The Via Adriatica trail combines existing hiking trails, forest roads, macadam, and roads in a total of 1,100 kilometers with 41,000 meters of altitude difference. The trail connects Croatia’s most beautiful mountain massifs, peaks, and landscapes, stretching from the Istrian peninsula across the Croatian mountain threshold all the way to the Prevlaka peninsula.
As its name suggests, it connects the most attractive Croatian mountain massifs, peaks, and regions along the Adriatic coast. It passes through three national parks, three nature parks, six significant landscapes, three special reserves, and many protected areas.
Via Adriatica trail
If we go in concrete figures, Via Adriatica goes along 14 mountains, 12 rivers, two lakes, 18 protected areas, seven counties, and 52 municipalities. What makes this trail attractive and popular among Croatian and foreign hikers are the sea and island views wherever it is possible.
Josipa and Matija, a young romantic couple from Croatia, are now on the way to Svilaja, a mountain in the Dalmatian hinterland. Although sighing from the constant walking with heavy backpacks on their backs, they tell their story of how, when, and why they decided to head to this fantastic Croatian long-distance trail right now, in January.
‘We got in the car and left’
Both Josipa and Matija are natives of Karlovac and hiking enthusiasts, chasing each their careers, which allowed them two months of a completely new mountaineering experience due to a combination of circumstances. Josipa (27) has a master’s degree in economics, works as a reception manager in one Zagreb hotel, while Matija (25) runs his own business in an adventure travel agency in Karlovac.
In mid-November last year, they discussed what they would do in January and February since there is not much in Zagreb hotels at that time of the year. When Matija was banned from working on December 1, they decided to go on the Via Adriatica trail to promote Croatia, its beauties, Matija’s company, but also – themselves.
Josipa and Matija, Kozjak mountain
“We have time until the end of February, but we took more time than the average time needed to pass Via Adriatica because we took into account winter and unforeseen circumstances. We already know that we will have to take a three-day break this week due to heavy rain and stormy jugo wind,” Matija told the Dalmacija danas portal, which caught up with them in Žrnovnica. They were hosted by the Association Žrvanj, which makes its premises available to all hikers who decide to cross the entire Via Adriatica.
For Josipa, as she says, Via Adriatica was a great idea, but it never crossed her mind to set off on this, not at all simple, but beautiful trail. However, she took advantage of this unique opportunity and, together with her beloved Matija, a member of the Croatian Mountain Rescue Service (HGSS), set off on an adventure.
“In December, we didn’t know if we were going to leave or not. There was quarantine, bans, passes. Until the last three days, we didn’t know if we were going. Then the earthquake happened, and again it was a question of whether I would go to the rescue or not. Given the time invested in preparation and all the equipment, we said we were going. We got in the car and left,” says Matija.
‘People make the whole trail special’
Although Via Adriatica starts in Cape Kamenjak in Istria, Josipa and Matija decided to start from the last destination in Prevlaka, to be closer to home in Karlovac at the end of the trail.
“The idea was to be in Dalmatia for the first few weeks, while we have supplies of food and then start getting closer to home. It’s more natural to get closer to home than the other way around. We celebrated the New Year, and in the morning, we left Prevlaka,” says Josipa.
“The first two or three Via Adriatica’s sections are quite flat. When you walk on the flat for a long time, you get bored. Pelješac is beautiful, the view from Sveti Ilija, the highest peak of the Pelješac peninsula, is magnificent, but it takes so long to get there! We only reached the ‘real’ mountains after Pelješac – Biokovo, Omiška Dinara… Perun has beautiful views,” says Matija, emphasizing that the most beautiful parts of the trail are – the people.
On the fifth section, Josip and Matija had good company – members of a mountaineering association
Josipa and Matija at Omiška Dinara
“People make the whole trail special. People selflessly give you their home, food, hospitality. There is no doubt that this path would be five times harder if people did not help. It wouldn’t be impossible, but it would be a lot harder. If we had to sleep in the winter in a tent every night, it would not be easy. This way, when you know that warm accommodation awaits you in the evening, you are mentally better prepared. People feed us and take care of us,” says Matija.
