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The Dinaric Alps or Dinarides form a mountain chain in southern Europe, spanning areas of Sloveniamarker, Croatiamarker, Bosnia and Herzegovinamarker, Serbiamarker, Kosovomarker , Albaniamarker and Montenegromarker.

They extend for along the coast of the Adriatic Seamarker (northwest-southeast), from the Julian Alpsmarker in the northwest down to the Šarmarker-Korabmarker massif, where the mountain direction changes to north-south. The highest mountain of the Dinaric Alps is the Prokletije, located on the border of eastern Montenegro and northern Albania, with the peak called "Lake Crestmarker" at .

The Dinaric Alps comprise the most rugged and extensively mountainous area of Europe outside of the Caucasus Mountainsmarker, Alps, Pyreneesmarker, and Scandinavian Mountainsmarker. They are formed largely of secondary and tertiary sedimentary rocks of dolomite, limestone, sand, and conglomerates formed by seas and lakes that had once covered the area. During the Alpine earth movements that occurred 50–100 million years ago, immense lateral pressures folded and overthrust the rocks in a great arc around the old rigid block of the north-east.

The Dinaric Alps were thrown up in more or less parallel ranges, stretching like necklaces from the Julian Alps up to the areas of northern Albania and Kosovo where the mountainous terrain subsides to make way for the waters of Drin and the fields of Kosovo. The Šarmarker and Korabmarker mountains then rise and the mountainous terrain continues southwards to the Pindusmarker of Greecemarker and the mountains of the Peloponnesemarker and Cretemarker, Rhodesmarker to the Taurus Mountainsmarker of southern Turkeymarker.


The Mesozoic limestone forms a very distinctive region of the Balkans, notable for features such as the Karst. The Quarternary Ice Ages had relatively little direct geologic influence on the Balkans. No permanent ice caps existed, and there is little evidence of extensive glaciation. Only the highest summits of Durmitormarker, Orjenmarker, and Prenj have glacial valleys and moraines as low as . However, in the Prokletije, a range on the northern Albanian border that runs east to west (thus breaking the general geographic trend of the Dinaric system), there is evidence of major glaciation.

One geological feature of great importance to the present-day landscape of the Dinarides must be considered in more detail: that of the limestone mountains, often with their attendant faulting. They are hard and slow to erode, and often persist as steep jagged escarpments, through which steep-sided gorges and canyons are cleft by the rivers draining the higher slopes.

The most extensive example of limestone mountains in Europe are those of the Karst of the Dinaric Alps. Here, all the characteristic features are encountered again and again as one travels through this wild and underpopulated country. Limestone is a very porous rock, yet very hard and resistant to erosion. Water is the most important corrosive force (Corrosion), dissolving the limestone by chemical action. As it percolates down through cracks in the limestone it opens up fissures and channels, often of considerable depth, so that whole systems of underground drainage develop. During subsequent millennia these work deeper, leaving in their wake enormous waterless caverns, sinkholes, and grottoes and forming underground labyrinths of channels and shafts. The roofs of some of these caverns may eventually fall in, to produce great perpendicular-sided gorges, exposing the water to the surface once more. The magnificent gorges of many of the Dinaric rivers, for example those of the Vrbasmarker, Neretvamarker, Taramarker, and Limmarker, are justly famous. The partially submerged western Dinaric Alps form the numerous islands and harbors along the Croatian coast.

Only along the Dinaric gorges is communication possible across the Karst, and roads and railways tunnel through precipitous cliffs and traverse narrow ledges above roaring torrents. A number of springs and rivers rise in the Dinaric range, including Jadro Spring noted for being the source of water for historic Diocletian's Palace. At the same time, the purity of these rocks is such that the rivers are crystal clear, and there is little soil-making residue. Water quality testing of the Jadro Rivermarker, for example, indicates the low pollutant levels present. Rock faces are often bare of vegetation and glaring white, but what little soil there is may collect in the hollows and support lush vegetation, or yield narrow strips of cultivation.

Human activity

Ruins of fortresses dot the mountainous landscape, evidence of centuries of war and the refuge the Dinaric Alps have provided to various military forces. During the Roman period, the Dinarides provided shelter to the Illyrians resisting Roman conquest of the Balkans, which began with the conquest of the eastern Adriaticmarker coast in the third century BC. Rome conquered the whole of Illyria in 168 BC, but these mountains sheltered Illyrian resistance forces for many years until the area's complete subjugation by 14 AD. More recently, the Ottoman Empire failed to fully subjugate the mountainous areas of Montenegro. In the 20th century, too, the mountains provided favorable terrain for guerrilla warfare, with Yugoslav Partisans organizing one of the most successful Allied resistance movements of World War II.

The area remains underpopulated, and forestry and mining remain the chief economic activities in the Dinaric Alps. The people of the Dinaric Alps are on record as being the tallest in Europe, with a male average height of 185.6 cm (6 feet, 1 inch) and a female average height of 171.0 cm (5 feet 7.3 inches).


The main mountain passes of the Dinaric Alps are:
  • Postojna Gate (Postojnska vrata), Slovenia ( ),
  • Vratnik pass, Croatia ( )
  • Knin Gate (Kninska vrata) (about )
  • Vaganj ( )
  • Ivan-Saddle (Ivan-sedlo), Bosnia-Herzegovina ( )
  • Cemerno, Bosnia-Herzegovina ( )
  • Crkvine, Montenegro ( )
  • Cakor, Montenegro ( )


Some of the mountains within the Dinarides





  • Bijela gora means "White Mountain" in Montenegrin, which is the opposite of "Crna Gora" or "Black Mountain" which is the local name for Montenegro
  • Durmitormarker
  • Orjenmarker




The chain is called Alpet Dinaride in Albanian, Dinarske planine or Dinaridi in Bosnian, Dinarsko gorje or Dinaridi in Croatian, Dinarske planine (Динарске планине) or Dinaridi (Динариди) in Montenegrin and Serbian, and Dinarsko gorstvo in Slovene.

Notes and references



  1. C.Michael Hogan, "Diocletian's Palace", The Megalithic Portal, A. Burnham ed, Oct 6, 2007
  2. Nives Štambuk-Giljanović, The Pollution Load by Nitrogen and Phosphorus In the Jadro River, Springer Netherlands, ISSN 0167-6369 (Print) 1573-2959 (Online), Volume 123, Numbers 1-3 / December, 2006
  3. Average height of adolescents in the Dinaric Alps. They are also reputed to have the tallest males in Europe. Study claims it is not complete as of yet.
  4. [1] Summitpost. Dinaric Alps: Passes in the Dinaric Alps, accessed 11-19-2008

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