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Magical places in Croatia: A trip to National Park Paklenica to the country’s first female host

Mountaineer cottage at National Park Paklenica

By Josipa Zekanovic

Spring finally arrives this month. It is the perfect time for a relaxing nature getaway from the overcrowded cities. One of the most beautiful places to visit in Croatia is definitely National Park Paklenica. Stunning nature, breeze, magnificent rocks, streams and more will guarantee you an absolute Zen mood.

Just one look at the rocks that are cutting out that astonishing canyon will make you aware how powerful nature is, and how man is actually small compared to this force. 

National Park Paklenica is a protected area in Croatia. It’s most known canyons are called Velika and Mala Paklenica. It is filled with karst rock formations and black pine forests. You can also visit Manita Peć cave, that is famous for stalagmites, stalactites and numerous bat species. 

National Park Paklenica covers an area of 95 km2, on the littoral slope of South Velebit under the zone of the highest mountain peaks, Vaganski vrh (1752 m) and Sveto brdo (1753m). 

Paklenica was proclaimed as a national park on 19th October 1949. Since then, this place is visited by so many guests throughout the year, in all seasons. 

The Paklenica name comes from black pine sap called “paklina”, and it is believed that locals used this in traditional medicine, for wound treatment, for light and for coating of wooden boats. 

In the Velika Paklenica canyon, you can also visit the presentation center ‘Underground Secrets of Paklenica’, which is a complex of bunkers that were built by the Yugoslav Army between 1950 and 1953, amid tense political climate between Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union.

Going to the mountains, there is always warning, no matter if you are an amateur or a pro. If you wanna enjoy the nature and environment, make sure you respect it, so it will respect you back. Never go alone in the mountains and wear appropriate clothes, shoes and supplies even if it is only a short trip.

Our visit lasted two days, from the main trail that started from the Velika Paklenica canyon to the main mountaineer cottage. There we found the host Irena Šaran. Irena is known as the first female host in Croatia that is running a mountaineer cottage like this one.

Irena in action

Living and working in the mountains, raising her kids and family, sounds impossible today, but she is proof that this is absolutely manageable. Irena and her husband Franjo live with their two baby sons in the cottage, running it as a resting place for visitors and station for the Croatian Mountain Rescue Service (HGSS).

She is looking after the facility, cooking, cleaning, managing, booking accommodation for all visitors who arrive there, and so much more things. Proudly said, this is not job for everybody, but Irena loves mountains so much as it is part of her, so she finds this way of living perfect.

When she became the first female host last year, her story attracted a lot of interest from Croatian and international media. In 2018, she got an award from The Croatian Mountaineering Association (Hrvatski planinarski savez) as a host with the best mountain facility in Croatia.

It took us some time to get to the main cottage and the first thing that welcomes you is Irena’s wide smile. Beautiful nature and peace, everything that you need to forget the stresses of the city, work, and daily problems.

The afternoon and evening was spent making a barbecue, sitting near the fire place. We concluded that having a meal in the mountains gives more flavour to the food. The day before Irena celebrated her birthday so wished her a very happy birthday. 

The next day we went back all the way down to the Velika Paklenica canyon and reception with georgous weather following us.

Now is the perfect time to go to the mountains, so if you have some free time, take your equipment and go hike, charge your batteries, for sure we charged ours. 

For more informations about Paklenica and mountain cottage feel free to visit:



(Photos: Josipa Zekanovic)


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