A short ride from the Adriatic sea, in the heart of Dalmatian hinterland, under the south slopes of Velebit mountain lies Dalmatia’s best-kept-secret: the magical canyon of river Krupa.
For a discerning traveler or true outdoor enthusiast, Krupa is a must-visit. Lack of any sign of tourist infrastructure makes Krupa genuine and special, compared to much hyped, too organized and overpriced nature parks in the region, such as Plitvice and Krka.
Moreover, this unexpected oasis amidst cruel limestone landscape, is probably the best hiking experience Croatia has to offer.
The whole area is actually composed not by one but by three river canyons: Krupa, Krnjeza and Zrmanja. And as if the nature beauty was not enough, one ancient bridge and one medieval monastery found its place on the magical postcard of Krupa, adding that little extra of history to the already inspiring environment.
East and West Christianity interlace for centuries in the Dinaric Zagora, long before majority of Balkans is fallen under Turkish Ottoman rule and a military buffer zone Krajina was created as a consequence.
Witness of the everlasting turbulent history is the Monastery of Krupa, erected in XIV century by the Serbian king Stefan Milutin Nemanjić.
Krupa and nearby Krka in village of Kistanje represent western-most orthodox monasteries on the continent, guarding important historical legacy.
Human life in the karst was always difficult and bitter. Lika and Dalmatia served as hotbed of freedom fighters throughout history, from “Uskoci” to Partisans, regardless nationality or confession. The faith of the region was bitterly sealed in 1995 – since then, fire is in charge of this land, not the people. Today there are almost no inhabitants in vast, deserted areas of Dalmatian countryside, where once the ancestors fought hard to grab tiny bits of cultivated land beneath the rugged stone.
Most attractive part of Krupa canyon is the section between the admiring cascade waterfall Deveterac and the confluence of Krupa with Zrmanja. Trail goes further upriver all the way to the monastery passing by the confluence of Krnjeza with Krupa.
At the begin of June 2018 we hiked the first section from the confluence to the bridge (5h). Three years later, in late may 2021, we have completed the whole Krupa trail, by passing the section from the bridge to the monastery (3h).
Ravni Golubić – Ušće Krupe u Zrmanju – Kudin most.
Trail starts at the village Ravni Golubić. It descends towards the riverbed of Krupa at location called Vratolom, offering magnificent views over the canyon. Just below Vratolom, Krupa is creating a beautiful meander short before merging with Zrmanja.
Descending from dry karst terrain into the oasis of lush green means also a transition into a much more comfortable climate zone.
First attraction below is the outstanding waterfall on Zrmanja. It is called Visoki Buk (which means something like “the big water noise”).
After a short detour to Visoki Buk, we turn around and follow the trail upstream.
Note that the path by the river can be flooded in spring or early summer. It is possible to either circumnavigate critical points by finding your own alternative route at higher level, or to simply go ahead barefoot.
Further upstream, depending on the season, it might be possible to cross the river at some places and reach Kudin Most from the opposite bank.
Staying on the marked trail it takes some two hours to reach the bridge. At one moment, the trail will start to climb uphill. On top of the hill there is a house (“Kuća Veselinovića”). There are visible intersections with other trails in the zone near the house. It is important to follow the trail descending to Kudin most. Marvelous views over Krupa open very soon.
Kudin Most is an extra-ordinary place of intact nature. Water flowing under the bridge is pristine. We drank it without any consequences.
Golubić – Kudin most – Manastir Krupa.
Three years later, together with friends from Croatia, we revisited Krupa and completed the track that follows the river upstream all the way to the monastery.
Our starting point this time was the “house over the canyon” – Kuća Veselinovića at the edge of Golubić. We descended towards the surreal looking Kudin most, and followed the trail upstream to the confluence of Krnjeza and Krupa.
Kudin most, washed with morning sunrays appeared in all its beauty. This is a place worth coming back!
The bridge and its surrounding is out-of-time yet different and special with every new visit. It is hard to leave this place, we could sit here and enjoy for hours.
Only after two hours of meditation we left the bridge following the trail that goes further upriver to the Krupa monastery. Passing by Deveterac cascade waterfall, there is a a short yet attractive via-ferata section.
Later on, the track is going over rocky terrain with occassional descent to the riverbed. There is an intersection at the confluence of Krnjeza and Krupa with the old trail arriving from Golubić. Krnjeza is to be jumped-over “from one rock to another” – through dense spring vegetation.
After the confluence, terrain is becoming flat and grassy. There is not more than 1 hour hike left to the monastery.
Best time to visit Krupa is May. Water is abundant and green colour is in its peak. A significant part of the trail is in the shadow.
Our track summed up 14km in the end, with some 500m elevation gain in total. We completed it in 7 hours at average temperature of 28 C. The section along the river and around the bridge luckily had a lot of shade.
The emerald river is calling for a swim, but even in the summer it is very cold. Maslenica and Novigradsko more are just a 30 min drive away – there is nothing better when after a beautiful hike one can jump into the sea waves!
To reach Ravni Golubić follow the regional road Obrovac – Gračac (Zagreb – Split highway exit Maslenica). There is a sign for canyon and monastery where to exit the regional road and enter local narrow road. There is no sign for Ravni Golubić on the local road, but there is a visible painted mark “Ušće Krupe“. Hiking trail starts at the end of the paved road near the last stone house.
Kuća Veselinovića above the canyon.
Follow the narrow local road and turn right at old school building in Golubić. Paved road leads all the way to the house above the canyon (“Kuća Veselinovića”). It is a 30min walk from the house to the bridge below (in case you do not want to complete the whole track on foot described here).
Orthodox monastery of Krupa.
The monastery is usually the exit point from the canyon. And there is hardly a better way to finish the hike rather than place of mediveal spirituality.