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Social Distance Friendly Ideas In The Zadar Region
My home base! Zadar. I have now lived in this area for seven years, and it is still the case that I have not explored nearly enough of it.
The Zadar Region is much like Croatia as a whole – so much to see – it’s hard to choose what to do. And, now that we’re all trying to navigate our way through this weird pandemic – I thought it would be a good idea to show you what cool things you can do and see in the Zadar Region.
Specifically, travel ideas that are away from the crowds, will have you traveling with just your group and all the while exploring this enchanting area I call home.
In no particular order, here is what I suggest you do in Zadar – and best of all, who to book it through right now (or to bookmark it for later!)
Private Cooking Classes
If you’ve been a longtime reader of Chasing the Donkey, you’ll know that we have dozens of Croatian recipes listed, and we LOVE food.
What better way to experience a country – than by eating your way through it!? We have a very popular post, what to eat in Croatia to get you started, on what you can eat while in Croatia – and we also have a guide on how to order – in the Croatian language if you’re feeling extra adventurous on vacation.
But, the best way to learn how to cook – is from an expert – in the flesh! There are lots of great cooking classes to take in Croatia. Both with very small groups or private cooking classes.
We had the time of our lives in Nadin (30 minutes from the city center) a few years back, taking a cooking class with Exclusive Food & Wine Tours for a bespoke, hands-on, cooking class and wine tour.
If you have a soft spot for fantastic food and wine and want to learn how to make the most delicious, tasty meat using a Croatian Peka, then this cooking class is for you after the cooking class comes a few glasses of delightful Croatian wine in the garden to enjoy along with your meal.
Another great cooking class to consider is this Zadar Cooking Class.
Big cruise ships were in the news a lot this last few months – for all the wrong reasons. So we’re thinking that avoiding those is best – for now at least! There will be a time for them again if you so desire.
Instead, at the top of your social-distance-friendly Croatia bucket list should be sailing.
You could go the whole hog – and rent an entire yacht or a catamaran for you and your friends for a 7-day adventure! Doing this would avoiding people almost altogether! All you’ll have to worry about is lazing about in the sun, stopping for lunch at one of the many isolated restaurants, and in what direction the wind is blowing.
If your budget doesn’t go so far to take a yacht for seven days, one easy way to get your nautical fix is to rent a boat for the day (or a few days) with or without a skipper. You could just cruise about, or head to many unique places in the Zadar Region.
Some Top Nautical Locations To Consider
Boat bookings can be made with several places including Sailing Croatia as well as Morska Zvijezda
Day Trips On The Water For Families
One sure-fire way to entertain the kids is to get them on a private family tour, on the lookout for dolphins – which can often be found in the Zadar Achiplehgao. To keep you happy – a skipper will take you on a private sightseeing cruise on a small boat. His crew will make your lunch (and even serve you wine if you ask in advance for it).
The skipper can set course to see what you wish, with a custom route designed just for you. He will know the best swim and snorkel spots, take you on a slow cruise or hammer it out, place to place – the choice is yours.
This type of day trip is best done with local – this way; you’ll learn some history & culture – all while escaping the crowded city. For this kind of tour, we suggest you ask Domagoj Šarić, who has a boat that fits a group of up to 12 people.
Sunset Sailing Experience
If the afternoon and sunset is more your thing, then you can spend 2 hours on a small sailing tour to enjoy the most beautiful sunset in the world. Well, at least according to Alfred Hitchcock! Sail along the Zadar seafront and taste local delicacies enjoyed with a glass of wine on the deck.
I am not a fit person (though I have been working on that), but one activity that is low impact and not too strenuous is kayaking – especially when you’re in a bay of flat water.
The Zadar Region has many great places to kayak, let me show you the best ones.
Kayaking In Privlaka
Last summer, I went kayaking with some other Moms, and we had an absolute blast with the kids in tow. Although it was a bit frustrating at first with my then 6-year-old who was bossing me about, telling me where to paddle, how fast to go, and so on. But, we soon got the hang of it and had a great morning.
Us Mom’s wanted a super flat body of water, and close to home, so we went to Privlaka (20 mins from the city center) and hooked up with Leo, from Sea Adventures Privlaka.
