along the lake.

Hostel pod Voglom

This cozy Lake Bohinj accommodation option is located in the small village of Ribcev Laz; the watersport hub of the lake. Hostel pod Voglom provides both shared dorm rooms and private rooms. Many guests boast about the incredible staff that take care of the hostel who go above and beyond to make your stay at Lake Bohinj memorable.

Hostel pod Voglom is a great option if you are wanting to kayak around the lake and the Sava Bohinjka River. The best part about this hostel is that you get lakeside accommodations at an affordable price.

Bohinj Apartments

If you are looking for a more private and romantic setting, why not rent an apartment on the lake? Most Bohinj apartments start at $50 a night and are often set in homey lakeside cottages. You have many different options sprinkled around the shore of Lake Bohinj from Ukanc to Ribcev Laz and you cannot go wrong with choosing any of them.

We recommend a place called TD Bohinj Apartments, which is just 50 meters from the lake. These apartments feature a bedroom, kitchen, dining area and a small sitting area. You can make your own breakfast and coffee before starting your day.

Lake Bohinj Weather and When to Go

The region of Triglav National Park and Lake Bohinj sees warm summer days and cold winters. During the months of March to September, Lake Bohinj greets the most visitors. Lake Bohinj’s warmest months are from July to August where it can get to 30 degrees celsius.

The dreamy Bohinjsko jezero - Lake Bohinj in Triglav National Park, Slovenia

The dreamy Bohinjsko jezero – Lake Bohinj in Triglav National Park, Slovenia

In summer you can relish in the warm temperatures of the season and it is the best time to enjoy all of the watersports around Lake Bohinj. If you love kayaking, make time to also check out the other rivers that run off from the lake!

The romantic Lake Bohinj, Triglav National Park, Slovenia

The romantic Lake Bohinj, Triglav National Park, Slovenia

Triglav National Park in the fall season turns into a cozy vacation with a mild climate and trees that are sporting red and orange leaves. Much like the springtime, this is the ideal season to explore all of the trails around the park. Autumn is also considered a low season for the Bohinj area which means that activities are affordable and crowds are minimal. 

Bohinj is an idyllic setting if you are looking for a winter holiday escape. With the renowned Vogel Ski Resort in Triglav National Park and maple snowshoe trails, you can enjoy the natural beauty that the region of Bohinj has to show in the wintertime.

Lastly, spring is when you will be able to see all the life growing in the rolling meadows. Go trekking to Voje Valley through Mostnica Gorge for the most picturesque views of the wildflowers and other fauna as they wake from their winter slumber. You will find all the info on the tourism board website here.

Did follow our travel recommendations for Lake Bohinj?

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Una National Park, Bosnia & Herzegovina – Natural Paradise near Croatia

Una National Park, Bosnia & Herzegovina – Natural Paradise near Croatia

Ever heard of Una National Park? It is one of the most underrated destinations in the Balkans. This National Park is in Bosnia & Herzegovina and it shares its border with Croatia. Hence, you can easily include a visit to Una National Park in your Croatia itinerary.

If you’re following me on Instagram, then you must have seen pictures of Una National Park already. I have been raving about this place on social media, and I’m finally penning down my travel experience in a post.

It was our second visit to Bosnia & Herzegovina and this little country never fails to surprise us. Last year we visited Kravice Waterfalls near Medjugorje, Visegrad near Serbia and Vjetrenica cave near Dubrovnik. 

Unac River, a tributory of Una river in Una national park, Bosnia-Herzegovina

Unac River, a tributory of Una river in Una national park, Bosnia-Herzegovina

I did not end up writing a post about all these places for my selfish reason. I do not want to share information about them and invite the world to see them. [Yes, my blog DOES get visited by many people all over the world.] 

I do realize that places like Una National Park mostly get visited by road trippers. It is easier to reach with a car (you can rent one for cheap). After all, it is a headache reaching here on a bus.Check Car Rental Prices in Bosnia-Herzegovina

We did this trip on our camper van. Considering how massive this national park is, one has to be highly determined to see this national park to arrive here by public transport and walk (or cycle) a lot. 

What is Una National Park all about and Why Visit it?

A lovely house along Una River in Una National Park, Bosnia-Herzegovina

A lovely house along Una River in Una National Park, Bosnia-Herzegovina

Una National Park is established around the Una river and its tributaries – Unac River and Krka River. Just like Plitvice, there is a lot of tufa in this national park too. As per the park’s official website, tufa makes Una beautiful. As a result of tufa, the park has cascades, waterfalls, river rapids and white water passages.

