Croatians hate it when vacationers come to Croatia, ignore its historical past, meals, and tradition, solely to ask “So, uh, the place’s all of the Sport of Thrones stuff?”
So, in fact the primary query I requested after I bought to Zadar was “The place’s all of the Sport of Thrones stuff?”
My tour information’s response: “Most of that’s in Dubrovnik. Right here in Zadar, we’re low key and never filled with vacationers.”
That turned out to be a blessing. With a inhabitants of simply 87,000, Zadar felt extra intimate and native. However what it lacked in Sport of Thrones bragging rights, it made up for in livability, clear seashores, a handy location, and streets blissfully freed from crowds.
Located alongside the Dalmatian coast, a handy 3-hour drive (or 3.5 bus trip) from the capital of Zagreb, Zadar was our excellent house base to discover the nation’s most well-known nationwide parks: Plitvice, Paklenica, Krka, and Kornati.
And since I’m a complete neophiliac and have the eye span of an ADHD goldfish, I used to be additionally grateful for Zadar’s proximity to many islands. For less than 50 KN every (round $7 USD) spherical journey to take the Jadrolinija ferry, we may go to a special island every single day and never get bored.
In some way, there have been so many issues to do in Croatia, we managed to go to solely 2 islands throughout our time in Zadar:
We arrived by ferry on the Preko pier on Ugljan island and headed straight for the Tvrđava Sveti Mihovil, often known as Fort Saint Michael, with unimaginable views of the ocean and different islands:
Now, essentially the most environment friendly and handy method to get there was to drive for 10 minutes. However as a result of that was method too simple (plus, there have been no rental automobiles accessible on the island for the day), we opted to hike there. Good factor we introduced a lot of water as a result of we desperately wanted it.
After the two hours spherical journey hike, the views and the train have been completely price it, and I felt an awesome sense of accomplishment after I bought to the highest.
Surprisingly, it was much less of a fort and extra of an deserted TV station with graffti in every single place:
I even left a little bit Easter egg so that you can discover in the event you ever go there (let me know within the feedback in the event you spot it).
It was additionally enjoyable to return to Zadar, have a look at the how far we climbed, and really feel the accomplishment coursing via our veins.
Simply make sure that in the event you go to this fort that you just watch out the place you step, as a result of there aren’t any guard rails. So in the event you don’t need to plunge off a cliff, be careful! So far as off the crushed locations to go, this undoubtedly suits the invoice.
There have been many little seaside villages and seashores we may’ve visited on Dugi Otok, however ferry employees really useful Božava, as a result of it had sufficient cafes and motels the place we may chill and do some writing.
Seems this hike was much more off the crushed path that the fort we visited on Preko, Ugljan, as a result of there wasn’t a single different individual on the hike in the course of the 3 hours that we have been there:
The views have been unimaginable, and we discovered this bench to have lunch on, and this church on the prime of the hill.
Coming again down, the path was a bit rocky and steep, however we survived.
We additionally discovered this 4-star resort with infinity pool, which was closed for the season, however had left their pool open for anybody to swim in and their chairs and tables deserted on the patio, which we used as a little bit outside writing café.
The Sea Organ
One of the vital distinctive issues you’ll be able to go to in Zadar is the ocean organ. Designed by architect Nikola Bašić, it’s a collection of steps that lead into the ocean, with pipes beneath that makes harmonic whistling noises when the waves push air via the pipes.
This distinctive wave-generated music mixed with a wide ranging sundown is why Alfred Hitchcock declared Zadar as having the world’s finest sundown.
Right here’s a video we took at nightfall. Determine for your self.
If artwork married engineering and had a child, this sea organ could be it. Not solely is it lovely, it’s additionally practical.
Greeting to the Solar Monument
One other science+artwork set up additionally designed by Nikola Bašić, it is a collection of big solar-powered discs that soak up power in the course of the day after which turns into disco mania at evening.
They’ve one large disc representing the solar, and small discs positioned round it representing the planets.
For individuals who are world education their youngsters, this gives the right astronomy lesson.
Outdated City and St. Anastasia Cathedral Bell Tower
Quaint and historic previous city sits inside town partitions on a peninsula related to the remainder of Zadar. And because it’s surrounded on three-sides by ocean, it’s excellent for chilling out, grabbing a cappuccino, a gelato, or perhaps a tea with a shot of vodka (yup, that’s a factor).
