The sky was filling with pink as we stood surrounded by the motion of the crowds and the waves, all watching the show and listening to the music. It wasn’t a concert, but the sunset along the Croatia coastline of Zadar with a symphony created by the Sea Organ, an art piece that creates sounds from the waves crashing in to the shore.
Since it must be experienced, I took a little video to help you better understand the booming organ emanating from the ground. Listen over the people talking, it’s a pretty incredible experience.
Grabbing hands, we strolled on from there to the Sun Salutation.
A light installation that comes alive at night and moves based upon the solar energy and waves it gathered during the day. The installation has been around awhile and as with much technology it appeared to be experiencing a few glitches by the time we arrived, but it was still interesting to experience.
Onward from there we made our way to the land of gelato. In other words, every street corner of Zadar. This would be the first of David’s determination to try out a new flavor nightly for the duration of our trip.
His first impression was that it wasn’t so much gelato as really creamy ice cream. I’m not a foodie, but I actually think that is the definition of gelato. Either way he loved it and informed me on our final night that Salzburg had the best (flavor was cookie), but Zadar had the cheapest.
Fading fast from jet lag, we climbed the four flights of stairs to our AirBnb. That’s right, expect no elevators around here so any baggage you bring, you’ll be using for a workout. You’ll find more on Croatia hotels below!The spot I’d chosen gave us a beautiful balcony view of the Church of St Donat bell tower, a great hot shower and for me most importantly air conditioning.
I’ve got more to tell you about our time in Zadar, but first I want to answer some of the questions I received when booking this trip and while there.
Croatia Quick Facts
First let’s start with where is Croatia and do you need to worry about safety? Way back in the 90’s there were wars here as they broke away from the former Yugoslavia, however since then things have been calm in this Mediterranean country.It’s a long skinny country, kind of like Florida. So you could easily spend an entire two week vacation exploring everything from the tip of Dubrovnik up to the coast where we were in Zadar and then inland to the national parks.
What’s on the menu in Croatia?
Trout, squid, vegetables in oil (peppers, eggplant and zucchini), French fries, beef, lamb, pizza, prosciutto and as noted above gelato. In general, you’ll find bakeries galore, plenty of fresh fish and in the larger cities a wide variety of cuisine.
On one street in Zagreb we found Russian, Ethiopian, Italian, American, Irish and oh yes, more gelato.As with most places in Europe, you’ll find plenty of fresh markets too, which is where most of the locals buy food.
What is the currency in Croatia?
It’s important to know that Croatia is part of the European Union, but uses the Kuna, not Euros. You will find many places here do not take credit cards, so you’ll need to be sure to have cash on hand.
The great thing is that it’s an incredibly cheap city! Converted some Kuna prices below to USD for examples:
- $1 scoop of gelato
- $.75 a strudel from the bakery
- $2 a huge slice of pizza
- $8 a salmon dinner with veggies
What Language do they Speak in Croatia?
Nearly everyone is going to speak English and most menus are translated in to English as well.
We went out in to the countryside for one of our stays and it was that way even there. We’re extremely spoiled to have most of the world make it so easy for us to communicate. Technically, Croatian is their national language.
What is Croatian Tourism Like?
This country has seen an explosion in tourism in the last few years and is doing it’s best to catch up, which mostly means it’s a gem for those of us getting there early on!
The boom is due to a few factors:
- It’s the same Mediterranean feel as Italy, but much cheaper
- You can go from sea to mountains in just a short drive
- Instagram has help showcase the beauty in this country like Plitivice Lakes or the historic buildings found in the towns
- Europeans have long seen it as a great long weekend escape from big cities
- Plenty of options for a great active vacation like we had (easy runs along the water, hiking through national parks, bike rentals everywhere, swimming)
Right now, the majority of people appear to be from cruise lines or a tour bus coming in for the day to walk the streets, hear the sea organ and the Sun Salutation.
Below is the view of the city from the bell tower.
Those who quickly flit in for the day are missing out on all there really is to see. For example, after resting up in Zadar we were ready to explore some of the nearby islands before heading farther inland to Plitvice Lakes and the capital of Zagreb.
Island of Ugljan
I told you above about the seaside town of Zadar where we started our vacation. You can fly directly in to Zadar on Croatia airlines and then take a 15 minute taxi ride in to the heart of downtown.
After spending some time exploring what Zadar has to offer, you’ll be called to hop on one of the many available boats to head out to sea! You can do a day trip on a boat or head to one of the nearby islands for more exploring.
You have two options with boats:
- Jadrolinija car-ferry departs from a port that is probably a 1 mile walk from downtown and is required if you are taking a bike with you
- Jadrolinija ferryboat for people only departs right outside the city gates, which is what we took. You’ll buy tickets at an office next to the seawall gate
- Option 3 would be a guided tour of some kind
Our original plan was to head to the island of Dugi Otk to see some incredible cliff views and a park, but going in shoulder season meant the boat schedule had changed and we couldn’t find a timing that would workout. Instead, we paid a few Euros for the ferry to Ugljan for a day of biking riding.
Since we couldn’t find a ton of information in advance, here’s what we learned!!
First, you should 100% do a bike ride! Even a runner like me, had a blast with this.
Once you hop off the ferry, go right along the water just a short distance until you find Natura Adriatica. Not only were they super friendly with plenty of bikes, but they offer roadside assistance! Yup, as we got half way around the island and I popped a tire, they quickly came out and patched me up so we could keep on going.
They’ll provide you a map and for the most part, you can ride along the water with spectacular views and without worrying about cars. You’ll have a few hills, but nothing extreme and in the moments you are on a road with cars there won’t be many.If you’re like us, you’ll also attempt some of the other things on the map and let’s just say they don’t believe in winding roads up a hill. They go straight up and it’s hard AF. Even David who is a mountain manic bailed after I pushed my bike for about a mile up a 14% incline in the 90 degree temps.
Still it was worth the view!
That water is SO INVITING. Bring along your swimsuits and plan to stop at one of the many concrete beaches you’ll encounter on your run. Yup very little sand here, so people just use the concrete and call it a beach.
As you pedaling along, you’ll come across some great little seaside places to refuel. We found a restaurant that served truly the best bread I’ve had in my entire life, alongside a plate of roasted vegetables and lamb.
Very little could have made anything about this day better. The island is beautiful, the people are kind, everything is cheap, delicious and so much fun to explore.Now we move away from the beautiful waters of the coastline to Plitvice National Lakes and the capital of Zagreb. This was getting crazy long, so I moved them to a second blog post!
But first I have to leave you with a few more photos from Zadar. This is the city wall which lines three sides of the city, the other is the water, creating a wonderful pedestrian only zone.
The wonderful little streets are filled with the smells of restaurants. You’ll find everything from fresh local ingredients to more standard pizza and fries. You won’t however find McDonalds’ or Starbucks and I LOVED that. Zadar is also one of the only late night cities we encountered.
Have questions about Croatia? Let me know, otherwise, onward to Plitvice!
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