Rivers and waterfalls are not the first images to come to mind when Croatia is discussed. Most people dream of exploring the ancient Venetian cities, dramatic islands and Roman ruins of the Dalmatian Coast. But located just a few hours drive from Split, near the amazing but underrated old city of Sibenikk, is a true natural wonder, Krka National Park. Take a break from century old monuments to explore the thousand year old monuments of nature.

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Main waterfall Krak Natioanl Park

Main waterfall, Skradinski buk

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The Kraka river flows through a limestone gorge and at points spreads throughout an expansive forest. The area is made up of karst environments, which form when carbon dioxide dissolves with water on carbonate rock (limestone). Over a period of thousands of years this ongoing process has created unique geomorphological features on the surface of the rocks through which the Krka river flows. What? Basically, its a biochemical process that is constantly evolving and segmenting the river into an amazing array of pools, waterfalls and caves. Even more basic, it’s Awesome, Beautiful and one of the reasons I traveled to Croatia in the first place. I saw pictures of the waterfalls last year and became captivated with their beauty and number. My wife would say obsessed…but she’s not writing this article. Since you’re looking at the pretty pictures you’re probably not reading this anyway ;)

waterfall Krak Natioanl Park, Croatia

Another section of the river

waterfall Krak National Park Croatia

Flowing through the trees

waterfalls krka national park croatia

Not tired of the beauty yet?

The main falls, Skradinski buk, are located just near the entrance of the park after you arrive by a beautiful boat ride. The walking path takes about 2 hours to complete and covers around 2 miles. You can stop doing the math in your head, trust me it really does take this long. You’ll find yourself stopping constantly to take pictures, marvel at the beauty, and if you arrive late, fighting your way through the crowds. There are other areas to visit in the park but all require you to shell out more Dinars and hop on another boat. These include a quite Franciscan Monastery with various small animals in the upper part of the river that is actually a lake, and further up another series of waterfalls called Roski slap. We found the first set of waterfalls to be enough, but it’s up to you.

Waterfall Krak National Park Croatia

A thousand little waterfalls

waterfalls krka national park croatia

A view from above

waterfall krak national park swim

Don't forget you can swim just under the main waterfall

Your gate way to Krka National Park is the wonderful little town of Skradin. This small town is where the ferry boat departs for the national park and  is a great place to spend a night or two. With small hotels, a marina for sailors making their way down the Croatian coastline, and a small beach on the river it’s a perfect place to relax and soak in the rural atmosphere while being able to meet a fresh load of travelers each night.

Ferry to Krka National Park Croatia

Ferry to Krka National Park from Srkadin

Krak National Park Croatia

Get there early before the crowds show up

If You Go

Croatian Sunset

A beautiful sun set in Skradin's Marina

Kraka is best in the summer when you can swim in the cool waters and breath in the fresh forest air. Just arrive early in the morning as the main viewing and swimming areas become crowded fast.

tropical blue river

Looks like paradise, except the fish bite! Where do you think this picturesque river is?

Update:

The winner is Brett!

The picture was taken in In Kanchanaburi, Thailand at Erwan National park and waterfall of the same name. Just down the street from where the Bridge of the River Kwai story was based, this beautiful river and waterfall system is full of little fish who eat away at your dead skin. Strange feeling but definitely worth the trip. The bonus is that you’ll likely be one of the few foreign tourist there as most will be down at the beaches of the southern coast.

Brett’s prize is a link to his very cool Travel and Foodie blog:  Our Tasty Travels.

Welcome to Travel Photo Contest Friday. If you’re a new friend, each week I post a beautiful picture (at least I think so) from my travels and you guess where it is. The first person to guess where this picture was taken (Country, and River’s name…yes we are being strict this week) will win a link back to their blog with the anchor text of their choice in this post (keep it clean and relevant).

Leave your guess and recent post in the comment section below. After spending a week to “just” reflect on a beautiful Croatian sunset, we are back with a difficult but beautiful spot in the world. There are not many clues here, but I did give a hint in the photo caption.

I will also stumble and review the latest post of anyone who leaves a comment even if the winner has already been picked (up until next Thursday). I’m a bit behind on the Stumbles and reviews as I’m swamped with work at the moment, but don’t worry I always get you in the end. Yes, the prizes heavily favor the blogging and travel geeks amongst us. If you don’t have a website, then leave your favorite website or better yet a charity that deserves attention.

Good luck!

Guesses aside, all comments are welcome!

Back Gate to Iwayaji Temple Shikoku Japan

The Back Gate to Iwayaji in Japan hidden in a forest forgotten by the modern world.

