Zadar, Croatia Guide: Everything about Traveling or Moving to This City
Zadar Croatia town is located in the Northern Dalmatia, approximately in the middle of Croatia’s Adriatic coast. It’s 285 km from Zagreb capital, 289 km from Rijeka, capital of Kvarner region, 158 from Split, capital of Dalmatia and 348 km from Dubrovnik, capital of Southern Dalmatia region.
On the map of Dalmatian coast, it’s easy to spot why this town’s central position, has contributed to become one of the most popular gateways to Croatia and an memorable place for your holidays.
In recent years, after Dubrovnik and Split, Zadar Croatia, has become one of the Adriatic’s most visited destinations. Its popularity is due greatly to its historical backgrounds (museums and churches), beautiful beaches, nice hotels, cafes, bars, restaurants and cultural events.
This city can boast to be the best place for adventure travelers lovers, offering the best outdoors spots in Croatia, within driving distance of four national parks: Paklenica National park, Plitvice Lakes, Krka River National Park and Kornati Islands National Park. We have written about all these and more here.
Zadar Croatia Essentials
Learn all about this 3 thousand years old town, the old town of turbulent history, often destructed and devastated, but every time capable of emerging from the ruins stronger, richer and more beautiful. Check out everything about the history of Zadar here.
The city map showing the old town layout for your easy orientation while walking the town streets. Discover the city core, nested on the town peninsula, to help you the find all monuments and attractions. Click here to check it out.
This city is an easily accessible destination which you can reach by land, sea or air. With its good communications it is directly connected to other bigger Croatian cities as as well with the most of European countries. You can read our article about how to get to Zadar here.
The most important town sightseeing places of interest are located on peninsula. To see all town’s highlights points take a walk around and don’t forget your camera! Read everything about the must see places in Zadar.
If you are looking for sun and beaches, you’re at the right place. Discover the best beaches around the city or on small nearby islands by checking out our complete guide to the Zadar beaches.
The group of over 100 islands, called Zadar archipelago in Norther Dalmatia, represents the real paradise of unspoiled nature, far from the mass tourism like those in the south.
Although more numerous but in relatively limited area, often bare, mostly semi abandoned islands, boast with beautiful bays, beaches and lush inland scenery.
Most of these off the beaten track islands, mostly lacking in significant tourist facilities, still represent an unavoidable summer destination, sometimes unreasonably bypassed by the major tourist flow. Let’s see what is the reason for this!
Getting to Zadar Archipelago
The most of 14 bigger islands, Dugi Otok (Long Island), Ist, Iz, Rava, Molat, Olib, Silba, Premuda, Pasman, Ugljan, Rivanj, Sestrunj, Zverinac and Vrgada, are regularly connected by car ferries, fast catamarans and ships from Zadar town, the capital of Northern Dalmatia.
Don’t be surprised if you don’t find island Pag, among these islands as the northern part of the island (Novalja) belongs to Lika-Senj county while a southern part (Pag town) makes the part of Zadar county.
With 24 lines a day, 15 ferries crossings and nine ships and catamaran lines, Zadar is after Split port the most important Croatia’s ferry harbor. The most of the ferry lines are handled by state owned Jadrolinija company.
Zadar Islands Map
Exploring Zadar Archipelago
Zadar archipelago is without a doubt one of the most beautiful vacation spots in Croatia. Although Zadar islands are less famed than those in Split or Dubrovnik counties, they still offer everything you need for a vacation in style.
The easiest way is to hop on one of many ferries from Zadar to explore different islands, idyllic villages, stunning diving and snorkeling sites, secluded beaches and parks of nature.
The most of the islands are a little more than one hour sailing from the mainland, some like Preko on Ugljan island takes only 25 minutes or islands Ist, Olib, Silba and Premuda, ideal set for island hopping.
A long and barren Dugi Otok, with its beautiful Telascica Bay is on only 1,40 minutes sailing from Zadar’s Gazenica ferry port. Each of these numerous islands offer everything you’ll need to make the most of your time there.
Visiting Zadar you’ll have many possibilities for a day or more day trips to this archipelago situated between the sea and the mountains which makes it attractive for all kinds of vacation activities.
Here are some of my personal top vacation ideas for a trip to Zadar islands:
It is nothing new considering sea kayaking to be the most convenient and enjoyable way to explore the best of the islands.
Kayaking gives you access to some of the snorkeling and diving sites and beaches which are otherwise out of reach. It´s the most enjoyable way to travel around moving only using your hands’ force. And more exciting, when you realize that you are followed by dolphins.
For those more adventurous visitors, bike tour is a great occasion how vacation can be active and fun, but still, totally relaxing.
