Mala Velika Paklenica

Discover all of Paklenica’s natural glories! 

Written by: Anita Palada, Edward Kiersh

Surrounded by massively-large boulders, a stunningly green mountain peak in the distance beckoned to the adventurer inside me. Even if the path towards this spire meant braving the narrowest of trails, and then ascending through a steep gorge lined with unforgiving and intimidating-looking craggy stones, the prospect of taming this wilderness kept me going, even high-spirited. Knowing there was breathtaking beauty ahead, I didn’t surrender to my fears, and continued walking, determined to overcome all challenges, and to discover all of Mala Paklenica’s natural glories.

A legendary, Croatian National Park Paklenica in northern Dalmatia, abundant with spring-fed streams, torrents, endangered bird species, and 300 meter high canyons, the Mala Paklenica has long stirred fears and the imagination. Its’ gorges and ascents can be treacherous. But hiking with Jure and his skilled helpers, I was mentally getting ready to hook myself to steel cables and to expend all my energy to reach that green summit.

National Park Paklenica
National Park Paklenica

While surrounded by majestic, towering trees of every variety, and chirping birds cavorting above me, I was still surprised when encountering a dry riverbed. One of the park’s scenic wonders, especially when the mountain runoff cascades down the cliffs, it was clearly the victim of the dry winter, or far more worrisome, dry because of climate change.

I still pushed ahead, entranced by the almost supernatural silence—the other-worldliness calm that greets Paklenica’s visitors. There are so many different ecosystems, flowers, and animals, to marvel at, there is no time to think about life outride the park. Here there are only caves to explore, rich vegetation, and panoramic views of fascinating rock formations.

But Mala Paklenica remains a terrific physical and mental challenge—for colossal boulders often confront those who hike these narrow goat trails. Where to put your foot? Will the gravel hold your weight? What should I do with my hands? These critical decisions must be made in split seconds to get past the boulders. So my instincts had to take over,  fueled by a mighty rush of adrenaline.

Totally focused, knowing success means finding new survival skills,  I take a breath and summon the resolve to go forward. One small step, then another on our intimidating path. There can be no respite. Too many of Nature’s miracles await us.

National Park Paklenica
National Park Paklenica

Specifically, the vast meadow below the Velebit mountain range. Abuzz with bumblebees and songbirds, this vast field seems like a rainbow glistening under my feet, covered with wild, flourishing roses in every conceivable color, dark reds, violet, yellow, peach and Kelly Green. It’s Mother Nature’s coming out party, her warm-hearted greeting, saying “Come, feast on my riches. Walk here, and taste the delights.”

Hypnotized by this streaming rush of colors, and the soft breezes enveloping me, I gazed at the Adriatic Sea in the distance. “What could be more beautiful?” I asked myself. “This is Creation, the real soul of life.”

Amazingly, there was one more marvel to enjoy, the Velika Paklenica canyon, a geological must-see. It too contains a striking array of plant and animal species, including falcons, eagles, deers, bears and lynx.

But sunset is quickly approaching. After eight hours in the Park, it’s best to collect our memories, impressions that may have even changed our notions about beauty, and to wind our way down the gravely goat trail towards the  “real world.”

What an experience!

Yet amid all the roses, canyons, and wild animals, I also discovered something besides scenic wonders. I found a power inside me, the conviction that I could encounter hazardous obstacles, and without any prodding, keep on moving, keep on climbing. Towards that rainbow!

Whether it was finding a field of wild flowers, or fulfilling some life’s ambition—that reaching this goal was indeed attainable.

Photos were taken by Anita Palada

Discover Krknjaši Lagoon in Croatia

Imagine Calypso, the mythical nymph, detaining the wandering Odysseus in her own styled Paradise, offering a secluded white sandy beach, a sheltered cove of translucent turquoise water, along with scents of jasmine, pine and ambrosia.

Sent by Zeus, the wing-footed Hermes braved tumultuous seas to reach this sybaritic garden spot replete with an array of heavenly pleasures.

But such god-like intervention to find such magic—a tranquil island affording breathless views and peaceful, shallow bays nestled below moss-covered hillsides and only reachable by boat—is no longer necessary.

Paradise is easily found.

Perhaps a mermaid won’t be seen. And while lost treasure from sunken pirate ships might go undiscovered, unspoiled Croatian beaches will still evoke a Calypso-like spell of pure enchantment.

Sprinkled alongside the Adriatic Sea, and typically kissed by gentle waves and winds, these beaches are the defining characteristic of Croatia—for this blessed land boasts 2500 miles of island coastline, and is clearly a sunbathers’ delight.

Countless coves await with luxury or family-friendly accommodations, cafes buzzing with throbbing nite life, shallow bays for skinny-dipping, and silvery sand for alluring relaxing in the sun.

Amid this bounty of serene and scenic retreats, one beach relatively close to Trogir and Split in Dalmatia is particularly radiant.

I should keep its’ dreamy appeal a secret, for the soft whispers of the waters surrounding Drvenik Veliki island give me a certain freedom, solitude, and the chance to swim alongside gloriously-beautiful fish.

Relatively few tourists have discovered this idyllic retreat, so I will resist the temptation to keep it a mystery. So enjoy the schools of fish, walks in the fine smooth sand, and sail to the Blue Lagoon to discover Krknjaši Beach, Croatia’s sparkling gem.

Other seaside getaways offer more watersports, activities for children, and innovative cocktails in trendy restaurants.

But Krknjaši still conjures up the Calypso inside me, never hoping visitors will stay seven years on this isle—yet still knowing they will feast on all its’ pleasures.

Those joys immediately begin with the short boat passage through the lagoon, the gentle breezes filling me with expectation. Bounding off the boat, I was soon lying on pristine white sand, transported to a welcoming, carefree realm.

Krknjaši is so lulling, so sublime, foregoing lunch is easy. Listening to the gulls and lapping waves is far more delicious. So I will wait to retreat to a nearby fish restaurant. Now it’s just time for enjoying the sun’s rays, following the path of those birds flying towards the horizon, and occasionally dipping my feet into the water, giggling every time a fish brushes into my legs.

Only when the sun is about to set—and the soft hues of a passing day leave their own memorable impressions—is it time to repair to that restaurant.

So the punctuation to this perfect oasis begins with a few fishes, then some grilled prawns and squid. The menu offers other Mediterranean specialties all complemented with wine from Dalmatia and hot homemade bread with a generous serving of olive oil. It’s a splendid way to end a magical day.

Sitting under the stars in this small, cozy place will long be remembered. Yet maybe it was the wine, or just the stars playing tricks on my imagination, for out in the lagoon, I saw some movement, several large splashes.

“What could it be?” I wondered.

Fascinated, I knew I would have to come to Krknjasi again, for that was the only way to solve this mystery—whether these seductive waters could really be the playground for some whimsical mermaid.

One that seemed to be waving at me.

Written by Anita Palada, Edward Kiersh