Secret Dalmatia Blog - Travel Experiences in Croatia

Winter hiking in Dalmatia – (archaeology hike)

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Sunny winter days are great for getting outside and enjoying nature and various historic sites. Basically, I am not interested in beautiful nature if there are no ruins. I love all sorts of historic sites and, luckily, there are more than plenty of them around where I live and many of them that I am not even aware of!

So, this beautiful morning, I called my friends and went hiking and checking some places. My friend Čepo, from Biograd museum is an archaeologist and he was the guide. Please note that any excavation and digging on archaeological sites in Croatia is strictly forbidden! Thus, we went to the places listed bellow just to see if we can learn more now when the grass is low and most of the ruins are nicely visible.


First stop was a stone throw away: Bosana beach near Biograd. A very well known site never excavated – this was a huge Roman villa rustica (or estate) and parts of the structures coming out of ground on numerous spots. The sea was about one to two meters lower when the location was at it’s heyday but even now, through small remains, one can get the sense of the grandeur.

Parts of the structure
Parts of the structure

Here, one can see parts of the floor with hollow sections in between that served for floor heating. Lovely Roman high end living back in the day! The location was active from the Roman times probably all the way to the Medieval days when Biograd was a crowning city of Croatian kings. It was that important with superb position on the most traveled part of the Adriatic back in those day – the Pasman channel and with enormous fertile planes in the hinterland.

Ancient coin
Ancient coin

And we also found a coin just walking by the sea. Probably Roman.
We know of people who found gold ear rings, there is a gentleman that keeps a small Roam statue at home but found here and I also know of some folks taking a big column from the sea back in late 80s… and many, many more details but the site is just to big to be excavated.
Not only that, there are ruins of a medieval village nearby and probably ruins of an old church mentioned in 1936. campaign.

Devatsated pine trees
Devatsated pine trees

Unfortunately, this lovely stretch of land is falling to various greedy investors and many of them have grand plans of building resorts, apartment buildings and all sorts of crap just by the sea giving us “progress” and “money”. What about quality of life? What about protecting our heritage and not selling it for a new Audi?
Especially sad was the site of about 10 big pine trees that were cut down by a local hotel company “Ilirija” who owns this land. They cannot build anything here but that was not reason good enough for them to keep those beautiful pine trees just for what they were: beautiful, old trees. Guess I will never send them a client again and would strongly suggest none of my readers goes there as this company is obviously not interested in sustainable operations.

So, then we were off to the hinterland. First stop, the lost village of Vitalići just outside Tinj village.

The abandoned houses of Pedišić family
The abandoned houses of Pedišić family

The original village of Vitalići was just there in the middle ages but was abandoned because of the Turks who were coming here on their campaigns for over 150 years before capturing good part of this area. Tinj village was a very well known possession of Croatian kings and, apparently they had some sort of a fortress there as well. Tinj – in old Croatian – means fence and was probably surrounded by the walls or had a fence around the vineyards that are known to have been here for a while. After the Turks left, Pedišić family from Biograd, moved in and built a nice complex of several houses surrounded by a great wall. The stones for both houses and the wall were “recycled” from an abandoned village just in the backyard. Eventually, the houses got their “modern” look but were abandoned probably in the early 20th century or after the WW2. Lovely architecture – although damaged – on a site of a lost village.

Abandoned houses of Pedišić family near Tinj
Abandoned houses of Pedišić family near Tinj - view from the south

And then we decided to visit on of the most important sites in the region: Vrcevo hill near Sikovo.
Being so high and mighty, it was inhabited from the Illyrian times and served as a fortress, village and observation point.

Megalithic blocks by the road to the top of Vrcevo hill
Megalithic blocks by the road to the top of Vrcevo hill

The role of an observation point was kept all the way to 1995 when our forces finally could go home after the Croatian war for independence was over. Some bunkers from those days can still be seen!
More interesting were the parts of a small fortress still standing from the Venetian times. Hidden in the woods, this was quite a surprise!

The fortress in the woods
The fortress in the woods

Obviously, the forest that grew around the fortress is now preventing us to see what was the view from the top of the building, but we know that this was part of the communication with Zadar and other Venetian held areas. It eventually fell to Turks but was re-captured and well preserved nearly to this day. One of the very unusual curiosities was the 10 commandments plaque on the side of the wall. Not sure when it was brought but looks much younger than this 16th-17th century structure.

10 commandments
10 commandments

The views from this place are stunning and it played a very important role in the history of the area. It was also considered to be the hill of witches and there is also a mysterious structure on one of the nearby hills that I wrote about earlier this year when I discovered it:

Mysterious structure
Mysterious structure

On the other side, views extend to snow covered tops of Velebit through fertile Ravni Kotari . Region that was called Hrvati (Croats) – all the way till the Turkish occupation in the 16th century. Of course, part of the area was cowered by an ancient oak tree forest that was cut down by the Turks, Venetians and later ourselves.

Ravni kotari and Velebit mountain in the background
Ravni kotari and Velebit mountain in the background
Views from Vrcevo to Vransko jezero lake and all the way to Dinara mountain near Bosnia!
Views from Vrcevo to Vransko jezero lake and all the way to Dinara mountain near Bosnia!

On the other end of Vrčevo hill, a small chapel was erected with a statue of the Virgin Mary that was brought -on foot – from Medjugorje. Not sure why they had to do it “the medieval way” but it is an interesting addition to all the stories of this unique place.

Our Lady brought from Medjugorje
Our Lady brought from Medjugorje

As you can see, one can never get bored traveling in our beautiful Dalmatia 😉


6 Replies to “Winter hiking in Dalmatia – (archaeology hike)”

  1. I am croation, am amazed at the beauty of this country, fabulous!

  2. I wasn’t aware of this site, villa rustica to be more precise. But it doesn’t surprise me as our country is immensely rich in history and I often discover a lot of archaeological structures while hiking or field walking. Majority of them are just left to their own devices.

  3. @ Dalmacija – a najgore je kući stati :))
    @ Dis Manibus – there are numerous villa rustica still not located and some of them never will be with all the development happening. And yes, there is something historic at every step: “Too much history” – like W. Churchill once said 😉

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