Once you get to the entrance of Paklenica National Park, you'll think you know what to expect because you will have been looking at the Velebit's breathtaking rock walls and vertical landscapes for miles along the highway. However, when you stop at the reception kiosk at Starigrad, you'll be amazed at the park's softer side -- the sound of locusts, the caress of the wind, the colors of wildflowers, and the scent of pine in the air.

Paklenica, which was proclaimed a national park in 1949, is a do-it-yourself experience: The only drinking water source is at reception, and you have to carry everything in yourself. There is no overnight camping at the park, but if you can't bear to get off the trail, you can book a bed at either of two communal huts on the mountain. Paklenica offers a huge choice of rock-climbing experiences, from beginner to expert, and there are more than 40km (60 miles) of hiking trails that can be charted for treks of a couple of hours or a couple of days.