Rising high above the Adriatic, the stark peaks of the Velebit Massif stretch for 145km in a dramatic landscape of rock and sea.

The national park circles around two deep gorges, Velika Paklenica (Great Paklenica) and Mala Paklenica (Small Paklenica), which scar the mountain range like hatchet marks, with cliffs over 400m high. The dry limestone karst that forms the Velebit Range is highly absorbent, but several springs in the park's upper reaches provide a continuous source of water, which explains the unusually lush vegetation. About half the park is covered with forests, mostly beech and pine followed by white oak and varieties of hornbeam. The vegetation changes as you ascend, as does the climate, which progresses from Mediterranean to continental to sub-alpine. The lower regions, especially those with a southern exposure, can be fiercely hot in the summer and the cold bum (cold northeasterly wind) that whips through the range in winter brings rain and sudden storms.

Animal life is scarce but you may see Egyptian vultures, golden eagles, striped eagles and peregrine falcons, which nest on the cliffs of the two gorges. If you've forgotten what they look like, there's an illustrated signboard at the park's entrance. Rumour has it that bears and wolves live in the park's upper regions, but your chances of actually seeing one are minuscule.

Rock Climbing
The national park offers a tremendous variety of rock climbing routes from beginners' level to borderline suicidal. The firm, occasionally sharp limestone offers graded climbs, including 72 short sports routes and 250 longer routes. You'll see the beginners' routes at the beginning of the park with cliffs reaching about 40m, but the best and most advanced climbing is on Anica Kuk, which offers over 100 routes up to a maximum of 350m. Nearly all routes are well equipped with spits and pitons, except for the appropriately named Psycho Killer route.

The most popular climbs here are Moso-raski (350m), Velebitaski (350m) and Klin (300m). Spring is the best climbing season as summers can be quite warm and winters too windy. A rescue service is also available.

The best time to visit the park is in May, June or September.

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