Southern Velebit – Paklenica

Southern Velebit – Paklenica

Under the highest peaks of Velebit

The place where Velebit approximates the sea with deep ravines of Velika and Mala Paklenica in a unique way is one of the most interesting karst areas in Croatia.


The broader area of Paklenica has been protected as a national park. Its most interesting part is definitely the ravine of Velika Paklenica. In the midst of this ravine, there is a stream with a pleasant walking trail stretching in parallel, all enclosed by several-hundred-meter-high cliffs. There are few areas where a man feels so small – 300 to 400 meters high cliffs tower above allowing only a tiny piece of sky to be seen. Water murmurs constantly only in the upper flows, while in the lower ones it disappears under the ground through numerous cracks. Due to the agreeable climate, lovely nature and various hiking possibilities, Paklenica cliffs are particularly popular among hikers and are known as one of the best European hiking destinations. While the Alps are still covered with snow and ice in spring, here the temperatures are nice for climbing all year long.

Velika Paklenica
Alan Čaplar

In the narrowest part of the Velika Paklenica ravine, there are several entrances into underground tunnels. At the end of the fifties of the 20th century, the Yugoslav army dug these covertly and turned them into a hideout for the case of a nuclear war. Nowadays, the tunnels act as a presentation centre – the Underground City of Paklenica.


The mountain trail takes several turns and ascends from Bunker to the bottom of a 300-meter-high monolithic cliff, Anić Kuk. It then passes by a drinking water spring and then the ravine expands and enters a small green field called Anića Luka. Besides this way, Anić Kuk can be reached by a mountain trail that bifurcates from the main road at the beginning of Anića Luka.

In the area of Paklenica there are several interesting caves and pits. The attractive is the Manita Peć above the ravine Velika Paklenica. This cave was adapted for tourist visits and it is considered one of the most beautiful ones in Croatia as per its beauties of underground adornments. Manita Peć is some 175 meters long and 35 meters deep. The entrance to the cave is also a nice viewpoint and a tall and slim rock called Zub or Maniti Kuk, almost resembling a tower, is located nearby.

Sveto brdo
Alan Čaplar

From the place where the trail bifurcates to Manita Peć, the Paklenica ascent leads for the next hour and a half through wooded slopes of the bottom of the ravine to Lugarnica and then across an even steeper slope to the mountain lodge Paklenica. Most visitors end their visit to Paklenica here but this is where the most interesting climbs towards the highest peaks of Velebit begin. These lead through the woods to a highland with various features typical of such area. The highest mountaintop of Velebit is Vaganski Vrh. The most attractive Paklenica mountaintop is Sveto Brdo, whose particular location allows for an unobstructed view of the Lika and Littoral regions.

The most protected part of the national park is the ravine of Mala Paklenica. It is located some 3 kilometres eastern from Velika Paklenica. As it name indicates, it is smaller and shorter but also more challenging to pass, steeper and entirely wild. Since it is much more inaccessible than Velika Paklenica, passing through it is recommended only to experienced and skilled mountaineers. There is not a well-developed walking trail through the ravine but through the bed of the stream: when it is filled with water, the passage is not possible.

Alan Čaplar

A rich network of mountain trails and a hiking paradise, as well as the fact that there is an extraordinary abundance of geomorphological phenomena and forms, diverse plant and animal species, attractive landscapes and intact nature on a relatively small area, are all surely the reason why this is deemed one of the main treasures of this part of the Adriatic coast and entire Croatia.