Offroading in Croatia – Vransko jezero

As the season ended, I got back to the list of places I still had to visit. Despite being small, Dalmatia hides many riches and amazing places, unexpected views, historic and natural heritage. One of the places I had in mind for a while was the canyon on the northern shore of Vransko jezero.

Vransko jezero is is the largest natural lake in Croatia ( 30.7 sq km / 11.9 sq mi ) and it is one of the most unique places in all of the country both for its nature and history. It is one of the last marshes in the region and home to numerous bird species. In the winter, over 100 000 birds come here from all over Europe. Fortunately, this winter is mild. So far. Nothing like this although there is plenty of time for snow:
https://secretdalmatia.wordpress.com/2012/02/06/snow-in-dalmatia-vransko-jezero-lake/

So, it is good time to enjoy the great outdoors!
We jumped in our Hilux and went exploring. I knew that my regular SUV is not the best choice for the narrow dirt roads so never attempted to drive this road before. Neither should you.

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On the road

The offroad part starts just half a mile after the turn to Kamenjak view point. It is clearly marked as Mednjača canyon and the folks from the park did a great job fixing it and clearing it. It is also the main communication for people from nearby Banjevci to their fields and olive orchards by the lake. They either walked this or used their tractors. Or they drove old cars that they did not care much about.

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First part is easy

The road is filled with dramatic turns and great views once you get deep inside the canyon!

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Inside the canyon
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The rocks and cliffs
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Wonderful forms
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Almost out of canyon

This particular canyon is also known for owls nesting in these high cliffs. But, as we will soon see, there are other birds nearby.

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The smaller hill is a hilltop fortress and Venetian observation point from 1400s. Right at the end of the canyon.

The drive is about 10 – 15 minutes long and the we got almost to the shores of the lake but, since it is a marsh, there is reed and easy to get in the water. By the lake, few of the locals built small huts where they keep the tools for their fields and olive groves. The views of the fields and groves, with reeds and lake in the distance are gorgeous!

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Olive grove and reed in the distance
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A small harbor

Reed is also important as that is where majority of the birds hide and nest. And there is always someone watching…

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Watcher on the tree

The area was very quiet apart from the reeds moving and making that characteristic, light and pleasant sound. And then there were the shrieks of a common buzzard. This is our most common bird of pray and it can be seen perched on a tree or post. It feeds mainly on small mammals but it adapts well to a varied diet of birds, rabbit or other small mammals to medium mammals, snakes and lizards. It can also be seen walking over recently ploughed fields looking for worms and insects.
But this time we had a pleasure to see a couple flying not so high above us.

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Beautiful couple
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Shrieking
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Showing off

There are two ways to get to the main road and we decided to visit small harbor of Prosika instead of driving back to Vrana village. Prosika is where, back in 1770., a canal was dug out by the owners of Vrana feud, the Borelli family  in order to start commercially exploiting the region.

The lake was covering a 10 times larger area before that event and afterwards, most of the former marsh became a fertile soil. This also helped eradicate malaria which was quite common in this area (and all over the coast)

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The southern shores of the lake
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Prosika harbor restored

We thought that we were alone but a large gray heron was hunting in the very canal. I managed to got only a nice photo of it sitting on a pine tree.

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Gray heron

The entire area of Prosika is a lovely place to stop at any time of the year. It has been nicely restored and one can get information on the history of the place and the entire endavour from the signs along the trail.

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A recently built bridge connecting biking and walking trails
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Very good info board (in Croatian and English). One of several.
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Venetian watch tower from the 1500s
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Winter sunsets come early…

The last section of the dirt road is a bit narrow (just before reaching Prosika)

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The narrow section of the dirt road

In few hours we enjoyed  a great off road experience, gorgeous birds, lots of history, beautiful nature, fresh air… A very special part of the world.

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Winter is beautiful part of the year

 

Winter is time for exploring and enjoying this amazing December weather we keep having year after year.

Travel in Croatia

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