Exploring Pašman and Ugljan Islands

Often not considered by travelers, both Pašman and Ugljan are actually one of the best kept secrets of Dalmatia. The islands used to be one big island back in the distant past but, with the rise of sea level, they got separated in, where is today, Ždrelac village. The canal to enable safe sailing between the islands was dug out in 1883. and  bridge was erected in 1979. The bridge was reconstructed in 20010 due to heavy traffic from nearby marinas to Kornati Islands National Park.

The forecast was great and sunny for January Sunday so we hopped in our Hilux and headed to Biograd ferry harbor for a short, 20 minute crossing to town of Tkon on Pašman island.

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The view of Čokovac monastery and the Pašman channel

The idea was to drive the coastal route all the way to the end of Ugljan, Muline village, find a place for grill and lunch before heading back the scenic but offroad route of the “other” coast of Pašman island starting from Ždrelac.

Of course, there were stops along the route and the first one was Čokovac monastery overlooking the most beautiful channel of Dalmatian coast – Pašman channel with its 12 islands and rocks. Snow-capped Velebit mountain was shining in the distance.

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The walls of Čokovac

The history of Čokovac Benedictine Monastery is quite a turbulent one. Back in 1125. Biograd was completely destroyed by the Venetians. They also destroyed, once famous, Benedictine monastery of St. John the Evangelist in very Biograd after which the monks first took shelter in Šibenik, and later came back to the island of Pašman. The Chapel of St. Cosmas and Damian was already on the hill of Čokovac, so the monks built a Romanic church and a fortified monastery. The Venetians destroyed it in 1345 and imprisoned the monks. The mosnatery was reconstructed only in 1418. For its exceptional contribution (which is a bit vague), the monastery gained some sort of autonomy confirmed by several popes. It is believed that the monks accepted the invitation of the Czech King Charles IV to preach Glagolitic and Slavic language. Also, there are assumptions that the monastery was in possesion of the first form of Glagolitic scripts in liturgical texts, as numerous old Glagolitic scripts from the 13th century have been preserved. Today, the monastery church holdsa large Gothic style crucifix dating back to the 15th century attributed to a Venetian painter Menegelo. Besides the crucifix, the monastery also holds a precious portrait of the Virgin Mary. These are the only exhibits of this sort conserved after the French government closed the monastery in 1808. Over 150 years later, during socialist Yugoslavia, the Monastery was reopened in 1961. This is the only active Benedictine monastery in Croatia and definitely an important part of our heritage well worth preserving and visiting.

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The monastery church

The monastery  is available to visitors from June 1st to October 31st between 4.00 p.m. and 6.00 p.m. or by appointment.

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The walls of Čokovac

This is the only active Benedictine monastery in Croatia and definitely an important part of our heritage well worth preserving and visiting.

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The view of the mainland through the cypress trees

And then it was time to continue. Next stop: coffee at Deloro in Pašman tow. It is just sad to see all the newly built apartment buildings all over the island. The island has been loosing population rapidly (as most of our islands have) and the islanders have always been supporting the idea of construction of a bridge to the mainland.

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The view of the mainland over Pašman

We passed all the small villages en route without really going into the historic centers: Kraj, Pašman, Barotul, Neviđane, Banj, Dobropoljana… all tiny villages by the sea. Crossing the bridge we were on Ugljan and what is the visit to Ugljan without stopping at Kali! Kali is a primarily fishermen town and the town with the largest fleet on our coast. For years,they were fishing in the Pacific ocean. Little is known even today that Croats invented pretty much everything worth inventing in fishing in World  20th century: from the power block (Puretich) that was found on EVERY fishing boat in the World to factory boats and even tuna farming.

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Winter morning in Kali

Ante Dundov Kongo from Kali was one of the most important fishermen of the 20th century and he was primarily bringing men from Kali to fish tuna in the Pacific. The story goes that he was once talking to a Japanese fisherman from Osaka who was wondering how many people are in his town and Kongo said 700. The Japanese fisherman could not believe saying that almost every boat in the Pacific he meets was operated by the folks from Kali!

But those days are now gone and Kali is more of a sleepy village remembering its glorious past.

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There is also a story that Kongo’s old mother said to  him that he was taking all the men away and there will be no one to bury her. He was deeply moved by her words and started bringing locals on three month contracts only so they could return and invest money back home.

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We passed other tiny villages like Sutomišćica where I have to go back to eat at their well known Olive Bay restaurant. The next stop was the sleepy village of Muline at the very Northern tip of Ugljan.

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The Adriatic does not get more clear than this!

The village is very sleepy and almost no one on the streets and in the harbor. Just nets drying…

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We also saw sea quite a few sea urchins. All female! All decorated for ball!

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We took the side, dirt road to reach the asylum on the western shore of Ugljan but it was not possible to get there even with our Hilux. So we got back on the main road and drove to the asylum. Just to the left is a narrow dirt road that leads to a very lovely beach.

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The beach is actually very busy in peak season and a place to avoid but, out of July and August, it is quite nice and, in the winter months, simply perfect!

There is a narrow trail leading through the bushes to another beach (even more secluded) and it goes through the abandoned asylum cemetery.

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The asylum cemetary
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Most people have been buried here before the 1970…

The second beach is also cute and with a small island connected by a narrow strip. The island is full of seagulls. And the water is very clear with few rare inhabitants like this noble pen shell.

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Lunch was quick and it was time for a short rest and a second part of the day: an offroad ride along the Pašman’s western coast. It is, basically, a dirt road carved through the bushes to enable firefighters to deal with potential fires that are common here.

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However,  many used the opportunity to build small “Robinson style” huts on these virgin shores. Mostly illegal and mostly ugly. There are few really charming and special but most are just simple devastation. There is nothing “Robinson” about them now as there are dozens of them in each cove…

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The views are just stunning. On both sides of t Pašman!

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Kornati in the distance
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Looking back at the bridge of Ždrelac

And we reached the highest point, Veliki Bokolj with little effort (not for regular cars!)

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Photo-shoot at the top

The view point has been built by the donation of the Norwegian government.

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The view of Mrljane and Barotul with Vransko jezero lake in the distance

The entire route we crossed is about 20 km long and it was one of the prettiest off road routes on the coast with plenty of great spots to see and a possibility to go all the way to the sea for swimming in the warmer months.

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Straža view point.

The roads near Tkon go to several directions but we decided to go back on a 4:20 PM ferry so this will be explored next time. With only 3100 inhabitants and over 60 km2 surface area, Pašman is one of the larger and least inhabited of Croatian islands. Combined with Ugljan, it makes one very special part of the Adriatic that deserves more attention and better future.

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