DALMATIAN HINTERLAND

HEART OF DALMATIA
View from Prozor fortress on Vrlika field, Dinara mountain and Peruča lake.

The Dalmatian Hinterland is an inexorable fountain with all sorts of marvelous wonders it contains, some built by the human hand, others by the hand of God. The mountains and the rocky cliffs of the Dinara mountain range separate it from the coastal cities while the crystal clear waters of the numerous rivers and lakes weave through its karst environment bursting out of the rocks in the most miraculous of ways.

The weather can be warm and pleasant as well as harsh and freezing with lush landscapes being replaced by barren fields presenting a fascinating stratification of the flora and fauna that can only be found in this narrow stretch of land. Discover the many towns present in this area harboring traditions born out of intricate historical developments. The people of this small stretch of land have their way of singing, dancing, and talking but they never lose their irresistible charm and cordiality.

Hop in and let us delve into the exploration of this wonderful region!

DEFINITION AND LOCATION

The Dalmatian Hinterland is considered the continental part of Dalmatia.

It covers a stretch of land with an area of about 150 km in length separated from the coast by a mountain range with mountains Kozjak, Mosor, Biokovo, and Rilić. This is truly an essential part of Dalmatia going from an area east of Šibenik towards the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina continuing south towards the town of Vrgorac.

Dalmatia map with yellow marked area of the hinterland with Knin, Vrlika, Sinj, Trilj, Imotski and Vrgorac pointed out on the map.

GEOGRAPHY

The Dalmatian hinterland is predominantly a karst area consisting of hills, small valleys, and fields between them, which extend in the east-west direction.

The hills are bare or covered with scrub and low forest, and there are arable areas in the fields. For the above-stated reason, the people inhabiting this area predominantly focused on animal husbandry while in terms of agriculture, wine was by far the most dominant product. In the course of history, this was a modest area not abounding in material wealth. 

Furthermore, the region was often neglected and exploited by various foreign powers that assumed control over Dalmatia but maybe precisely for that reason the people of this area are known to be cordial, fearless, and diligent as small communities were often forced to work together to withstand the challenges they encountered regularly.

WEATHER

In terms of weather, the Dalmatian Hinterland can be divided into three belts in the simplest way, namely sub-Mediterranean, sub-Mediterranean-mountain, and mountain belt. 

The sub-Mediterranean belt refers to an area up to 500m in altitude. This belt is characterized by dry and hot summers with temperatures sometimes reaching above 40°C, on the other hand, winters can be moderately cold with some snow, which is mostly light and normally melts away quickly. 

The middle of the sub-Mediterranean-mountainous belt refers to areas situated in the range between 500 m - 900 m of altitude. This belt is characterized by harsh and very cold winters where the snow lingers for a long time with morning temperatures going below -15°C and in extreme cases even below -20 °C while during the summer temperatures can exceed 35°C. 

The belt above 900 meters is dominated by a mountain climate and the influence of the sea is insignificant. The snow stays here for months, but the summers are warm and temperatures can rise to 35°C. On the mountain peaks of Biokovo, Kamešnica, and Dinara, the alpine climate prevails, and the snow remains from the first heavy fall (most often in November) until June.

CITIES

VRGORAC

Vrgorac is a town located at the foot of the southeastern part of Matokito (1063 m), at the foot of the medieval fortress that dominates the horizon, surrounded by fields Rastok, Jezero, and Bunina. The town got its name precisely from its elevated position. 

With a population of about 6500 people and a preserved natural beauty with a myriad of viewpoints, mountain horizons, mountain gorges, sinkholes, caves and caverns along with karst fields interwoven by springs is what makes Vrgorac a truly picturesque location. 

Apart from all the natural wonders the town is famous for its old town core and namely for its impressive fortifications composed of eight towers built during the period in which the town was under Ottoman rule.

Vrgorac is also famous for its world-class strawberries which are a must-have for anybody visiting the town. Lastly, one of the most famous and appreciated Croatian poets of all time Tin Ujević was born in Vrgorac in 1891.

