Zadar is one of the most underrated destinations in Croatia. It is much less traveled than Split or Dubrovnik, and because of this it has an intriguing, authentic character that I love.
Like many towns in Croatia, Zadar has timeless cafés, endless gelato shops, and winding side streets with delicious cuisines.
If you had any doubts, here are the reasons to visit this unique and historic city.
But what lies beyond the city walls?
Whether you rented a car or rely on public transportation, there are awesome day trips from Zadar easily accessible with an hour or two of travel.
After three days soaking in the sunlight I decided to explore some national parks, towns, and two islands that are mere day trips from Zadar. Here are some of my favorites.
Kolovare Beach is the perfect spot to sun bathe or chill out with a good book. A bit secluded from crowded spots close to the city, this bit of coastline is a 5-minute walk from Accommodation Horizon Hostel and a 10-minute walk from town. This is the shortest day trip from Zadar you can find!
**Side note: the ground is made of concrete so be sure to take a blanket with you!**
Šibenik is a one-hour drive south of Zadar along the Adriatic coast. Once you arrive in this historic village be sure to visit the St. James Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage site elaborately decorated with 71 sculpted faces. Stop by the Šibenik City Museum that houses local exhibits from prehistory to present. At night, catch a show or concert at St. Michael’s Fortress, an open-air theater with incredible views of the Mediterranean.
Paklenica National Park
Paklenica National Park is a protected area known for dramatic canyons and karst rock formations, as well as diverse animal species and dense forests.
The 40-minute trip from Zadar’s Central Bus Station to Starigrad was completely worth the serenity and beauty I experienced here.
To enter the park from the bus stop, walk back in the direction the bus came until you see a sign on the left for Paklenica National Park. Head straight along the paved road about two kilometers until you reach the pay station. Upon receiving your day pass and trail map, walk another kilometer until you reach the trailhead where there are many paths to choose from. The most popular is a carriage trail through the valley to a cottage cafe (a 2-hour walk) or try a more ambitious hike into the mountains (4-5 hours walk). Paklenica was one of my favorite day trips from Zadar, you just can’t miss it!
Krka National Park
Krka National Park is arguably the most visited natural wonder in Croatia. It was formed to protect the Krka River and is used for scientific, cultural, and educational activities as well as tourism. The park is full of breathtaking cascades, world famous waterfalls and a Franciscan monastery on Visovac island.
It is very busy in the summer months. To be sure you’ll get in, buy a ticket in advance or take an all-inclusive tour from Split or Zadar. If you buy a ticket the day of, be prepared to wait awhile!
Preko, Ugljan Island
Need a vacation from your vacation? Take a day trip getaway to Preko. Located just a 20-minute ferry ride from Zadar, this old centre consists of typical Dalmatian architecture and numerous family summer houses. I spent the day hopping from beach to beach and indulging in too many gelatos to count. It was a day well spent!
Sali, Dugi Otok Island
Sali is a small town but still the largest on the island. A one-hour ferry from Zadar, Sali is completely relaxing and utterly gorgeous. I took 5 hours to explore and loved every second of it.
After grabbing some water and pastries from the Tommy supermarket, I headed into the hills for a short hike. I walked past stone houses selling fresh olive oils and house-made wines, and passed a family preparing their midday meal in a white stone outdoor oven in their garden.
After crossing a thruway, I continued straight along a narrow hiking path and followed the signs to a summit. After 30 minutes I reached a gaping view of the vast Mediterranean behind me and the kind of peace and silence that can only be felt in the mountains.
After my hike I headed back down to a rocky beach located in the bay Sascica near hotel Sali. There are stone terraces for easy access as well as a beach bar and restaurant serving midday meals and cocktails.
I hope these adventurous day trips from Zadar inspired you to pay a visit.
What kinds of destinations are your favorite, cities or nature parks? Let me know in the comments.