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From stunning hikes to secluded wild swimming coves: seven reasons why Croatia is a must for adventure lovers | Visit authentic Croatia

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With spectacularly diverse landscapes and beautifully unspoilt nature, Croatia offers a wealth of experiences in the great outdoors – from hiking and kayaking, to cycling, climbing and more. So come and take a walk on Croatia’s wild side – or peddle, paddle, swim – and discover just how much outdoor adventure this beautiful Adriatic country has to offer.

Sailing

With 5,000km of coastline and more than a thousand islands, the scope for sailing on the vivid blue waters of the Croatian Adriatic feels almost limitless – with a breathtaking feeling of space, and excellent mooring facilities and marinas. Explore the open waters and islands around Split and Dubrovnik, cruise along the channel between the Pelješac peninsula and Korčula, or set sail for the unforgettable Kornati islands – rocky, uninhabited, wildly beautiful and a place that can only truly be appreciated by boat.

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Wild swimming

Away from the main beaches, Croatia boasts idyllic swimming at any number of secluded, rocky coves on islands such as Vis, Lošinj, Korčula and Hvar – and there’s plenty of scope for open-water swimming, off the Kornati islands, among the Pakleni islands, or the cluster of islands just off the coast near Šibenik. But swimming in Croatia isn’t just about salty seascapes. There are safe swimming areas below the thundering waterfalls of Krka national park, and the Cetina and the Kupa are perfect rivers for wild swimming.

Hiking in the Velebit mountains. Photograph: Predrag Vučković/Avantura života

Hiking

Look beyond all those gorgeous beaches and sun-soaked historic towns, and you’ll soon discover that Croatia is a fantastic place for hiking. Expect stunning scenery, year round – from rugged mountains and lush forest, to gorgeous lakes and waterfalls – which can be explored on well-marked trails, some of them epic in scale. For Croatia’s best hiking, head for the Velebit mountains, which run over 140km along the coast and include Northern Velebit and Paklenica national parks – places of spectacular karst landscapes, juniper-clad summits and dramatic gorges. Risnjak national park in Gorski kotar has wonderful forested trails, while a walk in Plitvice Lakes national park takes you alongside cascading waterfalls and turquoise lakes. Combine a day on the trail with a refreshing swim afterwards, followed by a sunset dinner beside the gently lapping waves of the Adriatic – what’s not to like?

Diving

Those mesmerisingly clear, blue waters of the Croatian Adriatic are a paradise for scuba diving – with excellent visibility, beautiful marine life, and offering both shallow and deeper water dives. The Kornati islands with their reefs, walls and caverns, and nearby Telašćica nature park at one end of Dugi otok near Zadar, are among the best areas for diving in Croatia. For spectacular wreck diving, head for the Istrian coast where famous dive sites include the HMS Cariolanus and Baron Gautsch – or to the waters around Vis, where wrecks include a B-17 Flying Fortress, and the so-called “blue cave” on the tiny island of Biševo.

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Two wheels are perfect for exploring Croatia’s medieval towns. Photograph: Ivan Šardi

Cycling and mountain biking

Croatia offers oodles of scope for adventures on two wheels, whether road cycling among the medieval hill towns and vineyards of central Istria, or adrenaline-fuelled descents on dedicated single-track mountain bike trails. Mountain bike hotspots include Medvednica nature park near Zagreb, the area around Omiš, and a whole raft of other places on the Dalmatian coast and islands, in particular Brač and Hvar – so ditch the car and explore the islands by bike instead. For an easy cycle route suitable for families, try the Parenzana – a former narrow-gauge railway in Istria. Running from Poreč on the coast and going by way of Motovun, Grožnjan and Buje, pedalling the Parenzana takes you across olive terraces and past lavender fields, through tunnels and over viaducts – not to mention through some of Istria’s finest wine producing areas, in the amazing gastro region of north-west Istria.

Climbing

Croatia has no shortage of sheer limestone cliffs to hone your climbing skills on. The most famous climbing spot in Croatia is Velika Paklenica, in Paklenica national park. Head into the gorge just a short way to reach the first set of crags, right next to the well-used footpath – or slightly farther to the awe-inspiring face of Anića kuk, some 400 metres high and an icon among Croatian climbing locations, with some fiendishly difficult routes. Kompanj in Istria is a local favourite, or try the sea cliffs near Brseč.

Dubrovnik offers a spectacular backdrop for kayaking. Photograph: OldskoolDesign/Shutterstock

Kayaking and rafting

The rocky coastlines of Croatia’s thousand or so islands lend themselves particularly well to sea kayaking adventures – set off along the beautiful southern coast of Vis, or explore Lopud and the other Elaphite islands near Dubrovnik. As for river kayaking, look to the Cetina, which flows around 100km from its absolutely stunning source – a deep, almost otherworldly turquoise pool nicknamed the “eye of the Earth” – to reach the Adriatic near Omiš. Several stretches of the river are great for kayaking, while other areas with rapids offer a thrilling rafting experience.

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