Legend of the 3 bura: Croatia’s groundhog

Ovčice beach in Split, Croatia
Ovčice beach in Split, Croatia

A wind called bura commonly occurs along the Adriatic coast of Croatia. Bura is an intensely cold northeast wind that chills you to the bone even if the sun is shining. If you have ever met a strong bura, we are sure you haven’t forgotten it.

Strong bura can be dangerous for everyone, from people to transport. Debris, furniture, and even scooters can be tossed around like paper planes. Ferries along the coast are sometimes stopped during bura. It can be perilous for boats and other vessels due to the large sea waves caused by this wind, resulting in accidents. Roads that cut through mountain passes and bridges have been known to close as well for everyone’s safety.

Bura also causes sea smoke. Sea smoke occurs when the wind tears off tiny droplets from the top of the waves. They are dangerous for fishermen because they can make breathing difficult. Sea smoke is most common below Velebit Mountain.

In this post, we cover:

Let the bura carry us…

Legend of the 3 bura: Croatia’s groundhog

Croatia’s coastal wind culture

The wind is very important to locals living along Croatia’s coastline, from Senj in the north to Dubrovnik in the south. There are many winds, but the two most important are bura and jugo. They are the strongest winds on the coast. If you’re not familiar with jugo, then you can read our other post here.

In general, winds along Croatia’s coastline appear depending on the weather. Common southern winds include jugo, oštro, and lebić. These winds are warm and humid. Common northern winds are bura, tramontana, and levanat. They are mossy, cold, and dry. Burin and maestral are common during stable summer weather.

Bura, in particular, is a favorite of Dalmatians due to its many benefits. It clears up a hazy sky and blows away humidity, leaving crisp, clean air. There is a saying in Dalmatia that “no bura, no good pršut”. In the hinterland, people will hang meat on trees during bura, as it is best for drying.

Where does bura blow in Croatia?

At the Adriatic coast, bura most commonly occurs:

  • Around Novigrad
  • Around Split, especially in Klis, Omiš, and Vruja
  • Around the estuary and bay of Krka River in the area of Šibenik – view a guide here
  • Around the estuary of the river Neretva
  • Below the mountain of Biokovo
  • Below the mountain of Velebit – view a guide here
  • In Istria
  • In the City of Senj
  • Žuljana Bay at the Pelješac peninsula

Bura below Velebit can blow at speeds of over 150 kilometers per hour. The strongest gusts could not be measured with a manual anemometer because they exceeded the device’s limit of 200 kilometers per hour.

[Read: Visiting Northern Velebit National Park]

Croatia’s 3 bura of March

March is one of the windiest months on Croatia’s coastline. In the area of Split, bura occurs very often in the first and third weeks of March. It is very rare to occur in the second week of March for seemingly no good reason.

There is a long-standing belief that a very strong bura appears 3 times during March. This phenomenon is called tri marčane bure which means three bura of March.

Tri marčane bure should appear every year on certain dates, depending on the exact part of the Adriatic. These winds usually occur on March 7, March 17, and March 27. On central Adriatic islands, they usually appear on March 7, March 17, and March 21.

It is said that winter is not over until after all three bura blow through. Some bura that happen in March are considered too small to be counted. They only count if they are big bura – and you’ll know it when it happens.

Generally speaking, March is a transitional month between winter and spring. The weather in March can be very unstable and unpredictable in Croatia. This month is sometimes very warm, and on occasion, tri marčane bure don’t appear at all.

Why does marčana bura appear?

Low air pressure is common during the cold part of the year on the Adriatic coast and the Mediterranean. During this time, the Mediterranean is warmer than Eurasia. This is why cyclones are most common between October and April on the Adriatic coast.

The Adriatic Sea cools faster than the rest of the Mediterranean because it is closed on three sides and shallower. This makes the Adriatic Sea one of the coldest parts of the Mediterranean during January and February. These months are also the coldest in the Mediterranean overall. The cyclone slows down, then the anticyclone can bring stabler weather with winter sun.

During March, the days become longer and brighter. The cyclone appears again and brings cold continental air with it. This cyclone brings this cold air towards the south, over the mountains, and down towards the sea. This is how bura is made.

What is planinska kapa?

Bura that appears during the anticyclone is followed by a phenomenon called planinska kapa (mountain hat). Planinska kapa occurs when cold air rises along the northern side of the mountain. This cools down the moisture in the air. The water vapor then liquefies, and white clouds appear above higher mountains.

These white clouds can swallow mountaintops, making them disappear completely. Planinska kapa is a sign that a strong bura is coming. Planinska kapa is very common in the mountains of Velebit, Kamešnica, and Biokovo.

Reliefs of Master Radovan in Trogir, Croatia

In the city of Trogir in middle Dalmatia, there is a cathedral of Sveti Lovro (Saint Lawrence) built in the 13th century. Its west portal is called Radovanov portal (Radovan’s portal), which is a Romanesque-gothic masterpiece of majstor Radovan (master Radovan) from 1240. The portal is the most important medieval portal in the eastern Adriatic and in this part of Europe.

The portal shows reliefs that represent the weather characteristics of December, January, February, March, and April. The weather of March is shown with the most detail of them all.

There is a young man in a Roman military dress whose cloak flutters in the wind. Eol, a Greek god of wind, is also portrayed, and his curly hair is shown fluttering in the wind. From Eol’s horn, windy flames come out towards the young man’s cloak. This relief definitely showcases bura including the three buras of March. According to this, majstor Radovan could be called Croatia’s first climatologist.

Learn more about majstor Radovan and Trogir in our article on UNESCO monuments of culture and nature in Croatia available here.

View our other ecology posts

Tri marčane bure: Mit ili klimatološka pravilnost? by Crometeo

Please note: Information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal or financial advice in any form. Croatian laws and bureaucratic rules often change, and each personal case is individual, so different rules may apply. For legal advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. For financial advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian tax advisor or accountant.

Sharing is Caring:

We only send one email a week on Tuesdays. And no spam, we don't like that either!

Subscribe to the Expat in Croatia Newsletter and get our FREE Croatia Starter Kit.
I'm already subscribed.