9 Things to Do in Benkovac, the Abandoned Town In Dalmatia

If you ask me, Benkovac has one of the best, if not the best, locations in the whole of Dalmatia.

It’s one hour away from Plitvice Lakes, half an hour from Krka National Park, half an hour from Zadar, 20 minutes from Zrmanja Canyon, 15 minutes from Biograd, 10 minutes from Karin, the smallest sea in the world.

Although the town itself is not a famous tourist destination there are couple of things to see and I would recommend it as a base for exploring northern Dalmatia or at least as a day trip from Zadar. From Benkovac you can take a day trip to Pag island and even visit couple of the most affordable islands in Croatia.

Most of the tourist attractions, like Asseria, are outside the city borders, but for now, I will cover only the things you can see in the town itself. You won’t need a car, as you can see everything on foot in a maximum of 2 hours.

Later on, I will expand and update the article with sights that are worth seeing but are located close to Benkovac, not in Benkovac itself.

Benkovac is a city that represents a monument to national pride where there is no life, nor any indication that it could be different.

Deprived of any perspective and detached from all hope, it is slowly becoming a tourist attraction due to its abandoned houses, empty streets, historical sites, and sacred buildings.


Kastel Benkovic is the most prominent cultural and historical monument in Benkovac.

It was named after the Croatian nobles, the Benkovic family, who built it, and since then, the history of the city of Benkovac actually began.

Main Street and City Hall

Like any other city, Benkovac also has its pedestrian zone. It’s about a kilometer long, and here the most significant building is the municipal building.

You can easily recognize it by its tower and the clock at the top of the tower. Walking down this street, you will see many abandoned but also renovated old buildings, mostly dating from the 18th century.

In the middle of the pedestrian area, the renovated Catholic church is located.

Catholic Church

In 1863, the construction of the Catholic Church of the Little Lady (Male Gospe) began, which was completed in 1864. Archbishop Petar Dujam Maupas dedicated the church to the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary on September 8, 1864. The Church of the Little Lady was located in the center of Benkovac, within a wooded garden, bordered on the eastern side by the parish house.

The orientation of the church was northeast – southwest, with the façade facing the main street. The stone bell tower of the church was 20 meters high. On the northwest side of the bell tower, there was an inscription carved by Emperor Franz Joseph, who helped complete the bell tower and visited it during his visit to Benkovac in 1875.

In the first half of 1992 during the war, the church was demolished to the foundations by mining, and a new one was built on the same site in 2003. In front of the church, there is a monument to Alojzije Stepinac.

Orthodox CHurch

Historical records indicate that the Orthodox church in Benkovac was built on the site of a former Orthodox temple that existed there in the 16th century. The church in Benkovac, dedicated to Saint John the Baptist, was constructed by Vid Karaća in 1590, during the time of Metropolitan Aksentije.

Its original appearance is somewhat known thanks to a cadastral map, on which it is shown as an elongated building with a rectangular apse to the east and a pronounced narthex to the west, most likely formed during restoration at the beginning of the 18th century. The current church, of the same dedication, was built on the site of the previous one in 1885.

Apart from a significant number of icons, mainly of Serbian origin, very important festive icons with the central figure of the Virgin Mary the Comforter are attributed to the famous painter El Greco.

Franjo Tudjman Monument

The bronze monument of Franjo Tudjman is two and a half meters tall and is placed on a stone pedestal one and a half meters high. The sculpture was created by academic sculptor Tomislav Krsnjavi from Zagreb.

The monument to the first Croatian president Franjo Tudjman was ceremoniously unveiled on the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Benkovac HDZ (Croatian Democratic Union) and the attack on the first Croatian president in this city.

The Monument to Croatian Defenders

The monument to Croatian defenders is associated with a grotesque story. It was originally located where the monument to Franjo Tudjman is now and then moved ten meters to the east from its first location to make room for the monument to the Croatian president.

Both monuments are situated in a nicely maintained park, but the socio-economic picture of this small town is somewhat sadder. In Benkovac, the construction of walkways took years, the roads to schools and kindergartens have long been in need of renovation, and in some of the nearby villages, a water supply system has yet to be introduced.

Bukovcanin i Kotarka

The oldest and probably the most famous monument in Benkovac is the ‘Man from Bukovica’ and ‘Woman from Ravni Kotari’.

The city itself is located on the border between Bukovica and Ravni Kotari, and this monument symbolizes the unity of these two totally opposite regions.

Bukovica is a rocky area where almost nothing grows and only sheep are kept as domestic animals, while on the other hand, Ravni Kotari is fertile, probably the most fertile part of Dalmatia

Abandoned Homes

As paradoxical as it may sound, the abandoned houses are something that is most worth seeing in Benkovac. Many of them are not ordinary houses, but villas, and there are so many that it’s surprising no one has yet organized guided walking tours of these abandoned houses.

What’s even more paradoxical is that one of them recently appeared for sale in advertisements for 600,000 euros. It’s no wonder it remains abandoned.

Benkovac’s Wells

Currently in Benkovac, there are five wells and none of them have water. I don’t know the story behind this, even though I have tried to find out from various places and people.

Over the past 100 to 150 years, several of them have been dug and constructed, but none have water. Some, like the one in the main square, weren’t even dug deep, so it seems the idea behind the wells was always just for decoration.