There is a reason that the Kornati National Park is called a nautical paradise. It is an area of unforgettable beauty, and to enjoy it to its full advantage, you should reserve at least a few days for your visit, if not more. We chartered a 45-foot sailboat and made our way through the 89 spectacular islands, islets, and reefs. The outstanding landscape and the jagged and indented coast lend themselves to exceptional photo opportunities. You can’t help but notice the breathtaking cliffs on some of the islands. The highest peak to be seen is Metlina at 237m and the view from it is idyllic.
Sailing into national park
The National Park is both land and sea-based and is in Dalmatia, a coastal region of Croatia just across from the cities of Zadar and Sibenik. However, there are four areas of strict protection where visitors are not allowed. These are the small Obrucan and great Obrucan islets, the Kolobucar islet, the Mrtenjak islet, and the Purara islet, Klint reef, and Volic reef.
You must purchase a ticket for every day of your stay in the Kornati National Park. You are allowed to sail anywhere in the Kornati National Park except for the strictly protected areas. You can anchor and stay overnight in certain bays and coves such as Stiniva, Statival, and Vruje. You can’t just anchor anywhere so check before you go. There is also limited accommodation on land which is arranged by private landlords and rental agencies. It is possible to ask them to arrange boat rentals and to order supplies for you.
What to do in the park
We love sea water activities and there are plenty of opportunities to take advantage of the crystal-clear waters. We made sure that we went swimming, snorkelling, and diving. You are allowed to swim anywhere in the National Park except for the strictly protected areas as long as you are max. 50m from the shore. There are no extra fees for snorkelling but if you want to dive with autonomous diving equipment, you must do this with an approved, organised group. You will need to get a ticket in advance if you want to dive. There are no diving centres in the Kornati National Park but in the surrounding areas, there are companies that organise diving trips to Kornati. Unfortunately, fishing is not permitted in the Kornati National Park for visitors. Despite this, there are enough water activities to keep you occupied, and the great thing about taking advantage of the water is that the sea and the beaches are not as crowded as are many beaches in Croatia.
What to see and taste
We visited the largest island, Kornat, where we climbed up to the abandoned fortress of Tureta. It dates from the Byzantine period which was around the 6th century AD and was built for military purposes. It protected and controlled navigation in this part of the Adriatic Sea.
If you are looking for a fine dining experience, head for the island of Smokvica Vela where you can enjoy a seafood extravaganza including seafood carpaccio and tuna tataki. What you need to remember is that there are only around 20 restaurants in the Kornati National Park so if you are going on a longer expedition, you would do well stocking up on essentials as there aren’t any shops in the park.
The weather was perfect for our trip. We went in June and enjoyed temperatures between 25C and 30C. This is the only thing to consider if you decide to go hiking on one of the islands. We took bottles of water and put on sun hats and sunblock when we hiked. It is important to note that you are only allowed to hike on specially marked trails and paths.
Nature in Kornati archipelago
The land is semi-desert but there is still plenty of plant life. You will find 650 plant species on the islands. You mustn’t pick or damage any of the plants so that they remain there for everyone to enjoy. There used to be vineyards and fruit trees on the islands but now they have been replaced by olives. In fact, in excess of 18000 olive trees in Kornati produce excellent olive oil.
If you’re interested in wildlife, you will, unfortunately, be disappointed as there aren’t many to be found in the National Park. If you’re lucky, you may catch the sight of a beach marten but they are elusive. However, lizards and snakes can sometimes be spotted. Sealife is more prolific. You can often be entertained by the resident population of bottle-nose dolphins, and loggerhead turtles often visit the waters. If you take advantage of the opportunity to snorkel, you will get to see any of the 185 species of fish. If you are lucky, you may spot the Pirina Noblis, an oversized mussel that is strictly protected by wildlife authorities. If you are a bird watcher, you will be pleasantly surprised at the number of birds to be spotted on the islands. You may see eagle owls, peregrine falcons, kestrels, buzzards, and, of course, the cheeky seagull who may try and steal your sandwich! Hunting any type of animal, fish, or bird is prohibited and you aren’t allowed to bring in any firearms or spear guns.
The dry-stone walls on the islands are interesting to see. These were used to mark the ownership of land although there were no permanent inhabitants. Sheepherding took place and the forests of holm oak were burnt down, creating karst meadows that gave excellent pasture for the sheep. The total length of all dry-stone walls on the islands is an impressive 320 km.
Before you sail away from park
If you have time, visit the St Nicholas fortress either on your way into the National Park or on your way out. It is a spectacular fortification that is at the entrance of the St. Antony channel in Sibenik. It can be reached by boat or by walking, and you can either sail your own boat or take a guided boat trip. If you are sailing on your own boat, you get a discount if you show a ticket purchased within the last seven days for the Kornati National Park. The discount is 10% and the bigger your boat is, the more tickets you get. It is a good deal, and the fortress is well worth visiting.
If you need any information or want to buy souvenirs, there is a visitor centre in Levrnaca.
Kornati National Park will suit you down to the ground if you are looking for spectacular scenery, a touch of solitude, and amazing sea water opportunities. A couple of days really won’t be enough to explore the area and we suggest that you book for three to five days.
Author: Irena Nieslony
Photos: Boris Kačan