Are you planning on thru-hiking the Via Dinarica? Good for you! Read this blog for tips. There are many great websites and books about thru-hiking, so I won’t go into that. Since I hiked the PCT, some of the terminology I’m using is coming from the US. In case you’re missing anything, please leave a reply.
Trail | Distance per day
The Via Dinarica is a trail in development. Some parts of the trail are part of well-known and often hiked trails, on these parts hiking is fast and easy. Other parts are new. Some parts are well-marked. Other parts, mostly on the first stages in Croatia, are overgrown. I guess, when more hikers go out the trail will get clearer and easier to hike.
I hiked between 18 and 42 kilometers a day. In my Dutch blogs on the Via Dinarica I’ve noted my day-by-day kilometers. In Velebit, Croatia, I could have hiked more kilometers per day, but bivouac is only allowed near the shelters.
Check the Via Dinarica-website for GPS-tracks. I used the Garmin Adria Topo Pro maps. I was happy using them, but in Montenegro and Albania a lot of detail was missing. For planning I used OpenFietsMaps (free). Now, I would use these free maps for my Garmin GPS and for my phone Locus Map Pro combined with these free Open Andro Maps.
I combined the tracks with information from Google Maps, Google Earth and hiking maps (mostly for watersources):
- Nanos Plateau (Stage 0, Slovenia)
- Velebit Hiking Trail – VPP (Croatia)
- Prenj (I believe this map is hard to get, I was lucky to borrow it from a friend who bought it in Sarajevo) and these online maps (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
- Durmitor (paper) and online (Montenegro)
- Hiking map North Albania
- Mavrovo – this map doesn’t have any detail and is not of much use (North Macedonia)
GPS-tracks North Macedonia – Shar planina
Click on the trail to download the track (including waypoints)
Via Dinarica North Macedonia Sar Planina Transversale
Check out these apps:
- Exploring Shar Mountain
- Balkan Hiking Adventure
- Locus Map Pro combined with these free Open Andro Maps
The Dinaric Alps are dry mountains. Meaning: water drains down fast the limestone rocks. I, however, did not often hike with more than one litre of water in my backpack. First, at almost all huts/shelters rainwater is being collected in a cistern. Check the notes on the Via Dinarica-website: at some huts water isn’t accessible without a key.
Besides the cisterns there are streams and ponds along the trail. Even better: there were often more streams noted on the maps. In case you run out of water and there are houses nearby, you could always ask a local (a reason to work on your language skills, see below). Great change they give you water from their cistern.
Do bring some kind of water treatment. There’s a lot of livestock on the trail and I’ve seen drowned animals floating in the cisterns.
I made waypoints of most watersources on my GPS, but I haven’t had time to collect the data. I might do so in future.
Resupplying on the Via Dinarica
The good news: there are a lot of towns on or close to the trail. I did not carry food for more than 5-6 days and on a lot of stages I only carried food for 3-4 days. The other good news: most shops have got wide opening hours.
Now the challenge: finding lightweight and fast to cook food, which is also sort-of-healthy. Remember Corny cereal bars? In the USA this was not brand I would choose. On the Via Dinarica Corny made me happy.
I have to admit that I don’t like cooking and mostly prepared one of these two dishes: fresh tortellini with pasteta (paté) or noodles with peanuts. I did not go hungry on trail, but this was a very unhealthy diet. I even gained weight! I guess, mostly because of the amounts of sugar I was eating.
- DM (in larger towns) – sells protein bars and health food.
- Oatmeal for breakfast – Yup. There are ready made mixes for sale. I drank a cold shake, made out of two packets -the smiling lady, laughing at me- and one packet of instant coffee. Yummie? No. Doable? Yes (and propably the most healthy meal of the day).
- For lunch I ate rye bread for sale at DM and at most grocery stores (at the health section or behind the counter).
- Resupply-wise the most challenging parts were Tjentište-Žabljak (Bosnia and Herzegovina) and Ljuboten-Popova Shapka-Mavrovo (North Macedonia).
- There are small convenience stores and restaurants on or close to the trail. Like I made waypoints of most water sources, I also made waypoints of these. I might put them online later.
In this blog more on resupplying on the Via Dinarica (including a list).
I brought an MSR Microrocket and I managed to buy a gas canister at three! places: Nova Gorica (Slovenia), Split (Croatia, where I paid over 12 euro for a small gas canister in a very fancy shop) and Skopje (North Macedonia). Even though I did not run out of gas, I wouldn’t advise you to bring a stove using the threaded system.
The non-threaded canisters are used for making coffee and are widely available, even in small towns (hardware or grocery store and even at news stands), as is gasoline for a multi-fuel stove. It is not forbidden to bring an open fuel cooking-system, but since the Dinarcs are extremely dry mountains it is not LNT to bring those.
I case you need to replace gear, clothing or trailrunners: good luck!
There are some stores along the trail, but the stores are very small and almost all gear they are selling isn’t lightweight. Here’s a list:
- Nova Gorica (a small shop at the Supernova mall, mostly camping and climbing gear and some hardware)
- Rijeka (Iglú sport like in Split, see below. Decathlon, which is way out of centre).
- Split (Iglú Sport a small store, selling some clothing and one brand of trailrunners and HUNTO at the Joker mall, which is a hunter/prepper-store)
- Sarajevo (Intersport, some clothing and some trailrunners, there’s also a small hunter-store which sells some camping gear)
- Žabljak (a small ski-shop, don’t count on anything useful for a thru-hiker)
- Skopje (outdoor.mk: a small store, one brand of trailrunners and some hardware)
Tru-hiking the Via Dinarica isn’t like hiking one the triple crown-trails, here in Europe there’s no thru-hiker community making it a solitary experience. I started my hike in June in Slovenia. I did not meet a single, other hiker for weeks.
You’ll most likely encouter other hikers at the weekends or at the shelters. It’s usually dayhikers heading for some kind of peak. If you get to meet other hikers it’ll be a welcome and tasty experience since most of them carry fresh and home grown or made food and drinks (and were happy to share some with me, a ‘no, thank you’ is not an option’) – another reason to work on your language-skills!
The more busy parts of the trail are Velebit and Paklenica (Croatia), around Lukomir (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Durmitor and Biogradska Gora (Montenegro), and the Albanian Alps – I hiked Montenegro and Albania in August, peak-season and found some parts very busy.
There is a lot of cell-phone reception on the trail and lots of wifi in the towns, no reason for not staying connected!
Buying a local phonecard in each country is most likely the cheapest option. The most challenging part is changing the settings to the English language. This is what I did:
- Slovenia (EU) – used my Dutch SIM card.
- Croatia – bought a SIM card in Rijeka in one of the many shops (one month tourist plans are for sale).
- Bosnia and Herzogovina – bought a SIM card in Tomislavgrad (installing the card, understanding the plan, calling with customer service and not speaking the language was challenging – make sure you do some research before setting out).
- Montenegro – bought a SIM card in Žabljak. One month tourist plans are for sale.
- Albania – used wifi
- North Macedonia – bought a SIM card in Skopje – One month tourist plans are for sale.
Yes, they speak English. But not all of them. Some people I met, who did not speak English, did speak German, Italian, French or Russian. I even met a guy speaking Dutch. So, you better start working on your language skills 😉