- Regular sea kayaks
- Transparent kayaks (they even have them set up with lights for the evening)
- Stand up paddleboards (regular, kids, family, and also for fishing)
- Underwater sea scooters (for kids and adults)
- Sea scooters – which are jet skis for smaller kids
Kayaking Zrmanja River
If you want to try something that is a little more adventurous, and on one of Croatia’s most scenic rivers, then you should check out this kayak tour on the Zrmanja River with the Riva Rafting Centar.
The start of their kayak tour is on Kaštel Žegarski, a small village near Obrovac (which also happens to be a great place to stay to avoid the crowded city!)
At the start of the kayak tour, the guys have a separate dressing room for you to get ready, and receive your equipment (it’s all done 1:1, and they adhere to all the COVID-19 rules imposed by law)
Each participant will receive the following equipment that is sanitized after each use:
- Neoprene suit
- Protective helmets, and
- Life jackets.
You will need to bring with you:
- A bathing suit
- An extra T-shirt
- Water shoes or a second pair of shoes that can get soaking wet!
Once suited, you’ll get a kayak lesson by a trained skipper – and then your enchanting 14km kayak trail experience begins. This area is pure, untouched nature, and you’ll pass Veliki Buk, an 11m high waterfall, where you’ll have a fantastic photo opportunity. A 15 min stop here, allows you to eat a snack and take a and swim in the river.
The Ogarov Buk waterfall is next (2 meters), from here you can jump – if you dare – don’t worry, it’s safe!
Depending on your group’s pace and physical fitness, the trip can last from 2.5 to 4 hours. The kayak safari tours depart daily at 9:00 am – 9:30 am and again at 10:00 am!
Chasing the Donkey readers get 15% of bookings – so let them know when you book.
Kayaking Dugi Otok Island
A short ferry ride from Zadar is the “Long Island,” Dugi Otok. This island is an adventurers dream. There are lots of things to see and do on this island, as Jela wrote about here. Including a very famous beach! Read on to find out more about this beach.
One way to experience Dugi Otok is on a full-day kayaking tour. Once off the ferry, a van transfer will take you to the bay where your Long Island adventure begins. As you pass soaring cliffs, your professional guide will take you to secret coves & several sea caves.
When you return to the starting point, you’ll be transferred to the north of the island, where you can grab lunch. Once your belly is full, you’ll paddle again, this time to see a sunken ship, which offers a thrilling snorkeling experience.
The last part of your adventure will be spent on the white sandy beach of Sakarun – a place you’ll need your camera!
The adventure is all-inclusive, with ferry & van transport, guide, and insurance all covered. You’ll just need to bring lunch with you – or 10 euros to buy it at a local camp.
Kayak Croatia also offers sea kayak rentals if you’d prefer to go at your own pace – as well as other tours. Check out the link below to see all of their offers.
Kayaking With Kids – 45 Min Guides Tour
If you’re with kids and want a guided tour, then check out Dalmatia Adventures, they have a guided tour that’s just 45 minutes from Pakoštane. Long enough to have fun, but not so long that the kids will be whinging at having tired little arms.
The Zadar region is blessed with a bountiful coastline. The main city center, Zadar has many gorgeous beaches – but as with all beaches close to the main center – they get busy. Packed even.
So, with this new era of social distancing, we thought you might like to know how to elude those beach crowds (well as much as that’s possible in summer!) and this year, discover new beaches.
Ones that you may never have heard of. Ones that are small, some without facilities, but all of them glorious!
Jeep Foto Safari
When we first moved to Croatia, and this blog started to become popular, we made a deal with Bluesun hotels to stay in Starigrad, Paklenica – near the Paklenica National Park. They arranged for us to take our then 2-year-old on a jeep safari. What fun!
We buckled up and went on an adventure – a bumpy one! Our son LOVED it, and I still think about doing it again five years later, with the new baby donkey who is almost three – as he would love it.
It’s a few hours out in nature, shared with only your family in the car – and the crew, who bring along tasty fritule to eat!
You can read our Foto Jeep Safari trip report here or book direct here.
Private Tour Guides
We can all meander about and admire the local architecture when we land in a new place. We can people watch, stumble onto a fabulous restaurant or cafe and have a great vacation on our own. But what about the centuries-old stories and fascinating facts about the buildings and the local people? That’s where a local guide comes in handy.
Local guides know all the history, as well as having great recommendations for where to eat and drink, that are off the well-beaten tourist path that you’d maybe never discover on your own.
