Benkovac is located where the plain of Ravni kotari and the karstic plateau of Bukovica meet, 20km from the town of Biograd na Moru and 30km from Zadar. The Zagreb-Split motorway and Zadar-Knin railway pass through the town. It borders the municipalities of Novigrad, Posedarje, Obrovac, Lišane Ostrovičke, Kistanje and Stankovci.
According to the census of 2001 the municipality has 9,786 inhabitants of which 90.4% are Croats and 7.5% Serbs. Before the war Serbs made up about 53% of the population and Croats about 47%, though they held only 18% of the jobs in local government, which led to high tensions in the 1990s. During the war almost all of the Serbs left and after the war many Bosnian Croat refugees settled the area. Due to the return of minor number of Serbs in recent years today it is estimated that the municipality's population is currently around 12,500.
The population of Benkovac itself is 2,622 (census 2001), the rest is distributed in 38 villages surrounding it.
The first traces of human life in the Benkovac area were found around the village of Smilčić that belonged to the Danilo culture. Before Roman conquest the area was inhabited by the Illyrian tribe of Liburnians. During the Roman Civil war the Liburnians sided Caesar. The Romans mention the following Liburnian settlements Nedinum (Nadin), Carinium (Karin), Varvaria (Bribir) and Asseria (Podgrađe). In 7th century the area was settled by Croats. The area of Benkovac was at the crossroads of four Croatian župa's - Novljanska, Sidraška, Bribirska and Karinska. Near the village of Šopot an inscription from the 9th century was found and mentions Branimir as a Croatian Duke.
In 1409 King Ladislas of Naples sold his rights of Dalmatia to Venice and the Benkovac area became a border region. New fortresses around the border were built - Korlat, Kličevica, Polača, and behind them Benković i Perušić. The fortress of Benković was named after the family of nobles that built it and the city of Benkovac was established. In 1527 Benkovac became part of the Ottoman Empire. It was soon settled by Croats-Bunjevci and Orthodox Vlahs. In 1683 Benkovac became part of the Venice Republic.
During the Croatian War of Independence, Benkovac was a center of unrest and hostilities between Croats and Serbs. On March 17, 1990, tensions erupted when groups of local Serbs rebeld against the decision of the Croatian government to disarm local police in which Serbs were most of the employes. During that time Croatian government continued arming police force and paramilitary in villages with Croatian mayority. Tensions continued to boil, and five months later, Benkovac was included in the illegally created Serb republic, Republic of Serbian Krajina. Five years later on August 5, Benkovac was retaken by the Croatian army during Operation Storm.
Economy is based on agriculture especially viticulture and exploitation of wider known Benkovac building stone. Benkovac has also annual cattle fare and vinary.
Benkovačko Selo, Biljane Gornje, Biljane Donje, Bjelina, Brgud, Bruška, Buković, Bulić, Vukšić, Dobra Voda, Donji Karin, Lepuri, Zagrad, Zapužane, Islam Grčki, Kašić, Kolarina, Korlat, Kožlovac, Kula Atlagića, Lisičić, Lišane Tinjske, Medviđa, Miranje, Nadin, Perušić Benkovački, Podgrađe, Podlug, Popovići, Pristeg, Prović, Radašinovci, Raštević, Rodaljice, Smilčić, Tinj, Ceranje Gornje, Ceranje Donje, Šopot.