FunNature & AnimalThe island that looks like a giant fingerprint

The island that looks like a giant fingerprint

We are talking about Baljenac (or Bavljenac), a small island located off the Dalmatian coast, in southern Croatia and which is part of the Šibenik archipelago.

Baljenac is one of the 1,244 islands in Croatia but it stands out for one particularity. If we observe it from the air, it will remind us of a giant fingerprint. For what reason? The island has up to 23 kilometers of walls that occupy its land in a very particular way, hence it is known as the island of stone walls.

History tells that during the 16th and 17th centuries, in the midst of the Ottoman conquest, Baljenac served as a refuge for Christians, who with great dedication and patience (stacking and fitting the stones one on top of the other, in a construction without mortar), raised a network of walls that had no other objective than to serve as a shield or protection against Ottoman incursions. The final drawing of the framework of walls would be finished in the 19th century but, in this case, due to a less belligerent motive: agriculture.

Thus, the objective of the farmers of the nearby island of Kaprije was to protect the crops from the wind and limit the lands of the olive groves and vineyards , since the main activities of the Croatian islands are viticulture, olive cultivation, fishing and tourism. As a curiosity, Kaprije, the neighboring island, has a population of just 150 inhabitants and cars are prohibited on it.

The inhabitants of Kaprije decided to finish the walls, stone by stone, just like their predecessors, without the help of cement or mortar, and thus preserve and separate the crops. Until they reached the 23 kilometers of walled area .

Hence the island looks eerily similar to a giant footprint seen from above. The low walls throughout the island give the appearance of small fingerprint ridges. Even the oval shape of Baljenac adds to the comparison of a finger. It has 0.14 square km of surface and a coastline length of 1,431 meters. L as stone walls seem woven into an area that is completely uninhabited (equal to many other islands in Croatia, as Jakljan, Žut or Sveti Klement.

The unique giant footprint could – very soon – be included in the UNESCO Cultural Heritage list, as the Croatian government has been working with UNESCO to include the island on its list of World Heritage sites.

It is because of the stone lace pattern that Baljenac caught the attention of the guardians of cultural heritage. The Department of Conservation in Šibenik, on the proposal of the University of Zadar, will prepare an application for the protection status of Baljenac as cultural heritage.” explains conservationist Mark Sinobad.

Baljenac is not the only area in the world that has these spectacular walls. Both Ireland and Scotland also feature these same low-rise walls historically used to mark the boundaries of farmland. However, these countries are considerably larger than the small Croatian island, hence their peculiarity.

Last curiosity: the island has a kilometer and a half of walls per hectare , far surpassing the island of Zut with 200 meters of walls per hectare.

Image credit: Sibenski (

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