The Dinaric Alps or Dinarides form a mountain chain in Southern Europe, spanning areas of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Albania and Montenegro. They extend for 645 kilometres (401 mi) along the coast of the Adriatic Sea (northwest-southeast), from the Julian Alps in the northwest down to the Šar-Korab massif, where the mountain direction changes to north-south. The highest mountain of the Dinaric Alps is Mount Prokletije, located on the border of eastern Montenegro and northern Albania, with the peak called "Lake Crest" at 2,692 metres (8,832 ft).
The Dinaric Alps are the fifth most rugged and extensively mountainous area of Europe after the Caucasus Mountains, Alps, Pyrenees and Scandinavian Mountains. 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.
The Mesozoic limestone forms a very distinctive region of the Balkans, notable for features such as the Karst, which has given its name to all such terrains of limestone eroded by groundwater. The Quaternary 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 Durmitor, Orjen and Prenj have glacial valleys and moraines as low as 600 m (1,969 ft). 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.
Human activity :
Ruins of fortresses dot the mountainous landscape, evidence of centuries of war and the refuge the Dinaric Alps have provided to various armed 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 Adriatic coast in the 3rd 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 favourable terrain for guerrilla warfare, with Yugoslav Partisans organising 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 the world, with a male average height of 185.6 cm (6 ft 1.1 in) and a female average height of 171.0 cm (5 ft 7.3 in).
The main mountain passes of the Dinaric Alps are:
- Postojna Gate (Postojnska vrata), Slovenia (606 m/1,988 ft),
- Vratnik pass, Croatia (850 m/2,789 ft)
- Knin Gate (Kninska vrata) (about 700 m/2,297 ft)
- Vaganj (1,137 m/3,730 ft)
- Ivan-Saddle (Ivan-sedlo), Bosnia-Herzegovina (967 m/3,173 ft)
- Cemerno, Bosnia-Herzegovina (1,329 m/4,360 ft)
- Crkvine, Montenegro (1,045 m/3,428 ft)
- Cakor, Montenegro (1,849 m/6,066 ft)