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Dugi Otok: Croatia’s Long Island And Sakarun Beach
Dugi Otok is one of Croatia’s best-kept secrets – a place of true peace and tranquility. It is known to be an island where you can really let go, embrace nature, and experience relaxation for your body and soul. Its name translates to ‘Long Island.’ It is not, however, the longest island in Croatia. It is 45 km long and is the seventh-largest island in Croatia. Dugi Otok is a part of the Zadar archipelago on the Dalmatian coast. There are many, twelve to be exact, small villages on the islands, each with their own charms and peaceful ambiance.
Dugi Otok has many fun attractions that the whole family will enjoy.
When you visit Dugi Otok, do stay awhile. There are many accommodation options, so find a place that suits your needs and spend a few days (at least) exploring all the things that the island has to offer.
EDITORS NOTE: This is one place that holds a special place in my heart here in Croatia. Why? Well, it’s where I first saw those donkeys who inspired the name of this blog on my very first trip to Croatia 14 years ago.
Things To Do On Dugi Otok
Here are just a few ideas to get you started!
Telačćica National Park
Telašćica Bay is one of the safest and most beautiful natural bays on the Adriatic. Within the Bay, there are six islands and reefs, 25 bays, and 69 km of coastline. The bay is secluded from winds; hence it is beautiful for many sailors and those involved in nautical tourism. Those who love to swim will also enjoy the stillness and clarity of the sea. You and your family will be able to pick a private spot under the many pine trees along the coast, roll out the blankets and picnic basket and just have a perfect day of lounging, sunbathing, and swimming. The surrounding area has many beautiful meadows surrounded by many olive groves and rich Mediterranean vegetation with over 300 plant species.
If you plan on visiting Telašćica just for the day, you might want to hop on an excursion boat in Zadar or surrounding villages that offer daily tours to the Bay; most offer lunch on the boat as well. There are also many tour buses on the island that offer day trips to the Bay. A professional tour guide will guide you the entire trip and show you the most exciting attractions in the area. Participants have plenty of free time for swimming and to explore the area on their own.
If you get hungry or thirsty, there are several cafes and restaurants in the area, with various foods, drinks, and ice cream. I would highly recommend the fresh grilled fish as it is caught in the early morning hours.
Kornati National Park
Kornati National Park has over 150 islands, islets, and reefs. So you probably will not be able to visit each island, but here are some islands that are very close to Dugi Otok and thus easily accessible for day trips, such as the beautiful Katina island, Taljurić, Suha Punta, Vela Proversa, Statival, etc.
From Zadar, we recommend you check out Zadar Day Trips for the best excursions to Dugi Otok.
Salt Lake “Mir” Within The Telašćica National Park
This natural beauty (900 meters long, 300 meters wide, and a maximum depth of 6 meters) is located in the southwestern part of the NP Telašćica. This lake was created after the last Ice Age when the sea level rose above 120 meters, and the sea met the karst depression; the sea penetrated through the many underground cracks.
The lake is very salty because the underground channels are connected to the sea. You can swim and relax in the lake, as it is hot in the summertime. However, it does not look charming as it looks very gloomy and muddy because it is covered with clay in the deeper ends and curative mud on the southeast. It would help if you also were very careful going into the lake, as the shore is very rocky.
Steep cliffs “Stine” with stunning views of the nearby Kornati islands and the Zadar archipelago is something not to be missed when visiting Telašćica. They are vertical cliffs and are located on the open side of Telašćica Bay. The cliffs spread from Mrzlovica to the slopes of Veli Vrh, reaching 161 meters in length at Grpašćak. It is a perfect area to explore on foot, with many hiking and trekking trails.
Dugi Otok has a unique underwater world with rich vegetation. So if you want to get more familiar with this world, you can contact one of five diving schools on the island and get involved in an adventure of a lifetime.
Beautiful Bays And White Sandy Beaches
Certainly, one of the most beautiful things to see on the island is its stunning secluded bays and white sandy beaches, such as Saharun (or often referred to as Sakarun) and Veli Žal.
Sakarun is a breathtaking and unusual beach in Croatia; the water is so clean and clear, with white sand and shallow for many kilometers in the bay – perfect for small children to play. It is a huge bay, secluded from the sea and winds, so many sailors use it to anchor their boats, but they do not take away from the swimming and playing area for the daily visitors in the beach area.
Veli Žal is definitely on my list of favorite beaches in Croatia; it is also located on the western side of the island, closest to the village of Dragove, and very close to Sakarun. It is not as secluded as Sakarun, and the beach itself is pebble, but its waters offer smooth white sand; it is immaculate and clear, overlooking the island of Mežanj and the open sea. While swimming at this beach, I had a feeling like I was swimming in Hawaii.
Strašna Peć Cave
Translating to the frightful furnace, located near the village of Savar, is another fun and interesting trip on the island. The cave is 10 meters wide and 7 meters tall. A legend says that a race of Adriatic fairies, similar to vampires, decided to divide the island into two parts at its narrowest point for reasons that are still unknown. They began to dig a hole into dividing the island in half but stopped when dawn came and retreated to the bottom as they suffer when they are exposed to sunlight. Legend has it that they are still there and afraid to leave their hideout.
When you visit the cave, you will feel as if you have come to another planet; many bats live here; in fact, it is the largest bat colony in this part of Europe. It is unusual, quiet, and peaceful and has a somewhat fascinated beauty that even interested the Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Joseph, who visited the cave in 1904.