Cycling vacation gives you occasion to experience bigger island (Ugljan, Pasman and Dugi Otok) and if combined with kayaking, opportunity to know how the life on these islands really looks like.
On the Internet you can find many cycling offers, away from civilization in absolutely unspoiled nature.
Diving and snorkeling
The particularity of this region is in the beauty of the Zadar archipelago that is rich with many walls, reefs and caves, often filled with fish, particularly in the geological part of the outer Kornati wall. For more diving excursions, the best resource is diving center Zlatna Luka and Dive Dugi Otok center.
If you want enjoy the sea, sun and wind then this is the right activity for you. Choose one of sailing boat and allow yourself to enjoy the unique experience of Zadar archipelago.
Most of travel guidebooks advise Paklenica National Park as the the best trekking place around Zadar. The Park is called “the rock climbers paradise” and is the most famous hiking and rock climbing National Park in Croatia.
If you feel that Paklenica NP is not a place for you, than Zadar islands offer a vast possibilities for trekking. The islands, Ugljan, Pasman, Pag, Dugi Otok have a lot of marked trails.
The choice is vast, the trails are marked, just get the maps of these islands and set off for light recreation and exploration each of this islands.
Two islands stand out as the most interesting whether for beginners or more active walkers, or hikers as there are some steeper tracks that partly pass over more difficult ground.
On the Pasman Island besides walking, you can enjoy the scents of rosemary, figs and other plants the island abounds in and the lovely views of the Kornati archipelago.
Ugljan island, the closest to the mainland, offers impressive views from the Venetian St. Michael´s fortress (Sveti Mihovil) above Preko (265 m above the sea level) from which you have a spectacular view on most of Zadar archipelago islands, including Kornati islands.
Zadar Surrounding Gems
Missing to visit some great places in Zadar surrounding areas, will be a great mistake, which are considered as the very top of the Croatian tourist offer.
With particularly indented coast with archipelago of 24 bigger and about 300 smaller islets and rocks, is a main challenge for many boaters to this region.
Should we add to this untouched nature, three Nature parks – Telascica, Velebit and Vransko jezero (lake) and two National parks, Paklenica and Sjeverni (Northern) Velebit, than it’s clear why this areas, are ‘must to see’.
For an easier orientation, I’ve subdivided the area around Zadar in three zones covering the coastal district and Zadar archipelago.
Northern Zadar surrounding area
If you decide to visit this region in Zadar county, than two small tourist places of Nin and Zaton will for sure astonish you with their history and particularly for their natural surroundings. Both are located less than 15 km north of Zadar. Check the map below to find out their position!
Dominated by the ruins of the ancient fortress of a stormy past, nowadays a haven of peace for fishermen and tourists, a typical example of the Mediterranean as it used to be.
Attention! Don’t confuse this Novigrad with Novigrad in Istria region!
If you are looking for a vacation somewhere in a beautiful natural environment without a human touch, but preserving its original form, then this little town is the right destination for your holidays for the years to come.
Nin – a cradle of Croatian culture
Nin is the oldest Croatian royal town and a cradle of the Croatian culture. Well preserved cultural monuments, among which stands out, the Church of the Holy Cross called „the smallest cathedral in the world“ from 9th and 12th century. It’s the most valuable preserved monument of early Croatian religious architecture and one of Nin’s symbols.
It is situated in the shallow lagoon just 18 km north of Zadar, far from traffic and industrial zones. As the sea is shallow and cut into the land, the temperature of the sea is 2-3 degrees higher than in the open sea, which creates higher salinity and aerosol.
Among Zadar surrounding areas, Nin offers the best sandy beaches on the whole Adriatic coast. The most known is Ninska laguna beach (Nin’s Lagoon) almost a mile long beach, well known as Queen’s Beach.
It is a long sandy beach ideal for families with children and elderly people. This beach has been declared many times as one of the most beautiful Dalmatian sandy beaches by German auto club ADAC. The beach is also known for areas with medicinal mud located in the center of Nin’s Lagoon. It’s the biggest site of medicinal mud in Croatia.
Zaton – paradise for families with children
Zaton is situated in the bay of the same name in Zadar Channel, only 3 km from the historic town of Nin. It lies in a broad bay between Nin and Zadar. Zaton is Zadar surrounding area with the best sandy beach in Croatia.
It has a 1.5 km long pebble and sandy beach surrounded by a pine forest. It offers a wide selection of sports and recreational activities including tennis, horseback riding and water sports.
This Holiday Village beach received international recognition ‘Blue Flag! for water quality, safety and other services on the beach.
This beach is an attractive destination for families. The sports and recreational offer includes 16 tennis courts, various other sports fields, as well as bicycle, surfboard, sailboat and boat rental. Those interested in diving can visit the diving club Scuba Adriatic.