4. May 2015.   •     Tamara Haddad

What is there to see while cycling Starigrad Paklenica area?

The title maybe sounds a bit insecure, but think about it. If you’ve ever heard of Paklenica National Park, it was because you were thinking and talking about rock climbing. Isn’t that true? 🙂

Well, of course, Paklenica is well known to rock climbers and rock climbing lovers, call it what you will. It doesn’t carry a name: „Rock climbers paradise“ in vain, of course, but the area near the park is perfect for cycling. If you want to ride a bike and also learn something about the rich history of this place, if you like to listen to legends and enjoy beautiful scenery, it’s all here.

Climber hanging on rope
Climber hanging on a rope

Velika and Mala Paklenica

The area of Velika and Mala Paklenica was proclaimed a national park in 1949. You don’t have to be a “beautiful mind” type of person to know it was 66 years ago. Regarding that fact, it is obvious that Paklenica is and always was worth protection. The main reason for proclaiming this area a national park is the largest and best-preserved forest complex in the territory of Dalmatia. That was threatened by overexploitation. National Park Paklenica stretches on the area of 95 km2. On the slope of South Velebit under the highest mountain peaks Vaganski vrh (1752) and Sveto brdo (1753). Beside the forest complex, Paklenica has unique natural features and extraordinary geomorphologic structures.

As I said earlier, this is a perfect place on Earth for rock climbers. More words about them and rock climbing in Paklenica will be said in some future posts. Nevertheless, today, I would like to talk about a cycling tour that took my breath away. Not literally, only in a good way. 🙂 It is not that hard, just magnificent.

Cycling to the ancient fortress at Starigrad Paklenica
Cycling to the ancient fortress at Starigrad Paklenica

Cycling Starigrad Paklenica tour

It was a beautiful morning. Not only because it was sunny, but also, bora (bura) decided to stop blowing and spread the cold air down from Velebit. Here in Starigrad, we could say that the spring has finally come. And what is the best way to spend a warm sunny spring day than to get on your bike and follow the educational path for curious bikers like myself.

I’ve started the tour in the center of Starigrad, following the little road towards the National Park entrance. Even that road was already a delightful experience. Everything was blooming and the air was full of nice scents. The road is not demanding at all and it’s suitable for beginners, but its calmness and beauty is worth exploring even for the experienced bikers. I’ve passed a number of old houses, built in style typical for this area – thick stone walls with wooden doors and window panes, ready for cruel windy winters full of bora’s anger.

Educational trail

I’ve come to the National Park entrance and left my bike there. It was a good time to walk a little, especially to Paklaric fortress. It is a great educational path worth seeing. Educational trail Paklaric is located along the left bank of the river not far from the reception. The entrance to the trail is marked with boards. The educational trail begins with an old, renovated Paklenica Mill and leads to the Paklaric, which is located at a height of 121 m, and providing a panoramic view. Path length is 550 m and is equipped with four educational-informational panels: Velebit apartments, traditional agriculture, livestock in southern Velebit and the caravan route.

The area of Velika and Mala Paklenica was proclaimed a national park in 1949.

A walk to Paklarić

Paklarić fortress was under archaeological research in the 2001st. The eastern part of the fortress plateau is covered by a defensive wall and there were found small amounts of prehistoric pottery and a greater amount of medieval pottery. It is believed that that defensive wall was built in the late Middle Ages (14th-16th centuries). And the remains of the remnants of prehistoric dry stone walls. On the western edge of the plateau, a large quantity of animal bones, shells and a greater amount of fragments of earthenware were found. It is believed that the defensive structure was built in the late Middle Ages. Therefore has overseen significant communication that led through Paklenica from the sea to Lika (inland) and vice versa.

Večka tower

Vecka tower was built by Venetians in the 16th century as a part a fortification system that protected Podvelebitski Channel from the Turks. After enjoying a beautiful view from the fortress, it was time to continue this trip. Cycling Starigrad Paklenica path leads through an old small village and then continues downhill to Seline. Once you’re there you can’t miss the Vecka tower. Located at the edge of Vecko polje (field). Vecka tower was built by Venetians in the 16th century as a part a fortification system that protected Podvelebitski Channel from the Turks. Presumably, the tower was attached to the village of Veče (Veche), which was located in the area of modern Seline. That was first mentioned by written sources in the year 1508. Vecka tower was strategically placed at a location from which it was possible to watch the ships passing through Podvelebitski Channel.

From here, an important communication route crossed the channel to Vinjerac and continued into the Zadar’s hinterland. Another route led through the Velika Paklenica gorge and across Velebit into the Lika highlands. Judging by its surviving remains, the tower was surrounded by a rectangular courtyard. Nowadays partially inundated by the sea. The interior face of the tower wall is pierced by holes that held wooden floor beams. Indicating that the structure had three floors. Narrow embrasures with sharply beveled sides are still visible on the highest floor.

Vecka tower was built by Venetians in the 16th century as a part a fortification system that protected Podvelebitski Channel from the Turks

Many legends have been told about Vecka Tower.

The best-known among them is the legend of King Pasoglav (“Doghead”):

Once upon a time there was a king who had a human body and a dog’s head. Every day a different young man would come to shave him, after which the king would have him killed in order to keep his secret.

Hoping to save the life of her only son, a mother thought out a scheme. When his turn came to go and shave the king, she made bread with her own milk and gave it to her son to offer it to the king. After the king had eaten the bread, the young man told him why it was so tasty. Since now they had become brothers in milk, the king decided to let the young man go, under the condition that he would not betray the secret about his dog’s head.

The young man kept the secret for a long time, but sooner or later he was bound to betray it. So he decided to tell the secret to the black earth. He dug a hole and whispered: “O black earth, our king has a dog’s head”. Chance would have it, that a small elder tree would grow at that spot, and a shepherd would make a flute from it. When the shepherd attempted to play the flute, words came out of it instead, saying: “Our king has a dog’s head!” The secret became public all across the kingdom. The king was doomed to spend the rest of his life alone and unshaven, while young men no longer feared death at his tower.“

Cycling Vecka kula at Starigrad Paklenica
Cycling Vecka kula at Starigrad Paklenica