Tufa pools under Martin Brod waterfall - Una National Park, Bosnia & Herzegovina

Tufa pools under Martin Brod waterfall – Una National Park, Bosnia & Herzegovina

The park includes Krka river’s starting point, its entire course and its confluence with Una river. Krka river is just 6 KMs long and forms a natural border between Croatia and Bosnia. 

On the other hand, only the lower course of the Unac river is a part of the national park. It creates a spectacular waterfall where it meets the Una river. I will talk about that waterfall later in this post.

Rock formations and bench in Martin Brod, Una National Park, Bosnia & Herzegovina

Rock formations and bench in Martin Brod, Una National Park, Bosnia & Herzegovina

Una National Park is massive and covers an area of 196 square kilometers. There are several villages inside and many lucky people call this place their home. (Imagine – how awesome it would be to live inside a national park). In a way, it reminded us of Serbia’s Tara National Park or Montenegro’s Durmitor National Park – they also have villages inside.

Where is Una National Park?

Una National Park is very close to Croatia and Bosnia & Herzegovina border. It is Bosnia-Herzegovina’s northwestern part. It includes mainly Bihać area and a bit of Drvar and Bosanski Petrovac. 

The town of Bihac is just 30 kilometers from the extremely popular and heavenly Plitvice Lakes National Park of Croatia. We visited Una National Park right after Krka National Park in Croatia, and it is 120 kilometers from there. 

Us with our van in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Us with our van in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Here’s the distance of Una National Park from some of the nearby destinations: (Note, I’m calculating the distance to the nearest village inside Una National Park – for some is Bihać town and for others is Martin Brod. The distance between Bihać and Martin Brod is 50 KMs)

  • Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia: 30 KMs to Bihać
  • Zadar, Croatia: 119 KMs to Martin Brod
  • Krka National Park, Croatia: 120 KMs to Martin Brod
  • Banja Luka, Bosnia-Herzegovina: 160 KMs to Bihać
  • Split, Croatia: 195 KMs to Martin Brod
  • Kravice Waterfalls, Bosnia-Herzegovina: 253 KMs to Martin Brod
  • Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina: 254 KMs to Martin Brod
  • Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina: 324 KMs to Martin Brod

Hopefully, the above information helps you as you visit Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia on a road trip. Check our Balkans road trip itinerary here.

What to see in Una National Park – Top Sights

Martin Brod Waterfall – Milančev Buk

My friend enjoying the view of the waterfall in Martin Brod - Milančev Buk, Bosnia

My friend enjoying the view of the waterfall in Martin Brod – Milančev Buk, Bosnia

Martin Brod waterfall was the first spot that we saw in Una National Park and our jaws literally fell. It is massive, has lovely pools and there’s lush green vegetation all around. It is where fairies are born in a fantasy world!

Milančev Buk - Martin Brod Waterfall in Una National Park, Bosnia & Herzegovina

Milančev Buk – Martin Brod Waterfall in Una National Park, Bosnia & Herzegovina

We paid an entrance fee of 1 euro per person and walked around the hill to reach the waterfall. The walk barely took us 5 minutes. Towards the end of our walk, we heard the sound of water and got very excited. As we got a bit closer and caught the first sight, we realized it was the “perfect-looking” waterfall.

Entry for Martin Brod Waterfall - Milančev Buk in Una National Park, Bosnia-Herzegovina

Entry for Martin Brod Waterfall – Milančev Buk in Una National Park, Bosnia-Herzegovina

It wasn’t as massive as KRKA national park’s main waterfall or the Kravice waterfall. It felt magical because of the area around it, the pools under it, the thick vegetation all around. It actually gave us a feeling of being in the middle of a forest and reaching a secret paradise.

Can you spot us - Martin Brod Waterfall in Una National Park, Bosnia-Herzegovina

Can you spot us – Martin Brod Waterfall in Una National Park, Bosnia-Herzegovina

There is a wooden ramp that goes on top of the pools to go closer to the waterfall, we must have stood there for a very long time. Sounds cliche but all our senses came alive because on that spot we could feel the water on our skin, taste the freshness of the droplets, hear the swish-shoosh, smell the dampness and of course see the epic beauty. 