As they talk to us, they are on the sixth section of Via Adriatica, out of 13. Another 600 kilometers is still in front of them, but they are satisfied with their pace. With a laugh, Josipa says they are breaking through the thorns.
Best views they’ve ever seen
Before Via Adriatica, they visited Biokovo several times, but always during summer when everything is “stone and heat.” They experienced it for the first time in the winter, and they say it was impressive.
“We imagined Biokovo white with huge vastness. And it greeted us exactly like that; icy, white. The weather was perfect; the snow was perfect for walking. We walked in crampons because everything was frozen. Although it was icy and cold, it was sunny, like in a movie. It was snowing on the Omiš Dinara, the large snowflakes falling,” describes Josipa.
View from Biokovo
Then followed Perun or Poljička mountain. Perun, says Matija, is not Biokovo, but it has its charms.
Capturing beautiful moments on their way to Perun
“From Omiš, you go a little towards the village of Gata, so the ascent to the chapels begins, and then descends to the seaside, which is beautiful, with a view of the islands. The moment when Split appears in front of you is especially impressive. So far, I’ve seen Split from all sides, even from a helicopter, but this is the best view of Split I have ever seen. Brutal,” says Matija.
The northern part of Dalmatia – the Dinara mountain, the Lika region, and Velebit mountain – are still waiting for them. The journey is challenging but also exciting.
“Dinara and Velebit are our next challenges. Dinara is quite laid, and I think it will be relatively easy. We know it will all be covered in snow. On Velebit, Vaganski Vrh and Sveto Brdo, two highest Velebit peaks can be quite tricky, especially if those huge cliffs freeze,” says Matija, but points out that they are well prepared.
Good equipment is the key
So far, they have not even used all the equipment they brought with them, and they were at a temperature of -15 degrees Celsius with a strong wind. They have high-altitude hiking boots, sleeping bags that can withstand -20 degrees. They also have a real expeditionary Himalayan tent for two, weighing a little less than 4 kilos, wind-resistant over 150 km / h.
“We mostly relied on obtaining quality and safety equipment. Since we travel in the winter, we needed good winter equipment that can withstand low temperatures. I think we did our best in researching for good equipment. We have quality equipment, and we are ready to sleep in winter conditions,” says Josipa.
She doesn’t check her phone very often, and the signal is lost every now and then, so it’s harder to communicate. However, that doesn’t bother them – they have each other.
Josipa and Matija
When asked how much it took them physically to prepare for such an endeavor, they say that they are in the mountains every weekend and spend all their spare time in the mountains, so they do not physically prepare too much.
“As for mountaineering life, we are very active. We crossed both easier and harder climbs, both in summer and winter, so we are well prepared. And mentally… I don’t think you can mentally prepare for that until you face the path itself. You have some idea what it might look like, but until you find yourself there, you don’t know,” says Josipa.
Prepare, don’t rush, and enjoy the fantastic scenes
And that hiking is becoming a popular hobby in these new circumstances is confirmed by the story of Marin Zovko, who, combining Via Adriatica with the Croatia Long Distance trail, recently walked the whole of Croatia in just 100 days. He decided to embark on his adventure alone and later admitted that loneliness had fallen hardest on him.
Josipa and Matija, more or less, always hike together and often mountaineer in larger groups since they are active members of the mountaineering society. Apart from the company that the hiking companions provide, Josipa says that it is good to hike in the company for safety reasons.
View from Kozjak
“Honestly, I would never dare to undertake such an endeavor alone. Matija knows a lot about the mountains, and since he is a member of the HGSS, we are in safe hands,” says Josipa happily.
They recommend people to enjoy the trail, not to rush, but to prepare.
“It takes a lot of courage and a lot of madness to set out on a journey like this, but the trail takes back everything a hundredfold. We watch amazing scenes, and we get to know our country even better. Whoever is interested in something like this, I would recommend it from the bottom of my heart, “says Josipa.
We now let them continue their journey in peace, enjoying all the natural beauties surrounding them because they are quite exhausted due to the Via Adriatica venture’s daily demands.
All the photos are from interlocutors’ private archives.
To follow more news from their Via Adriatica adventure, you can find them on Facebook.