Vransko Lake covers the area of 30 km2 and represents the greatest natural lake in Croatia. It spreads just along the Adriatic coast between the picturesque coastal places Pakoštana and Pirovac. This karst cryptodepression, separated from the sea by 800 – 2500 m wide calcareous ridge, is the lowest point of Ravni Kotari supplying the water from surface and underground flows of the catchment area of even 470 km². The Nature Park spreads over 57 k m2.
The small swampy area covering 8.83 km2 is the remaining of the former ten-fold greater Vransko mud. In the 18th century in the southeastern part of the lake a canal Prosika was dug which connected the lake with the sea and allowed draining of Vransko mud, which led the marshy area and wildlife that depended on it to the brink of survival. The rest of the swamp area, which still has a teeming diversity of bird species, in 1983, was declared a special ornithological reserve, and in 1999 the entire Vransko Lake and the narrow coastal strip around it were declared a Nature Park.
From 2013 the Nature Park “Vransko Lake” is listed in the world’s important wetlands, as the largest natural, brackish, permanent body of water in Croatia, of paramount importance to many threatened and in Europe rare species of birds. Representing the center of biodiversity of the wider area of the region, the Nature Park Vransko Lake its international importance owes to the specific geographical and climatic conditions which support important and rare habitats, sludgy coasts, flooded meadows and vast reed beds, as well as the largest area of open water, an important habitat as birds wintering place.
Although the largest natural lake in Croatia, Vransko Lake is extremely shallow (2-6 m). It is located in the permeable karst, through which during the low water level penetrates the nearby sea, which makes water of the lake brackish. The junction of the Mediterranean and the marshy landscape is reflected in the richness and colorful flora of Vransko Lake, which is dominated (in the shallowest northwest part) vast reed bed, home to many birds, fishes, reptiles, amphibians and insects. In the Nature Park 256 species of birds is recorded, and for endangered species of purple heron and pygmy cormorant this is one of the few breeding sites in Croatia.
For more than two decades Vransko Lake is on the list of important European ornithological wetlands, and from few years ago also of the world’s. It is a rare occassion to feel in one area in a short time three completely different landscapes – the coast with a rich archipelago, Mediterranean swamp with a rich ecosystem and picturesque rural ambient of Ravni Kotari.
In addition to the natural values this lake, which in the past was called “Clear mud”, is rich in cultural and historical sites that date back to two thousand years BC.
Name of the biggest lake in Croatia comes from the medieval town Vrane (Crows), seat of the Croatian Ban, of the Benedictines and of the Knights Templar.
Vransko Lake is a small paradise for nature lovers, especially for bird watchers. As in the brackish water lake lives a unique combination of marine and freshwater species, sports fishermen are not falling behind, who will be rewarded by a calm day on Vransko Lake with the catch of carp, catfish, pike and mullet. Cyclists will be delighted by more than 40 km long panoramic trail around the lake, and walkers will opt for a picnic in a renovated Austro-Hungarian port, where the info center Prosika is located, or on the lookout and info center Kamenjak above the village Banjevci, with a beautiful view of the whole lake, the Kornati islands and Zadar and Šibenik archipelago. Nature Park and the surroundings are also rich in valuable cultural heritage, and in the immediate vicinity, in the village Vrana, is also the newly renovated Maškovića Han.
Thanks to the proximity of the highway, which is found only 10 km away, Nature Park Vransko Lake is well connected and easily accessible. From the capital Zagreb it is 300 km away. The closest city to the Park (7 km) is Biograd n/M, which is, by the Adriatic main road, very well connected with the rest of the country. In the vicinity is the airport Zadar (27 km), and airport in Split is 127 km away.