13 June, 2019
Cruising the Kornati Maze
Finding yourself in one of the 16 bays where anchoring is allowed, will mean your companions are the spectacular star-filled sky, the peace and tranquillity of nature, the smell of the sea and fresh salt air
The Kornati National Park is often referred to as a nautical paradise as, indeed, the ‘slalom’ cruise among the national park’s 89 islands and reefs means that your nautical skills will definitely be tested, especially if the weather has something to say about it. The region is filled with magnificent natural sights and vast cultural heritage, and we will list only some of the most visited ones. It should be emphasized that this is not all that the Kornati offers, but its other assets are best discovered alone, be they something you find in the park or something inside you. The most popular phenomenon in the park are the ‘crowns’, i.e. vertical cliffs of the Kornati islands facing the open sea which were created in the distant past as a result of geological changes. The crowns represent the surface of a great fault plane extending from Istria to central Dalmatia, which were caused by the global movement of Africa to the north and it crashing into Europe. The longest crown is located above the sea level on the island of Mana, and the highest, at 82 metres, can be found on the island of Klobučar. The crowns, of course, stretch beneath the sea level as well, and the deepest one (at a depth of more than 90 metres) can be found on the island of Piškera. Climbing the crowns is only allowed if you are a grey hawk, a European shag or a swift that has found its home on one of the crowns.
Magazinova Skrila is an interesting formation located on the Kornat Island. It is a special type of rock slide created by limestone sliding on its base, and it was allegedly caused by an earthquake. Good starting points for visiting Magazinova Skrila are bays Kravjačica, Strižnja or Vruje, and in order to get to the Skrila, you will have to ‘trespass’ on private property, but you mustn’t compromise it in any way – especially not by skipping over or demolishing the drywall, or disturbing the sheep. It is almost impossible to single out a peak – a vantage point at Kornati – and say that it is better than the others. Each will leave you breathless. The highest is Metlina (237 m) on the Kornat Island, but it is also the hardest one to reach. Opata, as well as Litnji vrh at Vela Smokvica, offer a breath-taking view of the Murter Sea to the northeast and of the National Park on the other side. Otočevac on the island of Piškera enables you to see almost the entire area of Kornati NP; reaching the top of Levrnake is quite easy, so it is definitely worth paying a visit and enjoying the view. We have to point out the fact that the park’s mainland and the peaks are privately owned, mainly by locals from the nearby island of Murter, so you should be considerate during your sightseeing. Keep in mind that in the summer the sun can be very strong, and the shade on the Kornati is scarce, which can make hiking unbearable.
Luckily, refreshment can be found in the crystal-clear sea surrounding the Kornati, and you can also use this chance to snorkel in the deep blue sea. You do not need a special permit for snorkelling, while autonomous diving is allowed in organized and preapproved groups. The permit is issued at diving centres, where you will also get a recommendation for visiting one of the seven diving areas. Each of them will bring you a unique thrill. Qualified divers are certainly in a privileged position because they can enjoy every aspect that the Kornati became a protected National Park in the first place. But let’s go back to sightseeing, travelling a thousand years back. The remains of Illyrian forts show that the island was inhabited in prehistoric times, while Byzantium remains can be found in the Tureta fort on the Kornat Island. The fort had a military purpose, controlling sailing on the then quite unsafe Adriatic. An early Christian three-nave basilica is located at the foot of the fort, and the Church of Our Lady of Tarac is especially interesting as mass is held there every first Sunday in July. In Lavsa bay, on the island of the same name, there are sunken saltworks and salt storage remains. In the 16th century the Venetians built a fort on the island of Vela Panitula, and it served as a place in which fish tax could be collected from the Kornati fishermen. A large fishing village was built at the neighbouring island of Piškera at the time, with eight docks and a moving bridge, connecting Piškera and Vela Panitula.
Unfortunately, with the fall of the Venetian Republic, the settlement disappeared, and today only the ruins of the fort remain, and a church, which has been restored. One of the most interesting cultural attractions in the park area was the drywall erected in the late 19th century when the grassland landscape went through some big changes. After Murter inhabitants bought the island of Žut, and the Kornat Island together with Betina and Zaglavci inhabitants, they increased the surface of arable land, and built a mosaic of drywall fence lines, and life slowly moved away from the interior of the Kornati mainland to the shore. In order to experience a simpler life that the people from the Kornati, the ‘Kurnatari’ have cherished for centuries, try join them in picking olives, chasing sheep that have run amok, or fishing. The park also has some twenty restaurants and taverns that offer quality homemade food, mainly seafood specialities and local lamb from the Kornati. We certainly recommend that you visit them. When it’s close to sunset, find one of the 16 bays where anchoring and overnight stays are allowed. The beautiful starry sky, the silence and tranquillity of nature, the smell of the sea and the clean air – once you’ve tried it, you will know what we are talking about.
Photos by Boris Kačan, Ivo Pervan & NP Kornati