Whilst Croatia is having a bit of a surge in popularity, the coastal city of Zadar is still relatively unknown to travellers in comparison to places like Dubrovnik or Split. Located around the middle of the country’s Dalmatian coast, Zadar is perfectly located for those who want to see all of the beautiful landmarks Croatia has to offer (and there are a lot of them!) and stay in an area that isn’t too over-crowded with tourists.
To help plan your trip, I’ve compiled a list of ten things you shouldn’t leave Zadar without seeing and doing.
Top 10 Things You Must do in zadar, croatia
1. Listen to the Sea Organ
This art installation was built in 2005, and is a musical organ built into the coastal boardwalk. The monument uses the movement of the waves to push air through various pipes of different sizes, ending up in an eerily beautiful symphony powered by the sea. The installation features steps built into the stone, which means you can easily spend the morning sipping a coffee and listening to the sound of the waves and the musical notes.
2. Go Swimming at Krka National Park
Just under an hour’s drive from Zadar (or bus ride for a cheap £5 each way) is Krka National Park, easily one of the most beautiful spots in Croatia. From the ferry ride into the National Park, to walking along the shaded pathways surrounded by waterfalls, to swimming in the lakes themselves, Krka is stunningly beautiful and an absolute must-see. Skradinski Buk is the largest and most famous of the falls, which consists of not just one waterfall, but a series of smaller falls cascading down onto one another.
3. Sample Some of the Famous Pag Cheese
If you’re a cheese lover, you absolutely must get some Paški Sir, the local cheese in Zadar. This sheep’s milk cheese originates from a town not far from Zadar, and is considered by some to be the best artisan cheese in the country. And if you’re feeling up for a particularly cheesy experience, the Gligora cheese factory actually offers factory tasting tours. We couldn’t resist buying several flavors of cheese and putting together a picnic to enjoy on the Zadar waterfront.
4. Take the Old Town Walking Tour
Whilst I’d recommend taking a walking tour in any city, I found the Zadar one particularly interesting. The city has a rich history, full of stories of Roman, Ottoman, and Italian occupation, and the vastly diverse architecture reflects the city’s complicated past. There are many options for tours, but we took the Free Spirit tour of Zadar, and loved how knowledgeable our guide was.
5. Try the Local Delicacies
Whilst I was familiar with the Italian or Greek influences on Mediterranean food, Dalmatian food was a new one for me – and it certainly didn’t disappoint! We particularly loved the black squid ink risotto, and Pašticada – a stew dish usually involving beef and a sauce made of tomatoes, prunes and prošek, which is a sweet Croatian red wine.
6. Hike at Paklenica National Park
Paklenica was possibly my favorite national park of our trip. The sheer cliff faces mean the area is particularly popular with rock climbers, but even if you’re just looking for a leisurely walk, the park is full of incredible views. Velika Canyon is a stunning spot, and there are several trails that go off into the mountains and are perfect for a day or even overnight camping trip.
7. Charter a Sailboat for the Day
Because we visited Zadar in early October, we were able to hire a sailboat and captain for an afternoon for a very reasonable price. It was still warm enough to enjoy the day out on the water, and having the boat to ourselves meant we were able to plan the journey however we wanted. Our sailboat excursion brought us to all of the most beautiful islands off the coast of Zadar, and included a stop in a cove for us to swim and use stand up paddleboards.
8. Take a Trip to Plitvice Lakes
Famous for its 16 cascading natural lakes, this UNESCO World Heritage site is an absolute must-see. The lakes themselves are such a clear green-blue, they look completely untouched by civilization. You can’t swim in the lakes, but the park has 8 different hiking routes that weave between the waterfalls and offer spectacular views, and you can also rent a row boat to take out onto the water. The park is about an hour and a half drive from Zadar, but definitely worth the trip.
9. Swim in the Clear Blue Water at Kornati
An island just off the coast of Zadar, Kornati is another of the amazing National Parks in the area. We made sure our sailing excursion included a swim in this gorgeously clear aquamarine water – it’s the perfect place to spend the afternoon. Bring a picnic and some snorkeling gear to see all of the little fish in the area.
10. End Your Day with a Greeting to the Sun
Another of the popular art installations in Zadar, The Greeting to the Sun was built in 2008, and is a monument that looks like a massive solar panel during the day, and at night comes alive with a colorful light show. The artist designed it to symbolize communication with nature and light, and it’s surrounded by several smaller solar panels representing the planets orbiting the sun.