Tourists travel to Croatia for a whole variety of reasons. They are typically looking to spend time along the Adriatic Sea, enjoying the mild temperatures. However, if you are willing to enjoy the sun while on a boat and viewing one of nature’s wonders then you should travel to Kornati National Park.
Kornati National Park
Kornati National Park is often described as a nautical paradise. Yachtsmen from around the world are drawn to the area to test their skills within the challenging waters, interweaving their boats among the multitude of islands.
The islands were made a national park in 1980 due to the exceptional beauty of the landscape, the interesting geomorphology, jagged coastline and the amazing eco-system found beneath the surface of the water.
Kornati National Park is a group of islands in the central portion of the Croatian Adriatic Sea, located between the islands of Sibenik and Zadar. It consists of 89 islands. The average area of the islands is only 0.55 square kilometres with 9 islands larger than 1 square kilometre and 76 smaller than one hectare. The total park area is 217 square kilometres with 50 of those square kilometres being on land the remaining 167 being sea areas. The total coastline, jagged and indented, measures 238 kilometres.
Getting to Kornati National Park
Kornati National Park can be reached by boat – if you do not own your own boat, there are many available for rent in the nearby areas.
An alternative is taking an organized tour of the area. Again, there are several to choose from, as individuals and tourist agencies up and down the Adriatic coast offer tours of the area. Tours typically last approximately 10 hours and include the boat ride, a drink, park entrance ticket, lunch, and a tour guide to answer any questions and point out all the interesting points along the way.
The area experiences what is called an olive climate, which means it is moderately warm with hot and dry summers and wet autumns (maximum rainfall happens in October).
The average temperate in July and August is 25⁰C and 8⁰ in the month of February. During a typical year there are at least 90 days when the temperature reaches 25⁰C (typically between the beginning of May and end of October). Additionally, there are approximately 40 days when the temperature reaches at least 30⁰C (again typically between the beginning of May and the end of October, with the majority happening in August).
Sunny days beat out cloudy ones in the area with approximately twice as many sunny days as cloudy ones. Perfect for the sun lover. In fact, the area experiences between 2600 and 2700 hours of sunshine each year. Cloudy days typically mean that there will be rain at some point during the day.
There are approximately 25 restaurants and taverns within the park that serve Kornati and Dalmatian specialties consisting mainly of fish, sea food, and Kornati lamb. It is a unique experience of local food cooked with local recipes and a wonderful ambience. The food is typically boiled or grilled, and flavoured with the owner’s own special olive oil.
If you are not interested in dining out a boat travels around from island to island twice a week, selling groceries. Otherwise, you need to pack your own food along.
There is a variety of accommodations available in the area, mainly on Murter Island, including two hotels (The Hotel Colentium has 98 double rooms and the Aparthotel has 14 apartments) and two campsites for 550 camping units. Other accommodations such as private apartments, hostels, and bed and breakfasts can also be found in the area.
If you want to stay in the park itself, you need to contact one of the tourist agencies in order to arrange to rent a small house or room on one of the islands.
If you are travelling by boat, anchoring and spending the night is allowed at 16 locations within the park.
Under the waters of Kornati National Park lives a never-ending variety of plants and animals. On land, there also exists a stunning variety with an estimated 700-800 different plant species.
Birds: Kornati Park is rich with towering and precipitous cliffs, a favourite breeding ground for shags, birds of prey, and swifts. Birds abound from eagle owls, peregrine falcons, kestrels, common buzzards, shags, and seagulls. A bird watcher’s dream!
Insects: To date eighteen different species of butterflies have been recorded in the park, adding yet more vibrant colour to the area. There are also 35 different species of ants.
Amphibians, Reptiles, and Snakes: These animals are typically not popular among visitors (for good reason) but you should be aware that toads, lizards, and snakes all live in the area. Note: none of the snakes are poisonous!
Mammals: Apart from livestock and cats, mammal life is very limited, consisting mainly of martens and bats. As many of the islands are full of holes and caves, it is prime living conditions for ten different species of bats. These caves are still being studied by biologists from the around the world.
Underwater Flora and Fauna: The rich diversity of underwater flora and fauna in the area is the reason why the national park was created. The area includes 353 different species of algae, 3 underwater flower plant species and 850 different animal species from molluscs to worms to decapod crabs to echinoderms to fish.
Dolphins and Turtles: A must see in the area are the bottlenose dolphins. The resident dolphin population consists of approximately 147 individuals. They can typically be seen at the sound end of the park and are a favourite among visitors. Sea turtles, one of the most endangered species in the world, are often seen as well. Loggerhead turtles can grow up to 100 centimetres in length and 115 kilograms in weight come to the Adriatic Sea to feed and winter. The park offers an abundance of food and plenty of peace so is often a favourite spot for the slow moving creatures.
Kornati has numerous viewpoints and lookouts with unforgettable views of the Kornati archipelago. They are not hard to reach but you need to be careful if hiking in the summer as the sun can be extremely hot and there is little shade to be found. You will need to have a hat, sunscreen, and plenty of water. The land areas of Kornati are privately owned so visitors are only allowed to walk along paths that are clearly marked for that purpose.
Kornati National Park is a haven for scuba diving enthusiasts given the astonishing array of plants and animals that can be found beneath the waters. Please note that a permit is required in order to scuba dive. Diving is only permitted when joining an approved organized group. Diving is not permitted between the hours of 7pm and 7am. Divers may carry a dive knife but no other weapons and tools and may not intentionally disturb or harm any living creatures. It is a national park after all, designed to protect the creatures living within the area.
Diving with Mask and Snorkel:
For those who are not adventurous enough to take on scuba diving, the waters are easily explored using only a mask and snorkel. You will be amazed by the swirl of colour that lives beneath the surface of the sea. Another benefit of diving with only a mask and snorkel is that you do not need to obtain a permit or authorization to enjoy the activity.
Those who own their own boat will fall in love with the area. The park is a maze of islands and inlets just waiting to be explored. The water offers a tempting respite from the heat and an amazing swimming experience. As the area is a national park you are required to buy a ticket for each day you spend at the park. The prices depend on the size of your boat and are cheaper if you buy them heading out to the park.
Recreational fishing is permitted in the park as long as you purchase a license from the park authorities. Be careful to avoid the protected areas of the Purara, Klint, Volic, Mrtenjak, Klobucar, Mali Obrucan and Veliki Obrucan Islets) where the public is not allowed.
Festivity on Tarcu: Held on the first Sunday of July in recognition of the Catholic holiday of Madonna of Tarca on Kornat Islands.
Kornati Cup: The Kornati Cup is a traditional sailboat regatta held every April. It is a world-renowned event. The regatta is a major event involving 700 participants from all across Europe, 100 teams, 14 nations, and 4 days of sailing.
Kornati National Park is open all year. It is ideal for participating in water sports like sailing, scuba diving, and snorkelling. The traveller who is looking for a simpler way of life will also enjoy the area. Rainwater and solar energy or gas is utilized in the area, as there is no running water or electricity. You can be transported back in time or imagine yourself living on a deserted island (with a few more comforts than anyone truly living on a deserted island has).