IMOTSKI

Imotski is a town with a population of just over 10000 people located within Split-Dalmatia County close to the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina. The town is famous for its Blue and Red lake which are true wonders of nature.

The kidney-shaped Blue Lake owes its name to the blue color of its water. The blue lake becomes a swimming pool in the summer. The water in the lake constantly oscillates and the depth of the lake changes from completely drying up to the maximum depth.

The Red Lake is a karst pit filled with water near Imotski. In 1998, the Croatian Speleological Association organized an international speleological expedition, during which the height difference of 528 meters was precisely measured, and the depth of the lake was as much as 287 meters, and according to some data, it would be the deepest lake in Europe.

From a historical point of view, the fortress Topana deserves a mention. The fortress is located above the city of Imotski, on cliffs between the Blue Lake and the soccer stadium adapting to the natural shape of the cliff. From the late 15th century until 1717 Topana Fortress was the administrative seat of the Kadija of Imotski who was the Ottoman civil administrator and judge, The name Topana is of Turkish origin and it refers to a place where cannons are kept.

Karst lake pit with lake at the bottom.

SINJ

Sinj is located in the heart of the Dalmatian hinterland, at an elevation of 320 meters, and at about a 30 km distance from the regional center which is the city of Split.

Sinj is surrounded by mountains Kamešnica, Svilaja, and Dinara at the center of the so-called Cetinska Krajina that revolves around the famous river Cetina. The town has a population of around 11000 thousand people and is rightfully named the city of knights with a fortress-like nucleus revealing a fascinating history from earthquakes to conquests and bloody battles against foreign powers who wanted to impose their language and culture.

The Church of the Miraculous Madonna of Sinj, The Museum of Sinjska Alka, the Alka racecourse, and the Museum of the Cetinska Krajina are only some of the more interesting elements of this fascinating town. More will be said about Alka in a separate section of the UNESCO heritage.

TRILJ

Trilj, also known as the town of bridges on the river Cetina.

The town was founded in prehistoric times near the most convenient and therefore the most important crossing over the river Cetina. The town has a population of around 2000 people and even though it is a small town it still has plenty to offer.

Apart from a roman military camp Tilurium Trilj also has two impressive fortresses called the Čačvina and the Nutjak fortress.

The Čačvina fortress was first mentioned in 1371, at that time it belonged to a powerful Croatian family called Nelipici. It remained so until the beginning of the 15th century. At the end of the seventeenth century, it was sized by the Ottomans and it remained in Turkish hands, until 1718 when it came into Venetian possession.

The fortress Nutjak was built on a cliff overlooking the Cetina river, it fell under Ottoman rule for a while as well, after which the Venetians took possession of it. The fortress is dominated by a large circular tower and it is presumed it was built on a prehistoric site The Tillurium.

VRLIKA

Vrlika is the northernmost town of Split-Dalmatia County, situated 60 km from Split on the Split-Zagreb main road. The town has a population of around 2100 people. Apart from its natural beauty some historical sites that we recommend visiting are the Prozor Fortress, the church of Holy Salvation, and the Old Česma Fountain.

The Prozor Fortress was built between the 14th and 15th century during the rule of Prince Ivan Nelipic. The fortress is considered to be one of the most important medieval fortresses in inland Dalmatia with impressive views of the Vrličko Polje Valley and Lake Peruća opening up from it.

The church of Holy Salvation is one of the most important pre romanesque churches built in the 9th century by the Cetina County Prefect called Gostiha. A large medieval necropolis was also found in the vicinity of the church.

The Česma Fountain is located in a very picturesque park and it hosts the most famous Croatian Opera called „Ero s onoga svijeta “ (Ero the Joker) every year.

Ancient stone church from 9th century with body and belltower.

