Zadar, Croatia isn’t a particularly large city; A few nights of easy enchantment along the waterfront Riva, glowing sunsets which light up the polished white flagstone and you get in to the swing of things pretty quickly. But what makes Zadar special is the fact it is a springboard, a base for exploring the national parks, the archipelago and the hip summer festivals in the vicinity.
Guest blogger Ryan Bennett shares 5 things to do in Zadar…
1. Zadar Old Town
This is the nicest part of Zadar. Great food and nice bars, which are starting to become trendier as the nightlife improves. There are also some good sights to get snap happy over. A tourist info spot in town provides maps to help mark your way around the old sites/churches. However, it is the newer sites that will most likely catch your eye… and ears!
The old town, although connected to the mainland, is also accessible by the Trogirski bridge which gives the illusion that this area is an island. Here you will find the now famous Zadar Sea Organ and the Sun Salutation. The organs are built into the steps and rely on the waves and wind to create their music. Relying on the sun, the Salutation is a huge solar panelled dial which creates a light show at night. Interestingly, they are both designed by the same architect and provide a unique addition to Zadar’s seafront boulevard. From here, soak up the sunset. Alfred Hitchcock even referred to Zadar as having one of the most beautiful sunsets in the world.
Hostels in Zadar
Our top-rated hostel in Zadar is Hostel Elena. Wonderfully located just 30m from the Riva in the Zadar Old Town. It is also near the university so there are plenty of studenty bars and cafes around. They have air-conditioning in the 4 or 6-bed dorms where you have access to your own personal locker. Find other hostels in Zadar.
2. Zadar Festival Circuit
Time your visit to coincide with one of the many summer festivals held in the seaside village of Petrčane, about 20 minutes from Zadar. It all kicks off with The Garden Festival in July, quickly followed by multi-day festivals Soundwave, Electric Elephant and Stop Making Sense. The festival site is located within the grounds of a hotel. It features a Tiki Bar and beach terrace with views of the sea, Barbarella’s Discotheque (a famous 1960s club), a main stage and plenty of chill-out zones made up of sofas dotted among the surrounding pine forest. Book yourself in to one of the infamous boat parties that whisk you and your mates out for daytime sessions with onboard DJs. Far more relaxed than Ibiza and, being out of the Euro zone, it’s cheaper too!
- The Garden Festival
Kicking things off with ‘Back to our Roots’
- Electric Elephant
Hit boutique festival returns for a fourth bash
Over 50 amazing acts showcased over 3 days
- Stop Making Sense (SMS)
3 days & nights of musical anarchy by the sea
3. Plitvice Lakes
A UNESCO World Natural Heritage listed site, it is the oldest national park in Southeast Europe and the largest national park in Croatia. You can visit the Plitvice Lakes from Zadar from the main bus terminal, or you can organise a day tour. Once there, expect breathtaking scenery all year round. The park is filled with natural lakes of almost Technicolour turquoise, lush meadows, meandering paths and waterfalls. Ferries transport you across the lakes and there are many different tracks to walk. You will need a whole day here. Peak summer day tickets cost €15 and include transport on the bus service and the electric boat ferry.
4. Kornati Island National Park
You survived a festival boat party and now want to unwind beat free! The archipelago around Zadar offers some of the most beautiful sailing stretches and you should not miss the chance to get out on the water. Sit back and chill, get a tan, let the crew rustle you up a lunch and soak up the sights while sailing the stunning Dalmatian coast. “On the last day of the Creation God desired to crown his work, and thus created the Kornati Islands out of tears, stars and breath” – testament to the beauty of some of the now uninhabited 147 islands, although the establishment of vineyards, olive groves and grazing land means a few visitors. Truly a sailor’s paradise. Boat tours depart from Zadar marina daily.
5. Krka Waterfalls
If you are tight on time you might have to choose between the Krka Waterfalls and the Plitvice Lakes. Krka has two main upsides: it is closer to Zadar and you can swim in this national park. There is a larger section roped off that you can enjoy, protecting you from the heavy cascading falls. It’s easy to walk around and it is also a breeding ground for over 40 varieties of butterfly – an amazing sight if you come at the right time of year.
There are seven waterfalls; Skradinski buk has an average flow of 55 cubic metres of water a second. Home to 222 species of bird, Krka is also one of the most important ornithological areas in Europe and at the hawk training centre, you can catch demonstrations with the magnificent birds. One of the best ways to get to the park is to drive to Sibenik. Here you catch a boat up through the Saint Joseph channel and arrive about an hour and a half later. Alternatively, get to Skradin where boats run every hour to the national park. Take your swimming costume and some good walking shoes. Summer peak tickets cost about €10.