Here’s the article about my stay in Zara during the Golden Pen award ceremony (LINK). As I said I was a guest at the Hotel Iadera of the Falkensteier chain and I’d like to start by telling you a little bit about this lovely place before a little guide about the city and the surrounding territory.
The Iadera is a modern hotel that looks a little like a ship facing out to sea; mostly built in glass with a wonderful view over the Adriatic, surrounded by beautiful gardens, palm trees and a swimming pool. The hotel also has a wellness area and a great SPA!
The first thing I really appreciated was the great room I was given; large, elegant and decorated in relaxing colors of sea blue. Large white curtains separate the crystal shower from the large bath tub…beautiful.
The inside pool is connected to the outside one; the light color of the floor stands out delicately under the sea of sun beds. The sauna area is decorated in darker and warmer colors, a perfect contrast with the pool area. Hammam, Turkish baths, panoramic sauna with a view over the sea: I’ve rarely seen anything so lovely! A wellness paradise with modern architecture, very elegant and light.
Another great detail was the great breakfast selection that made my stay here even more pleasant.
Now let me tell you what you definitely shouldn’t miss during your stay in this lovely city or in the surrounding area. Ten of the best places to see in the Zadar region, all of which I fell completely in love with!
- Maškovića Han Jusuf Mašković’s summer residence. He was the supreme admiral of the Turkish fleet. The residence was built in a monumental and modern style, with all necessary comforts, including a hammam Turkish bath. It has 14 double rooms and 2 deluxe apartments. The structure also has an incredible restaurant, built where there originally used to be a mosque; a fusion of Mediterranean and Oriental cuisine, accounting for seasonal vegetables and local products.
- A view of the Maslenica bridge from which you can take excellent pictures, and it’s also the place to start a great jeep safari towards the Bebie alps (also called Velèbiti mountains, Velebit in Croatian) the longest mountain chain in Croatia.You can hike up a 1000-meter mountain that looks right down onto the sea (a UNESCO protected area): the perfect view. I truly loved it! When they said “let’s go to the mountains” I expected something similar to when I go from Trieste’s area of Barcola to the Opicina area (maybe only people from Trieste will understand this similarity…) but this really is a mountain! The plants are mountain plants and even the temperature is cooler J I left the beach wearing short sleeves and when we got to the top I felt cold in my jacket! Beautiful views and there’s a chance to stop at a mountain house where I had a lunch of local products; cured meats, meat in sauce, polenta and marinated anchovies, a combination of sea and mountain food.
- A boat ride to the island of Ugljan, part of the Zaratino archipelago. The Uglja island is 20 km in length and 2 in width, has 6000 residents and I consider it a perfect place for families; you’ll find peace and tranquility here and you can stay in private apartments, tourist resorts or well-kept camping sites (there are a few).
- The next place to go is one of the largest tuna farms of the Adriatic. The Zadar area was the first place where tuna farms started opening, which are still considered excellent quality ones. During the period from the 22nd of March until the 1st of April, you can take part in the Tuna, Sushi & Wine Festival, a cultural and cuisine exchange between Japan and Dalmatia. What they have in common is obviously the tuna farms in the Zadar area!
- What about Zara? My suggestion is to hire a guide and let him take you to the most important places like the Arsenale, the new museum of antique glass (the only glass museum in Croatia), the city walls and the “Garden”, the sea organ, the greeting to the sun and the People’s square. But also, the “Kalelarga” (Narodni trg and Siroka ulica) and the many museums around the old part of the city. Don’t miss the Queen Jelena Madije’s park on the square with five wells, founded by the Baron Franz Ludwig von Welden, who was also an Austrian commander, in 1829; it was the first park in all of Croatia.
- But let’s get to the good part. What can we drink here? Maraschino liquor obviously! The king of liquors invented by the Franciscan pharmacists of Zadar (Zara) three centuries ago and brought to fame by Giacomo Luxardo. Maraschino is made with distilled Dalmatian maraschino cherries, it’s sweet and therefore quite dangerous because you can’t taste the alcohol in it, just it’s excellent flavor…. well you can imagine how easy it is to indulge.
- What to eat? Definitely frittole and crostoli are a good choice, but they have a great quantity of both meat or fish at the Kornat Restaurant where I tasted a delicious meat menu (the lamb shank was excellent and unforgettable!).
- If you’re looking for something a little off the track you should head to Nin the cradle of the Croatian state, where you’ll also find the smallest cathedral in the world. Nin is special, but I unfortunately visited it on a rainy day and it definitely didn’t make it pleasant (the beach didn’t shine like it would on a nice summer day). But don’t miss it.
- Don’t forget to stop at the Nin salt mines. Here there is a small but elegant museum and a shop where you can find all types of salt, like salt spices, bathroom salts and body creams. Well, I overindulged here…
- Kraljevski vinogradi on the southern hills above Petrčane e Punta Skala. I couldn’t end this article without a stop at one of the local wine cellars in Croatia. This is definitely the place to go, where the vineyards head towards the sea and where a stone archway will be the perfect place for a picture.
I left my heart in the region of Zagar and I can’t wait to go back as soon as possible. When are you going?
See you soon!
Foto Filip Brala