When I travel about Croatia, it can be that I am in a place for just two days, and one of the ways I love to unearth the magic of a place is to get a local guide. Especially when traveling with children, guides know the little spots that delight their curiosities.
One of Croatia’s best guides is based in Zadar, Šime is well known – found wandering town with his white umbrella. You can book with him here and see what he has on offer (hint, ask about the food tours)
Bike Hire & Cycling Tours
Oh, so many places to go and explore on two wheels in Croatia. There are trails for the beginner all the way to the professional cyclists.
A fellow traveler, Kiara, wrote this piece on her experience cycling Croatia. In Croatia, you cycle for an hour or spend, as she did 7-days cycling between cities, villages, towns, and of course, the beaches.
In the Zadar Region, you have no shortage of places to choose to start or end your cycling adventure.
The beauty of cycling is that – unlike walking – you’re traveling at a fast enough pace for the scenery to be continually changing, yet you can stop as and when you want – and you get to choose who is with you!
If you’re kind of unfit and not a cyclist – like me – then look for electric bike hire. Last year when I was in Crikvenica, I rode one for 15 km over a few hours – stopping for photos – and a beer. While I did work up a sweat, it was so much easier and enjoyable to use the extra boost!
There are dozens of places to rent bikes in Zadar; one top place is Zzuum. Those guys are cycling enthusiasts and have loads on offer – with very well maintained and sanitized bikes.
Ohhh, hello, wine! How did it take you so long to appear on the list?
Zadar isn’t the first place many think of when it comes to wine production or winetastings, but it always surprises many when I say we have four locations that are top-notch. And one of them is a short drive from the city center – easily accessible even if you do not have a car.
Croatia is packed with sights to see and experiences to be had, but if you’re a wine lover (as I am), you’re in for a serious treat when you book with Fiolić Winery as they cater to small intimate groups only!
Hello, there social distance friendly activity!
The Fiolić Winery is an ideal way to spend an hour or two on a hot summer’s day. The team from Fiolić Winery has set up a wine tasting room that can accommodate up to 12 people, and they offer three types of experiences for you to have.
In their comfortable tasting room, you can get to know their collection of both fresh and aged wines. While you are there, you can also taste fig, and cherry liqueurs served – both served with local delicacies.
Of course, the wine is excellent, but make sure that while you are there that you try the liqueurs. There are two, one from sour cherry maraška and one from figs. The liqueurs have been awarded prizes and have received recognition on both local and international levels.
Fun fact: The liqueurs are made using the traditional handmade methods, and during production, desalinated seawater is used, giving the liqueurs their unique taste!
There are three other places to enjoy wine and wine tastings in the Zadar Region.
- Kraljevski Winery
- Degarra Winery
You can find all of the details here.
Rafting In Zadar
I remember the first time I went rafting in my life, it was on the Cetina River near Omiš, not far from Split, in Croatia. I was so scared. Then 5 minutes into it, I laughed at myself; it was not at all scary – instead – I realized it was, SO. MUCH. FUN!
Mr. Chasing the Donkey has been lucky enough to have rafted on the Zrmanja River here in the Zadar Region, I could not join him, as we had no sitter to watch the kids – but when I picked him at the end, he was buzzed! Said it was even more fun that the Cetina River!
He went with the Riva Rafting Centar, and they were super professional and had an excellent reputation in Zadar.
The Zrmanja River is about an hours drive from the Zadar city center – but don’t stress if you don’t have a car you can arrange a private transfer to get you there and back.
Stand-Up Paddle Board – SUP
Last year I began a weight loss journey with Bagatin Clinic, and as a part of trying to be more fit and healthy, I tried Stand-Up paddle boarding with Jasmine from Dream Day SUP Walk.
She was extremely kind and patient. That’s me kneeling in the photo above, on the far right, and before I knew it, I was up – and SUPping!
Her spot is on Vir Island, just 30 minutes from Zadar center – but she also has rooms to rent if you want to sleep on the island. Buses go to and from the island (which is connected to the mainland by a bridge), or she has parking if you’d prefer to drive.
If you’d like to rent a SUP board and have it delivered your accommodation your best bet is to contact Zadar Adventure
Accommodation Away From The City
Zadar has no shortage of hotels, private accommodations, and camping options, but here is one place I’d like to mention that looks super chilled, Mićanovi Dvori.