You may go go to the Roman Discussion board, discover the Archeological Museum, go to the Cathedral of Anastasia, or climb the bell tower (simply be sure to have a abdomen for heights).
All these issues are enjoyable, however by far, our favorite factor to do was attending to the previous metropolis by way of the Barkajol.
Since we have been staying in a Dwelling Change within the northwest a part of Zadar, a few 30 min stroll away from downtown, our host instructed us to take the Barkajol, which might deliver down our commute to only 15 minutes! (in the event you’re focused on testing house trade, you need to use my affiliate hyperlink to rise up to 1200 visitor factors for signing up). We have been additionally instructed to make use of “Bolt”, the European equal of Uber, which helped us keep away from getting ripped off by Croatian cabs. YAY! Native ideas!
I had no concept what that meant when he mentioned it, however we quickly found that Barkajol means the “rowing boatmen of Zadar.” From 7 AM to 9 PM, every single day, the hardworking boatmen take passengers in a small rowboat from the tip of the lengthy pier to the ferry port proper outdoors the previous metropolis.
The space is simply 76 metres and takes simply 1 minute to cross. The fee is a minuscule 6 KN per individual (or $0.84 USD/$1 CAD) every method. In case you have been to stroll all the way in which round and cross by way of the pedestrian bridge, it might take you 25 further minutes. Simply be sure to deliver money.
Apparently, it is a 3000-year-old custom handed down from father to son for generations!
This was the one nationwide park simply accessible by way of a 45min bus trip from downtown Zadar and it didn’t disappoint! There was a park entry charge of 40KN ($5.60 USD/ $7 CAD) per individual and it was properly price it.
We noticed a lot of rock climbers whereas we have been there and the view close to the highest jogged my memory of elements of Fürenalp mountain in Engelberg Switzerland. You might see snow-capped mountains within the distance and the path wasn’t too crowded. An ideal place to hike and delight in nature.
Seems, this was truly one among their “meh sights,” as I used to be instructed that Plitvice was method higher, and there have been numerous different extra lovely locations.
Briefly, Croatia’s pure magnificence is breathtaking. So breathtaking the truth is, that after I instructed Croatians how attractive their nation is, their response was, “we all know.”
I simply want all of the Sport of Thrones followers hadn’t ruined Cut up and Dubrovnik with crowds and vacationer costs (you’ll pay 2X the costs in comparison with the inland cities like Zagreb).
In extra to all of the sights, Croatia additionally has a finest saved secret that I wouldn’t have identified about if it weren’t for my Dwelling Change host.
Now, as you all know, as a easy nation bumpkin, I’m not large on fancy meals. Park me on the aspect of the highway on a plastic stool, feed me a $2 bowl of piping scorching Guay Jab and I’m joyful as a seal. In truth, I get much more pleasure from that $2 bowl than a $200 caviar tasting menu.
That mentioned, I do have one weak point.
That shit is so good I might eat it straight out of a sweaty health club sock. However at $2000/lb, it’s not precisely sustainable for a protracted retirement.
Or so I believed.
Because it seems, there’s a magical place in Croatia referred to as Istria, which is its truffle capital. A heart-shaped peninsula situated within the northwestern a part of the nation, Istria’s truffles are so plentiful, you’ll be able to even be a part of a truffle searching tour! Even in the event you don’t go to Istria, truffles may be had all around the nation for an distinctive value.
And for this reason, in Zadar, we have been capable of get 2 full meals, with octopus, monkfish, pasta, and massive honking slices of black truffle, with 2 massive craft beers for the low low value of 320 KN (or $45 USD/$58 CAD) tax and tip included! The restaurant was referred to as “4 Kantuna” they usually served, fingers down, the most effective meal we had in Croatia. Mamma Mia restaurant was one other favorite, and each have been really useful by our host.
In case you ordered a truffle dish in North America, it might set you again at the very least $100 USD if no more, only for one dish! So, with truffle costs like that, clearly, we couldn’t afford NOT to eat truffles in Croatia.
When in Croatia, attempt the Maraska cherry liqueur, the Fritule (a festive doughnut ball that jogged my memory of Canadian timbits however lighter and tastier), and the Ćevapi, grilled minced meat sausage.
