Sea, great hiking and fantastic climbing all coming together in one place, I had a perfect vacation at Paklenica. Wanting to travel solo to a climbing destination, I searched the internet for places that are easy to find a climbing partner at and I stumbled upon this park in Croatia. A vacation where I could combine climbing and visiting a national park all in one single location.
It worked out as I imagined. I climbed, I hiked, spend time at the beach and met a bunch of very nice people.
The only downside to this park is the thing that makes it so special at the same time. The park is next to the sea, but the highest point in the park is around 1750 meters and only 5 km away from the coast. So extreme weather changes are not uncommon. Rain in the mountains often results in a day of heavy bura winds.
Traveling to Paklenica
I decided to drive from the Netherlands to Croatia. It took me two days and I had to cross four borders to get there. However I enjoyed that I had all my gear with me. When you plan to drive too, keep in mind that you have to get a vignette for Austria and Slovenia and pay toll in Croatia. You can order the Austrian online, the Slovenian has to be purchased at places like gas stations in one of the neighbouring countries. The fines if you don’t have them are crazy.
It’s also possible to fly into Zadar and take a bus to Starigrad. The town next to the national park is small and offers grocery stores and restaurants. So it’s easy to do everything on foot once you get there. Also the hike into the park is not that long, in half an hour you’re in the centre of the climbing area.
Where to stay
There are many options for staying close to the park. The town Starigrad Paklenica is the closest town, it offers campsites, apartments, b&b’s and even hotels. I decided to stay at camp Marko, it’s close to the park, not straight on the busy road and has a kitchen with sitting area. There are a few more campgrounds that offer a kitchen but not all.
Most climbing can be done from the main entrance of the park. You do pay an entrance fee to the park there, in my opinion this was not that expensive. Check out the park website for current prices and learn more about climbing in the park.
The park doesn’t just offer sport climbing. It is known for its long multi pitches, and once a year there is a speed multi pitch event. The multi pitches vary from fully bolted to full trad gear and everything in between. In the gorge you can also find quite a few boulders if that’s your thing. All can be found in the guide book. It’s of good quality and sold in quite a few places, Iglu Sport and the National Park shop for example.
Moja Gear wrote a great post about the style of climbing in the park, see the link below for their website.
Since Paklenica offers so many different types of climbing the type of gear really depends on what you want to do. I climbed sport and did a multi pitch, all well bolted. The length of the climbs I did varied from 10 meter to 30 meters (according to the guide book). I had my 70 meter rope with me and on one of the 30 meter climbs it was just enough, so be careful when going on these climbs with a 60 meter rope. I think 12 to 14 draws for the long climbs are more than enough. In most places the anchor is equipped with a draw for easy lowering, but when you go to the less popular sites you might find some different setups. Make sure you have a nice variety of gear with you for abseiling or lowering in a different way.
If you like trad climbing, bring all your gear, because there will be enough fun for you out there as well. The climbing guide will tell you what gear you need in what route. Many multi pitches require a nut and a cam here and there but also have bolts along the way.
If you are flying in you can also decide to rent gear from the Outdoor Adventurist. They have a small building at the end of the parking lot as well so you don’t have to carry all the gear into the park.
If you need new gear or you’re missing something you can also go to outdoor shop Iglu Sport. The shop isn’t big, but they have shoes, rope, bags, biners and draws.
It is possible to find yourself a climbing partner in this area. It’s not as easy as I experienced in Kalymnos, but I’ve had more than enough climbing days. The campground I was in had a lot of climbers.
It’s also a great idea to have a stop by at Dinko. One of the guys working there is a climber, during the weekdays he sometimes looks for a partner. But he also knows some people in the area who might be looking for a partner. If you go there in the afternoon, especially in the weekends, climbers meet for drinks and food after climbing here as well.
I also met one climbing partner through the facebook group Traveling Rock Climbers.
What else to do
In the guidebook are a few crags that are outside the park. One of these is called Vaganac. One of the sectors there is called ferata and there’s a good reason for that. It has a via ferrata out on that sector, with even a hanging bridge between two peaks. In the end I didn’t go up on it, due to lack of time. Locals don’t have much information about it either. From what I understood it’s been put up only a few years ago. It’s used by some company that does adventure trips in the area. But it looked like it’s open to use for everyone.
Since this is a National Park it’s great for hiking. There are quiet and busy, easy and hard trails in the park, so I think there is something for everyone. I wrote a post about the park and hiking there.
Cave tours are also offered in the park. Check the National Park website for the opening hours of the Manita pec Cave. I haven’t gone in because it wasn’t open at the day I was out hiking in the park.
Of Course this park is at sea, so a day at the beach or on the water is also a great idea. I’ve seen kayak tours being offered in town. I’m not sure if you can just rent a boat.
Vignette Austria – https://www.asfinag.at/toll/vignette/
Bus to Starigrad – https://getbybus.com/en/bus-zadar-to-starigrad-paklenica
Autocamp Marko – https://ac-marko.com/
National Park website – https://www.np-paklenica.hr/en/
Gear rental – https://paklenica-avanturist.com/gear-rentals/
Outdoor shop – https://www.iglusport.hr/
Dinko – http://www.dinko-paklenica.com/
Traveling Rock Climbers – https://www.facebook.com/groups/TravelingRockClimbers/