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What to see in Zadar – Croatia

Enough with the usual tourist locations! Shall we try something new and different? Then we can go to Croatia and choose a beautiful city: Zadar!

Already arriving there by ferry, we can be quite happy with our choice as it was indeed the right one: you are welcome into a unique town!! To discover the city, we can start with  its port which is located on a peninsula – and in the while look for a host of islands and islets, between the blue sea and sky! Here nature is really outstanding  and it very generously offers its immeasurable beauty to the eye of the travellers.

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Photo CC-BY-SA 2.5 Böhringer Friedrich

Zadar is located in the central part of the Adriatic Sea, more or less in front of Ancona. It is, therefore, very easy to reach by ferry. Zadar is a very important city in Croatia, and more specifically, of Dalmatia. Its geographical location is a tricky one:  if it is true that it was strategic and important, it also was the cause of the constant invasions of other peoples, starting since ancient times. The positive side of this turbulent past is that you can admire in the city today many interesting monuments which bear evidence of the different cultures.

The Romans bequeathed a fantastic road network; in VII century the city became the capital of the Byzantine province of Dalmatia, with a Roman Forum – it was built in IX century the Church of San Donato, in the Byzantine style, too. It was originally called the Church of Holy Trinity, then, in honour of Bishop Donato (the city already in IX century was the “seat” of the bishopric), it took its present name.

The Venetians, who arrived later, built the Church of San Francesco and the Church of San Domenico in the Gothic style.
There were later various political and historical changes, until 1991 when Croatia became an independent Republic.

Zadar_UniversitàPublic domain

From a cultural point of view, Zadar has nothing to envy to other best-known cities: there are many museums, monuments and churches of different styles, the walls with antique doors and, especially in summer, the cultural events that draw in many foreign tourists but also the other Croatians. Among these events we can highlight the MUSICAL EVENINGS IN SAN DONATO. The Church of San Donato is very high (27m) and it has such an exceptional acoustic qualities that every musical performance turns into an extraordinary experience.
There are other important events like the STREET ART FESTIVAL, FESTIVAL OF CONTEMPORARY MUSIC FESTIVAL and THE FULL MOON.

As for the museums, we can visit for example the ARCHAEOLOGICAL MUSEUM, the NATIONAL MUSEUM and almost unique, THE MUSEUM OF ANCIENT GLASS which was created in 2009. Then, from 1972 you can be admired many of sacred art objects that are part of a collection in the Church of Santa Maria.
The churches are so many and each is interesting for several aspects: the Church of San Donato is Byzantine in style but once there, we can also visit the remains of Roman “Foro” on which the church was built. The Church of SAN SIMEON preserves the precious sarcophagus of the saint. The SANTA ANASTASIA Cathedral boasts an Italian Romanesque style.

The part of the old city is surrounded by walls with some very beautiful antique doors: PORT SAN ROCCO, with its chapel, which separates the harbor from the market, the DOOR OF THE BRIDGE and THE DOOR OF THE SEA.

Also in the old part of the city which, remember, is a peninsula, has been created ORGAN MARINO that with its modern forms an incredibly fascinating contrast. The Sea Organ is a true work of art of the architect Nikola Basic; It is located on the bank Petar Kresimir IV, near the port. It was built in 2005 and consists of a modern staircase that descends to the sea. Of polyethylene pipes of different angles and sizes have been inserted under the steps. The sea waves produce the air then escaping from the facts holes in the pavement, it is transformed into sounds that are real melodies enchant passers.

The Zadar’s  natural beauty is indisputable: it is located in front of an archipelago of main islands and countless islets, and not inhabited, forming an unforgettable show for all visitors. Just opposite the city there is the island of UGLJAN; then there are the DUGI OTOK Islands, Molat, PASMAN, IZ and Kurnati (the latter are a set of well 152 islands, large and inhabited but only tiny rock; here was established on the Kurnati National Park).

