Kornati National Park is part of a group of nearly 150 mostly uninhabited islands south of Pasman and Dugi Otok. The park's 89 islands, islets, and reefs are scattered across an area of about 78 sq. km (30 sq. miles) of land and 207 sq. km (80 sq. miles) of sea. Kornati's unusual landscape of mostly barren, irregular karst terrain is a submerged mountain range; the visible parts are ancient mountaintops and valleys that now are islands and channels. Less than a quarter of the Kornati area is land, while the rest of the park is under the sea, and the park's underwater landscape is perhaps its most fascinating feature. Kornati is renowned as a diver's paradise with unusual rock formations where many species of fish and plant life thrive. Both scuba divers and snorkelers will enjoy Kornati, but scuba enthusiasts must be part of a group approved by the National Park if they want to explore any of the seven zones set aside for diving visits.
If you'd rather explore land, don't miss the Kornati "crowns," steep island cliffs that face the sea, a result of a rift caused by a continental collision millions of years ago.
Kornat is the largest of the park's islands and the site of the 6th-century fortress of Toreta, an excellent example of Byzantine architecture. The precise history of Toreta is not known, but it's probably safe to assume that the fortress was built to protect navigation on the Adriatic. Near the fortress, you also can see the remains of an early Christian three-nave church from the same period.
The islands were sold in the 19th century to the people of Murter by the Zadar aristocrats who owned them. Today the inhabitants of Murter own 90% of the land, and use it to raise sheep or to grow olives and other crops suited to its rocky soil.
There are no permanent residents on the Kornati islands, but some people do have houses that they use when tending sheep or taking care of their crops. It is possible to stay on Kornati with one of the families who have cottages there. To room with a Kornati family, make arrangements with any tourist agency in Murter. Kornati also has 16 bays with mooring areas designated for boaters who want to drop anchor overnight.
Visitor Information -- For information on visiting Kornati National Park, contact the Kornati National Park office at Butina 2, Murter (tel. 022/434-662; www.kornati.hr). The park office can direct you to approved dive escorts. The tourist office can direct you to private agencies approved to run individual tours and accommodations on Kornati.
Getting There -- There is no ferry service between the Kornati Islands and the mainland, and the only way to get there is by boat. You'll have more travel flexibility if you have your own vessel, but you can't dive unless you are with an approved dive group. You can book excursions to the islands from Zadar, Sibenik, or Split. You can arrange for private boat tours and accommodations at the travel agencies on Murter.