Us three in Martin Brod - Milančev Buk waterfall - Una National Park, Bosnia-Herzegovina

Us three in Martin Brod – Milančev Buk waterfall – Una National Park, Bosnia-Herzegovina

We visited the Milančev Buk waterfall in the afternoon and there was literally no one around. Compared to the maddening crowds in the nearby Plitvice Lakes or Krka National Park – this was a refreshing change.

FYI: This waterfall is called Milančev Buk but you can just ask for “Martin Brod Waterfall” – that’s easier to say than the actual name. Martin Brod is the name of the village where this waterfall is situated. This is also the starting point for the “International Una Regatta” kayaking competition.

Unac River Picnic Spot in Martin Brod

Una River along Camping & picnic place Lucica, Una National Park

Una River along Camping & picnic place Lucica, Una National Park

Unac River picnic spot in Martin Brod is barely 1 KM away from the waterfall Milančev Buk. Out of all the time we spent in Una National Park, most of it was here. It is actually a camping spot too. The best part is that you can camp next to the river for free. How awesome is that!

Amazing camping spot in Una National Park -Camping & picnic place Lucica

Amazing camping spot in Una National Park – Camping & picnic place Lucica

This spot large open grounds, clean toilets, showers, wooden gazebos, and picnic tables. It is unbelievable that you don’t have to pay any parking or camping fee. I would have happily paid someone for maintaining it or at least tipped but there was no box. We almost camped here for the night but then we decided to get an apartment because started raining.

WC in Martin Brod picnic and camping spot - Una National park, BIH

WC in Martin Brod picnic and camping spot – Una National park, BIH

The part of the river that you can see and enter from this spot is very clear and blue. It is a part of the Una River called Crno vrelo, which means “Black Spring” in Croatian. 

Camping & picnic place Lucica in Martin Brod, Una National Park, Bosnia & Herzegovina

Camping & picnic place Lucica in Martin Brod, Una National Park, Bosnia & Herzegovina

The name of this spot on Google Maps is Camping & picnic place Lucica. If you’re planning on camping here then please note that you will have to take your van down the slope and not every car can handle this, especially the old ones.

Štrbački buk – Waterfall in Gorjevac

Štrbački buk waterfall in Una National Park, Bosnia-Herzegovina

Štrbački buk waterfall in Una National Park, Bosnia & Herzegovina – By Nacionalni park Una – CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia

Štrbački buk is the most visited waterfall inside Una National Park, mainly because you can also enter it from Croatia without crossing the border. The entry from Croatia is from Una Mamea Park. At 25 meters, it is the highest waterfall in Una national park, but not the most spectacular. (The one in Martin Brod is better looking).

Štrbački buk waterfall - Una National Park, Bosnia-Herzegovina

Štrbački buk waterfall – Una National Park, Bosnia-Herzegovina – By Trawide – CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia

Strbacki Buk is a multi-tiered waterfall and it is possible to do rafting here. The sheer volume of water that you will see flowing down here is massive as compared to even the biggest waterfall in Plitvice. Click here for information about Strbacki Buk rafting.

Štrbački buk Rafting - Una National Park, Bosnia & Herzegovina

Štrbački buk Rafting – Una National Park, Bosnia & Herzegovina

You need to pay an entry fee of around 2 EUR to see the Strbacki Buk waterfall. The maintenance of this area is amazing. There are wooden benches and boardwalk that goes up and close to the waterfall. There are restaurants in this area too. 

Just like Milančev Buk, the waterfall at Martin Brod – this area also has a picnic spot that’s right outside the waterfall entry.

Tip: If driving to Strbacki Buk, don’t drive there directly from Martin Brod because the roads are horrible. Instead, drive here through Oraśac village.

Rmanj Monastery in Martin Brod

Rmanj Monastery in Una National Park, Bosnia-Herzegovina

Rmanj Monastery in Una National Park, Bosnia-Herzegovina

Rmanj Monastery in Martin Brod has quite a history. It is an Orthodox monastery that was founded in the 15th or 16th century by the village founder – Katarina Branković after she lost her young son.

This monastery has had a rough past. It was abandoned during the Ottoman Empire in 1578, burned by the Turks in 1663, rebuilt in 1737, yet again burned down during Austro-Turkish War of 1787–1791, renovated in 1863, again damaged in anti Ottoman uprising in 1875, repaired in 1883, used as a hospital in World War II and bombed by the Germans in 1944. Insane, no? It was finally renovated in the 1980s. It is now a National Monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Anyway, I’m not into history, I usually don’t enter museums or religious buildings but I liked something about the Rmanj Monastery and enjoyed photographing it. It is near the bridge that goes over the river, very close to the waterfall entrance. 

