The greatest natural jewel of the Zadar area is Paklenica National Park, which covers the most attractive parts of the southern Velebit, concentrated in a mere 95 km2.
Paklenica National Park stretches on the coastal slope of southern Velebit, at the entrance to the canyon of Velika Paklenica with an altitude of only ten meters, to the zone of the highest mountain peaks at 1757 meters.
Paklenica was declared a National Park in 1949. The park also has a international protection as a biosphere reserve MAB-UNESCO.
Its most striking features are two forbidding gorges - Velika and Mala Paklenica cut into the mountain from the sea to the highest peaks of Velebit. The 14 km long canyon of Velika Paklenica in its narrowest part is only 50 meters wide. Vertical rocks rise on both sides of the canyon, some of which are up to 700 m high. The Mala Paklenica canyon is more modest in scale. It is 12 km long, and in its narrowest part it is only 10 m wide, while the surrounding rocks rise to a height of 650 m.
The central part of the Park is characterized by the relief complex of Borovnik and Crni vrh, while the southern end is Borovnik, named after the black pine forest. The highest area of the Paklenica National Park is the narrow ridge of Velebit, 1 to 3 km wide. There is the highest peak of Velebit, Vaganski vrh at 1757 meters. In a relatively small area there is an exceptional wealth of geomorphological phenomena and forms, diverse flora and fauna, attractive landscapes. The richness of the plant world is reflected in more than 1000 recorded plant species and subspecies, of which 79 are endemic. It is characterized by great diversity, the presence of relict, endemic, rare, legally protected species, many of which are in the Red Book of Plant Species of Croatia, as well as on the IUCN Red List of Endangered Plant Species. The fauna consists of about 250 species of birds, 30 species of amphibians and reptiles, and more than 50 species of mammals. Of the large species in the area of the Park can be found deer, deer, chamois, wild boar, brown bear, wolf, lynx, fox and wild cat. Among the 254 bird species, almost half are nesting birds. Endangered and rare species of birds of prey such as the golden eagle, the snake eagle and the hawk give special value to the Park.
Paklenica National Park abounds in numerous karst relief forms, among which are very significant underground forms, caves and pits. The processed speleological objects greatly increase the values of the National Park, since they are important paleontological, archeological, biospeleological, tourist and ethnographic sites.
One of the attractions of the park are Tito's underground tunnels popularly called "Bunkers" which are located in the canyon of Velika Paklenica, built in the 50's in which the secrets of the old Yugoslavia were kept.
Hiking is the only way to really get to know and truly experience Paklenica. There are more than 150 km of trails and roads in the Park: from tourist trails leading from the Velika Paklenica canyon to the Manita cave, the only cave set up for visits at 570 m, Lugarnica forest house and mountain lodge, to hiking trails leading to the highest Velebit peaks.
Paklenica is also a world-famous climbing destination due to its long and steep cliffs. The special charm of this climbing area is given by the proximity of the sea coast, so Paklenica Riviera is an ideal place for a combination of climbing and water sports. At the Paklenica climbing area, there are about 400 equipped and arranged routes of various weights and lengths (grades from 3 to 8b +), so every climber can find something for their enjoyment. An international climbing meeting is held in Paklenica every year.
Anticipate some fascinating panoramic views, old hamlets, sinkholes, alpine meadows… Velebit is simply magical.