Croatia has been high up on my list of places I’d love to visit, so when I saw flights from Manchester to Zadar pop up for around £50 I text my friend to see if she fancied a short break. Before we knew it we were in the beautiful old town of Zadar on the Dalmatian coast, falling in love with everything it had to offer. Here are my top 5 reasons why you should book a flight and go
1. It’s relatively cheap.
From the UK, it is quite easy to get to Zadar and stay there on a budget. it helps that the pound is quite strong at the moment, and that Croatia is still on the Kuna rather then the Euro. Our trip cost £115 each for 4 nights, flights and accommodation, and we had a daily budget of £30 for all food, transport and activities.
Flights from Manchester were just over £50 return with Ryan Air (although I have seen them as low as £40). Accommodation in a self catering apartments right in the heart of the old town was£30/night. Yes, it was basic, but it had a desk, beds, private bathroom and small kitchen with fridge and washing machine. The owner was helpful and easily contactable with good advice on where to go and what to see.
Beer works out at about £1 per pint/bottle, and you can pick up a slice of pizza or a pastry for lunch for about the same. In the evening I got 3 course meal with beer for £15. Public transport is easy to use (if a little difficult to find accurate timetables), and won’t break the bank. As always in touristy destinations, organised tours and excursions are a lot more expensive than a do-it-yourself approach.
2. The National Parks
Zadar is perfectly placed to take advantage of at least 4 of Croatias beautiful National Parks. Although a bit of travel is required to get to some of them, it is easy enough and definitely worth a 1.5 hr coach ride.
Plitvice Lakes is probably the most well known of Croatia’s parks, with its cascading waterfalls and water so blue and so green you’d swear it wasn’t real. This probably takes a bit longer to reach than the other, but there are regular coaches that run there from Zadar main bus terminal, and many tour companies offer full day excursions so it is easy enough to get there.
Krka National Park also boasts stunning waterfalls, winding wooden paths and unbelievable water, along with the added benefit of being able to swim in the lake. This is slightly closer and cheaper than Plitvice (and I’ve been told quieter), so is definitely worth considering. We made the journey there from Zadar on public transport and enjoyed a full day out exploring.
Kornati National Park consists of 89 islands, islets and reefs along the Dalmatian coast, with white sands and the clearest sea. There is a charge for boats to enter the park, whether you are on an excursion, or sailing yourself. Please note that trips are weather dependant; the boat trip we booked was unfortunately cancelled due to thunderstorms and uncertain conditions. I’m desperate to get to Kornati and snorkel in the park so this just gives me an excuse to go back.
Paklencia National Park is perfect for those who love nature, hiking or climbing. This is home to forests, canyons, hills and caves, and offers a good range of walks for all abilities.
Krka National Park
3. The Sea Organ and Sun Salutation
I think every seaside town should have a Sea Organ! I just loved it. Installed in 2005 by artist Nikola Basic, the Zadar Sea organ is a series of steps along the sea front. At first they look like simple steps for people to sit on and dip their feet into the cool waters. However, listen closely and you will hear gentle notes coming from the steps themselves (not to gentle when the waves are big). As the tide moves air is forced down pipes hidden in the steps to create random notes, often low and haunting sounds. I found listening to the sea organ almost trance like. It’s certainly relaxing!
A few meters away from the Sea Organ is the Sun Salutation, a large glass floor, underneath which hundred of LED lights change colour. The floor is a giant solar panel that soaks up the sun during the day, and then uses that energy to light up the LEDs which dance across the floor in different patterns. This does tend to get quite busy early on, but if you return a couple of hours after sunset it’s usually quiet. Just watch out for the floor in the rain. It gets VERY slippery! Yes, I learnt that from experience when I fell over… twice!
4. The Sunsets
Before I visited Zadar I’d heard about the beautiful sunsets. People gather on the sea organ steps to watch the sun slowly sink into the sea. The sky lights up fantastic colours that seems to change every few minutes, and the atmosphere around is one of everyone at peace. We found ourselves talking to so many different people as we sat and watched the sun go down; such a simple, everyday occurrence, but one that seemed to open people up. It was one of my favourite things to do of an evening in Zadar.
5. The beauty of the town
I fell in love with wandering the streets. Whilst I was there my friend unfortunately fell ill, so I spent a morning just walking up and down every street I could find, and I’m sure there are a few I still managed to miss. There are some old churches to explore, and lovely open squares, not to mention the seafront, but I think it was the charm of the narrow, winding streets I loved the most.
Oh, and as a bonus, across from the Old Town you can find the Zadar Sphinx. We were really confused when we stumbled across this, but apparently there’s a romantic story behind it. I won’t tell you exactly where it is as it’s a nice surprise to find, so keep an eye out for it!