One thing that stunned me about Croatia was the dearth of trains (uncommon for Europe) and surprisingly costly public transportation. A spherical journey from Zadar to Cut up by way of bus value us 418 KN ($58 USD/$75 CAD/€61), which isn’t low cost by European requirements, contemplating how we paid simply £4 to get from Amsterdam to Brussels on Megabus.
Additionally, don’t use cabs in Croatia. They are going to cost you 3-4x the native fare in the event you’re a vacationer. For instance, it ought to solely value you 28 KN ($4 USD/$5 CAD/€4) for a ten min trip from the bus station, however the taxi driver wished 120 KN ($17 USD/$21 CAD/€18)! Ridiculous. Keep away from taxis in Croatia just like the plague and use “Bolt” as an alternative, which is their model of Uber or Uber.
And for a number of the hottest sights, like Plitvice Nationwide Park, you’ll be able to’t even get to it and not using a automotive or a tour until it’s excessive season (which is worst time to journey to Croatia). You’ll need to drive.
Fortunately, driving was simple in Croatia and Wanderer bought to make use of the model spanking new stick shift expertise he discovered in Azores. Plus, the handbook automotive was 1/2 the value of automated (we bought the rental automotive from a rental firm referred to as Pop Automobile situated in previous city Zadar for 350KN per day ($49 USD/$63 CAD/€51). There have been cheaper automotive rental locations on the airport however that they had horrible evaluations). And regardless of stalling a couple of occasions, the locals have been so good they by no means honked him as soon as, simply patiently waited till we began rolling once more. Croatians are tremendous good.
Enjoyable reality. In response to locals, Dalmatian coast Croatians are very totally different from metropolis folks Croatians. Zadarians think about themselves “easy-going Italians,” whereas the Zagrebians are “Germans who’re too severe and work too laborious.”
Ooohh-Ok. I believed they have been all Croatians, however whatevs.
Right here’s how a lot we spent in Zadar:
|Class||Price in USD/couple per day||Price in CAD/couple per day||Notes|
|Lodging||$7.95||$10.25||Since we used Dwelling Change, the price was virtually free. We simply paid with visitor factors + the $175 USD/yr charge, which labored out to be solely $7.95 USD per day for the 19 days we stayed on the host’s trip property. Any subsequent stays going ahead can be fully free and exchanged with visitor factors.|
|Meals||$27.29||$35.20 ($23.82 for consuming out, $11.38 for groceries )||Consuming out in Croatia can get costly, particularly alongside the Dalmatian coast, however since we did numerous hikes the place there have been no eating places alongside the path, we ended up bringing our personal cooked meals. The splurges occurred at 4 Katuna, Mamma Mia, and one other steak restaurant however averaged out over 19 days, the price ended up being pretty low.|
|Transportation||$15.81||$20.40||Transportation ended up being surprisingly costly in Croatia. I’m used to taking buses for $5 and subways for $2 in Europe, so it was a little bit of a shock that there have been no trains and sparse public transportation. Buses have been costly and really crowded. In case you didn’t get there half-hour earlier than the bus leaves, you principally seemingly gained’t get an excellent seat. Even handbook automobiles value 2X the value of Azores to lease. I believe this was the only greatest draw back of Croatia. The upside is that the ferries have been low cost and dependable.|
|Leisure||$6.47||$8.34||The island hopping was just about free since you solely needed to pay for the ferry. Nationwide parks like Plitvice have been shockingly costly however different sights just like the bell tower and cathedrals in Zadar have been low cost. General, we have been capable of finding a lot of free sights and hikes that saved us busy. So I might say leisure isn’t costly.|
|Different||$0.95||$1.23||Apart from a couple of toiletries, we didn’t have to purchase the rest in Zadar. We nonetheless had knowledge left over on our SIM card so we didn’t have to recharge it.|
|Whole||$58.47||$75.42||As a result of we have been capable of principally keep at no cost with HomeExchange, we ended up spending the identical quantity day by day in Zadar as we did in Chiang Mai, Thailand! You’d in all probability spend nearer to $90-$125 USD/couple/day in the event you needed to pay for an Airbnb as an alternative of house trade.|
Croatia is just too large and intense for one publish, so subsequent time I’ll inform you about my love/hate relationship with Cut up and Plitvice (which was virtually too lovely to be actual, and but nonetheless managed to piss me off). And after that, the Croatian Homeland Conflict tour in Zagreb that taught me about their Yugoslavian historical past, which is eerily just like what’s occurring in Ukraine proper now.