It is away from the hot spots, yet is close enough to fun activities – especially if you are with kids!
Mićanovi Dvori is one of the best places to spend time with your family, it has a pool, and you can choose from a mobile home pitch your campers or tent!
The Mićanovi Dvori rural estate is located on the slopes of the Canyon Zrmanja, near the city of Obrovac (right where you can go kayaking and rafting!).
They have a small campsite that has ten mobile homes with a lot of space between them so you can spread out. They all overlook the big swimming pool and are surrounded by nature.
Their mobile homes are suitable for up to six people, each has two bedrooms and two bathrooms, with a kitchen and living room as well as a big terrace complete with a garden setting.
Chasing the Donkey readers get 15% of bookings – so let them know when you book.
Not very far away is a spacious restaurant with a wonderful terrace – so you can dine with plenty of room for yourself. Or, if you wish, they’ll bring the food from the restaurant directly to your accommodation.
They offer on-site horseriding, which is done with one family at a time, and the ropes & equipment are sterilized after use. Also on offer is stand up paddling, which is done in groups of six.
Sounds fun, right?!
No Booking Required
There are so many places that don’t need planning – or a booking. Like heading to one of the many national and nature parks. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Vrana is Croatia’s largest lake and makes for a great day excursion for nature lovers. Located between Zadar and Šibenik, the lake is 4 meters deep and 11.9 square miles and is an important wetland for bird species.
Vrana Lake is a popular spot for fishing enthusiasts, as well as those who love to go nature walking. There are marked trails around the lake which make for some fantastic walking. During the summer, it can get a little busy; however, if you head out early, you can avoid the crowds.
Tip: While in the area, be sure to eat at Maškovića Han Vrana. Construction of Mašković Han began in 1644, and it was renovated a few years ago – as is a great dining experience. The Heritage Hotel Mašković Han is also a splendid hotel choice away from the crowds.
Nature Park Telascica
The stunning Telascica Nature Park is located in the southeast of Dugi Otok, a beautiful island in the Adriatic. This is a hugely popular nature park with numerous day trips leaving Zadar, but you can take a ferry and get there on your own with ease.
While there, you can take a walk and explore the vast cliffs and look out over the sea, take a swim in the crystal clear Telascica Bay, and visit the Slana Jezera (Salt Lake). Keep an eye out for the very curious resident donkeys.
Though if you did want to take a tour here, a boat trip with Zadar Excursions is a great idea. They have an all-day, private tour for up to 8 people.
Paklenica National Park
Located near the Velebit Mountains and Zadar, Paklenica National Park consists of two torrent gorges, Velika (big) Paklenica and Mala (Small) Paklenica, which run parallel to one another.
This wilderness of barren mountains, pine forests, and deep-cut canyons lies within easy reach for most tourists in Croatia. The park is a great day trip and is also an ideal place to base yourself for a few days away from the busy coastline.
Buggy & Quad Biking
Loud and boisterous, quad biking, and hooning in a buggy are just some of the ways to leave the crowds behind you. Revving your engine, you can get off-road and into some parts of Croatia that others on foot would never see.
There are lots of places in the Zadar Region that offer off-road experiences, and also some that offer an experience that’s right on the edge of the city limits.
Other Things To Do In Zadar To Avoid The Crowds
I mean, I could go on and on with ideas, but there really are lots more ideas, for example:
- National Parks. See here for a list of where they are and just how easy they are to get to from Zadar.
- Get Off The Beaten Path. Find small towns & villages; we listed some here.
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More Ways To Discover Croatia With Social-Distancing
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- Sites And Bites Tour In Dubrovnik
- White Water Rafting In Croatia
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- Avoid Public Transport Crowds With Croatia Private Transfer
- Private Wine Tasting On Hvar
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- Explore Eastern Croatia To Get Off The Tourist Map
- Small-Group Olive Grove Tours In Istria
- Head To Cape Kamenjak Nature Park
- Hotel Peristil in Split offers free cancellations
- An Active Retreat On Vis Island – Perfect for one to two families!
- Social Distance Friendly Tours In Zadar
- Zadar Bike Tours
- Private Wine Tasting In Zadar
- Road Trip Through The Balkans In These Rental Mini Campers
- Private Soparnik Cooking Classes
- Private Boat Tours In Zadar
- Private Wine & Food Tours In Split