A few days ago I decided to go for a rambling, 23 kilometer hike in the Omis Dinara. A small subset of the coastal ranges that make up the north-south spine of Croatia, the Omis Dinara, though not tall, are dramatic and rise steeply from sea level to about 3,000 feet.
Adding to the steep rise from sea level, a narrow river canyon passes immediately on the backside of the Dinara. The result is in a less than 2-mile straight line from coast to canyon, the elevation climbs from sea level to 3,000 feet and immediately drops all the way back down once again.
The Dinaric Alps- of which the Omis Dinara is a small subset- are a string of mountain ranges stretching from Italy to Albania. They are composed primarily of limestone, a porous rock yet resistant to erosion. Limestone slowly degrades when it comes into contact with water, dissolving due to its own acidity by a chemical reaction that takes millions of years. Though slow, this process often results in sheer cliffs and steep mountain faces, and limestone is responsible for the vast majority of cave systems worldwide.
Limestone makes for spectacular scenery. The Croatian coastline is exemplar, composed of a series of high cliffs and mountain ranges plunging into placid sea. As the rock slowly breaks down it tumbles into the Adriatic and forms rocky beaches up and down the coast- sand beaches being an anomaly and rather rare exception.
Almost a year ago to the day I went on a more focused hike up to Croatia’s highest coastal peak, Sveti Jure, at 5,781ft. Rather than being a standalone peak, Sveti Jure is really just a small dome atop a very large singular mountain known as Biokovo, all of it protected within Biokovo Nature Park.
Biokovo is possibly Croatia’s best example of limestone topography as well as the steep rises and drops associated with it. Although not particularly tall, Sveti Jure is absolutely domineering, and rises to over a vertical mile in less than 2 miles from the coast, meaning that the landscape immediately behind the port town of Makarska quickly slopes upwards to nearly vertical cliff faces.
The hike to the top of Sveti Jure is daunting, starting at sea level and finishing at nearly 5,800ft above sea level. The true vertical gain of the hike is probably somewhere closer to 7,000 ft, as the hike includes innumerable dips and climbs in and out of sinkholes that have formed over millions of years on top of Biokovo. There is no single flat spot on the mountain, as the corrosive force of water perpetually shapes and changes the surface and structure of the mountain.