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 ...
"Thank you for organising a brilliant holiday for us. We returned half an hour early on Easy Jet yesterday. The 5 hotels were excellent, car parking worked well and we were bowled over by Croatia in general. It's a shame so much of Zadar is pst ww2, but what an excellent hotel! Luxe in Split was a great choice, modern, chic and well positioned. We loved Trogir. Hvar was the highlight, once we mastered the kerb at the car park which was a story in itself! The drive across Hvar was great fun and the mountain road is brand new. The ferry q was 4 hours .... After Mali Ston, it will be a while before I can eat more mussels and oysters, but what a great evening we had. We drove thru Bosnia, as we had eaten our day in the ferry q, which was not an issue at all. Dubrovnik was sensational and the Bellevue great. Nice people, great food, lift to the beach, great swimming, friendly taxis. So superior to Portugal and Spain and the wines were delicious. Even the red."
K & M Falconer, UK, August 2013
"Hotel in Zadar was outstanding for service. Had to pay 440kuna parking charge in Trogir as no one told me the parking ticket needed verification. Not good! Although wonderful location in Hvar, we had to pay 200kuna on taxis because of parking location (my wife is unable to walk far). Otherwise a good holiday thanks for organising it."
P Chesterton, UK, September 2013
"I wish to thank you for organising our holiday. The criteria worked to perfection and the standard of accommodation was excellent. It was one of our most enjoyable holidays ever. Croatia is such a lovely country."
C Ferris, UK, July 2013
"The visit to Plitvisc lakes and falls were absolutely spectacular. Driving on the open roads is simple and easy. Through the towns can a little more nerve raking. Having a couple of nights in each place helped keep the pace realistic. Be prepared for limited ability for laundry other than the hotel services. Having 3 nights in Trogir was a little more than needed and would have been better 3 nights based in or nearer to Split as this was where most sights were. Overall it was a very interesting experience and well worth it. Croatia is a beautiful country with plenty of natural sights. Being just before the tourist season had its benefits with things being less busy. Just a few times things were not yet open. Some wonderful memories, I would not hesitate to recommend it to a friend."
G Emblen, Australia, April, 2015
"The room was very small and basic and, given the only attraction in Zadar is the old town, it is situated quite a distance from the points of interest. However, to counter this, as I mentioned before, the staff were simply magnificent and the restaurant good. In fact we look back very fondly on our stay there as a result. A joy to stay in."
Paul C, UK, May, 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
"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
"Hotel Bastion in Zadar also excellent, although a little noisy when we stayed."
A Freeman, UK, August, 2015
"Arrangements were superb - no problems at all. Had a great time & loved the country! If we were to repeat the holiday one less day in Bol and an extra day in Mali Ston would be better. Hotel Ostrea and Mali Ston are an absolute delight! Top marks for Miric Inn, Plitvice too. Very friendly & welcoming and HUGE dinners! Dubrovnik old town was heaving with tourists, so staying some distance away at Hotel More was perfect. Easy to get to old town by bus so distance was no problem. Hotel Palace in Zagreb was good as was Mediteran in Zadar Thanks for the recommendations - they were spot on!!"
B Wheeler, UK, June, 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