Small and typical Croatian villages, beautiful hidden beaches without crowds, quiet bays that are all wrapped in fresh greenery and olive groves. Are you wondering if it's still Croatia? Well, yes it is. Dugi Otok, 7th biggest island in Croatia, a charming long island, literally, is situated in the Adriatic within the Zadar county as the last island towards Italy.
Except the 1,5 hour of ferry drive, Dugi Otok is really unique and definitely worth the visit! However, if you're looking for a big nightlife and long promenades, skip this island because Dugi Otok is an oasis for a chill.
HOW TO GET THERE
If you're coming by car, take the ferry from Zadar - Gaženica to Brbinj since there isn't any other ferry port in Croatia from which you can get to Dugi Otok by car.
If you're coming by feet, you have two options:
take a ferry from Zadar - Gaženica to Brbinj with Jadrolinija
take passengers ferry from Zadar to Sali with G&V Line
WHERE TO STAY
Although the island of Dugi Otok is approximately 45 km long, there are not so many choices for staying. Looking for a place with possibilities to swim freely in a quiet bay, eat at well-rated restaurants, get coffee in the morning? Than choose Sali. But seek for a place in the bay of Sascica (walking distance to the heart of Sali, approx. 5 - 10 min).
Veli Rat is spread out throughout the bay surrounded by small islands and islets. You can find only a few restaurants (good ones due to a quite big marina) while accommodation is mostly very close to the sea.
Soline is situated just a few kilometers from Veli Rat being very quiet with just a couple of cafes and bistros. There is also a camp which is also accessible easily from the main road (look for Verunic village) - great spot with a restaurant on the beach, ideal place for swimming with small and nice beaches, calm waters for standup paddling and kayaking.
Other quiet places in pleasant bays: Božava, Savar, Luka, Žman, Dragove.
More Robinson style accommodation: Telašćica.
Easy and yet the best advice you can get is to book the accommodation few days or even weeks before your arrival depending on the month and season, of course. Although you can find a nice apartment on Booking or Agoda, it's a bit pricey in most cases, so you better look at Airbnb.
We booked a really nice apartment in Sali (on the other side of the town, Sascica bay) located just a few meters above the bay with two bedrooms, kitchen, and a terrace with a sea view for only 17 EUR/person/night. And that's really the best price, especially during the high season!
PLACES TO VISIT
Being in Dugi Otok without going to Telašćica National Park? Why would you do it? :) It is a MUST for everyone!
Tickets: 40 kn per person - the ticket is valid for 24 hours so you can return again - pretty good if you want to go for a dinner to Taverna Go-Ro or just for an early morning dip, for example.
You can also walk to Telascica through the olive groves without buying the ticket. We made a walking trip on Sunday so you'd better check it out before. It takes approximately 30 - 45 minutes from Sali.
Koženjak viewpoint is located approximately 4 - 5 km from Sali. For walking and hiking lovers, the viewpoint is accessible from the trail. But be very careful and be sure to have shoes with good and appropriate stability due to rocky terrain with big, sharp and slippery stones and pine leaves.
Slano jezero (salt lake) was a little bit disappointing although not because of the nature but tons of tourists hopping from the tourist boats. However, be careful when going to the water - very slippery and rocky edge of the lake! If you still want to visit the lake, be sure to come there in the morning (boats arrive around 10 - 11 am) and anchor by the restaurants.
Tip for swimming: instead of swimming in the lake, walk toward the parking lot and watch for accessible spots on your right. Watch out for sharp stones, of course, but the water there is just pure joy for swimming, diving and having fun!
parking possible, an opportunity for walks with stunning panoramic views of the Adriatic sea, Kornati National Park and the south of Dugi Otok!
Taverna is usually open from 2 pm or 5 pm in the afternoon. Although we weren't lucky dinning here, the locals, as well as tourists, rate this spot as very good. Also, the atmosphere here is truly charming surrounded by olive groves.
Veli Zal Beach & green cave
Veli Zal beach is considered to be one of the most beautiful ones on the island but also amazingly windy! While the beach is quite far from the main road (pretty steep road though), we recommend going there by car. If you are bikers by heart, well, take a lot of water with you.
Parking is with a fee - approx. 5 kn per hour.
The Croatian Caribbean? Well, at least Sakarun (or Saharun) is called like that. But no wonder why. Beautiful bay with a white sandy beach and crystal clear water being favorite among the sailors, too. For always hungry ones, there are at least 2 tavernas/bars opened - simple food like pizza, panini, salads, alcoholic & non-alcoholic drinks and cocktails. But beware of the bees and wasps!
Tip: If you don't want to pay for parking, park on the main road and walk 5 - 10 min through the pine forest (depending which access you choose - there are 2 of them).
Veli Rat Lighthouse
A very nice and peaceful place at the very end of the island with tiny little beaches, restaurant and of course, lighthouse watching over the Adriatic.
Sali is typical for its picturesque small town and colorful houses hiding in the bay but welcoming the sailors at the same time. What to do? Eat at Spaghetteria, have a coffee and/or great ice cream at Ice shop Conteš, walk around the small peninsula from the town to neighboring Sascica bay and dip into the deep blue water and watch the sunset from Kopakanana bar.
We strongly recommend visiting Dugi Otok! Beautiful island, amazing hospitality and many places waiting to be explored! If you want to relax or need an active holiday, this island has a lot to offer.
Are you looking for a similar place in Greece? Then head to Kefalonia!