Zadar: the Croatian destination without crowds to enjoy the most authentic Mediterranean

The Mediterranean as it was, free of tourist agglomerations, was for a long time the holiday motto of a Croatia today full of life in Dubrovnik (the fault was Game

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The Mediterranean as it was , free of tourist agglomerations, was for a long time the holiday motto of a Croatia full of life today in Dubrovnik (the fault was Game of Thrones ), Split or Zagreb. But in the lesser known region of Zadar you can still enjoy the European fashion destination without overcrowding. Now it is inevitable to recover that relaxed slogan, although we are in the months of retirement par excellence.

As in the best-known cities for its main visiting markets (Germany, Italy and its neighboring country Slovenia, or nearby Austria, Poland and the Czech Republic), Zadar boasts crystal clear water, fine cuisine and wine, history and culture, secret corners and a very active holiday in the middle of nature. With the advantage of the tranquility offered by this romantic coastal point from which to jump at any time to one of the small islands that dot the Adriatic Sea in the form of waves. "There are 1,244 and only 50 are inhabited," explains Josip Paskov, a city guide and translator trained at the University of this city, one of the oldest in Europe and worth visiting.

The Spanish airline Iberia Express has just launched a direct route to Zadar in its summer program , in the heart of the Dalmatian coast, with two weekly frequencies, on Saturdays and Tuesdays, covering July and August. So a round trip ticket from 69 euros is an opportunity to discover this corner of the so in vogue Croatian map in full boiling time but enjoying the relaxation that, after all, is the final meaning of the business.

Saturday: arrival in Zadar

The departure time from Madrid is at 18:20, with landing at 20:55. Keep in mind that Zadar airport is so small that it will go down in the middle of the runway and, if a couple of flights coincide, you will have some retention in the passenger control and to collect your bags. That is why it is preferable to travel with hand luggage.

The airline Iberia Express opens a direct route Madrid-Zadar this summer.

Upon arrival you can change currency: although Croatia entered the European Union in July 2013, the country still maintains the kuna . Renting a car is the most comfortable way to get around, because you can even take it by ferry to the islands. Go to the four-star Falkensteiner Club Funimation Borik hotel with a breakfast where you will find it difficult to choose given so many options.

Sunday: Day 1. Zadar, a treasure to discover

9.00 hours Paklenica National Park. This Croatian lung is part of Velebit, the second highest mountain in the country, and is open year-round for visitors, who can climb, go hiking or simply enjoy a wild experience with a quiet walk through nature. Its beech trees are a World Heritage Site 2017 by Unesco and the mountain belongs to the 1978 Biosphere Reserve . In addition, in 2013 the entire surface of the park entered Natura 2000, a network of biodiversity conservation areas in the European Union.

It offers more than 500 routes equipped for the most adventurous and 150 kilometers of educational roads, a viewpoint and fortress, mills, a visitor center ... Right now it shows the emotional photographs of a park watcher throughout a lifetime of observation. Gordan Lukac, guide of the park for 24 years, biologist and naturalist, reveals the reason for the name of the park. " Paklina is a resin that is obtained from the black pine and in the past it was heated to caulk the ships or even to apply it on the wounds of the body. The word derived and, since it is no longer in use, people think that it refers to hell ".

The park can be reached by vehicle: it has parking and a small cafeteria to sit and rest with views of the families of climbers : even the little ones are encouraged. See the price list. Wear comfortable shoes because karst relief slips. It is always advisable to bring a bottle of water and protect yourself from the sun with cream, sunglasses and a cap.

1:00 p.m. Lunch in Rajna. In the immediate vicinity of the Paklenica natural park is Rajna, a cozy restaurant with a hotel run by a local family with capacity for only 30 people. Croatian custom is to start the meal with a good seafood soup . Among the starters, its typical cheeses from the island of Pag and the Dalmatian ham stand out . Try fish such as stripe, sea bream, tuna or mussels. Harmonize with one of its red or white wines , taking advantage of the fact that it is wine land, or with the popular Velebitsko native beer.

4 pm Buy at a fruit and vegetable stand. Back to the hotel to rest, stop at one of the makeshift markets at the edge of the road. The farmers in the area offer seasonal products directly from their orchards, olive oil from the region, honey, jam and spirits. "They pay a flat tax for being there and here in Croatia it is a great tradition," slides guide Josip Paskov.

6 pm Walk through the center of Zadar. The ideal way to get the most out of the visit and understand a region with so many influences is to take a guided tour of the city, recently included in the Unesco World Heritage list. Invite time travel too. Start at the Plaza de los Cinco Pozos, which since the sixteenth century supplied the Venetian army, glimpsing the Puerta de Tierra Firme and the winged lion.

Church of San Donato de Zadar, 9th century.SHUTTERSTOCK

Continue your itinerary in the curious Museum of Glass (Museum of Ancient Glass) full of antiques, located in a neoclassicist building or, at least, take a look at your store. The only pedestrian bridge in the city is contemplated at your doorstep. Continue to the concept store of ties . This complement arose in the Balkan Peninsula to assist the army three and a half centuries ago, they explain in this shop-museum with garments designed in 24-carat gold or inlaid with Swarovski crystals. The most expensive costs 5,000 euros. And stop before the Roman Forum.

