The wild rivers of Croatia

by , SmarterTravel Staff
Paddling the rivers of Croatia with Huck Finn Adventures (Photo: Huck Finn Adventures)
Editor's Note: This story was originally published on March 10, 2008. To see the most recent SmarterTravel articles on related topics, please click on any of the following links: adventure travel, Alaska, arts and culture, Berkeley, camping, Croatia, family travel, hiking, Kings Canyon Natl Park, Laos, Molly Feltner, mountain, national park, New Zealand, Peru, Saguenay, Sedona, Tanzania, trekking, wildlife.

Provider: Huck Finn Adventures
Length: Eight days
Price: $715

With Croatia emerging as a popular destination for Americans, you may have heard about its stunning coastline characterized by clean topaz waters and historic white-marble cities. But you may not know Croatia is also home to some of Europe's prettiest and most exciting rivers—perfect for kayaking and whitewater rafting.

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During the Balkan War of the 1990s, when no one was thinking about visiting Croatia, aeronautics engineer and paddling guru Zeljko Kelemen was busy scouting the country's rivers and occasionally taking UN peacekeepers out for a rafting trip. He knew that one day tourists would be back, and he could introduce them to adventure travel. Today, he operates the top adventure company in Croatia, Huck Finn Adventures.

"We were the first adventure travel outfitter in the country and are still the only company using all our own gear, bases, and guides, with no middlemen," says Kelemen. "And, most of our trips are under $1,000, even in high season."

The company runs day trips and five- to eight-day tours all over Croatia, but for the best combination of scenery and variety, Kelemen recommends his eight-day "Rivers by the Sea" tour. The package combines kayaking and rafting in several national parks with sea kayaking around one of the lesser-known islands in the Adriatic.

Basing yourself in the ancient Illyrian city of Skradin just outside Krka River National Park, you'll spend the first day working on your paddling skills on a mild portion of the Krka River. Next, you'll head out to sea for kayaking, snorkeling, and swimming around Vrgada Island, a traditional fishing and farming community. Later, you'll explore the clear waters and abundant waterfalls of the Zrmanja, Krupa, and Cetina rivers by canoe and raft. In between activities you'll also visit important cultural cities like Zadar and Sibenik, and have free time for relaxing or doing optional activities like biking Krka River National Park or visiting Kornati Islands National Park.

Trip planning

The trip runs weekly June 7 through September 27. The $715 trip price applies to the June 7 and 14 and September 20 and 27 departures. Prices are higher for other dates. Rates include accommodations, two meals per day, group activities and equipment, a tour leader and river guides, entrance fees and permits; use of kayaks, spray-skirts and life jackets, and wetsuits; meals, guides, and transfers from the Zadar or Split airports. Late-September flights from Newark to Zadar, Croatia, start at $1,076, including all taxes, on United and Croatia Airlines.

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