The Beautiful Dalmatian Coast
Our original European road trip itinerary had us spending a couple of weeks in Croatia before heading east to Romania through Bosnia and Serbia. However, after our first week or so in Croatia we loved it so much that we decided to revise our plan and spend a few more weeks working our way down the Dalmatian coast, trying to chase the last vestiges of summer.
After Plitvice Lakes National Park, we made our way to Zadar by way of Pag.
We found out about Pag in our Croatia guidebook and decided to stop by since it was only a short detour on our way from Plitvička jezera to Zadar. Being on Pag Island was like being on the moon; it was mostly made up of grey rocks.
Pag is famous for the cheese produced there. The cheese is made from goats milk, and the goats feed on the sparse vegetation that is frequently coated with salt spray because prevailing winds from the mainland blow across the water and deposit saltwater on the island. As a result Pag cheese has a distinctive salty flavor (and is delicious). We spent the rest of our time in Dalmatia happily ordering Pag cheese whenever we came across it.
Boats anchored in Pag harbour.
The ‘downtown’ area of Pag is charming marble cobbled alleyways with shops and restaurants. We explored a bit before finding a restaurant where we sampled the famous cheese along with some ham, bread and olives.
After our short exploration on Pag we continued to Zadar, the oldest continuously occupied city in Croatia. Like many of the cities on Istria, Zadar was controlled by Venice for several centuries and has many architectural remnants from that era.
Zadar’s Land Gate, adorned with the winged Lion of St. Mark, the symbol of Venice.
We borrowed bikes from our hotel, tore ourselves away from relaxing by the beach, and took a ride through the city. The streets are paved with marble!
Our eldest rode her own bike but the two brothers decided to ride in a trailer.
The old town of Zadar is not very large, but it does have some interesting things to see when passing through. The church of St. Donatus dates from the 9th century and was built adjacent to the old Roman forum.
Zadar’s “Sea Organ” is a favorite tourist attraction. Located on the Zadar waterfront, the organ consists of a series of pipes that emit ethereal tones as wave action forces air in and out of the pipes. The boys wanted to listen more closely so they put their ears right up to the pipe openings. 🙂
Our Home in Zadar – Falkensteiner Club Funimation Borik
When looking for lodging in Zadar we compared AirBnbs, hotels and resorts before settling on the Falkensteiner Club Funimation Borik. The Falkensteiner was offering a great rate of around 200 Euros a night, which included three meals a day, a kid’s club, free bike rental, and a spa treatment! Yay for off season travel!
The kids had a great time in the kids club; they played on the giant indoor structure, played games, did crafts, and painted their faces.
We were very happy with our stay; the food in particular was very good, with a good variety of healthy, fresh foods. It was also nice to have another break from grocery shopping and dishes.
Our next destination on the Dalmatian coast was Split, the second largest city in Croatia. We were surprised just how large the city was as we drove past shopping malls, industrial sites, and residential towers that dominate the skyline. Finally, we arrived at our AirBnb located just north of the old town.
We did our own walking tour of the old town. Our first stop was this statue of Gregory of Nin, a bishop who feuded with the Pope and changed the language of services from Latin to Croatian so that the local populace could understand them. It is supposed to be lucky to rub the toe of the statue.
We also visited the Cathedral of St. Dominus, which is considered the oldest Catholic cathedral in the world using its original structure. Fun fact about the structure: the main part of the cathedral (not including the bell tower) was originally constructed as Diocletian’s mausoleum. We found it ironic that the mausoleum for an emperor famous for bloody persecutions of Christians became a church. Maybe they had a sense of humor way back then? At the very least, they were very savvy in their ability to repurpose things.
One day it was quite warm (especially for early October) so we decided to make it a beach day and headed to Bačvice Beach for some lunch and a swim.
The kids enjoyed jumping off the dock right in front of the restaurant.
This part of the beach had a rocky bottom. There was also a large sand beach where locals were playing Picigin, a game that is a cross between handball and hacky sack.
While in Split, we took some time to visit nearby Trogir. Like Split, Trogir was controlled by Venice for centuries and is renowned for its well preserved Romanesque-Gothic architecture.
Trogir looks so much like Venice that it has served as a stand-in for the city in television productions including Dr. Who. (We noted later that Annette took a picture of the family in this exact place. If only we had known, Wes might have worn a bowtie.)
Clearly we are hooked on Dalmatia. We love the scenic coastline, beaches, historic old towns, great food and friendly people. We are thankful that we are able to travel slowly down the coast and take it all in. We are also thankful for relaxing resorts with kids clubs, spas and all-inclusive food and drinks.
In our next update, we take a break from the coast and go inland to visit scenic Krka National Park.