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I’ve had at least a dozen people tell me why I should go to Dubrovnik.
But well, I’ve never really been one to follow tradition.
And I hate crowds.
Going to the GOT famous place especially when I already wanted to escape people, didn’t sound like the best idea for me.
Additionally, flights from where I am staying were less than $100 return for Zadar.
My choice was made!
I love when you plan a trip totally not expecting much, but come back so refreshed and enriched.
This is exactly how traveling to Zadar felt like.
In this post, you’ll find
- the top things to do in Zadar and how exactly you should go about planning for them.
- the travel tips you NEED to know before you visit Zadar to save you time and money.
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#1: Spend a day exploring the old town.
The center of Zadar is the old town. Not only is this place absolutely gorgeous, but the architecture is unlike anything I’ve seen in Europe.
With powder white buildings and orange rooftops, the old town is a place that should be at the top of your list for things to do in Zadar.
The Zadar Cathedral, Church of St. Donatus and People’s Square are the best places to visit in the old town.
Side Note: Churches are quite traditional in Croatia and you would not be allowed in shorts/skirts. Make sure to dress appropriately if you’d like to enter a church!
Getting Around Old Town
The old town is pretty small so you can easily cover the place on foot. There are local buses available to and fro from your residence so you can hop on to the nearest one. We were positively delighted to find that Uber works in Zadar as well and used it often as we were living a bit far from the city center.
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#2: Catch the sunset on the promenade with the sea organ.Close to the old town, you can also walk down to the promenade to watch the sunset at the sea-organ.
We didn’t stick around long enough to hear the sea-organ play but found another cozy bench to enjoy the sunset from.
Here’s what the Zadar tourism board has to say about the sea-organ:
“The organ looks like a series of broad steps leading down into the water, but there´s actually very clever engineering hiding under the surface.The lower steps allow water and air to flow in. That water and air is then funneled into resonant chambers under the steps, and pushed out through the channels on the upper stairs, seen here. These cause the undulating, chime-like notes to be produced. Because the sea is always shifting and changing, the sea organ never sounds exactly the same twice. Each sound you hear is completely unique.”
Did I mention sunsets in Croatia are absolutely stunning?
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#3: Get some delicious local sea-food.
While in Zadar, make sure to try the excellent restaurants that serve fresh fish, yummy burgers and other Mediterranean delicacies.
- Meal at a restaurant: $10- $15
- Pastry/Bread at a bakery: $1-$3
Croatia is a cheap place to travel compared to the rest of Europe. On average expect to spend less than $30/day on food even if you have all your meals at a restaurant. Plenty of local bakeries serve delicious snacks and supermarkets are easily available as well.
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#4: Soak up the sun in Kolovare beach.
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The city beach, a ten-minute walk from the city center is a great place to relax and soak up the sun.
We were at the beach early morning and it was relatively empty.
- Beaches in croatia have pebbles. Be sure to carry water shoes or it’s going to be very painful to swim!
- Carry a thick beach blanket if you plan to lie down. A skinny one isn’t going to be very pleasant on a pebbly beach.
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#5: Take a day trip to Saharun Beach.
If you’re in the market for a white sand beach with no pebbles, you need to head to Saharun Beach on Dugi Atok Island.
We learnt it the hard way that a trip to this gorgeous beach needs to be planned well.
We were a bit too early in the peak season, but boat trips start from second week to june until late august/september to the Saharun Beach.
Getting to Saharun Beach
- Use a travel agent: You can find them in a small stall all around Zadar old town. Prices start from around $40 per day including a meal and return trip to the island.
- Book at least two days in advance. During the peak season trips can get booked REAL FAST. Make sure to book your day trip to Saharun beach at least two or three days in advance.
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#6: Head to Plitvice Lakes for the most beautiful hike ever.
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If you are heading to Croatia, chances are you have heard about the Plitvice Lakes National Park. A collection of stunning waterfalls, lakes and natural ecosystem, this is a once in a lifetime experience.
As a hiking enthusiast, you can explore the park for trails starting from 2-4 hours all the way up to 8-10 hours.
Getting To Plitvice:
- Make sure to book a tour in advance because standing at the ticket office and purchasing a ticket can take anywhere from 2 to 4 hours depending on peak season. The office is also open and allows entry on a particular ticket during fixed hours. We lost half our day in this process, and would highly recommend booking a tour in advance. Ticket Price: $50
- The pre-booked tour might also include private bus transfers, a snack and the ticket price. This would cost you around $100 and up depending on how fancy the tour is. For the time you save with a pre-booked tour, especially in peak season I would have gladly paid the extra few dollars.
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#7 Go swimming at Krka National Park.
If you have a bit more time in the Zadar region and would like to be able to swim in a national park, head to Krka!
We didn’t have enough time to explore this but it is highly recommended by locals.
In hindsight, if you’d like to escape the tons of crowds that head to Plitvice, going to Krka may be a much wiser and cost-effective choice.
If you have enough time, I would spend time exploring both the parks.
Here’s a few tours you can check out:
Travel Tips For Zadar, Croatia
You know how you only ever know what to avoid, what to keep and what to definitely do, AFTER you have already visited the place? Exactly.
This is why I’m sharing with you a few tips I wish I had known before I went to Zadar:
- Stay as close as possible to the city center. We did the mistake of booking a place 5 km away in an Airbnb and it was a PAIN to travel to and fro.
- Carry water shoes and a thick beach blanket. I’ve already said this but I’m adding it for further effect. If you plan to hit the beach this is a MUST DO.
- Get quotes from travel agents and book major tours in advance in the peak season. Again, you CAN wing it, but I’d recommend you don’t. Croatia can get really crowded, really fast and saving $10 for the 2 hours lost in time is not worth it.
- Download Uber before you travel. Relying on public transport (erratic) and private taxis (expensive) is not advisable. Download the app and get a cab on the go!
- Better yet, rent a car! The best thing you can do if you stay long enough in Zadar is to take a car rental. Cheap and convenient as hell.
With the right planning and willingness to experiment, Zadar can be a great destination to visit even for a short weekend.
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