Parallel to the mainland coast mid-way between Zadar and Šibenik, Kornati National Park covers an area 35 km long and 13 km wide, containing 89 islands, islets and reefs. Declared a national park in 1980 due to its wealth of underwater life and its unique natural beauty, the area is made up of crystal-clear blue sea and a scattering of eerie ‘moonscape’ islands supporting scanty vegetation.
Having no fresh water sources and little fertile land, the Kornati passed through the centuries with minimum human intervention. During the 17th century, noble families from Zadar, with the blessing of the Venetians, used the islands for sheep rearing, employing serfs from Murter as shepherds. Later the Murterini bought rights to 90% of the Kornati, and continued to use them for seasonal farming: grazing sheep, cultivating olives, grapes and figs and keeping bees (there are few wild animals here other than lizards). They also built some 300 simple stone cottages, mainly in sheltered coves, which they used as temporary homes when fishing or tending the land. Today many of these cottages, still without running water and electricity, have been turned over to tourism, and are available for rent through the summer months, often with a small boat included, as ‘Robinson Crusoe’ retreats .
The largest island, Kornat, is 25 km long and up to 2.4 km wide. Travelling along the west coast by boat you’ll pass a series of dramatic cliffs plummeting 100 m down to the sea, punctuated by small coves, many with pleasant sheltered beaches and, here and there, an informal summer restaurant serving fresh fish at tables by the water’s edge.
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