Updated: May 4, 2020
Zadar is a city on the western coastline of Croatia which is in the south-east of Europe. We took a flight from Frankfurt airport, using Ryan airways which is one of the cheapest airlines in Europe. The ticket was booked almost three months before so it only cost us 33 euros per person (round-trip). We made our visit in the month of October when the temperature is comfortable, the sun is mild and it is less crowded.
Zadar Airport to Zadar City (Zadar Old Town)
There are three ways to travel from Zadar airport to Zadar old town.
(i) Shuttle Bus: A public transport bus (bus no. 2) rides from Zadar airport to Zadar old town (bus stop Poluotok), which is the third stop after the airport bus stop. The bus takes almost 15-25 mins depending on the traffic. The one-way ticket costs 25 Croatian Kuna. One can purchase the tickets from the driver while boarding the bus. Online tickets are not available (or at least we could not find any platform to buy them). This bus frequency is every hour so if you miss one, you might like to take a Taxi.
(ii) Taxi: The taxi drivers at the airport in Zadar are the same as at any other airport in the sense that they try to make more money from the less-informed tourists. They try to test your knowledge about the city and convince you that a deal for 50 euros for a ride till the old town is still a bargain. Well, if you have a lot of money that's not a problem. But 50 euros for under 12 km doesn’t make sense. Thus, try to bargain as much as possible or get a shared taxi, which just takes you to the old town in 10 euro. You might have to wait for a little as the drivers gather other co-passengers (however, please beware shared taxi are not always a safe mode of transit especially from the airport).
(iii) Rent a car: Most people prefer this relatively cheaper option (If they have a driving license) as it gives you a lot of freedom, privacy and also does not bind you to a bus schedule. There are more than 15 vendors for "rent a car" just outside of the airport so, you can choose what you like.
Where to Stay in Zadar?
The most recommended place to stay in Zadar for less than five days' trip to Zadar is the Zadar Old town (you can look for other cheaper options if your stay is long). This lucrative location has beautiful streets with myriads of restaurants, supermarkets, local fruit markets, and souvenirs shops. In fact, everything a tourist generally needs is available within a 200 meters of radius and the even more beautiful part is it is yet so peaceful. We rented a beautiful apartment that had an exquisite panoramic view of the sea and the city from a well-maintained terrace. Even though it is in the middle of the city, it is calm and peaceful. The only thing which can be a little annoying that needs a mention (without being blasphemous) is an old church which rings the bell every 15 mins, even in the night.
Day 1: Zadar City
Zadar is a beautiful city with a lot to offer. From its spectacular old architecture and ancient look-a-like streets to its wonderful beaches. With almost two-thirds of its parameters surrounded by water, Zadar is a city with a combination of modern restaurants, old town businesses, ancient architectures, and ocean views. Following is the list of places in Zadar which you should not miss.
1. Zadar Cathedral and st. Donat' church
This unique style church built at the beginning of the eighth century was named after a bishop who commissioned it. It is one of the very few buildings from the Croatian kingdom which has survived the test of time.
2. Sea Organ and Kiss of the sun
Who doesn't love music? Especially when it is natural music by ocean waves. Sea organ situated at the Zadar peninsula has become the icon of Zadar city and symbolizes communication with nature. Designed by architect Nikola Bašić, it is an architectural sound object which plays music when ocean waves hit the resonating cavity underneath the marble stairs.
Day 2: One-day excursion to Telašćica/Kornati Islands
Zadar provides many one-day excursions opportunities to nearby islands. The excursions can be booked on the spot and are available at a price that fits the pocket. These mini-trips offers a wide assortment of beaches.
Telašćica Nature Park and Kornati National Park are named based on two different islands, Dugi Otok and Kornati Islands in Adriatic sea respectively. These islands can be reached by ferry/boat from the mainland. The geography of the Telašćica Nature Park and Kornati island is similar to each other and they both offer crystal clear water, turquoise beaches, and magnificent cliffs. Both the island are inhabitable due to lack of drinkable water and barren land but few restaurants are available in the touristic spots of the island.
Telašćica Nature Park
It is possible to get down here and hike to the highest point of cliffs (200m) and enjoy the breathtaking panoramic view of Zadar, Dugi Otok, and the Kornati. It is also home to a lake Mir and surprisingly the water in the lake is saltier than the surrounding ocean so it is known as small ocean on an island of the bigger ocean. The visit to Telaščica Nature Park is free of cost. People generally get confused that it is a nature park with boundaries, entry gate and entry ticket but no it is not like that, it is just open nature on an island with some hiking trails.
Kornati Islands is an archipelago (a chain or cluster of small islands) on the south-western side of Zadar, which consists of 89 islands, islets and reefs. Again, it is also free of cost.
The general route to Kornati and Telašćica is given in image with the different halting points marked on the map and showed in the inset. There are many tour providers having slightly different routes and halting point so choose the one that interests you. The one-day ferry/boat excursion tour is about 50-100 euros per person depending on what you choose. There are also private tour providers, in which you don't have to share the boat with other co-passengers.
Other One-day excursions from Zadar
1. Plitvice Lakes National Park
Plitvice Lakes National Park is one of the most visited tourist places in Croatia. It extends over the range of 296 square kilometers and was also added to the UNESCO world heritage site. It is home to sixteen terraced lakes connected with waterfalls. The park has gained attention globally due to the distinctive colors of each lake. In one word, it is perfect water land for travelers looking for natural beauty and hiking.
Plitvice Lakes National Park is 1.2-2 hours journey by car from Zadar, and if one does not have a car, the one-day excursion to Plitvice lake can also be booked from Zadar.
You cannot swim in the Plitvice Lakes National Park.
2. Krka National Park
Krka National Park is a Croatian national parks named after river Krka in order to protect this river. Since it is located in the Mediterranean region, it is home to different types of species and also provides the rich flora and fauna. It is extended over the range of 142 square kilometers and known for splendid waterfalls and amazing wildlife including reptile and various bird species. In one word, Krka National Park represents the unaltered preserved ecosystem.
Krka National Park is 80 kilometers away from Zadar and can be reached in 1-1.5 hours by car. Similarly, there are one-day excursions available from Zadar city including pick and drop facilities.
You can swim in the Krka National Park.
We hope that our tips will make your trip to Zadar more interesting.