When planning our week-long trip to Split, Croatia, with our teenagers, we researched and read tons of websites and blogs. All of them showed pictures of the amazing waterfalls at Krka National Park with a few people scattered here and there. Both my kids were excited to see and swim in the water falls.
But nothing prepared me for the onslaught of crowds which we encountered in July 2019.
I am told by locals that social media is helping this lovely place become a top tourist attraction — rightly so — and the crowds are becoming a real problem for the wildlife in the falls. More than 10,000 people per day visit in the summer months! This is good for Croatia’s top industry, tourism, but not exactly the relaxing hike I had imagined. Our tour to Krka was a lovely day trip from Split with some amazing nature to see. However, I was a bit put off by all the people.
A few things to consider before your family heads to the falls.
1. Simplify your Krka National Park visit with a guide
A few weeks before our trip, we booked our tour through Splitlicious, a local group offering multiple guided tours. We met our guide “Ted” at 8 a.m. in downtown Split with a rather large group of 20 to 30-year olds. Together on a big tour bus, we headed out to Krka National Park, which took about an hour.
Our guide organized picking up the tickets to the park (not included in the fee): 200 Kuna in the summer, although we got a discounted price for going with a tour group. Ted gave us instructions about how to get to the falls via boat and back again. Once at the falls, he took us on a brief tour of the area, explaining the history, geography, and pointed out a few other places to visit. Then we had some free time to wander, eat, swim, and visit the small nearby town of Skradin. In total, we had six hours to explore the park and Skradin.
2. Start early in the day (avoid July or August) if possible
Everything I read about Croatia discouraged visiting during the summertime. Sometimes, like for us, timing is simply out of our control. We took a risk on a busy time of year.
Our tour only had one start time, but if given a choice, it’s better to hit the falls as early as possible. Should you decide to forgo the guided tour, I would get to the park close to opening time of 8 or 9 a.m. (depending on the month). The crowds can be stifling in July and August so getting there before the masses arrive gives you time to enjoy nature without extra people. If I had a choice again, I would have gone a few hours earlier. Even with an 8 am start time, by the time we reached the falls it was 10:30 am.
Getting pictures without too many people, even with the crowds, is possible. Be a little creative in angles and locations. While the bridge overlooking the falls is known as “Selfie bridge,” don’t be fooled into thinking this is the only place to get a great shot. The path is long enough to really get some unique angles of the falls and the river without all the people.
3. The path was designed for all footwear and hiking abilities
Our tour company recommended wearing closed-toe shoes for the trip. When we arrived, I was shocked at the number of people wearing flip flops, wedges, and shoes which generally did not scream “hiking in a national park.”
Turns out the path around the park (see above) is accessible for everyone with any type of footwear or hiking ability. What this means is you can avoid one less battle with your teenagers about which footwear is appropriate for the trip. Bring your babies in strollers and elderly grandparents who need more time. Other than a big flight of steps (which has a ramp, too), it’s a nice easy path for anyone.
4. “Swimming” in Krka Falls needs some prep work
In the entire park, there is only one small area to swim. When visiting in the summer months, don’t expect too much time lazing about.
- Changing rooms are unavailable. You can wear your suit, get creative with changing, or just strip down (as many people were doing).
- Lockers are provided for a fee.
- Wear water shoes into the water. It’s slippery and rocky.
- If you’re planning for great photos, consider a waterproof case for the phone.
- The beach area is not flat and grassy for the most part, although a little further away from the falls there were places to relax. I recommend bringing a picnic blanket in addition to a towel.
5. Food is pricey in the park
In the park, a nice selection of cafes sell food, coffee, ice cream, and beer both at the bottom of the falls and at the top near the medieval village. As expected, the food is overpriced. If possible, I recommend packing a picnic before heading out for the day. There are food options—stalls, restaurants, and a grocery store— in the town of Skradin where the boat docks, which provide more affordable options.
6. Account for boat transportation time
For our particular trip, the boats left Skradin every hour on the hour, and inversely, they left the park every hour on the half hour. Seems simple enough, right? Our guide was very clear that the lines to get on the boats can be long. In the busy season, the park does its best to run more boats to accommodate, but the queue and travel time can add another an hour to the journey, each way. If you’re meeting back with a tour at a specific time, keep the wait times in mind so as not to miss the bus back to Split.
7. Don’t neglect Skradin, its beach beat the park
We spent a total of three hours in the actual park. My daughter was a bit disappointed by the lack of swimming in the falls, but our guide recommended the much quieter beach in Skradin which is still the Krka river. Turns out that was much nicer for all of us. Lots of room to relax with shade and some rentable lounge chairs. A few vendors had set up stalls selling ice cream, light snacks, beer, wine, and slushies. As you can tell, everyone came out a winner.
If time allows, spend an hour or so wandering the narrow streets of Skradin and climb to the fortress. A mix of local shops and a Lush (what?!) provided a little something for everyone after exploring nature. It’s not much, but depending on how much of these ruins you’ve seen so far, it’s worth a brief visit.