8.30 pm Sunset on the waterfront. One of the essentials in Zadar is to check if director Alfred Hitchcock was right when he said that "Zadar's sunset is the most beautiful in the world." Every day, hundreds of tourists gather to watch the sunset next to the Sea Organ designed by Nikola Basic in 2005. The bravest ones even bathe on this experimental musical instrument that resonates with the sway of the waves, especially if a boat passes by . Up to 35 underwater tubes are responsible for this concert .

9.00 p.m. Dinner at the 2Ribara restaurant. It is translated as Two Fishermen and that is why, in addition to a great variety of fish, it is advisable to start with rich marinated sardines as an entree, although its white truffle accompanying the pasta or its meats are also other rich options of the menu. After dinner, return to the promenade and contemplate the Greeting to the Sun , a solar calendar illuminated with multiple colors also devised by Basic forming a large circle of 22 meters in diameter.

Monday: Day 2. Dugi Otok, the 'Long Island'

10.00 hours Ferry to the paradise Dugi Otok. Zadar looks out over a coast full of Dalmatian islands. One of the most worth visiting is known as Isla Larga , which is 45 kilometers long and between one and four kilometers wide. The journey takes about an hour and a half, and you can take the vehicle on the boat, with three lines in summer, although there are also catamarans. A lighthouse in the northernmost area offers the best views of turquoise water beaches and a large garden, although the permission of the lighthouse keeper is necessary to go up. As a curiosity, this famous lighthouse has accommodation.

View from the lighthouse of Dugi Otok to the coast of turquoise waters.

12.00 Dip in the only sandy beach. Most of the coast is rocky, hence nudism is practiced in many of them . However, Sakarun offers that ideal place to spend a few beach days with the children. "It is one of the most interesting islands for its beauty and the tranquility it offers, although there are also many hiking trails and in the southern part is the Telascica natural park, with its biggest attractions: its salt water lake and the bays of turquoise waters, "reveals Josip Paskov.

3 pm Food in Spageritimo. This charming restaurant that overlooks the fishing port is the place to be of Sali , a population with just 1,000 inhabitants but has its vegetarian food place with a very interesting proposal. Its name is due to the large salt production that the area has offered since medieval times. There are only two other restaurants in this fishing village, which next to the small town of Zaglav, where you can visit a Franciscan convent, are the great attractions in Dugi Otok.

5.15 pm Return to Zadar. Return on the last ferry of the day. If you have time and want to shop, two points of interest are the Gligora artisan cheese shop, where they boast a customer as VIP as the footballer Luka Modric. Also the desacralized church that houses Vart Ceramies at number 1 on Varoska Street is full of miniature art, with hand-painted dishes and accessories. For dinner, the elegant Groppo, in the heart of the city and with a terrace next to the cathedral of Santa Anastasia .

Tuesday: Day 3. Pag and Nin Islands, the salt of life

9:30 AM Visit to the island of Pag, famous for its cheeses. Its lunar landscape and crafts give fame to this island divided between the region of Zadar and that of Lika. A part of its 63 kilometers is known for nightlife. Not surprisingly, Novalja and its Zrce beach is known as the Croatian Ibiza , although here the entrance to the clubs overlooking the sea is cheaper. In addition to the 24-hour festive atmosphere, in the quietest area of ​​the island there are fishing villages where peace and tranquility reign. Two mandatory stops: the lace museum, Pag Lace, Intangible Heritage of Humanity and testimony of a cultural tradition spread by Benedictine nuns; and the permanent exhibition of salt, where to discover curiosities such as that salt is named in the Bible 41 times or the origin of the word salary.

Pag Island in the north Adriatic Sea. SHUTTERSTOCK

12.30 pm Lunch at the Smokva de Pag restaurant . A stop along the way in this hotel located in front of the beach. Specialists in a meat tray to try all the specialties, such as cevapcici, a meatball burger reminiscent of kebab.

Solana Nin, salinas on the island joined by two bridges to Zadar.SOLANA NIN

4 pm Arrival in Nin, islet joined by two bridges. To the north of Zadar (about 18 kilometers) and without needing to touch water, because it is connected to the mainland, this beautiful town of great archaeological value is found. "It gathers Corinthian columns and part of the Roman Temple of Diana, still preserved in the center. In addition to the Roman remains, there are Venetian vestiges on walls and doors," describes Marija Dejanovic, from the region's tourist office. A walk, an afternoon on the beach of Laguna Ninska or a cultural visit to the Roman-Gothic church of San Ambrosio and the paleocroata of San Nicolás are some of the possible options before returning to Zadar airport.

18.45 hours. I return to Madrid. Croatia has it all, from the quietest vacations lost on one of its thousand islands to endless activities in an astute for more action, so the return will be hard. The entertainment platform of Iberia Express will mitigate your grief. And who knows if he can plan another getaway ...

| More information on the website of the Croatian Tourist Office

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