In the Summer of 2022, my wife and I took a Mediterranean cruise with Royal Caribbean on the “Brilliance of the Seas”. The 7-day sailing left from Ravenna, Italy, and visited the Greek Islands of Mykonos and Santorini and the Croatian ports of Dubrovnik and Split.
Santorini and Mykonos had been on our bucket list for years, and due to our obsession with everything “Game of Thrones”, Dubrovnik was up there as well. This was a cruise we had been looking forward to for a long time.
We’d planned out our days for each port of call well in advance, but just a couple of weeks before the cruise, we still had not decided on what to do when we were in Split. We thought about some more Game of Thrones tours, or a historical walking tour of the town, but we couldn’t make our minds up.
Then one evening we happened to be watching an episode of the reality show “Below Deck Mediterranean”. If you haven’t seen the show, it follows the crew of a small luxury yacht during a season sailing around various parts of the Med. This particular episode of the show was based in Croatia and the yacht had anchored in Split.
Why We Decided To Visit Krka National Park
The owner of the yacht had arranged some time off for the crew and organized a trip to Krka National Park. I had never heard of the park before and had somehow managed to overlook it on Royal Caribbean’s list of shore excursions.
The TV footage looked absolutely stunning, and we both knew, we had to look into visiting the park on our port day in Split.
Where is Krka National Park?
Krka National Park is located about 50 miles West of Split and covers an area of 42 square miles (109 sq km) that follows the course of the River Krka. It is one of seven National Parks in Croatia.
The park covers such a wide area that it would be impossible to see all of it in even a few days, so we decided we would focus our visit on the area around the “Skradinski Buk” Waterfall.
We had been told that Skradinski Buk was the park’s “Crown Jewels”, and it’s easy to understand why. Skradinski Buk is the largest of seven main waterfalls on the River Krka.
Skradinski Buk actually consists of lots of smaller cascading falls before climaxing in the large waterfall that gives it its name.
There is a walking trail that weaves through the area culminating in a stunning view of the final waterfall which flows into a beautiful crystal clear natural pool.
With this being a very popular area of the park, there are lots of excursion options available from Split.
How to get to KRKA National Park from Split Cruise Port
The main visitor section of the park is accessible from two main entrances. One is in the town of Skradin and the other is in Lozovac. Both are similar distances from Split.
The Skradin entrance to the park features a one-and-a-half-hour boat journey up the River Krka to the Skradinski Buk waterfall and tourist area.
To get to Skradin from Splt takes about an hour and a quarter.
If we had time, this would have been our preferred route as the view from the boat would have been stunning. However, factoring in travel time for the road journey and the boat trip, it would have taken us a total of 5 and a half hours to get there and back from Split. It wouldn’t have been practical for us to do this from our cruise ship.
Although the travel time to Lozovac is similar, it is located much closer to the waterfall and is fully accessible by Coach. It takes around an hour and a quarter from Split Cruise Port to get to this entrance to the Park. With our time in port limited, this was a much more efficient route. If you are happy to rely on public transport, you can get a bus to the park entrance at Lozovac from Split Bus Station for just 7 Euros each way (About $7.70 US).
Park entrance fees vary from as low as 7 Euros to as high as 40 Euros ($7.70 to $44 US), depending on the time of year. It is more expensive in the Summer.
Normally it would always be my recommendation to consider booking shore excursions independently from a cruise line, as this can save you a lot of money. Cruise Lines tend to add a lot of markup.
On this occasion, however, we had some onboard credit available to us and decided to use it to cover the cost of booking the excursion directly with the ship. The cost for our trip, including entrance to the park was $75 each.
If we didn’t have that cruise credit available to us, we would probably have booked an excursion through a company like Viator or GetYourGuide. Through these companies, the price would have been closer to $30 or $40.
The Coach Journey from Split to the Krka National Park Entrance at Lozovac
The coach journey from Split takes about an hour and a quarter. Our tour guide pointed out some of Split’s interesting sites as we left the town, including the very majestic Fortress of Klis which sits high above the City. Fans of Game of Thrones will however recognise it as the City of Mereen.
Once we arrived at the Park entrance, the Coach wen able to drive us about a half mile further into the Park to the main reception area.
This part of the drive was all downhill, so I was quite relieved as the half-mile hike back up to the entrance would have been quite something in the August heat.
I’ve since discovered that if you do arrive by public transport, the bus will drop you at the main entrance. The park then provides shuttle buses to take you the half mile to the reception area.
What’s the Best Direction To Walk the Skradinski Buk Waterfall Circular Walking Tour
Once we arrived at the reception area our guide pointed out the circular walking path that meanders through the waterfall area of the Park.
There are two choices:
You can go clockwise around the path which involves a quick descent down some stairs to the bottom of the falls. This is then followed by a long slow climb as you head back up the other side of the river to the top of the falls.
OR you can take the anti-clockwise route which has a long gentle descent followed by a short climb back up the stairs at the end.
We decided to take the anti-clockwise route. That proved to be a big mistake. More on that later.
At the start of the route is the historical watermill which houses remnants from the original Krka Hydropower plant which began operations in 1895.
Interestingly the Krak plant was the first of its kind in Europe and started generating electricity just two days behind Nikola Tesla’s hydropower plant at Niagara Falls.
