Velebit requires no special introduction, as this is the most massive mountain within Croatia. What makes Velebit extra special is the dense area that it occupies, ranging all the way from the coast towards the inland. On top of that, it provides spectacular natural sceneries as well as a home to the most diverse flora and fauna one could ever think of. To me, Velebit presents an endless source of hiking trails, adventurous daily trips as well as a wild escape away from the city. And it really does deserve a wholly dedicated article and a special place in the hearts of those who decide to actually visit the place.
Let me begin with my favorite place to be: the sea. Velebit provides refuge to some of the most beautiful Croatian bays, and they really are worth the trip. With Velebit being a natural park area, most of such hidden bays are actually unreachable by car or public transportation methods, which certainly adds to the experience. Therefore, high-quality hiking boots are a must when heading through its magical paths. One of such paths can lead you to one of the most stunning places ever: the Zavratnica bay. Alternatively, you may rent a boat and skip the hiking part, immediately reaching its full beauty from the first line. Whatever your choice may be, I am sure that you will say ˝wow˝ at least once when you see it. Zavratnica bay is a protected area, and it offers home to traditional Croatian dense vegetation species, which are obviously just to be admired and not picked up. Seeing the bare mountain massif literally emerging into the crystal blue sea is one of those dazzling sceneries which few words can explain. Drama and beauty all at one place! What else is there that one would need to feed the inner soul?
Heading a bit further inland, Velebit massif is just as mesmerizing as it is along the coast. Its peaks are not that high actually, but they are so vast that you can literally lose yourself for days and never get bored. This sleeping giant has numerous paths which you can choose from, ranging anywhere from super-easy ones to those which require some extra caution. And if you pack your backpacks exactly right, you may literally spend days and days up there. There are various mountain lodges on Velebit, and they are all open to public visitors. Some of them even offer the possibility of spending the night under a real roof, but others are just a great stop to get some fresh water and good local food. Wherever you decide to go, you can probably meet some locals around their favorite lodges and ask them for tips on how to get to spectacular lookout points. Other than that, you can usually spend your time on Velebit without even encountering anyone. But if you are lucky enough, you can expect to spot at least some of the authentic animal species. If you are visiting the mountain massif during May or early June, you can certainly admire the Velebit degenia, which is one of the most beautiful yellow flowers you can ever spot in between rocks. Vaganski Vrh is the highest peak of Velebit, and it certainly is a nice stamp to add to your mountaineering booklet, but one of my favorite places towards the top is definitely the Tulove Grede. It is quite easy to recognize thanks to its white limestone cliffs which are completely different both in size and in shape. And I am not the only one to have recognized their pure beauty. In fact, did you know that one of the last scenes of the Winnetou movies was filmed exactly here? How amazing is that? Although many years after the war the rocks were marked as dangerous because of possible mine presence, today they are completely accessible all the way to the very top. What a hike!
One of the best parts of visiting Velebit park is having the remarkable opportunity of becoming one with nature, and spending nights either under the open starred sky or in appositely designed accommodation. One of my greatest discoveries ever was the Linden Tree Retreat. This place makes you feel as you have entered an American Western movie for a while. Like, for real. It is situated in the middle of nature, with zero cars around. Instead, there are several well-behaved horses which live at the place, and which can get settled and up and running for a ride, if you are up to the challenge. The accommodation type is divided into two main categories. The first consists out of luxury tents, while the others offer private stand-alone wooden cabins. The retreat offers a small restaurant decorated in western style, a community swimming pool and even a yoga studio. Therefore, you can probably already imagine what a relaxing delight this may turn into. Plus, for those who have wilder inner spirits, private or group tours can be organized, including river kayaking and bear watching and cowboy games. And yes, you even get to wear a real cowboy hat.
My suggestion about Velebit? Well, it is quite as simple as this: book your trip and re-discover yourself. This mountain is not just a mountain. It presents the proud point of Croatian people, and it describes them in the best possible way. Beautiful, fearless, and indestructible. Nonetheless on your favorite Velebit area, may it be along the coast or way further inland, untouched beauty is guaranteed. The entire park of Velebit is considered as a protected natural territory and therefore its preciousness should remain intact for many more years ahead. This is the place where local people head to when needing to recharge and to recover from their busy lives. A place where there is no traffic and no signs of pollution. And, more importantly, no sign of stress.
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