Nature is more than present in Zadar since the city is located at the center of many parks such as the National Park PLITVICE LAKES, the Park WATERFALLS KRKA, PAKLENICA the Park and Telascica Nature Park.

 

Best ways to visit Croatia and its most beautiful places

croatiaPhoto CC-BY by Loris Silvio Zecchinato

Croatia is the new destination for all the European countries.  In the national infrastructure have been made great improvements: the motorway network has been expanded and modernised, many hotels have been renovated and has been given a fresh twist with a contemporary design. The combination of nature and secular architecture of the contemporary cultural scene and vibrant make it truly complete.

Those looking landscape can explore the rocky stretch of the Adriatic coast of Croatia is not suitable for tourism development of large, perhaps because this is incredibly beautiful: it offers many small pebble coves cooled by pine forests and marvel with its crystal clear turquoise sea.

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Photo CC-BY by Josef Grunig

For those in search of history and culture, areas of cities such as Zagreb, Dubrovnik, Split and Zadar offer relics from Roman, Byzantine and Venetian times and more recently from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The historic towns of Dubrovnik and Split are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, together with the cathedrals of Trogir, Sibenik and Porec.  Against this backdrop of beautiful historical buildings, these cities become the living stage for summer festivals, hosting open-air concerts and theatre performances often attracting international artists.

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Photo CC-BY by Paolabart 

Croatia is what you want: it can feature a very relaxing holiday on the beach with water sports, a sailing holiday around the islands, sporting adventure with hiking, mountain biking, a holiday for foodie guests with vineyard visits, or with a cultural tour of the city. Here are the most beautiful places in Croatia.

Istria

Centred on the port city of Pula, known for its first -century Roman amphitheatre, Istria is a peninsula in the north-west Croatia with close cultural and historical ties to Italy. The best beach resorts on the Istrian peninsula is located along the west coast, and include Rovinj and Porec – home for the 6th century , decorated with golden Byzantine mosaics and UNESCO – listed Euphrasius Basilica. Near Pula , we find the islets that smell of pine in the Brijuni National Park, once the summer residence of Tito. Often forgotten is worth visiting the inland of Istria that fascinates with its rolling vineyards and romantic medieval hill towns such as Motovun and Grisignana  and the Mirna Valley.

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Photo CC-BY by  Loris Silvio Zecchinato

Kvarner

The heart of this region is the port city of Rijeka, overlooking the Gulf of Kvarner: it is sheltered and backed by the mountains of Gorski Kotar. Near Rijeka is located in the quiet seaside resort of Opatija, with several grand hotels of the 19th century, home for the Austro-Hungarian aristocracy. From Opatija, you can walk the promenade to Lovran, home to elegant villas surrounded by lush gardens breakaway. From Rijeka there are ferries and catamarans to Cres , Losinj , Rab and Pag, where the most popular destinations are Mali Losinj and the fortified medieval town of Rab. The island of Krk is connected to the mainland by a bridge – its main centre, Baska, on the south- east , overlooks a long pebble beach. Back on the mainland, the hinterland of the most visited Croatia is the Plitvice National Park with its emerald green lakes and waterfalls tumbling . Plitvice can be easily visited as a day trip from Rijeka, Zadar and Zagreb.

SONY DSCPhoto CC-BY by Loris Silvio Zecchinato

Northern Dalmatia

The focal point of this region is Zadar, with its beautiful old town, home of many Romanesque churches, built on a small peninsula. The majority of hotels in Zadar are located outside the city centre, along the coast. Near Zadar are the Kornati National Park, an archipelago of uninhabited, rocky islets, reachable by boat or with an organized trip from the mainland . The barren island of Pag extends between the two regions: Northern Dalmatia and Kvarner . It is famous for an excellent roast lamb and the Paski sir (salty sheep cheese), as well as for the festival of fun and music outdoors on the beach Zrce in Novalja. Back on the mainland, hikers and climbers should head to the mountains of Velebit, the National Park Northern Velebit and in the Paklenica National Park .

