*If you’re reading this in your email, it looks far better on my website.*
Hola! Although I’m amidst the current sea kayaking season in Panama, my sights are set ahead on an exciting offering in Croatia, June 1-9, 2019. Some of you know that I completed an exploratory trip to Croatia in October 2018. After that trip the deal was sealed, and I’m excited to return in June as a guide in collaboration with Venture Outside to share the tranquility, adventure, and beauty of Croatian coast and mountains. Check out part one of this blog about sea kayaking in the Adriatic Sea in Northern Dalmatia. Enjoy:)
*The trip that I completed with a friend in October was so wonderful that this upcoming trip in June is almost identical. No use in changing something that’s already amazing! This blog highlights two days of hiking in Paklenica National Park, which is included in my 9-day June Kayak/Bike/Hike Croatia trip.*
Croatia Trip Part Two: After 4 days of spectacular sea kayaking in the Adriatic Sea off the Northern Dalmatian Coast, we transferred to the Velebit Mountains and Paklenica National Park, which lies about 47km northeast from Zadar. A beautiful coastal city in North Dalmatia famous for its Old Town, Zadar is completely pedestrianized and chock-full of fascinating history. Don’t miss sampling delicious local food (like octopus salad and cuttlefish risotto) and a visit to the Sea Organ. Oh, how I loved the Sea Organ! This cleverly engineered musical instrument was designed to allow water and air to flow through resonant chambers and to be pushed out through channels on stairs that you can walk on. The undulating sounds created by the energy of waves and tide are spectacular. So loved is the Sea Organ that the Croatian architect who designed it, Nikola Bašić, received the European Prize for Urban Public Space in 2006, as the best among 207 candidate projects from across Europe.
I don’t know about you, but when I travel to a new place I purposefully avoid looking at too many photos beforehand. I enjoy being surprised by new surroundings. The Velebit mountains and Paklenica National Park were worth seeing for the first time in person! Prior to this trip I was unaware that Croatia had such rugged mountains.
Background Info: Paklenica National Park covers an area of 59 sq. miles (95 km) and is located on the southern slopes of the Velebit mountains, which is the largest mountain range in Croatia and part of the Dinaric Alps. Famous for hiking, the park was established in 1949, mainly to protect the largest and best preserved forest ecosystem in Dalmatia against exploitation. The name Paklenica likely comes from black pine sap called “paklina”, which locals used in traditional medicine for wound treatment, as well as coating wooden boats. Interesting.
The topography of the region is known as karst, which results from the excavating effects of underground water on underlying soluble rock, such as limestone, gypsum, and dolomite. The resulting landscape consists of features like caves, sinkholes, underground rivers, and barren, rocky ground. Combine expansive views of the Adriatic Sea on one side and Bosnia and Herzegovina on the other with dramatic sculpted cliffs, wooded valleys, and mountain meadows, and you get a world class hiking destination. The area is also rich in flora and fauna, home to numerous endemic species. In 1978 the entire Velebit range was included in the world network of biosphere reserves within the UNESCO program of Man and the Biosphere.
Upon entering Paklenica National Park, we passed what is considered to be one of Europe’s most famous climbing areas. With light packs we hiked gradually uphill to a mountain hut, our home for the next 2 nights. As a kayaker, I don’t spend too much time carrying things on my back nor using my legs to propel me forward. However, it was a wonderful challenge and change from the previous days of paddling. Spectacular views, excellent food, and lively conversation were the theme at the mountain hut.
Upon arrival the hut caretaker cheerfully greeted us with a shot of “medicine”. I admit that I don’t remember what it was, nor was I totally confident that I ever knew; all I can say is that it burned on the way down. We were also served plates of steaming burek. I could write an entire blog about burek, as I sampled plenty of it in Croatia, however someone else more knowledgeable already has, and it’s worth reading here. Basically, burek is a baked pastry made of thin flaky dough, filled with meat or cheese. . and it’s damn delicious!
Vaganski Vrh Summit Day: Early to bed, early to rise. A gorgeous and challenging-at-times (also flat-at-times) hike brought us through Beech, Black and Mountain Pine forests, where we enjoyed forest bathing (never heard of it? It’s pretty cool, google it!) and mountain meadows. At one such meadow we arrived at the exact moment when the sun began to burn off the morning dew, creating a mesmerizing effect. A few hours and many snack breaks later we were standing on Vaganski Vrh, the highest peak in the entire Velebit mountain range at 5,764 ft (1,757m). What a magnificent blue-sky sunny day. I had no idea the views would be so vast and spectacular! We could see to the Adriatic Sea on one side and to Bosnia and Herzegovina on the other side. Maybe I ought to hike more often. As much as I love sea kayaking, it’s pretty difficult to get summit views at altitude from your kayak!
That about wraps it up for now. The best way to explore the Northern Dalmatian coast is in a sea kayak, and the best way to explore the Velebit mountains and Paklenica National Park is hiking! Amazing views, fresh air, great climate, delicious food, and always something exciting to discover around the next corner. If your senses have been piqued by Croatia I invite you to join me in June. Contact me!
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more blogs about Croatia, Panama, and Alaska, where you can join me for sea kayaking, yoga, and cultural adventures. It’s not too early to start planning your summer holiday in Alaska. Stay connected and follow me on Instagram @ileneinakayak