zrnaja river

Zrmanja River

Nicknamed beauty and the beast for its waterfalls and peaceful crystal-clear waters, Zrmanja river provides a hidden, secluded oasis under the Velebit mountain ranges. Situated along the Zrmanja canyon, the river runs for 69 km all the way into the Karin sea with an abundance of activities to try during the warm summer Croatian days. The azure fresh waters provide a sanctuary for visitors looking to take a dip and swim under the beautiful waterfalls. Since Krka is no longer allowing swimming in Skrandinski Buk, visitors have started flocking to the Zrmanja river. Make sure to visit now for a day of adventures, before Zrmanja River has become the next top destination in Croatia, attracting massive tourist crowds.

About Zrmanja River and the surrounding area

It is difficult to believe that this truly spectacular area of Croatia has been neglected for so many years and is still considered a slightly off-the-beaten-path location. Zrmanja River first gots its fame during the 1960s, as the filming location of the adventures of Winnetou. Large portions of the scenes were filmed in the Zrmanja canyon, Krupa river, Velebit nature park and Zrmanja river, which combined together make up not only the largest protected area in Croatia, but also what is now believed to be one of the most beautiful canyons in Europe.

What to do in Zrmanja River

The area around Zrmanja and  Krupa rivers is all about activities. This is the perfect place if you like spending your day being active in nature. The crystal clear waters of Zrmanja River will definitely tempt you to try some water activities as well. Renting a kayaking or canoe for a few hours is definitely one of the best ways to fully soak in the beauty of the area. Head to Zrmanja River Tours as they are the best and most popular rental services in the area. Depending on the time of the year that you are visiting, rafting might also be an option, especially if you are looking for something a bit more adventurous!

If you are looking for something less demenading and more relaxing, you can definitely take the half-day boat tour along the Zrmanja Canyon. Besides taking you along the crystal clear peaceful waters, the tour will make a few pit stops along the way by some of the most beautiful waterfalls, such as Jankovića buk. You will get the chance to go for a swim beneath the refreshing cascading waters.

If you prefer to stay on land, you can definitely just explore the area on foot. There are a number of great trails to choose from. Hiking all the way up to the top of Velebit Mountain is one of the most thrilling paths, with spectacular views along the way. It is more of a moderate 5-hour hike and if you are unsure of your skill level it might be worth considering joining a tour instead.

Where to stay

Those of you who have decided to fully experience the tranquility of the Zrmanja River, might be wondering where to stay in the area. The region has a few camping and bungalow options, however, keep in mind that the choice is fairly limited. Your best bet might be the Mićanovi Dvori, which besides being a camping site also has a few apartment rentals. We preferred staying in a small seaside village called Karin, where the Zrmanja river meets the sea. Once again the accommodation options are fairly limited, but the area is extremely picturesque and perfect for swimming. 

Where to eat

It would be a shame if you have visited the area along the river without paying a visit to at least one of the two famous restaurants. Slapovi Zrmanje is a small restaurant with a pleasant, laid-back atmosphere, which serves delicious local recipes. If you are lucky, you might get one of the tables by the waterfall for some truly beautiful scenery as you indulge in the delicious meals. I strongly suggested ordering the grilled trout, as it was one of the best I have had. Food House Zrmanja is another fantastic restaurant, located by the Zrmanja river serving wonderful food. The wood-fired pizza combined with a pint of locally crafted beer is a great choice for a tasty lunch.

While Restoran Anita might not be situated by the Zrmanja river, their menu is packed with delicious food with reasonable prices. The little zoo with a llama and ostrich is also a nice added bonus if you are visiting with your children. Mićanovi Dvori besides its glamping services, also has a little restaurant with delicious food and available on-site horse riding sessions.

Tips when visiting Zrmanja River:

  • Make sure to bring hiking shoes so that you do not miss on the countless opportunities for hiking in the area.
  • Water shoes are essential if you are planning on taking a dip into the refreshing waters as the river bottom is very pebbly
  • Come as early as possible! You definitely want to be here before 11 am as finding parking space later will be a challenge. After 1pm it is too busy to even drive there. On our first day, we tried arriving at 1pm and we had to back out because there was nowhere to park and only one way due to all the cars blocking the area.
  • It is best to arrive by car, as there is no public transportations to the area. Follow the directions of road 27 to Muškovci, as the easiest and most convenient way to get in. There are two parking areas by this entrance so you will have a better chance to find a spot. Another option is to book a guided tour along the Zrmanja River.

If you are looking for a hidden paradise in Croatia, you should definitely plan a trip to Zrmanja River. You will fall in love with the crystal-clear peaceful waters immediately and you will get the chance to fully experience the tranquility and peace of mother nature in this unspoiled pristine setting.