Inland of Šibenik lies one of the most spellbinding landscapes in Croatia, with a sequence of canyons, lakes and rapids marking the progress of the River Krka towards the sea. Falling under the protection of the Krka National Park, the stretch of the Krka valley between the towns of Knin and Skradin, 12km out from Šibenik, is visited by almost three quarters of a million trippers per year. The huge majority of these visitors gravitate towards Skradinski buk, a sequence of waterfalls and cataracts just above Skradin. The upper reaches of the river are much less swamped by crowds, although there’s a good deal worth seeing here, including two historic monasteries and another stretch of falls at Roški slap – all of which are accessible by national park-operated excursion boats. Travelling by car, you can combine visits to Skradinski buk and Roški slap with a stop-off at the former Roman legionary camp at Burnum just to the west.
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Skradinski buk is one of nature’s most unforgettable water features – a 500m sequence of seventeen mini-cascades spilling over barriers of travertine (limestone sediment), behind which lie pools surrounded by reeds and semi-submerged forest. One of the more dramatic sequences is just up from the boat landing, with several tiers of waterfall tumbling into a broad, shallow pool – it’s the only part of the park where swimming is permitted, and is full of holiday-makers on warm summer days. From here the path crosses over to the eastern side of Skradinski buk, climbing past a nineteenth-century hydroelectric power station (“Jaruga 1”; opened in 1895) that was almost the first of its kind in the world – the Forbes dam on the Niagara Falls beat it by a matter of months. The route ascends towards a collection of stone watermills positioned directly above the rushing Krka. There’s also a network of walkways that break off from the main path, leading you above gurgling waters and through thick riverine vegetation. It’s a beautiful location, and you could spend an entire day here, lolling around on the rocks beside the tumbling water.