Lika is the Croatian synonym for natural beauty. This sometimes-forgotten region provides home to multiple national parks, including some of the most beautiful around the entire European region. What makes the region special is its crucial position. Indeed, when visiting Lika, you may find yourself either by the sea, on an island, inside deep forests, or on the top of a mountain. A fairly large part of the mountain massif Velebit goes through Lika, as well as one of the most important border crossings. And here, you can find almost anything that you would ever wish for.
If you have ever heard of Croatia before, than you must have heard of Plitvice Lakes at some point. This is Croatia’s oldest and largest national park. And, I dare to say, the most beautiful one. Even though it extends to two regions, Lika owns more than 90% of the park, so we can definitely consider it as Lika’s own beauty. And the beauty is real. Plitvice consists out of 16 lakes, along with rivers, streams, tiny caves and waterfalls. The entire park really does put nature first, and you can notice that immediately after starting to explore it. Apart from some boat ride options across the largest lakes, paths which lead all around the park are wooden, narrow and almost a perfect blend. A truly magical place in which you certainly would not mind if you would ever get lost for a while. Plitvice Lakes are one of Croatia’s most popular attractions, and they are well-known all around Europe, so they obviously have an issue with over-crowding sometimes. To get the best out of it, try planning your visit during lower season, or off season. Trust me, even if you decide to visit the park during the coldest days of the year, you will feel as being dropped in the middle of a magic winter wonderland. Sadly, Lika has a huge problem with accommodation options. For years, Croatia’s largest national park offered a couple of average 3-star hotels which had nothing special to offer beside their fantastic location and views. Nowadays, one can feel that the region is slowly waking up and starting to take accommodation more seriously. Therefore, apart from those couple of dated hotels which are still there, you may have a real Robinson experience inside the recently renovated Plitvice Holiday Resort. It now offers a glamping area! Here, you can choose between super-cool tree houses, lake wooden cabins, Indian-styled tents or luxury mobile homes. This place is simply amazing, and I love it!
Another side of Lika is basically the complete opposite from natural beauty. It consists of a uniquely beautiful island, but it acts more as a base camp for party people rather than a leisure destination. Indeed, Zrće on Pag island really is the most famous Croatian party destination. So, let the dances begin! To local people, this is a delicate subject. Some of them are happy to attract thousands of young people even in lower season, while others are not happy at all and wish to re-design the entire targeting story. During these unprecedented pandemic times, Pag almost feels as a deserted island. Discotheques are closed, night clubs are ghosted, festivals are inexistent. This has certainly brought to many problems to local people, who are now truly struggling to revive the area. A new project is transforming Pag island into Mars. Indeed, this area does resemble a lot to this far-away planet, thanks to its rocky surface and no vegetation along certain areas. The recently launched hiking trail is pretty cool, actually. The rest is yet to be seen.
If you take some proper time to explore Lika, you may discover an infinite source of adorable hidden treasures. From forgotten forest waterfalls to old castles, there is so much awaiting to be found by a fresh pair of eyes. One of my favorite places? Željava Air Base. This literally is an old, non-functioning air base. Once upon a time, this was former Yugoslavia’s biggest investment. Today, this is a real hidden treasure for those who are seeking a real-life, non-touristy adventure. And it is to be done with caution. From the war days when the air base was seriously damaged, there are several mined areas around the base, which are still dangerous. Therefore, please keep in mind not to abandon the concrete paths as you may otherwise risking your life here. Also, if you wish to enter inside the underground tunnels, be careful as this construction is not being renovated and may present a hazard. However, once you learn how to visit it safely, you may find yourself into a magical place to remember for the rest of your life.
I love Lika. It is truly a magical land of national parks, good people and great adventures. But it sometimes really does feel as a forgotten land, too. Thanks to its crucial location on the border from one side and the sea from another, Lika was often one of the main points of attacks and defense during the war. And it did leave visible consequences. Whenever you get outside of the modern city centers and head to the periphery and the nearby villages, you may still see so many bombarded buildings, forgotten by time and left to rot. Sceneries like these are hard to imagine for people who have been living among urban European cities, and here you really do feel as in a forgotten land. Driving through Lika can, therefore, be hard sometimes. And other times, it can even make you cry for a bit. But wherever there is sadness, there should also be hope. Lika still does have a lot of young inhabitants who are refusing to leave their beloved land, and this certainly makes lots of room for great ideas, innovative business strategies, and further development. The potential surely is here so, go Lika, we believe in you!