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Blick auf Novigrad, Bild: Josef Bauer

Northern Dalmatia – Nature, culture and the blue of the Adriatic Sea

More than just swimming and sunsets

Croatia has been one of the most popular holiday destinations for us Germans not only since joining the EU. With the introduction of the euro, the last obstacles to a carefree stay on the Croatian Adriatic have been overcome. The region of northern Dalmatia is of particular importance in this regard. Here you can combine relaxation and culture in the most excellent way. The well-known national and nature parks on the Adriatic Sea and in the rural hinterland of Dalmatia are never far away and can be individually integrated into a varied holiday, because there is so much more to the Middle Adriatic than just sea and sunsets.

Zadar – the “Little Rome”

The port city of Zadar, with its historic old town and rich Roman heritage, is considered the center of the region. With its mighty city walls, wonderful beaches in Zadar and imposing fortifications, it has always been a worthwhile destination and should not be missing on any Dalmatian holiday. From here, many of the nearby islands are easily accessible by ferry, as long as they are not connected to the Croatian mainland by bridges.

The metropolis is located on a fortified peninsula and is often referred to as the “Little Rome of Croatia”. In fact, the Roman-Venetian heritage can be felt on every corner during a tour of the largely intact old town. The astonishing abundance of historical buildings, monuments and, last but not least, prehistoric excavations is difficult to experience in one day: medieval defensive towers, sacred buildings such as the three-aisled Simeon’s Church or the Roman Forum, where the church of Sveti Donat and the cathedral of Sveta Stosija form a remarkable architectural centre. In the alleys away from the main streets, small discoveries can always be made, including the traditional konobas (small Dalmatian restaurants). And at the latest when the sun sinks into the sea behind the islands on the waterfront, a walk should lead to the ingenious sea organ and the nocturnal sun salutation right next door. Both installations have attracted worldwide attention, not least via social media, and are in any case a unique experience at the end of a beautiful holiday in Zadar.

North of the city, the historic town of Nin with the smallest cathedral in the world as well as Novigrad with its spectacular fjord location; also always a good tip is the trip to the Paklenica National Park in the hinterland, where striking mountain giants and adventurous gorges of the Velebit mountains await you and, last but not least, you can follow in Winnetou’s footsteps.

With the excursion boat to the national park

Excursion with the pirate ship
Excursion with the pirate ship, Picture: Josef Bauer

If you prefer to stay on the coast, you can take the coastal road south. In the large bay of Sukosan with its small town centre and local beaches, which, like so many places on the Croatian Adriatic, can boast the “Blue Flag” for very good water quality, there are a few typical konobas hidden, which have long since ceased to be insider tips, but where you can enjoy the warmth of the people of northern Dalmatia without the big hustle and bustle with good food and drink.

The lively harbour town of Biograd na Moru with its promenade and cafes has some very beautiful bays on the hilly coast forested with large pine trees. Various boat tours are offered from Biograd and from some other places on the Adriatic. The spectrum ranges from the popular dolphin watching with one of the local excursion ships to the varied day trip – perhaps even with one of the rustic pirate ships – to the Kornati National Park and its more than 150 islands.

Fortifications and film set

Further south, Sibenik, the second largest city in northern Dalmatia, is one of the worthwhile destinations. The spectacular location on the Krka River and its striking fortresses above and in front of the city are a must not only for fans of Game of Thrones. Other impressive impressions are conveyed by the large water fortress Fortress St. Nicholas in front of the city at the mouth of the river or – in connection with a trip inland – the royal city of Knin with its historic fortress.

Leisure, sport and enjoyment

Krka National Park
The popular Winnetou films were filmed in the Krka National Park, Image: Seumas Christie-Johnston / shutterstock

In addition, Sibenik’s protected natural harbour offers excursions to the Krka National Park with its famous waterfalls or special rafting tours in the area. Equally popular in the region for years have been combined cruises “ship & bike”; local ships take you along the coast down to Primosten and Rogoznica to the southern end of northern Dalmatia. In addition to the sporting challenge, completely different experiences are also fascinating in any case along the different routes: In the small towns you can also experience the proverbial hospitality of northern Dalmatia in a very relaxed way, because if you get involved with the country and its people, you will get to know a holiday region that still has one or two discoveries along the way off the usual tourist routes. Last but not least, the Dalmatian cuisine with grilled fish and the typical lamb and cheese specialties as well as the famous ham Pršut will then ensure in the most pleasant way that northern Dalmatia will be remembered as a holiday region where relaxation and culture can be combined with the blue of the Adriatic Sea in the most pleasant way.

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