Visiting Željava Airbase – The Guide

Visiting Željava Airbase – The Guide

Željava Airbase is the urban exploration gem hidden on the border between Croatia and Bosna and Hercegovina. I visited Željava in summer. I described my trip in previous articles. However in this article I focus only on important information which is good to have before entering the base. This is the ultimate guide how to safely visit Željava airbase.

History

 

Before visiting Željava airbase, it is good to know something about the history of this place. Žejlava airbase was a Yugoslavian top secret underground military facility. Its official codename was Objekat 505. It was one of the largest underground military airports in Europe. The primary purpose of the base was to establish a long-term radar early warning system and to provide the strategy defense center for the defense of the Yugoslavia.

The base was constructed between 1948 and 1968. The construction was kept in upmost secrecy. The budged exceeded 6 billion of dollars, which made it one of the most expensive military project in Europe. Željava airport was situated in the center of the whole military network of airports, radar outposts and other military facilities. This pair of Yugoslavia was set to play crucial part in the defence of the country.

This military facility was the pride of the Yugoslavian Army. It has four exits, all of which were able to launch battle-ready jets. The base was constructed to sustain a direct hit by a nuclear missile with the power of the Nagasaki bomb (20-kt). The population of the base was 1000 men. The whole size of the underground is around 3.5 square kilometres which makes the Željava the largest underground military airbase in former Yugoslavia and one of the largest in Europe.

Željava airbase during its shinig years in 1970

The base was designed to protect country against foreign invasion. Its designer does not take to account the possibility of civil war. During the retreat of Yugoslavian National Army from this region, commanders decided that this secret facility could not fall to hand of any military fraction fighting in civil war. They have followed an old order issued by Marshal Tito himself to completely destroy the base before abandoning it. The massive amount of charges was deployed. Even such huge destruction power was not able to destroy the base completely. The base tunnels stayed standing, but the underground burned from the inside, destroying its functionality. Now the base lies there silently as a remnant of the former greatness of Yugoslavia, one of the most powerful countries in Europe, which was brutally torn apart in a bloody civil war.

How to get there

 

        

 

Željava airbase is hidden inside of the mountain on the border between Croatia in Bosnia. The facility is close to Plitvicke lakes – a system of crystal clear lagoons and lakes. One of the most visited spots in Croatia. Whole area is very touristic. If you plan to go in the main season, I advise you to book an accommodation in advance. The budget accommodation can be found in Korenica. I stayed there in lovely hostel with really friendly stuff.

The best way how to get to Željava airbase, is by own car or motorbike. The asphalt road leads directly to the airbase runway and underground entrances. When driving, you should stay on the road because of the  high mine thread in the area.  From Korenica, just follow the main road heading to Plitvice. In the small village Prijeboj you need to turn right and take the road D504 which is going to Bosnia. The last stop before the base is Ličko Petrovo Selo. In this village, turn right and follow the road until you reach the runway.

If you don’t have own vehicle, the only way to get to the base is to try your luck and hitchhike to Ličko Petrovo Selo and then walk approximately 7 km. I described how I hitchhiked to the airbase in my previous article.

 

How to prepare & Safety

 

Visiting Željava airbase can be exciting experience, the atmosphere of the base gives you feeling that you exploring forgotten vault from the Fallout universum. However even minor accident could turn to a disaster if you are not prepared. Here is the minimum equipment you need to enter Željava underground:

  • Two good sources of light – Željava airbase is very dark place. When you are inside, there is a zero visibility. Dark walls of the base seem to swallow all the light from my torch, plus there is a lot of dust in the air. Thus even with good light the visibility is not great. Having two source of light is really crucial. If one light fails, you need to have a backup. Otherwise you would have been left completely blind in the darkness, with only option: to wait until someone comes to rescue you. 
  • Jacket – Be aware that even during the summer hot days, deeper inside of the base is very cold and humid. If you don’t want to get sick, bring a jacket.

 

  • Respirator –  The air in the base is not healthy. The explosions and the following fire polluted the air with the poisonous dust. The dust contains carcinogenic PCB spiced with radioactive Americanium (a remain of the smoke detectors). The respirator is necessary, if you don’t want to risk the lung cancer.
  • Good Shoes – The floor is full of rubber, sometimes also with sharp steel waste. Shoes with the thick sole are necessary.
  • Map – Here is the map of the base. Print it or save it to your phone. With a map you will feel much self-confident in exploring the Željava airbase.

 

Inside of the base

 

Here are few things you should care about when you are inside of the Željava Airbase.

  • Watch your step! In some places there are holes in the floor, approximately half meter long.
  • In some parts, the ceiling is damaged from explosives, be really careful when you walk beneath the damaged ceiling, the worst part is in in the middle of the “star” looking complex of the rooms.
  • Take regular breaks on the fresh air, especially if you plan to stay in the base for long time. The air is heavily polluted, you can become feeling dizzy.
  • There is one entrance from the Bosnia side. You will cross the border illegally by taking this exit which could get you to serious trouble with the border patrol. So I would advise you to stay inside of the base. Also be aware of the mine thread in the area outside of the base.
  • If you go alone, leave a notice in your hotel or hostel that you are going to explore the base. If something would happen to you and you don’t come back, they would send for help.

I hope you will find this information helpful. I needed to research this information on different blogs, forums etc. Stay safe and enjoy your trip! AND…Don’t forget to read about my urbex adventure in Željava airbase! Here you can find more details about the place 🙂

Here are some photos from inside:

An Electric generator fueled by kerosene
Side tunnels lead to rooms full of concrete rubble.
A fragile sealing looks like it can collapse in any moment.
A small wreck of the truck in Zeljava airbase.

 

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