Zadar is one of our favourite places in Croatia; it is also a great base to visit the National Parks of Paklenica and Krka, the beautiful village of Nin, Pag island via its bridge and the Kornati Islands and, of course, the stunning coastline of this region of the Adriatic. Zadar is a town steeped in history, it was at one time the capital of Byzantine Dalmatia, and dates from the ninth century BC. Zadar is surrounded on three sides by water, nevertheless, the town's natural defences were enhanced by the Venetians who built the massive sixteenth century walls to keep out the Turkish invaders. Zadar is renowned for its many fine churches including the impressive St Donat's church which is the largest pre-Romanesque building in Croatia.
Zadar came under attack during the Second World War and again from the Yugoslav National Army in 1991 but has bounced back to show off its beauty and character to the full. Today, Zadar has developed into one of the most interesting towns on the Dalmatian coast - places to visit include the impressive Sveti Donat (more below), St. Anastasia's Cathedral, the Archaeological Museum, National Museum and Museum of Church Art. The livelier side of Zadar can be found along the cafe-lined Siroka Street down to where it meets Trg Narodni (National Square).
Numerous churches and cultural monuments dating from all historical periods have been preserved from the Roman period through Middle Ages up to the modern period of architecture. The symbol of the city of Zadar and the most famous monumental edifice in Croatia from the early Middle Ages (9th C.) is the pre-Romanesque church which was called the Church of the Holy Trinity until the 15th century, and from that time on carries the name of Saint Donat, by the bishop who had it built.
Zadar has a quite unique feature built into its redeveloped north-western shoreline - the SEA ORGAN. The "Sea Organ" is situated near the new cruise port, as a part of Zadar's Riva, it consists of several stairs that descend into the sea; the stairs extend for about 70 metres along the coast and under them, at the lowest sea-tide level, 35 pipes of different length, diameter and tilt were built in vertically to the coast and end in a canal (a service corridor). On the pipes there are LABIUMS (whistles), which play 7 chords of 5 tones. Above the canal there are perforated stone steps through which the sound comes out, the air being pushed by the sea.
Zadar is an excellent base to explore the area, including the islands of Pag, Rab and Ugljan, the National Parks of Paklenica and Krka Waterfalls and the Kornati Archipelago - the largest in the Mediterranean.
An exceptionally indented coast, islands and untouched natural bays attract many sailors to this area. The archipelago which consists of 24 bigger and 300 little islands, 3 nature parks - Telašćica, Northern Velebit and Vransko Lake as well as 5 National Parks - Paklenica, Plitvice, Kornati, Krka and Velebit, rank Zadar and its surroundings on the top of the Croatian tourist trail. Thanks to its geographical position, Zadar has a mild Mediterranean climate (warm and dry summers, and mild and rainy winters) which is reflected in its beautiful Mediterranean vegetation.
Pakoštane is on a shallow land strait between Vransko Lake and the Adriatic Sea, so the immediate vicinity of two different worlds, the sea and freshwater, gives it a special charm. The relaxed atmosphere of the town, the beautiful beaches with crystal clear sea and islets close by, the rich vegetation, and a wide variety of taverns and restaurants and numerous activities at the disposal of guests are the reasons that justify the popularity of Pakoštane.
In the northern part of Dalmatia there is a Nature Park which includes Vransko Lake, the largest freshwater lake in Croatia, and it is situated right next to the sea separated by a thin strip of land. In this location is the Mašković Han Heritage Hotel, the most striking example of Turkish civil architecture. The lake is an important bird habitat site as well as being rich with fish. Along the lake there are numerous walking and cycling trails and wooden observatories. The park also has hiking trails, and particularly attractive is the viewpoint of Kamenjak, which offers views of the entire park, coast, sea and surrounding islands. Among the other monuments is the interesting site of Gradina, or the remains of a Benedictine monastery from the 9th century.
Čelinka - above the town of Drage there is the viewpoint Čelinka offering a beautiful view of the islands of Vrgada and Kornati, and the towns of Drage and Pakoštane from one side, and Vransko Lake on the other.
Kamenjak - on the north side of the Vransko Lake, on top of a hill rising above the middle part of the lake, there is a landscaped viewpoint and the info centre Kamenjak from where there is an enchanting view of the whole lake, the coast and the surrounding islands. At the viewpoint there are also a souvenir shop and a tavern offering local Dalmatian specialties.
Only a few miles east of Zadar is the town of Biograd; the old part of the town is located on a small peninsula surrounded by the bays of Bošana and Soline, where beautiful beaches are located. It carries the title of the Croatian royal town as in the 11th century it was the seat of Croatian kings and bishops and the Croatian-Hungarian King Koloman was crowned there.
Zadar is very central and makes an ideal stop of up to 3 nights on most fly drive holidays; there is even a direct flight link from the UK to Zadar.
Activities available include cycling, paddle boarding, sea kayaking and snorkelling; nearby we can also offer river canoeing and guided hikes.
Where to stay
Maškovića Han is a heritage hotel located in Pakoštane, just a little inland from Zadar and on the lake of Vrsana.
In a few words: "Stylish, quality, old town" The Hotel Bastion is a unique boutique-hotel which accentuates the cultural heritage of Zadar. It is located in the historic core, built on the remains of ...
In a few words: Great value, very friendly" The Hotel Mediteran is located in peaceful surroundings, ideal for those on fly-drives. It is only a short bus ride to the old town and a short walk to the ...