Central Dalmatia

The highlight here is Split, UNESCO World Heritage Site for its historic centre, within the old Roman walls of Diocletian’s Palace. The majority of visitors to the region fly to Split, then take a ferry or catamaran to the islands of Brac, Hvar and Vis, where among the most popular stands the town of Hvar on the island of Hvar, with excellent seafood restaurants. Back on the mainland, the Makarska Riviera, focused on Makarska and offers pebble beaches. The Biokovo Mountain nearby are instead ideal for hiking and mountain biking, while Omis is the starting point for rafting on the Cetina River. Other cultural attractions are the cathedral in Trogir, UNESCO World Heritage Site and Šibenik.

 

Southern Dalmatia

The main attraction of this region is Dubrovnik, the most popular and most expensive destination in Croatia, with an amazing old walled city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and with the highest concentration of all the land of five-star hotels. To the south of Dubrovnik is the quiet seaside resort of Cavtat, and the port of Dubrovnik Gruz there are regular ferries to the islands of Kolocep, Lopud and Sipan. Dubrovnik is also a base for day trips to nearby Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Peljesac peninsula, which lies to the north of the coast, produces some of the best wines of Croatia, including the highly respected Dingac, and several vineyards where doing tastings. From the village of Orebic there are numerous beaches and ferries to the island of Korcula. Here the main attraction is the town of Korcula, another beautiful medieval settlement in stone. Peljesac produces exceptional red wines, while Korcula is famous for its fragrant white wines, in particular Pošip and Grk. Near Korcula, but more easily accessible by ferry from Dubrovnik, the island of Mljet is home to towering forests and saltwater lakes of Mljet National Park.

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Photo CC-BY by Josef Grunig

Zagreb

The Croatian capital is often unfairly overlooked. It has a romantic medieval town, Gornji Grad, seat of the parliament and the cathedral, and several buildings in the Austro-Hungarian Donji Grad, which include several excellent constructions. From Zagreb you can also take a trip to Varazdin, with its Baroque architecture of the 18th century and an annual festival of baroque music.

Where to stay

The possibilities for accommodation in Croatia range from five-star hotels to rooms in homes of local families. In addition there are villas, more than 300 campsites, some considered among the best in Europe , and a growing number of youth hostels. Most of the hotels are located on the coast and back to the period of Yugoslavia. In general they are large, modern building with a stunning view of the sea and sports facilities. Alternatively, there are a small family run hotels, under the umbrella of the Association of Family and Small Hotels of Croatia . Some of these historic buildings and tend to offer a more personalized service than the larger properties. A cheaper option is to rent an apartment or a room in a family home , the majority of which are comfortable and equipped with private bathroom and kitchenette. Local tourist offices can give you more information about it.

Who is looking for privacy and solitude can stay in a lighthouse. Along the mainland coast and on the islands there are 13 lighthouses with simple but comfortable apartments that you can rent. Some are located on isolated islands in the open sea, so you will need to bring everything you need for the duration of your stay – in some cases we can make a deal with the local fishermen for the supply of fresh fish. Otherwise you can opt for the so-called accommodation Robinson (referred to Robinson Crusoe). Some of these apartments are located on the Kornati islands ( and the island of Pasman) . It is stone cottage without electricity and tap water, but with a barbecue and a gas-powered refrigerator .

When to go

The best time to visit Croatia is in the months of May, June, September and October  during which you can enjoy a nice sunny day with all the tourist facilities and working without the crowds typical of the high season. These months are also the ideal time to do outdoor activities such as hiking, mountain – biking, rafting and sea kayaking. The Croatian company Jadrolinija operates ferry overnight from Ancona to Split, Ancona to Zadar and Dubrovnik to Bari throughout the year. Blue Line also covers the route Ancona-Split. In summer only, the Italian company SNAV operates a daily high-speed catamaran from Ancona to Split, while Venezia Lines operates catamarans from Venice to Porec, Rovinj and Pula in Istria.