Svetojanj Hiking Trail

Svetojanj Hiking Trail

Church of St. Anthony – Old Novalja – Zaglava – Svetojanj – Zaglava – Novalja Field – Church of St. Anthony

Svetojanj is an exceptionally alluring, yet a technically difficult and challenging trail with a special visual experience and exceptional scenery in which lush vegetation is juxtaposed with the barren rocky terrain. It was named after the ancient Byzantine fortress of Svetojanj from the 6th century during the reign of Justinian I.

So let’s get this show on the road!
The starting point is in the Novalja Field, outside the Church of St. Anthony, in an enchanting location above a pond surrounded by high reeds. On the edge of the pond, in the shade of the tall trees, you can cool off in a fresh water spring which runs dry in the summer. With that in mind, make sure to bring at least 1.5 l of water, dextrose, fruit and energy bars considering the difficulty of the 19 km-long trail.

The trail will take us to the small coastal village of Stara Novalja, where we continue on a macadam road. The Mediterranean flora and karst take turns as we ride through the unspoiled nature brimming with colourful vistas. The intoxicating scent of indigenous plants and herbs slowly dissipates as we reach Zaglave, the part of the island that is famous for its barren rocks that are exposed to the thrashing bora and the salt sediments. This is the reason why vegetation is sparse in this area, although it also clearly demonstrates why Pag has been given the sobriquet “Moon Island”. Caution is advised here because the remote and sunlit karst area of Zaglave is the perfect habitat for horned vipers, the only species of venomous snake on the island.

Our next stop and site is the Svetojanj fortress, one of the most impressive and biggest attractions of this trail. The ancient fortress was erected in the 6th century during the reign of Justinian I as an observation post and a pivotal defensive element in a system that was used to protect Byzantium’s maritime interests during its initial period of domination in the Adriatic. It is one of the most fascinating checkpoints on the eponymous Svetojanj trail route! After stopping at the fortress and following an arduous climb, we will arrive at an observation deck where you can enjoy a wonderful view of the Velebit Channel. This is one of the most stunning panoramas of the entire island.

Continuing further on a macadam path up a steep slope, we will come to Svetojašnica, a small and captivating 100-year-old natural pond, one of only a few that have been preserved on the island. For years, this oasis in the heart of Zaglave has been the only watering hole for Pag sheep and, according to a local legend, it has only run dry once over the last 100 years – in the 1980s during a dry spell that lasted from May until November. The enthralling scenery beckons you to stop, while the scent of the sea and salt restores lost energy. We resume walking through the rocky landscape, passing the quarry on our way, until we reach the Novalja Field, a verdant oasis that is a stark contrast to the previously encountered barren terrain and the home of numerous animal species.

The Novalja Field also abounds in drinking water, the source of life, as the ancient Romans were well aware when they carved out a 1100 m-long underground aqueduct out of solid rock in the 1st century AD by connecting the field with the settlement of Novalja. The Roman aqueduct, dubbed the “Italian Hole” by the locals, is displayed at the Town Museum, where you can walk around a small area of its interior ( You will also learn everything there is to know about the architecture of classical antiquity, in which style it was built, the nine openings that stretch along the Novalja Field, and the role of our most valuable cultural monument from the Roman Era.

Don’t be surprised if you encounter wild animals in the Novalja Field, such as rabbits, pheasants, blindworms, turtles or quail, as they are quite common in this area. We then continue our adventure surrounded by olive groves, vineyards and dry stone wall enclosures with domesticated animals, and if you cast a glance over the dry stone walls, you will see sheep, goats or poultry. The tour of Novalja Field ends exactly where we started, at the Church of St. Anthony.


Curiosities :

• Antique aqueduct

• Castle Svetojanj

• Pond Svetojašnica

Location: Novalja Field – Old Novalja – Zaglava – Novalja Field
Trail number: 53
Route: Church of St. Anthony – Old Novalja – Zaglava – Svetojanj – Zaglava – Novalja Field – Church of St. Anthony

Length (km): 19.0; Elevation gain (m): 450; Highest point (m): 160; Lowest point (m): 3; Asphalt: 2.1 km (11%); Macadam/earth: 16.9 km (89%); Surface difficulty: Strenuous; Fitness level: Strenuous.