Zadar in Northern Dalmatia is about 400 km’s northwest from Dubrovnik. My bus trip took nearly 8 hours with a few stops and border crossings into Bosnia along the way. I was really looking forward to visiting Zadar as I had read some great reviews and knew it would be far less touristy than Dubrovnik. It also had more to offer by way of things of interest to me – like island tours and national parks etc
Believe it or not I was also looking forward to staying in a hostel again . In Dubrovnik my 3 night stay in a single room meant that it was far less social than what I am now accustomed to. The trade-off between a good nights rest and social interaction – I’ll now opt for social interaction 99% of the time.
So shortly after checking into my hostel in Zadar I met a lovely girl named Sarah. She was in Croatia as part of her US university grant and was studying poetry. She was travelling around the country finding inspiration for her work and maintaining a blog. We walked around old town together and visited the famous Sea Organ which is a man-made organ with the motion of the waves and 35 pipes to create a musical soundscape. It was pretty cool to see, especially with a nice sunset.
Later on, we went and visited a bar that had positive reviews called ‘The Garden’. Opened by 2 members of the band UB40 it was beautiful and relaxed as well as practically deserted as peak tourist season was over. After our beer, we went and had dinner at an italian restaurant recommended by the lady at our hostel. It had been such a long time since I actually sat down to a beautiful dinner, a bottle of local red wine and most importantly some great company.
The next day after a nice sleep in, I decided to take the ferry over to Preko Island for a lazy afternoon in the sunshine. The town was so quiet which made it so easy to absorb the mediterranean atmosphere by walking along the coastline past the Croatian holiday homes and their magnificent fruit gardens. I was so tempted to pick some grapes along the way but decided against it in fear of upsetting the locals.
During my walk I stumbled across a tiny local restaurant just past the fishing village. Once again I had the place to myself and opted for the prime table overlooking the water’s edge with the fishing trawlers in the foreground. This is now one of my most favourite lunches thus far with a simple serving of fresh seafood, crusty bread and cold beer.
I had a small dilemma for my last day in Zadar – choose between the Kornati Islands National Park tour or visit the stunning waterfalls and lakes of the Plitvice National Park. I opted to avoid the crowds and take a tour boat out to Kornati Islands. I did my research on the tour companies and chose the ‘Blue Lagoon’ boat which had some good reviews.
I knew I was in for a long day when offered a shot of home-brew rakija immediately after boarding the boat at 8am. Needless to say I had the shot but also met a fun girl from London called Lorraine. The Croatian host of the tour asked me where I was from when boarding and then immediately paired me up with Lorraine as we were both from ‘commonwealth’ countries.
The 2 hours it took to arrive to the Kornati Islands were probably not as stunning as I was expecting. The landscape was far more arid and less green or lush as I had imagined and the minor chance that we’d see a pod dolphins along the way did not eventuate. But regardless I was having some great conversation and that continued as we also stopped at another island for lunch on the way back. Our table was once again hand-picked by our tour host which meant meeting lots of cool people from around the world. The home cooked fresh fish and vegetables were a smash hit as well.
But probably the highlight of my 3 days in Zadar was the 14-metre cliff jump out in the Kornati Islands National Park. After being the macho man and talking myself up for the upcoming cliff jump, for the first time I experienced the feeling of being weak at the knees when I looked down over the edge of the cliff. I literally had to sit down as I was getting really wobbly – huge thanks to Lorraine for capturing this on my video camera without any instruction from me at all.
I had a great time in Zadar. It is well worth visiting and should be on your itinerary if you intend on travelling to Croatia.