Zadar is becoming a great getaway for travelers from Europe – We visited this Croatian beauty and find out what makes it special
Zadar turned out to be the Jewel of the Mediterranean I was looking for a while. It’s very relaxed atmosphere, cheap prices and beautiful getaways made me fall in love with this region and motivated me to explored more. I
A Croatian charm next to the Mediterranean
It´s been some weeks since I returned from my trip to Croatia. It was my first visit in this country that still gets left out on way too many backpacking bucket lists and I need to say: I couldn´t have been happier traveling in this region and learning about its culture and natural wonders.
However, Croatia is a very diverse country and not a very easy to understand.
In my opinion, Croatia can be separated into three regions: A classical and elegant north, the chilled and nature-filled center and a Mediterranean south. This combination makes Croatia one of the top destinations in Europe for enjoying diversity in experiences. During this trip I spent most of my time in the region of Zadar I think this was not only the best place to start a trip in Croatia, but also to finish.
The Zadar region is located right in the center of the country and, while flanked by the Adriatic Sea on one side, is a getaway to some of the most beautiful natural parks in Europe on the other. Its main city Zadar is not only a great alternative to the crowded and expensive Split, but also a good starting point for trips where adventures begin.
What to see in Zadar for 1 day
- Church of St Donatus
- Zadar Cathedral
- Sea Organ
- The Monument of the Sun
- 5 Wells Square
- Beach Borik
- The Port of Zadar
Although most visitors in Zadar explore this city because of a cruise ship stop, I think Zadar is a stop for three to four days – especially if you are a history lover.
The city of Zadar is a huge center of historical and cultural heritage. With archeological sites dating back to the Roman Empire located all over the city center and open to the public at any time, you can travel back in time while walking through its narrow, romantic streets. It is a city of contrasts: a vibrant place with colorful stores, local restaurants, street artists and museums during the day, but quiet and charming at night. For an interesting and worldwide unique experience visit the Sea Organ in the southern part of Zadar´s city center. A natural organ played by the waves, so nature itself creates music for you.
Insider Tip: NextBike has four stations located all around Zadar, making it perfect for travelers looking to rent a bike on a budget. If you are planning a trip to Europe, NextBike is the largest bike sharing network in the world. A good and inexpensive alternative for two wheel lovers.
Renting bicycles for several days is also possible and some travelers are even considering the Zadar region as a destination for cycling road trips.
Getaways around the city of Zadar
Zadar´s location is also perfect for spending a week or more. In only 30 min by car you can easily reach small and lovely towns like Nin, elected the most romantic city in the world 2016. A nice getaway to see another side of Croatian culture, taste some local cuisine and watch a seven color sunset on beautiful beaches.
Offering excellent choices for travelers looking for adventure and adrenaline, the Paklenika National Park is located only 1 hour from the city of Zadar and with more than 360 climbing routes and 200 km of trails, this national park attracts everyone from backpackers and curious travelers to professional athletes looking for the next adventure.
No wonder why this national park is the largest climbing site in Southern Europe and a great place to try a new activity and feel the adrenaline rushing through your veins. And even if you feel less adventurous Paklenika is definitely worth a visit as in only 30 min you can hike to some of the viewpoints and enjoy beautiful views of the park.
Read more: How to pack for a weekend getaway
Getaways 1 hour away from Zadar
- Otok Iz or Otok Zut
- Nin and its salts
- Paklenika National Park
- Kraljevski vineyards
- Ugljan Island
Zadar is also well connected to some of croatia’s main natural wonders. In only an hour drive you can reach the Krka National Park – home to some of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world and an obligatory stop during your trip in Croatia.
Another option is Plitvice National Park, where within two hours you can enjoy breathtaking views of waterfalls and lakes, which will make you think you just got lost in Laos, Malaysia or Cambodia. Take into consideration that these two national parks are Croatia’s main attractions so they can be extremely crowded during high season. Wake up early and arrive during opening hours to avoid the masses.
A great starting point for day trips, Zadar shows that you don´t need to move a lot, to fully see the cultural and natural diversity of a region.
Insider Tip: Renting a car in Croatia in advance is way cheaper than traveling the whole area by local transportation. It also gives you flexibility and comfort. Compare prices on different websites before booking a vehicle, get a GPS (unless you take one with you) and be smart: avoiding buying insurances can safe you some money at the beginning, but it can cost you a lot with just a little of bad fortune.
How expensive is Zadar?
- A budget accommodation: 15 EUR
- A double bed room in a medium class hotel: 45 EUR
- A dinner in a medium class restaurant: 12 EUR without drinks
- A beer in a bar: 2 EUR
- A bottle of water in the supermarket: 0,5 EUR
Read more: Tips for backpacking the Balkans on a budget
How to reach Zadar?
If you are traveling by car, access to Zadar is relatively easy, as roads are in perfect condition and highways connect you to different cities.
Local buses from big cities like Zagreb or Split run constantly during the day and are a good option for budget travelers backpacking in the region. The local train station is also located right next to the bus station and connects you to other Croatian cities very fast.
Zadar has a small airport and airlines like Lufthansa, Eurowings and Ryanair connect Zadar to many big cities in Europe like Frankfurt, Paris or Stockholm for relatively good prices.