Unac Tunnel in Martin Brod

There is a bridge that goes over the river that’s close to Martin Brod waterfall. There’s a path that goes for 2 KMs to Unac Tunnel. This bridge is close to Ramanj Monastery. 

The owner of the restaurant that’s outside the waterfall in Martin Brod told us about this tunnel. He also mentioned that there are bats inside the tunnel and it is divided into two parts. 

We visited Una National Park with our 8-month-old baby and it wasn’t possible to go inside this tunnel. However, I want to mention this place so that you don’t miss out on it.

How to Reach Una National Park?

Paved road in Una National Park

Paved road in Una National Park

We arrived here by driving from Croatia, which is definitely the easiest way of getting here. I can not imagine reaching here by public transport because it is a bit remote. 

In order to arrive here by bus, you have to first reach Bihac – the biggest town in Una National Park. You can take a bus from Bihac to Kulen Vakuf. The bus crosses Una National Park’s entrance 2, which is 4.5 KMs away from Strbacki Buk waterfall. You will have to walk to the waterfall and then walk back to the place where the bus dropped you. 

You can also take a bus from Bihac to Martin Brod and walk to the waterfalls. Martin Brod isn’t so big and hopefully walking here won’t be a problem. The only thing is, there isn’t any bus timetable on the internet and you will have to personally visit Bihac bus station and ask.

Walking inside Una National Park

Walking inside Una National Park

Again, I’d like to mention that it is not the best idea to arrive here on public transport. If you get stranded and do not find a bus to take you back, keep in mind that the national park is remote. Renting a car in the Balkans isn’t so expensive and can sometimes work out to be the same cost as taking public transport if you can split the costs.

If you’re a solo traveler and renting a car doesn’t make sense to you then the easiest way to reach and experience Una National Park is by joining a tour.

Bus from Plitvice Lakes to Una National Park

Reach Una National Park on a bus from Plitvice Lakes is possible. Get to Slunj, a town that’s close to Plitvice Lakes and get onto a bus to Bihac. From Bihac, you have to take a bus to Martin Brod or Kulen Vakuf. (See the previous section for more details)

I have visited Slunj town on two occasions, and it also has a waterfall that’s called “mini Plitvice Lakes”. Seriously, Mother Nature is going crazy here with her benevolence!

There is a bus that goes from Zagreb to Bihac and crossed Plitvice Lakes at 8 am. This bus is operated by Autopromet d.d. Slunj. Ideally, if you want to make this journey then you should visit the bus station in Karlovac or Slunj to find out about the exact timetable. 

Una National Park Entrances:

Una National Park entrance 1 near Štrbački buk waterfall, Bosnia-Herzegovina

Una National Park entrance 1 near Štrbački buk waterfall, Bosnia-Herzegovina

Una National Park park is massive and has multiple entrances. The time we visited, we did not know of all the entrances but I’d like to share this information with you to help you plan your trip:

  • Entrance 1 – Gorjevac (close to Štrbački buk waterfall)
  • Entrance 2 – Ćukovi (close to Kulen Vakuf village, this is a better road for Štrbački buk waterfall but entrance 1 is closer)
  • Entrance 3 – Ćelije (this is also close to Štrbački buk waterfall)
  • Entrance 4 – Račić
  • Entrance 5 – Martin Brod (Milančev Buk waterfall)
  • Entrance 6 – Lohovo
Martin Brod - road sign showing Camping Spot and Waterfall

Martin Brod – road sign showing Camping Spot and Waterfall

In our case, we arrived inside the part from entrance 5 and left from somewhere close to entrance 1 and drove towards Slunj in Croatia.

Villages inside Una National Park:

I will share information about the three main villages that you need to know about to experience all the top sights. Of course, there are more than just these three.

Martin Brod

Walking around in Martin Brod, Una National Park - Bosnia & Herzegovina

Walking around in Martin Brod, Una National Park – Bosnia & Herzegovina

This part has the largest concentration of waterfalls, has the stunning Milančev Buk waterfall, Unac tunnel, Rmanj Monastery. Be sure to check out the “natural washing mills” in Martin Brod called Bučnica. It actually means “a natural laundry machine”. You can find more information about the bučnica here.

Kulen Vakuf

This is the most inhabited village and here you can see the abandoned fort Ostrovica. 

