NP North Velebit: a breath-taking geological wonder

National Park Sjeverni Velebit

August 4, 2015 • Locations

National Park North Velebit is the youngest national park in Croatia, founded in 1999 because of its abundance of karst phenomena, a wealth of wildlife and extraordinary natural beauties in a relatively small area (109 km2 of the mountain Velebit). Its headquarters are located in the village Krasno, and is accessible from any bigger Croatian city. From Krasno, there are various directions you can go, all properly marked with tourist signalization. If you plan your visit during winter contact the Park Management (or their website) because there could be a lot of snow gust on the roads. Also, some of the roads are macadam so be prepared for that, too.

The National Park is an ideal place for those that like to relax actively and enjoy recreation in untouched nature – it truly is a wilderness out there. There are numerous beautiful spots in the Park, whether you like to hike, learn something new or just relax and enjoy the view. Some of my favourites are Zavižan, Štirovača (partly in the National Park, and partly in the Nature Park Velebit) and Alan. Apart from that, you can choose any of the 30 hiking/trekking paths available – one of them is the beautiful Premužić Hiking Trail (57 km long), visit the Botanical garden, use any of the macadam roads for biking (if you have the strength) or simply walk around and take pictures (either with your camera or your mind).

National Park Sjeverni Velebit

Zavižan is the oldest weather station in Croatia, founded in 1953, and has a mountain lodge (open even in winter) where you can enjoy the views, sleep, drink and look at photographs of various weather conditions that happened throughout the years. It is located at 1594 m asl, under the Vučjak peak and can be accessible via the main Park entrance Babić Siče from Oltari and Krasno. The weather station is extremely important because it is the point where two different climates – maritime and continental – collide, which causes unpredictable weather conditions (extreme snow and ice, etc.). Only a couple of minutes’ hike away from the lodge is the Velika Kosa (1620m asl) peak where you can enjoy views of the Adriatic Sea and islands. If the weather conditions are ideal, you can see as far as Italy! But, trust me, any of the peaks surrounding the weather station and mountain lodge (Veliki Zavižan 1676m, Balinovac 1601m, Vučjak 1644m) will give you views that take your breath away. I was there with people that are not hikers nor do they spend a lot of time of nature – they complained and complained – but as soon as they reached the peak, they were stunned by the beauty and the fresh, clean air. It’s really worth it!

Near Zavižan, 15 minutes long walk, is the Velebit botanical garden, founded in 1967. There anyone, not just scientists, can see the wealth of flora of Velebit, even some endemic species like the Velebit degenia (degenia velebitica). The garden is at 1480m asl and encompasses the Balinovac sinkhole that is surrounded by a 600 m long rocky path. You can even descend into the sinkhole via stone steps (1430m asl). Today, the garden has around 300 plant species, some of which grew themselves and some were brought from other parts of Velebit. It is a beautiful place, but prepare to be buzzed – if you don’t like bees and other flying insects this is not a place for you!

National Park Sjeverni Velebit

Alan with its wider surroundings is an area of spacious mountain pastures, karst valleys and slopes surrounded by picturesque peaks. Veliki Alan (1414m asl) is one of the most important Velebit mountain passes – it connects Lika to the Adriatic sea. There, you can enjoy your stay at the Alan Mountain Hut with amazing views of the mountain peaks and sea. It is also the location of one monument of human absurdity – a ropeway, now abandoned, that ran from Alan to the Stinica cove on the Adriatic coast. It was built under horrendous conditions by political prisoners of the Goli Otok penitentiary. Underused and economically unsustainable, it remained in operation for only a few years. Alan is easily accessible via asphalt road from Jablanac or macadam road from Begovača.

I want to include Štirovača, a vast valley lying at around 1100m asl, even though only a section of it is inside the National Park North Velebit’s borders – and the rest is part of the Nature Park Velebit. The valley is well known for its far-stretching pristine coniferous forests, amazing fresh water spring (cold water no matter what the air temperature!) and several creeks that feed the surrounding wet grasslands. If you plan to hike any of the surrounding peaks, make sure you bring empty water bottles and fill them at the spring (the actual spring is well hidden in the forest, but there is a manmade well that pumps water whenever needed). Once, Štirovača was a summer resort bustling with activity – there were people living and working there all year round. Apart from the well, you can use the barbeque whenever you want and eat on the benches and tables set up in the valley and forest. This is a perfect spot for people that need to get away from technology – there is NO cell phone signal, no internet, nothing except you and your imagination. In fact, the last time I was there, there were 2 friends with their sons that took them there for, as they said, whatsapp intervention and getting back to basics. The easiest way to reach Štirovača is by paved road from Krasno or Pazarište. You can also reach it from the Adriatic Highway via paved road to Alan, and further on to Mrkvište on a 9 km macadam road. From Mrkvište, you descend for 3,5 km on a paved road.

National Park Sjeverni Velebit

Once you’re there, you can also visit Klepina Duliba (located in Nature Park Velebit), a special forest vegetation reserve – a secondary old-growth forest where human influence had been present at times, but not strong enough to make the old-growth lose its significance. You can’t miss it, the difference between it and normal forests is obvious – the wild at the palm of your hand.

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For further information please visit the National Park North Velebit’s official web page

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