Velebit has long been recognized for its exceptional natural beauty and biodiversity. Within UNESCO’s programme (MAB) (MAB – Man and Biosphere ), the Velebit Mountain was included in the World Network of Biosphere Reserves in 1978. Three years later the entire Velebit area was designated a nature park. Within it there are two national parks– the Paklenica National Park in the south (designated in 1949), and the Northern Velebit National Park in the north (designated half a century later).

Established in 1999, Northern Velebit is the youngest of eight national parks in Croatia. This part of the Velebit Mountain is a true patchwork of the most diverse habitats that are home to countless plant, fungus and animal species – a wealth that is yet to be explored in its entirety. It is this diversity of kart formations, wildlife and landscape, to a large extent created by man, which was the main reason for setting up the Northern Velebit National Park.


Northern Velebit National Park encompasses several areas protected earlier: Hajdučki i Rožanski Kukovi, strict reserve, the Visibaba botanical reserve – home to the endemic species Croatian sibirea, and the Zavižan-Balinovac-Velika kosa botanical reserve which houses the well-known Velebit Botanical Garden, which has been listed as a monument of landscape architecture.

Due to its exceptional worth the Northern Velebit National Park has been included in the National Ecological Network and is listed in the proposal of the future Natura 2000 network of protected areas.

Northern Velebit National Park is also member of the European Destinations of Excellence (EDEN) network, being the national winner in the category „Tourism and Protected Areas“.

Northern Velebit National Park, together with Paklenica National Park and Velebit Nature Park, has been included in five European pilot-areas as part of the Rewilding Europe project.


Park’s Identity Card

  • Year of foundation: 1999.
  • Surface area: 109 km2
  • Altitude: 518-1676 m
  • Highest peak: Veliki Zavižan
  • Ecological network: YES
  • Natura 2000: YES (proposal)
  • IUCN category: II (national park)

Role of the National Park

The purpose of a national park is primarily to preserve the intrinsic natural values of an area, with wildlife being its vital part. Protected areas play a crucial role in the preservation of wildlife whose existence is threatened due to habitat decline.
Infrastructural and other facilities are increasingly encroaching on natural areas tearing up and fragmenting the land into isolated islands that are insufficient for the life of many species. Each major human intervention in nature represents an insurmountable obstacle for species that need a wider area to move and spread.
The role of protected areas such as the Norther Velebit National Park is to conserve healthy and stable ecosystems which comprise large numbers of species. Such natural spaces are invaluable in that they provide the surrounding area with cleaner air and water, a healthier and more fertile soil, and a favourable and more stable climate, providing the people staying in the area to enjoy the benefits of physical, mental and spiritual relaxation.


National Ecological Network (NEM) and Natura 2000

Croatia has its national ecological network Nacionalna ekološka mreža (NEM), also known under its English abbreviation CRO-NEN (Croatian National Ecological Network). Northern Velebit National Park has been included in this network, which was set up in 2007, as an area important for birds of prey, owls, large carnivores, chamois, capercaillie and other endangered species, and 17 types of habitat.

In an effort to ensure sufficient living space for wildlife, the European Union has established an ecological network called Natura 2000 – a network of areas important for rare and endangered species and habitats. Each member country is responsible for contributing to the network by designating sites based on species and habitats protected under Natura 2000, the qualifying species, which are defined in the Birds Directive and the Habitats Directive. These are the two fundamental regulations in the EU nature conservation legislation.
The Northern Velebit National Park is included in the Croatian Natura 2000 network proposal as an area vital for large carnivores and ten types of habitat, with the entire Velebit area included in the proposal as an area important for 17 bird species, 21 other animal species and 13 types of habitat. The national Natura 2000 network will be set up with Croatia’s accession to the European Union.

NEM and Natura 2000 areas are largely overlapping, however, NEM includes some areas that are significant for Croatia, while not being of special importance on the European level and vice versa. To learn more about the National Ecological Network and the future Natura 2000 network, visit the Croatian State Institute for Nature Protection (Državni zavod za zaštitu prirode).

European Destination of Excellence (EDEN)

EDEN is an abbreviation for European Destinations of ExcelleNce - a project that promotes sustainable tourism development models. The project is based on national competitions for the selection of tourist destinations of excellence for each participating country, drawing attention to the values, diversity as well as common features of European destinations and promoting networking between awarded destinations. The project’s objective is to enhance and promote emerging tourist destinations.
Each year the European Commission chooses a theme, and in 2009 the Northern Velebit National Park received an award in Brussels as the national winner within the theme “Tourism and Protected Areas”. More about the EDEN project.