The Kornati Islands - Zadar, Croatia
The Kornati, "Crown islands" are one of the most beautiful destinations in the Mediterranean archipelago, whit hundreds of recorded plant and animal species. The islands are spread between Dugi otok, in the northwest, and Zirje in the southeast. The archipelago consists of 150 islands, islets and reefs. It was named after the largest island of Kornat, which is an area of 32,44 km² that occupies two-thirds of the national park. The island is 25,2 km long, and wide 2,5 km. The national park was established in 1980 and consists of about 220 square kilometers, with 89 island, islets and rocks. The total area of the park include only one fourth of land, and the remaining part is a unique and attractive marine ecosystem.
The distinctive ornament of the Kornati islands are steep crowns on the coast fascing the sea. The largest crown of Kornati is on the island Klobucar, and rises 82 meters high above the sea. A special attraction is the island Rasip, whose walls reminiscent human faces. There under the crowns cliffs plunge into the deep blue, creating the most beautiful underwater part of the park.
The highest peak of Kornati is Metlina, with the remains of Illyrian ruins. The first human presence on the Kornati islands date from neolithic age. This is evidenced with a prehistorical stone ax found in the island Kornati. The first colonization of the Kornati islands was in the age of the illyrians. Small square dwellings and ruins were found on Kornati and Zut.
After Illyrians settled, Romans also settled on Kornati. Their traces include villa rustica in Proversa and pools for fish farming in Svrcati. Remains of ancient buildings are also found under the sea: a port on Piskera and Sipnate, a primitive port infrastructure in Proversa Vela and salt works on Sipnate.
The byzantine period witnesses by fort Tureta on Kornati from the 6th century. The fort had a military purpose, this is evidenced by holes in the walls for the shooters. From there they could control and ensure the waterway. Tureta is the only adriatic fortress from this period that was not destroyed, because it is located in an uninhabited area, so residents did not need its blocks of stone for the construction of their dwellings. There are also the remains od an early christian basilica of st. Mary at the base of Tureta. Still a mystery is whether it was built as a church or a fort. Considering the size of the church (30 x 13 meters) it is assumed that, in Kornati there were even more villages and shelters for sailors. Near the church were found traces of the foundations of a former monastery.
In the late middle ages, on the foundations of an early christian basilica is built a modest one-nave church dedicated to the Lady of the Visitation (Lady of Tarac). Here, every first Sunday of the month of July, mass is held with the blessing of the fields and the sea. The proceeded religious practices has beome a tourist attraction of Kornati. Votive procession of boats is one of the most beautiful and most interesting tourist events in Croatia.
On the rocks of the island Vela Panitula are remains of a fortress from the 16th century. Kornatis undetected secrets attract more and more tourists. One of them is a dozen pits that are thirty feet deep. In the pits were found previously unknown microorganisms (a kind of amphipods). Diving in the archipelago is a special attraction for people intrested in the preserved marine system. On Kornati there is no permanent settlements, but of the occasional the largest one is Vrulje. In Vrulje the smallest Kornati house has a width of 2 meters.
The underwater world and the barren karst soil with pastures, the isolation of the raids on the mainland, and the exposure to pirate attacks are all contrarys why Kornati historically has been hospitable and an inhospitable area. The main industries in Kornati were cattle breeding and fisheries. The most fertile field is Trtusa, in which once where orchards, vineyards and olive groves. Residents of Kornati, pasture and arable land were created by burning vegetation. The result of burning pastures is lunar landscape of the islands.
Stay on Kornati today is the safest in the landscaped ACI marinas. Marina Piskera is in shelters of islan Vela Panitula and Piskera. On Piskera is a church dedicated to Lady, which is celebrated as the Little Lady, and for cenuturies was the patron of fisherman.
Kornati with its pale copper colour, are cut through miles of stone walls, which look like a sort of mythical giant snake crawling over a hill and that dominates broad waters. This realm of silence is covered only with rare vegetation of aromatic scent, and with the smell salt create a distinctive atmosphere, for which the Kornati visitor always returns.