I’m not the type of person to have favorites. Whether they are movies, places, people, authors or anything else. My tastes and my boredom levels change too quickly to push any one place above another. But when I was asked by the Lonely Planet Blogsherpa Carnival to write about my favorite place in the world, I knew immediately where it was, the back side of Iwayaji Temple on Shikoku Japan.

A Little Background

Iwayaji Temple is the 45th temple on the Pilgrimage to the 88 Buddhist Temples of Shikoku, located in Ehime Prefecture. The pilgrimage, covering 1,200-1,400 kilometers depending on who you believe, is Japan’s most famous and visited pilgrimage. Still going strong after more than 1,000 years, legend attributes the pilgrimage to the founder of Shingon Buddhism, Kobo Daishi who was born and gained enlightenment on the Island of Shikoku. Not satisfied with just enlightenment, he also created the Japanese kana writing system, visited China, and hobnobbed with royalty. Trust me, that’s a lot back in the 8th Century.

The real development of the pilgrimage is more complicated as it evolved after Kobo Daishi’s death and his followers tried to retrace in his physical and mental footstep. More traditional localized holy sites, complete with mountain ascetics  (yamabushi) and Shinto shamans, where incorporated into the larger pilgrimage that rings the island of Shikoku and passes though 4 of the most remote and untouched prefectures in Japan.

Buddha and Jizo Statues in Shikoku Japan, Iwayaji Temple 45

Beautiful Buddha Statues line the path. The smaller Jizo statues are the most popular Bodhisattva statue in Japan and grace tens of thousands of roads as Jizo-san is said to help and protect travelers.

Legend says the location was donated to Kobo Daishi  by a mysterious female recluse named Hokke-Sennin. He built the temple on the mountain, considered a holy place by those seeking enlightenment in the cliff’s caves, and carved and enshrined a Buddha image deep in a cave so that the whole mountain would be worshiped.

Still with me? Here’s why…

Shrine beind Iwayaji Temple 45 Shikoku Japan

Mystical shrine surrounded by enormous trees.

Shikoku (and the pilgrimage) is one of my favorite places in the world, but its the path behind the Iwayaji Temple that holds the coveted number 1 in my heart. Every year about 150,000 people make the pilgrimage and probably countless more visit Iwayaji as a stand alone temple. However, most of those making the journey to this remote mountain temple built into a spectacular cliff arrive by car, bus or bike.  They park their cars and walk the steep stone steps to the front cliff and main temple along a beautiful river. What they don’t usually see is the beauty that lies behind the temple.

There is a second way to approach the temple along the ancient walking pilgrim route that crests the mountain behind the temple. The trail delivers the walker from a pristine wooded ridge line path into an ancient moss green forest with enormous cypress trees and age worn shrines and religious carvings. The forest is dark, damp and its enormity and silence creates an atmosphere were a Buddha or Shinto god could easily pop out from behind the next corner. It is also along this path that I came to a sudden realization about my life, where I want to be and what I love to do. This journey, my second walking pilgrimage around Shikoku, is the topic of my current book project on the Shikoku Pilgrimage and how my current lifestyle began (feel free to spread the word) ;) .

Not a week goes by that I don’t think about the path leading to Temple 45 and the effect it’s had on my life. I dream of going back, if for nothing more than to spend some time in that magical forest empty of humanity but full of gods, demons, enlightenment and bright green moss.

Henro path leading to Iyawaji Temple 45 Shikoku

I know, its a beautiful path...that's what I've been trying to tell you!

What is your favorite place? Describe what you love about it and let us know how to get there!

Blogsherpa Travel CarnivalThis post is part of the Lonely Planet BlogSherpa Travel Blog Carnival hosted this time by Sophie over at Sophies’s World. The Carnival is hosted every two weeks by a BlogSherpa member. The topic this time is Your Favorite Place. I hosted one here earlier on Todd’s Wanderings about Travel Safety.

Skradin near Krak National Park Croatia

Sunsent on the water in Croatia

Today there is no Photo Friday Contest, and instead just a beautiful view from my recent road trip through Croatia. This photo was taken at sunset in the marina that makes up half the town of Skradin down river from the famous Krka National Park. Skradin is your gateway to the Krak National Park where the river flows through the forest collecting in pools created by biochemical processes and resulting in thousands of waterfalls. My next post will be a photo journey through the park and its amazing waterfalls, but today I want to leave you with a beautiful start to the weekend.

Seaside Shrine

Where is this colorful seaside shrine? Bonus points if you can name the religion as well.

