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Velebit Nature Park

The Velebit Nature Park stretches over an area of 2200 square kilometres from the Vratnik Pass in the north west to the Zrmanja River Canyon in the south east in a total length of 145 kilometres. It borders the Adriatic Sea to the west, and is surrounded by the Gacka, Lika and Gračac fields with the rivers Gacka, Lika and Otuča on the inland side. The largest single protected reach of land in Croatia, the Velebit Nature Park received its protected status in 1978 for its extraordinary natural values and importance for the preservation of biodiversity. The Nature Park has been included in UNESCO’s World Network of Biosphere Reserves. The Park includes two national parks: the Paklenica National Park and the Northern Velebit National Park.

Nature and culture

The Park is largely built of sedimentary rock, lime, dolomite and Velebit breccias. The entire area of the Park is characterized by an abundance and diversity of underground and surface karst forms, ranging from countless small grikes and karrens, numerous sinkholes, dolines and karst valleys to large karst crags, ridges, caves, and deep pits. The Park is a habitat for many endemic plant and animal species. The best known by far is the Velebit degenia.

Numerous remains of cultural monuments, churches, mountain huts and settlements are testimonies of intensive human habitation on the mountain. These monuments of the past, such as the Inscribed Stone (Pisani kamen), many watermills, funeral monuments (mirila), and shepherd’s huts, reveal the customs and the way of life of the mountain inhabitants. You can glimpse into the vast natural, cultural, and historical heritage of the Velebit region by taking a walk on one of educational trails at run through the Nature Park: the Terezijana (the Maria Theresa Trail), which runs along a stretch of an old road that was built in 1786 between the towns of Karlobag and Gospić, the “Kudin Most” trail which reveals some of the most beautiful waterfalls and travertine cascades of the Krupa. The Kudin Most is the oldest bridge crossing over the Krupa River. Another educational trail, Starigrad Senjski – Donja Klada, which was laid out as early as 1847, introduces the visitor to a range of gorgeous Croatian coves.

Certainly one of the most beautiful coves is Zavratnica a protected landscape. An upper trail with a lookout point and a sea promenade were built in Zavratnica at the beginning of the 20th century. To the south of the Velebit Nature Park you can also see the Cerovac Caves one of the best known and most important speleological features in Croatia. The Cerovac Cave complex comprises three caves (Lower, Middle and Upper Caves) containing a total of 4 kilometres of explored passages. Available for visitors are the first 700 meters of Lower and Upper Caves (Donja and Gornja špilja). Cerovac Caves abound in finds from the ancient past. In addition to being an important archaeological locality, the caves are also one of the largest cave bear sites in Croatia where you can see animal marking, the so-called Bärenschliffe, on the cave walls. These polished wall markings were created by bears rubbing against cave walls.

You can find more information about Velebit Nature park on the web site: www.velebit.hr

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