This Zadar travel guide will assist first-time visitors in some of the most unique things to do and see around Zadar. As tourists who have explored almost every destination within Croatia, time and time again, Zadar continuously ranks as one of our favorite cities on the Adriatic coast. It’s the gateway to sailing and adventure holidays in Croatia.
It’s also a university town, so it carries a unique vibe all its own. There’s always a pleasant mix of locals, tourists, and college students. The Old Town is full of history and charm, but conveniently has all the amenities needed to make visiting as a tourist easy and carefree.
Zadar Travel Guide | Gateway to Sailing and Adventure Holidays
As the geographic center of the Adriatic Sea, Zadar has become a popular base for sailing and nautical adventures. The sea surrounding the Zadar archipelago offers both protected waters and challenging seas. This is alluring for both novice and experienced sailors.
Off in the distance, the Velebit Mountain helps to protect Zadar by stabilizing the weather, resulting in sunnier days. The Velebit National Park offers opportunities to venture just outside of the city and is a great place for hiking and cycling among dramatic landscapes and serene nature.
From the sea to its mountain tops, Zadar’s geography helps make it a dream destination for any adventurer and the perfect city to host the Zadar Outdoor Festival. During a weekend in early summer, various sporting events are held all around the region including:
Slacking and High Lining
The beauty of many of these experiences is that you can enjoy them as a participant in the yearly Zadar Outdoor Festival (ZOF), or you can independently organize them as part of your Croatian holiday. We were able to participate in three main events: hiking, sailing, and yoga.
Hiking Olive Island
A 30-minute ferry ride across from Zadar, the island Ugljan offers an amazing hiking opportunity. Sometimes referred to as “Olive Island,” Ugljan was the site for the ZOF 2018 hiking competition. There were two trails: an easier 8,7 km trail and a more challenging 20,6 km trail.
The route took us through olive trees, over old rock walls, and we even bushwhacked through forests! It was a long way to reach the top, but the reward is the breezy view from the edge of a 13th century Venetian Fort, called the Fort of Saint Michael.
Exploring the Island of Ugljan
Only 3 nautical miles from Zadar, Marina Preko is the gateway port to explore the island of Ugljan. This island really has something special that sets it apart from the nearby islands. Maybe it’s the charming ambiance, the shallow sandy beach (unusual for Croatia), or that mass tourism simply hasn’t ruined it yet.
Just beyond Marina Preko, visitors can rent bikes if you’d like to explore more of the island. Ugljan is easily reached from an easy, USD 3 ferry ride from mainland Zadar.
Zadar’s numerous islands and bays make it a great destination to explore by yacht. During the ZOF, both new and experienced sailors can participate in the sailing regatta. If you are new to sailing, participants are provided with a sailing yacht and a knowledgeable captain that can show you the ropes. The route takes teams through the Zadar Channel, with views of Zadar and the islands of Pasman and Ugljan.
The most exciting part of the sailing regatta is right before the start of the race, when all the yachts are circling one another, with the sails wide open. Everyone waits for the horn to blow and for the race to commence!
If racing isn’t your thing, you can still charter a yacht to explore the islands of Zadar and the Kornati National Park archipelagos. There are over 300 islands, islets, and rocky coves in the surrounding area, so it’s easy to find a remote place to hide for the day. Your captain will know the region and will be able to take you to all of the best marinas, beaches, and swimming spots.
Our first workshop at the Zadar Outdoor Festival brought us to Yoga Studio Leela where we were able to experience Budokan yoga. This style of yoga practice offers a full-body workout by combining martial arts movements, the strength of calisthenics, the fluidity of yoga, and the playfulness of animal movement. Check out the studio’s schedule if you’d like to check out their classes.
Special Mention – Highline Slackline
This is Harry walking the highline over Zadar’s forum…..just joking! But seriously, one of the most adrenaline-inducing events of the ZOF is the highline slackline. It’s open to professionals & newbies; anyone who’s brave enough can try walking across the Zadar Forum! This was really exciting to watch, especially the novices who are still working on getting all the way across! As a college town, slack-lining is very popular around Zadar and a fun spectator sport to enjoy around the city.
Accommodations in Zadar
We stayed in a freshly remodeled apartment right in the middle of Zadar’s city center. It has a lovely balcony that overlooks swaying palm trees and a cozy, cobblestone street. It had a great central location near public transportation, the sea, and all major attractions.