Update:

The winner is Dave! I know you all have been dying to find out where this is.  The picture was taken in Dili, Timor-Leste (East Timor) just down the road from where I used to live. While the religion is Catholic, there is an unique blend of Animism that is found throughout the island nation and really comes out in the shrines. Timor-Leste is such a beautiful place with an amazingly diverse group of clans (kind of like small kingdoms) and traditional religions based on spirits.  If you have the chance this is one off the beaten track destinations that should not be missed. Oh, and the tropical beaches and untouched scuba diving helps too :)

Dave doesn’t have a website, but he is sweet enough to put his wife Rebeca’s blog forward: This Must Be the Place

Welcome to Travel Photo Contest Friday. If you’re a new friend, each week I post a beautiful picture (at least I think so) from my travels and you guess where it is. The first person to guess where this picture was taken (Country, and Religion Religion) will win a link back to their blog with the anchor text of their choice in this post (keep it clean and relevant).

Leave your guess and recent post in the comment section below. Last week Jasmine was the first to guess the location of these Disdainful Statues, although most others knew exactly where it was too.

This week’s photo has some clues if you are observant. Good luck and I’m looking forward to your guesses and commentary!

I will also stumble and review the latest post of anyone who leaves a comment even if the winner has already been picked (up until next Thursday). I’m a bit behind on the Stumbles and reviews as I’m swamped with work at the moment, but don’t worry I always get you in the end. Yes, the prizes heavily favor the blogging and travel geeks amongst us. If you don’t have a website, then leave your favorite website or better yet a charity that deserves attention.

Good luck!

Guesses aside, all comments are welcome!

Yugoslavia ear car

I wish we had this car!

I love a good road trip. There is nothing quite as satisfying as cruising through a country’s winding back roads to really get to know the local landscape, people and discover spots that you would have missed arriving by air. Of course if you have even more time then riding a bike or walking can be even better ways to become intimate with your destinations. But a car provides a level of freedom and flexibility (motorbikes as well!) that allows you to explore extensively but also smell the air and fresh bread baking in the morning.

When we set off on our 9 day Western Balkan road trip we didn’t know what to expect. All we had was a map, a tent, a rough idea of where to go and few hotel bookings that kept us grounded but not constrained.  This was by choice as getting lost and having adventures are one of the best experiences in life, not to mention great blog article material :) .

Many people back in the US thought we were crazy and that the Balkans are still dangerous. They are not, or at least no more dangerous than NY city and I would argue much safer in many ways. You can cover a lot of ground in 9 days and we were determined to see as much of Croatia’s Dalmatian coast as possible, where we spent the bulk of our time. In the end we traveled over 1,800 km starting in Kosovo and driving through Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia. We ate, drank and danced to the rhythm of the Balkans and arrived home safe, sound and energized. More detailed articles will follow on all of our destinations, but for now here are some of the highlights that should be included in any trip to the area.

Old City of Dubrovnik, Croatia

Dubrovnik Croatia

Undeniably the Jewel in the sparkling Adriatic sea, the old City of Dubrovnik and its massive walls should not be missed.

Magical and funky city of Split

Gregorious of Nin Split Croatia

Ignored by travelers until recently the old city of Split is at once Magical and funky. The atmosphere of sitting, eating, drinking and just living life among exposed Roman ruins is not to be missed

Romanesque Portal in Trogir’s Cathedral

This incredible portal into the Cathedral is the first example of nude sculpture in architecture in Croatia. The whole city which sits on a tiny island is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Forest River in Krka National Park

Krka National Park Croatia

This beautiful park will leave you in awe as you walk and swim between rushing waterfalls and rivers running throughout the surrounding forest.

White Marble History of Zadar

Zadar Croatia

The most northern city on the Dalmatian Coast the old city of Zadar is unique in its white marble roman design and its layers of exposed history.

Natural Beauty of Kornati Islands

Kornati Islands Croatia1

150 uninhabited islands await as you cruise through the Adriatic sea. What trip to Croatia can be complete without a trip to the isalnds?

Monastic Magnificence of Ostrog, Montenegro

Ostrog Monestary Montenegro

Founded in the 17th century by St. Basil, this is the most visited pilgrimage site in Montenegro. Clinging to a high cliff a visit here is packed with incredible views and throngs of worshipers praying for the healing miracles associated with the monastery.

Like all good trips this article needs to end as well. But fear not we will bring you on a guided tour of our travels through the Balkans soon enough. For more pictures from our trip visit Todd’s Wanderings Facebook Page for the complete view of this beautiful area.

We’d love to hear your thoughts.

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