Terrain shapes and bedrock
Three topographic regions can be distinguished in Croatia, the highlands in the north around Zagreb, the Dalmatian coastal country in the west (see Dalmatia) and the eastern inland plains of the Pannonian basin. The highlands reach a maximum of 1,500-1,600 m above sea level. The coastal area consists of a narrow mountain country, the Dinaric Alps, where karst topography is characteristic of the limestone bedrock.
According to COUNTRYAAH, about 600 islands are located along the coast. The fertile inland plains spread between the almost parallel rivers Drava and Sava. These both end up in the Danube, which is Croatia’s easternmost border.
Of the various natural regions in Croatia, the eastern have a more continental climate than the rest of the country. Here, winters are cold and summers warm. Most of the precipitation falls during the summer and snow is in winter during long periods in high terrain. Osijek in the east, for example, has an average temperature of −1 °C in January and 19 °C in July and Zagreb in the more western lowlands has 1 °C and 22 °C, respectively.
The popular tourist region on the Adriatic coast has a distinct Mediterranean climate with mild winters and warm sunny summers. During the winter, the cold drill sometimes blows down from central and eastern Europe and then gives severe weather for several days. Dubrovnik on the coast in the southern part of the country has an average temperature of 9 °C in January and 25 °C in July.
The amount of precipitation is usually around 750 mm, while the coastal area receives 900 mm per year. Most precipitation, over 2,000 mm, falls in the Adriatic mountains. The country’s easternmost part is the driest.
Plant-and animal life
Although Croatia is one of the major tourist destinations in Europe, only the coastal zone is more well-known. Large parts of the mountains and inland – where the greatest natural values are located – are still surprisingly unknown to large parts of the visitor population.
Nature in Croatia is characterized by a north-south gradient. To the west is the Mediterranean with an extensive archipelago of more than 1,200 islands. Large parts of the coastal zone have been deforested over the millennia and today exhibit a largely eroded landscape with bare cliffs and sparse vegetation. The coastal Dinar Alps are dominated by steep, pointed karst formations with thousands of caves. The mountains are wooded with varied natural vegetation and forest plantations. To the east, along the fertile rivers Drava and Sava, there is a more lowland inland, the Pannonian basin. The inland area is largely cultivated with the greatest natural values concentrated on the more unspoilt river sections.
Plitvice Lakes National Park
In central Croatia, near the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina, lies the Plitvice Lakes National Park. The park has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is an attractive destination for more than one million visitors a year. There are about 15 smaller, crystal clear lakes that are joined by a series of waterfalls and cascades surrounded by green forests with beech, ebony, silver fir and spruce. One of the country’s oldest natural forests with 700-year-old trees is located within the park. About 55 different orchids have been found, among others. guckusko. Dalmatian spring star (Scilla litardierei), which has become popular as a garden plant in western Europe, grows wild here and colors the forests beautifully blue in the spring. Here arebrown bear, wolf, lion, wildcat and tar. Many frog and crawfish find excellent living conditions here, including marsh tortoise, squid, sandworm and emerald lizard. In a couple of Plitvice’s caves there is the strange tail germ and the like.
The southern part of Croatia’s coast, Dalmatia, is probably the part of the country that most visitors come into contact with. Many dive tourists come here for the rich marine environment. the beautiful but poisonous kite-headed sea fish, the rainbow-colored junkergirl, the camouflage-colored rock butterfly (Gobius paganellus) and several species of maggots (Galatheidae).
In the northern part of Dalmatia, southwest of the city of Zadar, the Kornati National Park and the Telascia Nature Reserve have been established. In addition to protecting the marine environment, there are protected areas with beautiful macchia vegetation, ancient olive groves and stocks of the more original stone oak. In the more undisturbed sections nest snakes, pilgrims and eleonora falcons. Earlier it was considered monk seal has been found here.
In the southern part of Dalmatia there is the river Neretva delta. Like most other deltas in the Mediterranean, large parts are cultivated and only smaller sections of the more original nature with lagoons, reeds and marshlands are protected. Here you will find the country’s best stock of pipe drum and dwarf sump hen. Delta participates as an important intermediate station for migratory birds along the Adriatic coast. dwarf cormorant, bronze sib, spoon dryer (Platalea leucorodia), cranberry and white-eyed diving duck. The surroundings house a rich small bird fauna with species such as the olive singer (Hippolais olivetorum), velvet hood,red-throated singer, glasses singer and black-headed sparrow (Emberiza melanocephala).
In the Dinaric Alps along the Adriatic coast, from the city of Senj in the north to Knin in the south, lies the elongated (145 km) mountain area Velebit. The entire mountain range has been set aside as Velebit Nature Park (225,000 ha), with the two national parks Paklenica and Sjeverni as two “islands” located in the south and the north respectively. Velebit is the richest mountain area in Croatia. The coastal, western parts of the mountain range consist of bare limestone cliffs and are inhabited by animals and plants originating from the Mediterranean region. The inland part of the east is overgrown with miles of forests with boreal species.
The forests in the east consist of oak, beech, ebony, spruce and silver spruce. Here brown bears, wolves and lice roam. Gems, which have been reintroduced, live in the more difficult to access mountain slopes. Among the birds are king eagle, snake eagle, pilgrim falcon, rocky eagle, blue eagle, rocky wake, pearl owl, sparrow, tadpole and white-backed woodpecker. Among the plants are marked acacia, yellow grouse, lilies and bluebells, e.g. the beautiful Croatian clock (Campanula waldsteiniana)), which is now cultivated and found in many gardens in Europe. In the many caves there are sixteen different bat species, several species of insects, claw crawlers and two endemic crab species.
Cres, Krk and Lošinj
In the northernmost part of the Adriatic coast (Kvarnerviken) are the three interesting islands of Cres, Krk and Lošinj. During the period June to September, there is the opportunity to see boars, which have been the subject of a long-standing protection and research project. At Cres and Krk, goose nest nest in cliffs directly adjacent to the sea, which is hardly found outside Croatia. Cres harbor a rich reptile fauna species aesculapian snake, leopard snake, malpolon monspessulanus, snake, dice snake, green whip snake, smooth snake and cat snake.
Inland in the east you will find the greatest natural values in connection with the larger rivers. Around the Drava River in the northeast, which for a long distance forms a border with Hungary, there are two internationally important wetland areas: Kopački Rit nature reserve near the confluence with the Danube and Repaš nature reserve east of the city of Koprivnica. Here you will find black stork, white stork, sea eagle, spoon stork, white-eyed dive, dwarf tube room, night heron, rally heron and dwarf cormorant. Kopački Rit is visited by larger screaming eagles during the winter season. The fish fauna is rich with pike, carp, moth and geesemost common species. Clock frog, marsh turtle and fire salamander are common. Deer and wild boar thrive in the gallery forests. Among the more colorful plants are white water lily, sword lily and beach iris (Iris sibirica).
In the Lonjsko Polje nature park along the Sava river, which forms a border with Bosnia and Herzegovina, large wetlands, moist meadows, old river arms and gallery forests with rich bird life are spreading. Here is Croatia’s largest stock of white and black stork, night heron and barley grain. Other noteworthy species are spoon deer, white-eyed duck, sea eagle, smaller scream eagle and bearded tern.
Croatia has (2012) eight national parks, including the Plitvice lakes, Kornati and Krka. The Plitvice Lakes National Park has been listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1979. About 12% of the land surface and 3% of the sea surface are under some form of nature protection.