A few days in Zadar, Croatia
Visiting Croatia was never part of the original plan, but as I was fast approaching my 90 day limit within the Schengen Area, I had to quickly leave Italy and find a close-by country detached from the restricted zone to continue my journey in. So after a quick scout of the surrounding countries and some advice from fellow travellers, Croatia appeared to be the ideal place to spend my time relaxing and laying low after a few months of constant travel.
The first stop was Zadar, a city located 150 km north-east of Split on the Adriatic coast. I spent 4 days there (although it’s small enough to see in one or two) and it quickly proved to be the perfect introduction to Croatia. If you’re planning a trip to Zadar, I’ve listed some pointers below to get you started:
How did I get there?
As I had just arrived in Split on an overnight ferry from Italy, I opted for a bus as the station was located directly next to the port. It ended up costing around $15.00 USD and I was on a bus headed north within 20 minutes. If you’re stuck for time however, be wary of the bus timetable, I arrived in Zadar a good hour later than what was advertised.
Where did I stay?
I stayed at the Wild Fig hostel. At the time I stayed there it was still fairly new, but the Australian owner ran a tight operation. The rooms were spacious, the kitchen was huge (I believe it used to be a restaurant) and the common area was one of the most relaxing and social I’ve encountered so far. Adding to that, the rooms were air-conditioned and free WiFi was available throughout the hostel which was a nice bonus.
What’s there to see?
I found the majority of my time was split between exploring the old town and relaxing at the beach. That’s all there is to do in Zadar really. Not that there is nothing wrong with that, the coastline is incredibly scenic and the old town has a lot to offer. A few interesting sights include:
The Sea Organ
Created by architect Nikola Bašić, the sea organ is an experimental musical instrument which plays music by way of sea waves and tubes located underneath a set of large marble steps. It’s normally quite a popular spot for tourists, so get down there early, find yourself a nice spot and enjoy the harmonic sounds of the waves.
Did you know? The famous director Alfred Hitchcock was a guest in Zadar in May 1964. Watching the sunset from the windows of room 204, he wrote: “The sunset of Zadar is the world’s most beautiful and incomparably better than in Key West, Florida.”
Greeting to the Sun
Another product by architect Nikola Bašić, the Greeting to the Sun is located just metres from The Sea Organ and is best viewed at sunset where the three hundred multi-layer glass plates glimmer in the setting sun and project an impressive array of colours and light to the rhythm of the waves and sound of the sea organ.
The Greeting to the Sun consists of three hundred multi-layer glass plates installed at the same level as the stone paving of the quay in the shape of a circle 22 meters in diameter. It is conceived as a spatial installation in the shape of an amphitheatre surrounded by stone blocks with a presentation of all Solar System planets and their orbits.
The Bell Tower
For 10 Croatian Kunas (approximately $1.5 US) you can walk up the Bell Tower which is located adjacent to the Church of Saint Donatus. Built between the 15th and 19th century, this bell tower the ideal location to get a wonderful view of the entire city. With the ocean flanking three sides and the city to the east, it’s the perfect view of land and sea and you’ll get some fantastic photos from the top.
St. Anastasia Cathedral
You don’t even have to venture inside to appreciate this cathedral. With its Romanesque architecture and richly decorated facades, it’s a beautiful location to stop and take a few pictures. Once inside however, you get a magnificent view of the intricate 13th-century wall paintings and also the stunning mosaics, carvings and frescoes which are situated throughout the building. The cathedral was badly bombed during WWII but has since been reconstructed.
Plitvice Lakes National Park
Depending on how long you decide to stay in Zadar, there is only so long you can spend at the beach and exploring the old town. If you’re looking for something else to do, perhaps try venturing into nature and checking out the Plitvice Lakes National Park for the day.
It’s the oldest national park in south-east Europe and the largest national park in Croatia. In 1979, it was added to the UNESCO World Heritage register, one of the first natural sites worldwide to be included. Containing a series of beautiful lakes, caves and waterfalls, it’s located just 145 km north-east of Zadar and it’s an unforgettable day-trip for those stationed in Zadar for more than a few days.
Photo Credits – Sea Organ, Plitvice Lakes National Park.