View over the Adriatic sea, Paklenica National Park, Velebit Nature Park, Dalmatian coast, Croatia

Conservation setting

Velebit, one of the most important natural areas of Europe and the Balkans is situated on the Adriatic coast of Croatia. This limestone mountain chain is 145 km long from north to south, and lies parallel to the coast. Following a cross section from the crystal waters of the Adriatic in the west, it rapidly rises to 1757 metres, and then phases out into a higher level plateau towards the east. The area hosts an extraordinary diversity of different habitats, from barren Mediterranean landscapes at sea level to almost boreal systems at higher altitudes. This has led to the establishment of the two Paklenica & Northern Velebit National Parks as well as the Velebit Nature Park – all three very well set up and managed. Together they occupy more than 220,000 ha. The area has also been declared a UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve and included in the UNESCO Tentative List of World Heritage Sites. Outside the protected areas in the south and west, there are other very interesting areas for rewilding too, consisting mainly of abandoned farm and grazing lands.

In a ‘nutshell’, Velebit is a climbing paradise, home to spectacular caves and breathtaking sceneries, and receives an increasing number of visitors each year. Most popular is the coastal Paklenica National Park with more than 100,000 visitors annually whilst the more remote inlands receive less attention. The tourism infrastructure is also very well developed with hiking trails, smaller overnight cabins, larger dormitories, professional visitor centres and information panels. The dramatic coastal landscapes with their steep, barren cliffs, deep canyons, waterfalls, and open, uninhabited plains also has an interesting link to contemporary European film history. In the 1960s, the famous “Winnetou” movies were produced in and around Velebit, which provided ideal landscapes for battling Indians and white settlers.