Željava airbase – Croatia’s top secret?
If you’ve ever read any of my articles from the urbex blog, you’re already familiar with my obsession with urban exploration, abandoned spaces, and the stories they tell us. Speaking of this, Željava airbase falls into some special category, even though I’ve never actually visited it, until now.
It was a beautiful Sunday, and like most bikers, we decided to spend the day riding. I let Neven organize the trip, but at the very moment when we turned towards Ličko Petrovo Selo, it immediately became clear to me where we were going.
Željava already is a le-gen-dary place among Croatian and foreign bikers and more-or-less every biker has a photo of his motorbike in front of the entrance to the tunnel. Not to mention that everyone has tested the speed limit of their motorbike on the runway near the tunnels. Everyone but me.
For those of you who may not know, Željava airbase, also known as Object 505, is a huge abandoned underground airport and a former base of the Yugoslav army. It is located on the border between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, so you should be careful not to accidentally wander into Bosnia.
Or into a minefield. No joke here.
It was built in 1968 and destroyed in 1992, when the Yugo army withdrew from this place and made sure that no trace of their existence remained. Oh, the irony. Fortunately, not everything is completely destroyed, so you can still see certain parts of the tunnel, the runway and people stealing iron, and maybe some immigrants.
Considering the rather specific attitude to history in Croatia, especially for the period of Yugoslavia, it is not surprising that Željava is no longer cared for, and was left to be destroyed by time, weather and the above-mentioned characters.
However, thanks to enthusiasts such as primarily bikers, and then urbex lovers like the guys from Croatia Infiltration, Željava is still a destination that attracts a huge number of visitors.
Željava has long been THE urbex destination for me, which by chance I had not visited until now. I am usually fascinated by stories and traces of the past in abandoned buildings more than a normal person should be, but it turned out that Željava really is something special to me. The Yugo-architecture, the mystique, the story and the sheer grandeur of this place are different from anything else I have seen.
We only explored the tunnels near the entrance, because for better exploration we would need much brighter lights than the ones we had. Of course, we rode our bikes on the runway and it is really unbelievable the condition it is in after all these years and events (FYI, roads that are several years old have patches every two meters). It’s really an experience to twist the throttle, even though I was moderate as always.
We met a cool guy Kristijan, who came to explore this place on his own.
When talking about Željava airbase, we should not forget about the good ol’ Douglas C-47 or Dakota, which welcomes you near the entrance to the complex. It is not too lonely, since almost every visitor who goes to the airport stops to see it Until a few years ago, there were two more Thunderjets here, but they were moved to the Aviation Museum in Otočac, so Dakota remained the proud guard of Željava. After all, what kind of an airport would it be without a plane!
After this visit, the only thing I can say is – I can’t wait to go again. I wanna come here prepared, with the lights and everything, to be able to explore this urbex gem properly!