Krka Beyond The Waterfalls: A Tale of Two Monasteries

Paul Bradbury

All images: Copyright Romulic & Stojcic

May the 25th, 2024 – There is much to Krka National Park than waterfalls. A look at its two main sacral attractions, monasteries from the Catholic and Orthodox faiths. 

One doesn’t have to be at National Park Krka very long before it becomes clear that here is a national park with a difference. Natural beauty Krka has in abundance, but it perhaps the spectacular range of other attractions which sets it apart from other national parks in Croatia. There have been significant man-made contributions (even a man-made island!) which have contributed to the popularity of Krka, giving visitors yet one more reason to explore this fascinating part of Croatia. 

About that man-made island. It is called Visovac and is one of the iconic picture postcards of Croatia. The Franciscan Monastery of Our Lady of Mercy, and the Church of Our Lady of Visovac, have stood here since 1445. It is truly one of the most serene spots in all Croatia, and the contrast between Krka’s most popular attraction, the waterfalls at Skradinski Buk, could not be starker. Far from being a tourist attraction, Visovac is very much a monastic community today, and while tourism is popular on Visovac, it is important to bear that in mind.

Originally used as a hermitage, Visovac expanded with the arrival of the  Franciscan monks, who built a church in 1576, a building which was reconstructed in the 18th century. From the 16th to the 19th centuries, Visovac accumulated a rich collection of books, religious relics and folk costumes, among which is claimed the smallest book in the world and an illustrated copy of Aesop’s fables, printed in 1487 and one of only three in the world. 

Most visitors come to Visovac on the tourist boats provided, and the standard visit is limited to a 30-minute guided tour of the small island, and it includes a tour of the Franciscan monastery, church, museum and exquisite gardens, whose impressive cypress trees add an extra veil of privacy. There is also a small shop where one can buy souvenirs and refreshments. 

Visits to Visovac can be made from Skradinski buk, Stinica and Remetić. A visit to the island apart, the boat trip is an excellent opportunity to immerse yourself in nature away from the crowds and to appreciate the extremely impressive size and diversity of this very special national park. 

While tourism is the main reason people visit Visovac, it is above all a religious place, and it is possible to attend mass there each Sunday with the ten resident monks. The service takes place at 11:00. Even more impressive, if your visit coincides with mid-August is the procession and mass for Vela Gospa (the Assumption of Our Lady), which begins at 08:00.

Whether your reasons for visiting are tourism or religion – or a combination of the two – Visovac is one of the undisputed highlights of a visit to National Park Krka.

While it might be a little unusual to find a Franciscan monastery on a man-made island in the middle of a national park, it is perhaps more unusual in this predominantly Catholic country to find a second impressive monastery from another faith. 

The Krka Monastery (Holy Archangel) is a spiritual centre of the Orthodox faith and can be found in a bay on the River Krka, some 3.5 km from Kistanje. Its origins are similar in age to that of Visovac; built on the foundations of a previous Eremite monastery, it is first mentioned in written records in 1402. 

After Operation Storm in 1995, the monastery was partially looted, but not significantly as it was protected by Croatian authorities. The monks returned in 1998 and the seminary reopened in 2001. 

A trip out to Krka Monastery offers much more than initially meets the eye. The monastery has its archives and a library with a variety of ancient books and valuable items from the 16th to the 20th century, a collection of wooden icons (St. John the Baptist from the 14th or 15th century, work by the so-called Master of the Tkon Crucifix), silverware and embroideries.

There is also a Byzantine church next to the monastery, under which are ancient catacombs dating back to the Roman era. This national park really does continue to surprise! The catacombs are open to visitors. 

One other interesting detail surrounding the nature of Krka Monastery is the rich plant and animal life which can be found due to the abundance of water from the river after which Krka Monastery is named. 

Two exceptional sacral experiences set among some of the most beautiful nature Croatia has to offer. What else is there to discover at National Park Krka? Learn more from the official website


Subscribe to our newsletter

the fields marked with * are required
Email: *
First name:
Last name:
Gender: Male Female
Please don't insert text in the box below!

Leave a Comment