KNIN

Knin – a tradition in its purest form, the town of Knin is a fountain of history. The area where the town is located today was inhabited already in the Neolithic period while the first mention of the town of Knin (Ninia) dates back to the 7th century BC. In the middle ages, Knin was the capital of the Croatian Kingdom. The city is a wealth of cultural and natural wonders from the impressive Šarena Jezera to the Knin Fortress and the Krčić Waterfalls.

The Knin Fortress is one of the oldest and largest European fortresses. The construction of the fortress began in the 9th century. It was the seat of many Croatian kings and of the Croatian Kingdom in the middle ages. One of the most iconic locations within the fortress is a metal pole with the Croatian flag and a monument to the first Croatian president Dr. Franjo Tuđman. Towering over the town of Knin by 100 meters a wonderful view opens up encompassing the town and its surrounding field.

The Krčić waterfalls are also a sight to behold with water originating at the foot of the highest mountain peak in Croatia, and then, after 10.5 kilometers it flows into the Krka spring in a form of a waterfall. Such a case is truly unique worldwide.

UNESCO HERITAGE

Sinjska Alka - In honor of its heavenly patroness the Madonna of Sinj, who, according to the tradition, forced the Turks into flight in 1715 (''a woman in white was seen, walking on the walls of Sinj''), as an eternal vow of devotion and respect, the people of Sinj instituted the Alka – the knights' tournament of Sinj, and thus each year on the first Sunday in August the glorious victory is revived by organizing the famous Alka tournament. The importance of the Victory against a far superior Ottoman army is nicely summed up by a renowned poet Andrija Kači Miošić with verses: The Town of Sinj, the mace of gold.

Older gentleman with traditional costume and hat carrying an old gun in a procession of Alka tournament with a crowd in the back.

The name Alka (Tur./Arab. halqa: ring, hoop) is derived from the details of the stirrup bottom from the saddle of a horse, seized from the Ottoman pasha Čelić. The Alka is a three-day event and is under the protection of UNESCO which says a lot about the iconic nature and the long tradition of this festivity.

Ojkanje and nijemo Kolo are two others elements of the heritage of the Dalmatian hinterland under the protection of UNESCO. Ojkanje is the oldest type of singing in Croatia and is characterized by a special way of pronouncing the syllables hoj, voj, oj, with a longer tremolo or also with longer or shorter melismas. It is typical for Sinj, Imotski, and other towns of the Dalmatian hinterland.

Nijemo Kolo is a traditional silent dance performed by a group formed in a closed circle with the men leading their female partners in quick steps, which are often vigorous and daunting, not accompanied by music.

NATURAL HERITAGE

As we already noted the Dalmatian hinterland contains an inexorable wealth of breathtaking natural beauty. 

The river Cetina is central to many locations in the region. The river also contains the second-largest artificial lake in Croatia called the Peruča Lake. The river meanders through a picturesque canyon finishing at the coastal city of Omiš where the river meets the Adriatic Sea.

Arial view of the flow and the canyon of Cetina river with surrounding area.

The most impressive and tallest mountain range in Croatia is the Dinara mountain range with the highest peak located in the Dalmatian hinterland with an altitude of 1831 meters. An especially noteworthy element of the impressive natural heritage of the region is the newly proclaimed Dinara Nature Park a perfect location for walkers and hikers with epic rocks, caves, and canyons interspersed with forests, waterfalls, and floodplains. 

The Krka National park, one of the most beautiful parks with marvelous waterfalls also passes through the Dalmatian hinterland with the roman military camp Burnum located in its vicinity.

Lastly, we will mention the Red and Blue Lakes located near Imotski with both being a true geomorphological phenomenon, more about them can be found in the description of the town of Imotski.


Finally, it is worth emphasizing that this region is a true uncut gem just waiting to be uncovered overflowing with immaculate natural beauty visible through a stunning variety of different natural phenomena ranging from immense and inscrutable caves, mighty rivers, and towering mountains. The tradition here is deeply rooted in different customs acting as a testament or a legacy passed down to younger generations leaving an indelible mark through which the locals identify with their hometown.