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 once I received 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 stuffed 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 journey) from the capital of Zagreb, Zadar was our good 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 unique island every single day and never get bored.
Someway, 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, also called Fort Saint Michael, with unbelievable views of the ocean and different islands:
Now, essentially the most environment friendly and handy solution to get there was to drive for 10 minutes. However as a result of that was manner too straightforward (plus, there have been no rental vehicles out there on the island for the day), we opted to hike there. Good factor we introduced a number 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 value it, and I felt a terrific sense of accomplishment once I received 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 for those who ever go there (let me know within the feedback for those who 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 by our veins.
Simply be sure for those who go to this fort that you simply watch out the place you step, as a result of there aren’t any guard rails. So for those who don’t need to plunge off a cliff, be careful! So far as off the overwhelmed locations to go, this undoubtedly matches the invoice.
There have been many little seaside villages and seashores we may’ve visited on Dugi Otok, however ferry workers advisable 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 overwhelmed 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 unbelievable, and we discovered this bench to have lunch on, and this church on the high of the hill.
Coming again down, the path was a bit rocky and steep, however we survived.
We additionally discovered this 4-star lodge 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 out of doors writing café.
The Sea Organ
One of the distinctive issues you possibly can go to in Zadar is the ocean organ. Designed by architect Nikola Bašić, it’s a sequence of steps that lead into the ocean, with pipes beneath that makes harmonic whistling noises when the waves push air by the pipes.
This distinctive wave-generated music mixed with a wide ranging sundown is why Alfred Hitchcock declared Zadar as having the world’s greatest sundown.
Right here’s a video we took at nightfall. Resolve for your self.
If artwork married engineering and had a child, this sea organ can be it. Not solely is it lovely, it’s additionally purposeful.
Greeting to the Solar Monument
One other science+artwork set up additionally designed by Nikola Bašić, it is a sequence of big solar-powered discs that take up vitality in the course of the day after which turns into disco mania at evening.
They’ve one huge disc representing the solar, and small discs positioned round it representing the planets.
For individuals who are world education their children, 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 linked to the remainder of Zadar. And because it’s surrounded on three-sides by ocean, it’s good 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 House Change within the northwest a part of Zadar, a few 30 min stroll away from downtown, our host informed us to take the Barkajol, which might convey down our commute to only 15 minutes! (for those who’re enthusiastic about testing house trade, you should utilize my affiliate hyperlink to rise up to 1200 visitor factors for signing up). We have been additionally informed to make use of “Bolt”, the European equal of Uber, which helped us keep away from getting ripped off by Croatian cabs. YAY! Native suggestions!
I had no thought 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 just 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 manner. In the event you have been to stroll all the best way round and cross by way of the pedestrian bridge, it could take you 25 additional minutes. Simply be sure to convey 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 journey from downtown Zadar and it didn’t disappoint! There was a park entry payment of 40KN ($5.60 USD/ $7 CAD) per individual and it was effectively value it.
We noticed a number 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 could possibly see snow-capped mountains within the distance and the path wasn’t too crowded. An ideal place to hike and indulge in nature.
Seems, this was really one among their “meh sights,” as I used to be informed that Plitvice was manner higher, and there have been numerous different extra lovely locations.
In brief, Croatia’s pure magnificence is breathtaking. So breathtaking in reality, that once I informed 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 Break 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 greatest stored secret that I wouldn’t have recognized about if it weren’t for my House Change host.
Now, as you all know, as a easy nation bumpkin, I’m not huge on fancy meals. Park me on the facet of the street on a plastic stool, feed me a $2 bowl of piping scorching Guay Jab and I’m comfortable as a seal. The truth is, I get much more pleasure from that $2 bowl than a $200 caviar tasting menu.
That mentioned, I do have one weak spot.
That shit is so good I might eat it straight out of a sweaty fitness center sock. However at $2000/lb, it’s not precisely sustainable for a protracted retirement.
Or so I assumed.
Because it seems, there’s a magical place in Croatia referred to as Istria, which is its truffle capital. A heart-shaped peninsula positioned within the northwestern a part of the nation, Istria’s truffles are so plentiful, you possibly can even be a part of a truffle searching tour! Even for those who don’t go to Istria, truffles could be had everywhere in the nation for an distinctive value.
And because of this, in Zadar, we have been in a position to get 2 full meals, with octopus, monkfish, pasta, and massive honking slices of black truffle, with 2 giant 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” and so they served, fingers down, the perfect meal we had in Croatia. Mamma Mia restaurant was one other favorite, and each have been advisable by our host.
In the event you ordered a truffle dish in North America, it could set you again a minimum of $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, strive 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 Break 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 may cost you 3-4x the native fare for those who’re a vacationer. For instance, it ought to solely value you 28 KN ($4 USD/$5 CAD/€4) for a ten min journey from the bus station, however the taxi driver needed 120 KN ($17 USD/$21 CAD/€18)! Ridiculous. Keep away from taxis in Croatia just like the plague and use “Bolt” as a substitute, which is their model of Uber or Uber.
And for among the hottest sights, like Plitvice Nationwide Park, you possibly can’t even get to it with out 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 straightforward in Croatia and Wanderer received to make use of the model spanking new stick shift expertise he discovered in Azores. Plus, the handbook automotive was 1/2 the worth of automated (we received the rental automotive from a rental firm referred to as Pop Automotive positioned 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 just a few instances, 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 accordance with locals, Dalmatian coast Croatians are very completely different from metropolis folks Croatians. Zadarians think about themselves “easy-going Italians,” whereas the Zagrebians are “Germans who’re too critical and work too onerous.”
Ooohh-Okay. I assumed they have been all Croatians, however whatevs.
Right here’s how a lot we spent in Zadar:
|Class||Value in USD/couple per day||Value in CAD/couple per day||Notes|
|Lodging||$7.95||$10.25||Since we used House Change, the price was virtually free. We simply paid with visitor factors + the $175 USD/12 months payment, 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 will probably 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 loads of 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 the event you didn’t get there half-hour earlier than the bus leaves, you largely seemingly gained’t get a very good seat. Even handbook vehicles value 2X the worth of Azores to hire. 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 number of free sights and hikes that stored us busy. So I might say leisure isn’t costly.|
|Different||$0.95||$1.23||Aside from just a few toiletries, we didn’t have to purchase the rest in Zadar. We nonetheless had information left over on our SIM card so we didn’t must recharge it.|
|Complete||$58.47||$75.42||As a result of we have been in a position to mainly keep free of charge with HomeExchange, we ended up spending the identical quantity every day in Zadar as we did in Chiang Mai, Thailand! You’d in all probability spend nearer to $90-$125 USD/couple/day for those who needed to pay for an Airbnb as a substitute of house trade.|
Croatia is just too huge and intense for one publish, so subsequent time I’ll inform you about my love/hate relationship with Break 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 much like what’s taking place in Ukraine proper now.