Visit The Weirdly-Shaped Croatian Island With 1000 Walls

Not only owning a special heart-shaped island when viewed from above, but the beautiful country of Croatia also has many more interesting things than that.

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Photo:  Boat tours Croatia Sibenik
Photo: Boat tours Croatia Sibenik

Without reaching the Greek profusion, Croatia has 79 large islands, more than 500 smaller islets and another 642 tiny rocks covering an area of about 3,300 square kilometers.

One such small island is Baljenac (or Bavljenac), located off the Dalmatian coast in the south of the country and forming part of the Šibenik archipelago.

It barely has 0.14 square kilometers of surface and a length of coast of 1,431 meters. It is uninhabited, but Croatia recently requested its inclusion in UNESCO’s list of World Heritage sites.

A fragmented territory

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock

The Croatian coast is very fragmented along the Adriatic Sea. The country always seems to break up in the water into distinct sets of archipelagos. Indeed Croatia is the largest archipelago in the Adriatic Sea with 79 islands, 525 islets and 642 reefs or rocks (Rocks are defined as islets smaller than 0.1 km², islets are between 0.1 and 1.0 km² and islands proper are bigger than 1.0 km²). Of these 1246 islands, which represent a territory of 3,300 km2 , only 48 islands are inhabited. One of these uninhabited islands is the island of Baljenac (or Bavljenac) located in the center part of the Croatia coast. It is part of the Šibenik archipelago, 10 km from the coast, according to Sense Atlas.

Between the walls

Photo:  Boat tours Croatia Sibenik
Photo: Boat tours Croatia Sibenik

Although it is of an insignificant size of 0,14km² it represents a historical interest for the mark that man has left there. The island is completely covered by walls built of stones piled one on top of the other. The ancient wall network is 23.357 km long on an island whose coastal perimeter does not exceed 1431m. These dry stone walls were built only by superimposing simple stones to delimit agricultural plots and protect the olive trees and vines from the wind. Farmers from the neighboring island of Kaprije are said to have started the agricultural colonization of the island in the 19th century, although some of the walls may have been built earlier. These networks of walls is indeed found in some neighboring islands, although the island of Baljenac is the largest concentration of these walls. However, it is estimated that 300 farmers would have built 106km of walls on a surface area of 12 km² in all the neighboring archipelago.

This uninhabited island has a physiognomy totally transformed by man. These agricultural plots give it a physical and totally improvised plot plan, almost random. Seen from the sky the island looks like a maze, a puzzle or a fingerprint, the hundreds of walls giving the island a unique and singular identity, according to Sense Atlas.

The Baljenac suhozid

Photo: MyBestPlace
Photo: MyBestPlace

The location of the fingerprint island is just off the coast of Šibenik, the oldest town founded by Croatians on the Adriatic. Baljenac is right next to Šibenik’s Kaprije island, and the inhabitants of Kaprije used the fingerprint island as sort of an agricultural area. They cleared the harsh vegetation on Baljenac and built the stone walls with their bare hands, all in order to have vineyards and groves where they could plant figs and other fruit.

Their hard work paid off, as the dry stone structures remain intact till this day, like in many other places on the coast of Croatia, such as the ranges of Velebit and the island of Pag. Today, the hand-built dry stone walls are protected under UNESCO and serve as a reminder of the times when people had to use their physical strength and resilient spirit to find ways to cultivate crops. It was exactly that hard work and tenacity that enabled them to survive on the harsh, yet beautiful karst landscape of the Adriatic coast.

Visiting Bavljenac Island

Those who wish to visit can take a boat tour around the island, with Archipelago Tours, for example. However, these tours cannot dock on the island as there is no pier or harbour.

Bavljenac’s nearest hub is Sibenik, a historic city in central Dalmatia, with the island one of 249 in the Sibenik archipelago.

The heart-shaped island, meanwhile, which is privately owned and officially called Galesnjak, lies further to the north in the Adriatic’s Pasman Canal. There isn’t much on it, apparently, except some wild plants and a colony of rabbits, according to Insider.

Charlotte Pho