Regal mountains, an organization well tuned to adventure and participant camaraderie made the Highlander Velebit Mountains trek a 5-star experience.
The Croatian Highlander Adventure organization put this package together in two forms. The long consisted of a 5-day 104 km route and the short a 3-day 55 km version. Due to time constraints I opted for the shorter trek called Highlander55 Velebit.
I’d driven through Croatia’s Velebit range countless times and on each crossing I’d promise myself that one day (soon) I would explore them. Tick-tock and here we are 20 years later.
Highlander Velebit Mountains Trek Cost Details:
Normally I include a table of expenses but in this case the registration fee covers all expenses from the meeting point in Senj and back. Yes, naturally you have to pay for your own camping gear and transport to/from Senj, but that is different of each of us and irrelevant in this case.
Cost: 105 € 3-day or 205 € 5-day registration (food/drink provided at intervals).
Highlander Velebit Mountains Trek Video
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While in Zagreb I couldn’t help but notice the tasteful Highlander trekking billboards and the number of major sponsors. An instant mobile search of the web site revealed a new kind of mountain club. It is an indie group sponsoring trekking events around Europe (even in these crazy COVID-19 times). A cross between bare-bones (carry all your own gear) and full-board (dry food packs and hot meals provided at checkpoints). I was willing to give it a try.
A few days later I drove to the starting checkpoint Zavižan (at the entrance to National Park Northern Velebit) where I got my dry rations (see photo below), maps, trekking passport, etc. I spent the night before the trek at a secluded cabin of a cool guy (Zoran) that I picked up hitchhiking up the mountain. Yes people still hitchhike these days.
The next morning (noon actually) I started out solo in a herd of around 70 people that were doing the Highlander 55 trek. The other 250+ trekkers, that were doing the longer 5-day trek, left earlier in the morning.
The trail was semi-groomed, rugged and rocky in places, mostly well shaded and offered outstanding mountain vistas. Within a short while I paired up with Srđan Brajković (who was taking heaps of photos) and by our mid-afternoon lunch break, at the Rossijevo Skloniste Hut, it was apparent that individual trekkers were forming viscous groups. It reminded me of my Camino de Santiago experience. We start that pilgrimage as individuals and soon become a community.
Late in the day we stopped for a well deserved beer break at the Skorpovac Hutut, then a catered hot meal at the nearby checkpoint. After stoking the furnace we headed into the forest to find and set up our camp as the sun set and the wind kicked in.
By this time I was part of a small group of 5 characters (Srđan, Alan, Barbara, Iva and Nikola) of varying outdoor skills. After they setup their identical Decathlon tents we sat in a circle (around one of the many cow paddies) and shared stories, food and Rakia before turning in for the night.
The next morning we woke to more strong winds, so broke camp haphazardly (or very poorly) and then regrouped in the forest for a hot breakfast.
We were now within sight of the Adriatic Sea and in gently rolling hills/mountains.
The balance of the day was spent walking as a loose group but resting and taking coffee breaks together at regular intervals. Croatians sure like their coffee!
That night we made camp around the Skorpovać Hut (free beer provide) and enjoyed a less windy and more social evening until we all ran out of beer and steam around 9pm.
The following day we were not technically the last group to leave camp (for a change) but did manage to maintain our position as the almost-last group to arrive at the Baške Oštarije roadside restaurant and our final checkpoint.
We were then provided with our finishing goodies, hot food and yes, cold beer. We lounged around and cheered the last four stragglers (who arrived after our group). By 4pm we were all happy to catch the provided bus back to Senj and then begin the decomposition of the groups before rushing off in our respective cars to the busy world.
Highlander Velebit Mountains Trek Photos
Yet in the quiet moments since the trek I find myself thinking back to how much I enjoyed the trek and time in nature with new friends. Perhaps it’s time to sign up for the next Highlander Adventure of a lifetime?
Srđan Brajković’s photos
Link to Velebit_Highlander55.gpx file for your phone GPS software.
Link to this trek on the Highlander organization site.
LivioBestulic.com the catch-all site.