In the summertime, every city, town, and village in Croatia has its own “Fešta” or celebration, celebrating the old traditions that are unique to only that town. This goes for every village on Dugi Otok.
Locals celebrate a specific type of food and their ancestors’ way of life through live music while offering their visitor’s local delicacies to taste their culinary traditions. These festivities are a lot of fun, and the locals really go all out to provide good fun and delicious local foods.
One example of these festivities on Dugi Otok is the Saljske užance in the village of Sali. A festivity that has been held every year on the first weekend of August for over 50 years; the celebration lasts for three nights, and every night has its own theme.
Friday night, for example, is “Fisherman’s night,” while Sunday night, up until recently, has been dedicated to the traditional donkey race. Traditionally the donkey represented a way of life on the island – almost every household had a donkey. The donkey was used for hard labor and a means of transportation for the local villagers, most often transporting water, olives, etc.
However, ever since the car and tractor made its way to the island, and because many islanders no longer live off of their land, the use of the donkeys has declined, and this lovely creature has become scarce on Dugi Otok.
These festivities are bundles of fun for the entire family and go on to early morning hours.
Lighthouse Near Veli Rat
This lighthouse is just not to be missed. I am a huge fan and have been promoting it a lot as a destination-wedding venue. The views and the experience at this lighthouse and its grounds are simply perfect. It is located on the northwestern tip of Dugi Otok, near the village of Veli Rat.
The lighthouse was built in 1849, and it is 42 meters high (the highest on the Adriatic). In the courtyard of the lighthouse is a chapel of St. Nicholas. For all you lovebirds out there, it is a perfect location for organizing a destination wedding. The lighthouse also offers accommodation, so you could easily organize your wedding and spend your honeymoon at this location.
Sakarun beach is minutes away, which is becoming a very popular destination as of lately. However, still private enough that you will not find lots of crowds. You will find a large courtyard and a large swing underneath a big, ancient tree – perfect for some playful fun in front of the lighthouse.
Activities On Dugi Otok
You will never be bored on the island. There are many different activities for you to do, including various excursions on the island and boat excursions to the nearby islands, fishing, hiking, mountaineering, and trekking, kayaking, swimming, biking, and walking. Actually, the best way to explore the island and its landscape are by walking and biking. There are not many cars on the island, so the roads are not that busy – and therefore ideal for getting to know the island on a bike. The landscape is rugged and offers stunning views of the local waters of the Adriatic and the nearby islands. It is not too steep; the highest point above sea level is only 338 meters high, ideal for bikers, trekkers, and walkers.
Camping In Dugi Otok
If camping is something you love, there are two campsites on Dugi Otok – Camp Kargita, an auto camp near the lighthouse at Punta Bianca, and Camp Mandarino, the village of Verunič/Soline. Camp Mandarino even has a restaurant with a variety of foods, drinks, and Mediterranean specialties.
If you plan on visiting Dugi Otok by sailboat, it is important to consider mooring options on the island. Mooring is available in Sali, Brbinj, Božava, Veli Rat, Telašćica, Čuna, Sakarun, and Solišćica.
LOCAL TIP: Solišćica is one of the safest anchorages on the island and offers the most protection from the wind and the open sea. Sali, Brbinj, and Božava have a reception for ships, where you can have a supply of water and electricity. Furthermore, it is useful to know that the mooring facility in Sali also offers a toilet facility in the berthing price.
Where To Eat On Dugi Otok
If you’re a foodie, you’re in for a serious treat because Dugi Otok is home to some wonderful restaurants to check out during your visit.
Here are just a few of our favorites you need to check out.
Restaurant Lanterna, Veli Rat
If you want a chilled-out scene for your evening meal, or even your lunch, with a stunning view over the sea, this is the restaurant for you! Check out the grilled calamari and the octopus for a truly delicious and fresh burst of flavor! Of course, it’s not just about seafood, as you’ll find some amazing steaks and vegetarian dishes on the menu too. This restaurant is ideal for a family dinner out, or perhaps even a romantic dinner for two.
Konoba Supina, Luka
This is a beautiful and authentic restaurant to head to, situated on the waterside, with outdoor seating to soak up the summer sun and warm evenings. This is the epitome of chilled out. Mediterranean fare is on offer, including barbecue meats and salads. Check out the seafood for the freshest flavors, and the squid salad comes very highly recommended by many visitors too!
Restaurant Bočac, Sali
This restaurant is the ideal spot for a chilled-out family meal and is set within beautiful gardens. If you want to sit inside, you can, but why waste that summer weather? Again, the seafood on offer is sublime, and you won’t have a problem with fussy eaters here, as there is a wide range of European dishes on the menu too.
Konoba Trapula, Sali
You will find it hard to beat this restaurant’s authentic vibe, set down a winding alley with cobblestones and beautiful flowers decorating the way. Try the seafood platter for an authentic taste sensation, and enjoy the laid-back atmosphere. This is the perfect choice for a romantic meal in traditional surroundings.
Gorgonia Grill, Verunic
The views from this restaurant are hard to beat, especially if you head there during the early evening and catch the sun setting. Food-wise, you’ll find a huge range of delicious options on the menu, all of which are made with fresh ingredients. This is a bit of an all-rounder type of deal, with general Mediterranean dishes, alongside fresh seafood, Italian options, and fantastic pasta too.
Are you feeling hungry yet?
Where To Stay On Dugi Otok
There are loads of options, here are just a few:
4 Star Hotel Maxim or 3 Star Hotel Sali