In this area, there was an old blacksmith’s shop as well as the obligatory souvenir shop. There were also some crystal clear water run-off areas where water was diverted from the Krka River to service the watermill. These little pools were teaming with small fish.
The trail around the waterfalls starts just behind the watermill. The path is mainly a wooden elevated structure with bridges across the various parts of the river. As a result it is very accessible to families with pushchairs/strollers, with only a few small areas of the path crossing rough ground.
The path is about 1.2 miles (1.9km) end to end, so allow yourself plenty of time as there is lots to see as it meanders through the forest which follows the river.
The path leads you from the gentle cascades at the top of the falls down to the roaring Skradinski Buk Waterfall at the bottom.
Along the way you cross the river over several small bridges and there are lots of paths that split off to open up into larger viewing areas. Swimming in the water at these areas was not permitted, possibly to avoid any dangers from currents pulling swimmers into the falls further below.
The further we got into the walk, the better the views became. And the noise got steadily louder.
Every 200 feet or so there would be an educational panel describing the plants and wildlife common in the area.
Where Is The Best Location For Viewing The Skradinski Buk Waterfall?
Once we reached the bottom part of the path we saw the majestic Skradinski Buk Falls for the first time. It is truly an incredible sight. Just stunning.
I could have sat here for hours!
Just opposite the viewpoint, there are restrooms, a small restaurant, and some snack bars. We enjoyed a refreshing ice cream as it was starting to get very warm indeed.
After a twenty-minute rest, we continued along the path which leads you to a long narrow bridge across the widest part of the river. This is where you actually get the best view of the falls.
As a result, the bridge got quite congested as people jostled for the best photo position, which was right in the middle of the bridge.
Why You Should Do The Walking Path Clockwise
Once you cross the bridge, you are at the lowest point of the path, and it’s time to start climbing back up the hill.
My wife suffers from a bad knee, so we had asked the Royal Caribbean Shore Excursions desk if there was much climbing involved in this excursion. They assured us it was no more than one flight of stairs and was very gentle. I think I counted 180 steps!
My wife was not pleased, but she made it. There was an accessible path available nearby, but this did seem to be much longer. So much longer, that I saw many young families hauling kids strollers up the stairs rather than take the path.
Fortunately, at the top of the stairs, there was a place where we could buy much-needed refreshments.
If I were doing the walk again, I would definitely go round the walkway clockwise and go DOWN those stairs and deal with the rather more gentle incline of the path on the way back.
How Long Does An Excursion to Krka National Park Take When Traveling From Split?
Our excursion to KRKA National Park took four and a half hours in total, with two hours of free time at the park to do the walk and enjoy the incredible views.
It was wonderful and if I was back in Split again on a cruise, I would do it again, without thinking.
However, we plan to return to the area for a longer stay and to explore the park in much more detail.
Why You Need To Visit KRKA National Park More Than Just Once
We only just scratched the surface of this stunning park. I grabbed some leaflets from the souvenir store on the way out of the park and read them on our way back to the ship.
It was at this point I started to realize how big Krka National Park is and how much there is to see.
Here are just a few of the things that we missed out on:
Visovac Island and Monastery
Further South of Skradinski Buk Waterfall is the picture postcard view that is Visovac Island. The Franciscan Monastery which dominates the tiny island dates back to the 15th century.
Roški slap Waterfall
While Skradinski Buk gets most of the attention from the tourists, the locals will tell you that the Roški slap waterfall is KRKA’s real hidden gem. This is in a much more mountainous and ravine-like area of the river further North, and is definitely on my bucket list!
Venture even further up the KRKA river and you will find the Krka Monastery. This is not to be confused with the monastery on Visovac Island. This is a Serbian Orthodox monastery which dates back to 1345. The buildings feature stunning architecture and houses incredible painted walls on the inside.
Continue North into Krka National Park and you will find the Burnum Amphitheatre which stands as a testament to the Roman influence in the region. This was part of the Burnum military camp. It is the only amphitheater that remains in Croatia. Parts of the old military buildings can also still be recognized amongst the ruins that surround it.
Krka National Park Eco Campus
For those with a keen interest in sustainability and ecology, the Krka Eco Campus should be on your list. The campus is housed in buildings that used to be a military complex. They’ve now been converted into a modern center for learning about Krka National Park. The building also houses many Roman artifacts from the nearby Roman Camp.
Hiking and Boating
Alongside the river, there are numerous hiking trails ranging from short circular routes like the one at Skradinski Buk, to much more adventurous trails up into the mountains and the ravine.
You can also take boat trips in each of the main sections of the river between the main waterfalls.
Don’t Forget About Split
Of course, I can’t finish this article without mentioning Split itself.
On our Royal Caribbean Cruise, we decided to spend our port day out of town. That evening on the ship we heard so many recommendations from our fellow passengers on what we should do the next time we are there.
Diocletian’s Palace is a UNESCO World Heritage site that is still an active part of the City, with its shops and cafes.
Marjan Hill offers amazing panoramic views of the City and out to the Adriatic Sea.
The vibrant seafront location that is the Riva Promenade offers lots of opportunities to just soak up Mediterranean life and watch the world go by.
We truly enjoyed our short time at Krka National Park and from what we saw of Split, we will definitely be back for more.