Orasac

Abandoned fortress near Orasac village in Una National Park, Bosnia-Herzegovina

Abandoned fortress near Orasac village in Una National Park, Bosnia-Herzegovina

This village is where we stayed. The views are stunning because there are mountains all around. We could see an abandoned fort here too on top of one of the hills. The biggest waterfall – Strbacki buk is just 8 KMs from here.

Difference Between Una National Park and Una Mamea Park

Una National Park is inside Bosnia & Herzegovina, whereas Una Mamea Park is a smaller park in Croatia. Una Mamea Park only features Strbacki buk waterfall but Una National Park has an area of around 190 square KMs.

Where to stay in Una National Park

Apartment Denis Una in Orašac

Apartment Denis Una, Orasac - Una National Park, Bosnia & Herzegovina

Apartment Denis Una, Orasac – Una National Park, Bosnia & Herzegovina

Our bedroom in Apartment Denis Una, Orasac - Una National Park, Bosnia & Herzegovina

Our bedroom in Apartment Denis Una, Orasac – Una National Park, Bosnia & Herzegovina

Apartment Denis Una is the perfect place to stay in Una National Park. This is where we stayed and loved it. It is an apartment that’s in Orašac village. There is a lovely Bosnian family that runs this place. Thankfully they speak decent English and it was easy to communicate with them. 

View from our dining table in Apartment Denis Una, Orasac - Una National Park, Bosnia & Herzegovina

View from our dining table in Apartment Denis Una, Orasac – Una National Park, Bosnia & Herzegovina

The family lives on the ground floor but the apartment for the guests is on top, with a separate entrance. The upstairs area is perfect because there’s good view from almost every window. There is a large sitting area in the balcony where we enjoyed a very lavish Bosnian breakfast.

Morning view from the window - Apartment Denis Una, Orasac - Una National Park, Bosnia & Herzegovina

Morning view from the window – Apartment Denis Una, Orasac – Una National Park, Bosnia & Herzegovina

Breakfast with view on the balcony in Apartment Denis Una, Orasac - Una National Park, Bosnia & Herzegovina

Breakfast with view on the balcony in Apartment Denis Una, Orasac – Una National Park, Bosnia & Herzegovina

The apartment has two bedrooms, kitchen, living room and a bathroom. There is a washing machine, oven, fridge, stove, TV – and we even had a baby bed in our room. We had a traditional Bosnian dinner here which we will never forget.

Kitchen in Apartment Denis Una, Orasac - Una National Park, Bosnia & Herzegovina

Kitchen in Apartment Denis Una, Orasac – Una National Park, Bosnia & Herzegovina

Our living room in Apartment Denis Una, Orasac - Una National Park, Bosnia & Herzegovina

Our living room in Apartment Denis Una, Orasac – Una National Park, Bosnia & Herzegovina

Orašac village is adorable, wish we were here for longer. The apartment is super comfortable and we paid just 30 or 40 euros for 4 people and one baby. We paid a little more for breakfast and dinner.

Bosnian Breakfast in Apartment Denis Una, Orasac - Una National Park, Bosnia & Herzegovina

Bosnian Breakfast in Apartment Denis Una, Orasac – Una National Park, Bosnia & Herzegovina

Doesn’t this breakfast look super yum? It was and the best part was that most of the things were right out of their own farm. The fruits were really good and so were the tomatoes. I did not click any pictures of our lavish dinner here but that was also excellent. 

Where to Go After Una National Park?

Ostrožac Castle, Bosnia

Ostrožac Castle is 17 KMs away from Bihać in Una Valley. As per Lonely Planet, Ostrožac Castle is one of the top sights in Bosnia & Herzegovina.

Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

I have mentioned this before but Plitvice Lakes is just 30 KMs from Una National Park. This national park is a natural wonderland because there are 16 lakes, 2 rivers and many waterfalls and cascades. Just like Una, even Plitvice thrives because of tufa. Be sure to read our detailed Plitvice Lakes travel guide.

KRKA National Park, Croatia

KRKA National Park also has waterfalls and one of them is massive. The best part is that you can swim in the natural pools under the biggest waterfall. We visited KRKA National Park right before Una, it is just 120 KMs away from Martin Brod.

Kravice Waterfall, Bosnia & Herzegovina (and Mostar)

Kravice Waterfall was one of our best swimming experience in a natural pool. It isn’t as big as the waterfall in Krka National Park but in our opinion is more beautiful. It is 253 KMs away from Una National Park. The nearby town Mostar is famous for its Ottoman styled brodge and is one of the most visited places in Bosnia & Herzegovina.

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