Things to do
The Zrmanja and Krupa are among the most beautiful rivers in Europe: perfectly clear, warm water, spectacular canyons with magnificent waterfalls. They ...
"Just a quick note to say what a fabulous time we had in Croatia. The hotels chosen where fabulous particularly Hotel Lero in Dubrovnik, Hotel Korsal in Korcula, Hotel Mediterran in Zadar and Hotel Degenya in Plitvice (the pool had only been opened 10 days). The days we were driving where really easy and the best route form Korcula to Split is definately better by ferry. I understand that the border crossings with Bosnia can be a pain and lengthy at times. Got to see all my Games of Thrones sites apart from the Aborteum just outside Dubrovnik - think we missed the signs. There was only one error and that was the Hotel Edens fault - they did not have a twin room for the kids - they were fully booked, so could not change. But other than that no problems. "
S Syder, UK, June, 2017
"Dawn and I had some discussion about whether we should go for a hotel nearer the centre of Zadar. We're glad we stayed with the Mediteran as the taxis were very efficient and cheap - either 45 or 50 kuna."
R Golding, UK, June, 2017
"Hotel Mediteran in Zadar, the staff were (commendably) wonderful in what was the most basic hotel on our trip, making our stay there enjoyable. We just didn't like the location. We also had a lovely day exploring Pag Island during our stay in Zadar (although, again for info, unfortunately, all the island's beaches were closed, as September is already deemed to be out of season)."
T Jascourt, UK, Sept 2016
"We've done road trips round other countries before but this one seemed just a little bit more luxurious. We very much appreciated the taxi transfers from the airport being organised for us already. Likewise, it was fantastic to have the hire care delivered to us and picked up afterwards. These two manoeuvres have caused a lot of hassle in the past. This kind of holiday can be exhausting enough as it is. I also liked that the rooms had been so carefully chosen. It seemed like you'd had a look round the hotels already and requested specific rooms. Obviously, these rooms weren't the cheapest the hotels had to offer, and that's not what we normally book. The hotels were all really easy to find and had good locations, except one we had trouble with. The Korkyra Apartments on Korcula took us till midnight to reach, after catching the last ferry. If we'd come from the short ferry from Orebic, round the corner, it would have been brilliant. But we were coming from Vela Luka and our satnat took us down a pedestrianised road in Korcula town. Otherwise, everything was brilliant and the whole itinerary went according to plan 99% of the time. Even the plans I made for day trips went smoothly. We felt very lucky the whole time. I think Croatia is a country that is really geared up to tourism. They do everything full on, one hundred percent, so everything is as easy as possible for visitors. We hardly had to queue for anything in Plitvice Lakes even though they have 1.3 million visitors per year there."
J Carpreau, UK, August 2016
"We have had a lovely holiday, thank you. We had 3 lots of 2 nights in Roving, Plitvic and Zadar, and then a week in Primosten. This is the first time we had toured around with our children (aged 5 and 7). When we asked which bit they preferred, they said the 'road trip' - we much thought they would have preferred the beach/Primosten stay. So much to see and do in Croatia, limited only really by the heat. But that made it possible to enjoy swimming in the sea. Your hotel recommendations were all different, and difficult to compare, but all good. The boys voted the breakfast in Hotel Mediteran their favourite, and this is also by far the friendliest hotel we have ever stayed in - they even printed off some running routes for us without us asking. A great break, thank you."
C Dawson, UK, August 2016
"We are back home and suffering from post holiday withdrawal, we have thousands of photos to sort through and just as many wonderful memories. I thought while it is all still fresh that I would drop you a line to say thanks. The whole trip was amazing and everything worked without a single hitch. The hotels that you booked for us were spot on and the car hire etc all worked perfectly. Really the holiday could not have been easier so a massive thank you for all your advice and organising. The highlights were the national parks. Apart from Plitvice, we also visited Krka and Paklenica and could have spent longer at all of them. Split, Trogir and Dubrovnic were amazing but busy, I also loved the smaller villages that were less crowded.The Sail /Bike trip that we added in was an amazing way to see some of the Islands and it fitted perfectly into your itinerary. A final big thanks to you - it was so easy to arrange this trip, you were always prompt with your responses, answered all my questions and took all the stress out of planning this holiday. A pleasure to do business with. "
S Gemmel, Oman, July 2016
"Reasonably located for a bus stop to get to the centre of Zadar. On a main road so not quite so quiet. No lift & flights of stairs to go up but thankfully the staff carried our cases up ( we would have had difficulty ) Good car park"
P Tilsley, UK, Oct 2015
"A short note to thank you for helping organise our holiday. We had a great time and thought Croatia was fantastic. Having good weather obviously helps and for us it was superb with the temperatures ideal – mid to high 20’s. I think we went for one too many changes of hotel on the ‘touring’ section ie we should have spent an extra day probably in Hvar and possibly Zadar. The car hire was excellent and worked very well for the pick-up and drop-off. The hotels you arranged for us worked out well and, overall, we were pleased with them; perhaps the Marco Polo was a little disappointing but that was more to do with lugging our heavy cases around to the room than the actual quality."
A Wilkinson, UK, Oct 2015
"The receptionist (Marina) at Hotel Mediteran deserves a special mention as she really was most helpful and always cheerful - all the staff at other hotels were good but she was special."
P Robinson, UK, Sept 2015
"Hotel Bastion in Zadar also excellent, although a little noisy when we stayed."
A Freeman, UK, August, 2015