Northern Velebit National Park surroundings
Numerous visitor attractions abound in the surroundings of the National Park. The main highlight of the area is its mosaic landscape with varied natural, cultural and historic sights. The Parks and its surroundings provide ample opportunity for outdoor activities: hiking, hill-climbing, mountain biking, photography, ski touring and Nordic skiing, angling and cave exploring.
The best choice for leisure activities in a rural setting are the sub-mountainous villages set in picturesque valleys of Northern Velebit - Krasno, Kosinj and Kuterevo. Their proximity to the National Parks makes them ideal starting points for excursions to Velebit and the Adriatic Coast.
Located in the heart of Velebit in a picturesque karst valley at 800 m above sea level, with a population of about 500, the village of Krasno is the largest mountain settlement on Velebit. Each year, almost 15 thousand tourists visit Krasno, mostly on their way to the National Park or the Sanctuary of our Lady of Krasno above the village. Krasno is reachable from the highway, exit Otočac, or from the main coastal road on a 22 km route Sveti Juraj – Krasno. The village is also an excellent base for visits to nearby villages and towns – Senj, Kuterevo, Kosinj, Otočac and the Gacka Valley.
Situated on the route from Otočac to Krasno is a small foothill village of Kuterevo with a population of around 570. The main occupation is agriculture and animal keeping, but the villagers are also well known for their wood handicrafts. Kuterevo is interesting for its well preserved rural architecture and folk traditions. Special attraction is the Kuterevo Bear Sanctuary where bear cubs can bee seen up close.
We also recommend a visit to the village of Kosinj in the beautiful Kosinj Valley. Kosinj is considered one of the most vivid sub Velebit villages. Kosinj valley is part of the Lika Plateau which is known for its clean air and unspoilt nature. Archaeological finds testify to human habitation in the valley since the Roman times. Winding through the heart of Kosinj Valley is the River Lika, the second longest sinking river in Europe. The rocky peak Kalić north of Kosinj affords a stunning view of Krasno, Perušić, the Kosinj Valley and the Velebit peaks. To be seen in Kosinj are many fine examples of the Lika rural architecture which blends harmoniously into the idyllic natural surroundings. The village attraction is the 70-meter-long bridge over the River Lika connecting Gornji Kosinj and Donji Kosinj. The bridge is unique for its arch openings that serve to reduce the wave load on the bridge.
The Gacka Valley and Otočac
Otočac is an old Croatian town which lies on the banks of the River Gacka. The town surroundings contain several archaeological sites, the beautiful Gacka Springs (Vrila) and the charming Gacka Valley which provides various opportunities for rural tourism, hunting and fishing. The Gacka Valley contains evidence of human habitation since the Late Bronze Age as well as several Mithraic temples. The cultural and historical heritage of Sinac and the Gacka area abounds in archaeological finds of Illyrian origin.
One of the most beautiful sinking rivers in Croatia, the River Gacka has its natural source in Tonković Vrilo in the village of Sinac. Its clean and clear waters are rich in diverse animal and plant species. The Gacka is known worldwide for its indigenous rainbow trout and has many caves and springs. A natural rarity, the Gacka River represents a geomorphological and hydrological monument of nature.
Numerous well preserved watermills, which are open for visitors, exemplify the region’s traditional architecture. The people of Gacka have also preserved their traditional folk costumes, traditional instruments (tamburitza), music and dances, and many old customs such as wool spinning, feather picking, blanket washing and cloth fulling.
One of the oldest Adriatic towns, Senj is located at the foothills of the Kapela and Velebit mountains. Through the history it was an important traffic, cultural and trading centre in its part of the Adriatic coast. Today, Senj is a popular summer destination that attracts numerous tourists from the country and abroad. The landmark of Senj is the Fort Nehaj, a fortification built on the Nehaj hill in 1558 as a military stronghold for the rebel units called Uskoks who defended the town from the Turkish and Venetian invaders. Senj is also known for its strong bora wind which blows from the slopes of Velebit towards the sea and not infrequently causes traffic disruptions on the main coastal road. Senj is also widely known for its carnival festivities.
Velebit Nature Park
A natural phenomenon of outstanding relief and vegetation features, the whole of Mount Velebit is a protected nature park and is listed in the UNESCO list of biosphere reserves. Specific areas within the nature park – Paklenica and Northern Velebit – have been designated as national parks.
The attraction of Velebit lies in a combination of impressive relief forms and floral diversity complemented by spectacular landscapes.
Standing out for its panoramic attraction of stone and sea is the Zavratnica cove near Jablanac. One of the most beautiful coves of the Adriatic coast, Zavratnica has been a protected landscape since 1964. The cove can be reached by a waterfront trail or down a mountain path from the village of Zavratnica.
The most important speleological feature of Velebit and Croatia are the Cerovac Caves (Cerovačke špilje). For their unique beauty and numerous finds from ancient times, Cerovac Caves, one of the largest cave complexes in Croatia, have been declared a protected geo-morphological monument of nature. The caves are located on the slopes of South Velebit, four kilometres away from Gračac on the road to Knin.