Secret Dalmatia Blog - Travel Experiences in Croatia

Archaeology tour of North Dalmatia

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North Dalmatia offers a wealth of truly spectacular archaeological sites mostly unknown to the general public. From the immense riches of thousands of years of continuous living on Bribirska glavica hill, to mysterious rock on top of Ostrovica and all the way to Vrana, in less than 50 km! Without even mentioning at least 5 very important spots.

So, the first stop was fascinating Bribirska glavica also called Croatian Troy for it’s layers upon layers of history, monuments, stories and legends. Some proven, some not – Bribirska still stands as one of the most important archaeological site in the entire country. But, like on most spots of such importance, there were only sheep to accompany us. And provide very authentic soundtrack, too.

Bribirska glavica
Bribirska glavica

When it comes to archaeology: neolithic, Pre-illyiran and Illyrian architecture, Romans, Croatians, Turks, Venetians, Serbian graves… all that one can visit and see while visiting this vast site. Probably the most interesting monuments are believed to be built by ancient Illyrians – the megalithic wall structures at the entrance of Illyiran/Roman Varvaria seen bellow.

Meghalitic walls of ancient Varvaria
Megalithic walls of ancient Varvaria

Then on to touring the medieval section where the mighty Subic family once ruled from and enjoying some quite interesting parts of Roman thermae before continuing forward.

Medieval section of Bribirska glavica
Medieval section of Bribirska glavica: inside the cathedral

But not before we stopped at he very bottom of Bribirska glavica to drink from Bribišnica water and admire one of the cutest little historic bridges in Dalmatia.

Bridge over Birbišnica
Bridge over Birbišnica

And then we were off to Ostrovica: seen on this picture as the pyramidal structure in the distance.

Ostrovica and it's pyramidal hill seen in the distance
Ostrovica and it's pyramidal hill seen in the distance

Ostrovica used to be one of the most important and impenetrable forts Dalmatia that was captured by Turks only by treason.The entire fortress was blown to bits by the Venetians when they conducted the military operations  in late 1600s in fear that the Turks may come back. Since then, all we have is the huge rock on top of the hill. The rock – often called Mačkov kamen for Mačak family that lived bellow – is believed to have been part of the ancient cult of Illrians or pre-Illyrians.
Now, it is superb place to visit and offers breathtaking views. For all fans of Lord of the Rings: this is Minas Tirith in real life! With fortress on top, town (village) bellow and a vast plain where Orcs were invading…

Ostrovica (last winter)
Ostrovica (image taken last winter)

One can drive up fairly close to the very summit but some hiking is required and some caution as the very slopes are fairly steep and with lots of small rocks and stones that can send you sliding downhill.
Once up, we had a small snack break sun tanning right bellow the very rock…

Resting beneath Mačkov kamen
Resting beneath Mačkov kamen

As the Noon was near, we headed to Šopot for some authentic tastes of lamb and veal peka


… and finishing everything with tasty classic of the region: Benkovački prisnac for dessert!

Benkovački prisnac
Benkovački prisnac

After the lunch, we headed to Asseria for some more megalithic walls and little known Roman ruins. As one of the most amazing fortified towns, Asseria is still very impressive and just the first glance at the shear size of stone blocks is making everyone realizing that this was a very special place! So we toured the walls, ancient forum (now the cemetery) and eastern entrance to Asseria…


And all that followed by smoke coming from the folks cleaning their fields and reminding us that spring is just around the corner.

Almonds in bloom
Almonds in bloom

And then we headed south to Vrana. Probably the most interesting historic place in Croatia with:
– remains of 42 km long aqueduct from cave in the hill to Zadar
– historic fortress that was headquarters of Templar rule in Croatia
– home of Lucian Vranjanin – Croatian artist that was hired by French court and brought the Renaissance to France
– Maskovica caravan serai as the best preserved, most western example of Turkish architecture in Europe

Most other historic places in Europe have one or two attractions but they also have much better management…

Cave the Roman aqueduct was passing through
Cave the Roman aqueduct was passing through

And we also spotted common buzzard showing off high in the sky!

Common buzzard
Common buzzard

But since my friends were most intrigued by the Templars and their heritage, we spent most of the time inside the ruins of the fortress. Again, destroyed by the Venetians – the worse rule we ever had but hey, as Christians, they were far more acceptable than the Muslim Ottoman Turks.

Entrance to Vrana fortress
Entrance to Vrana fortress

And we were even in luck to find the doors to Maskovica Han (caravan serai) open so the guy running it gave us a tour and explained a bit about EU giving us about 1,5 mil Euros to restore this fascinating monument and making it into a very special and unique heritage-hotel! Really looking forward to it!

Islamic architecture
Islamic architecture

This beautiful day we ended with stopping at must-see panorama point over Vransko jezero lake where we got right in time for a beautiful sunset (although it was misty).

I cannot resist this place...
I cannot resist this place...

So, I already have a plan that we incorporate this tour (with minor modifications) into our travel in Croatia projects like Secret Dalmatia and Tours in Croatia. and, as my companions on this trip were more than great (really an exceptional group!), I am happy to join them in other adventures we will plan together!


4 Replies to “Archaeology tour of North Dalmatia”

  1. I’ve been to Vrana, but I’ve only seen Ostrovica from a distance.

    But I should have known you’d make me hungry with gorgeous food photos when I’m fasting!

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