Bijela River – Secret Gem of North Dalmatia

Bijela rijeka is a small river flowing in the rain season (mostly Fall and Spring)  from the 300 meters high hill down to the Karin Sea near Zadar. Hard to spot from the street, it requires some easy hiking along a very dramatic canyon.

It has been a while since I wanted to go there since I heard a lot of nice things about it. It also protected area of exceptional beauty as part of the Zadar county special program that preserves the areas of unique beauty. It was always hard to find some time but today we had amazing sunny day with temperatures in the mid 20s (Celsius, about 70 F) and I just had to get out to get away from the computer, plans, projects…

Bijela River canyon seen from the dirt road

Karin is about 20 minutes north from Zadar. The village of Gornji Karin has some new houses on a hill and the dirt path to the Bijela River mouth is located at the very end of the new settlement. The canyon can be seen from far away but nothing can prepare you for the beauty of Bijela!

Bijela River canyon seen from the dirt road

The road follows the steep and fairly high canyon above the river. Since last week we had some serious rainfall, the river bed is quite rich with water. The numerous small cascades make wonderful noise and the puddles of turquoise water look like gems from high above!

The water is not always easy to cross and the rocks can be slippery on the way to the cave from which this river flows. The cave is well hidden but easily approached from several directions.

The 225 meters deep cave was surprisingly dry! I have heard a lot of stories of the water coming out with tremendous force but, probably due to lack of serious rainfall in the past two months, it was fairly dry inside.
I walked all the way to the second “room” but could not see much since I did not bring the flash light. But the sound of a waterfall inside the cave was quite exciting! For next time, I am planning to bring a flash light and waterproof boots for crossing the small lakes inside the cave. Haven’t seen any bats which surprised me.

The cave entrance

The water flows bellow the cave entrance and suddenly bursts out bellow two huge rocks.
The entrance, as I said, is quite dry although water is dripping from the ceiling.

The cave from inside

Bijela is one of the most beautiful examples of the dramatic beauty of Croatian karst landscape: cave, canyon, clear waters, waterfalls… It has it all!

Needles to say that the water is perfectly good for drinking!

The waterfalls

The access and crossings are for people ready for a bit of jumping and moderate walking up the hill. One or two crossings are a bit more demanding but that depends on the level of water in the river. There are several approaches to the cave. Some more demanding than the others but caution is necessary since the canyon is close to the main path and some of the rocks are slippery.

Bijela makes a perfect half day trip from Zadar and the region!

It is also good for shore excursions from Zadar if you are not in the mood for wine and food. Fir people who like hiking and the outdoors, it can be combined with a lovely trip to Karin mills – another pearl of this beautiful region! Fall and Spring are probably the best months for visiting the area!

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