boats on a blue river surrounded by green hilly terrain

Top Ten Day Trips from Zadar

The coastal city of Zadar serves as an excellent base to see some of the most breathtaking destinations in Croatia. Top day trips from Zadar include national parks, nearby cities and gorgeous islands.

Keep reading to find out the best options for day trips from Zadar, as well as useful information on planning and booking excursions.

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Planning Day Trips from Zadar

Before delving into the specifics of each destination, it’s essential to plan your day trips from Zadar effectively. While the city itself is a treasure trove of attractions, exploring the surrounding areas will give you a much more rounded experience of Croatia.

The most important thing is to consider your interests and preferences when selecting your day trips. If you’re a nature lover, the Zrmanja River and national parks such as Plitvice Lakes, Krka, Paklenica, Northern Velebit, and Kornati should be on your list.

If you’re seeking island adventures, Dugi Otok and Pag are perfect choices, whereas the historic cities of Šibenik and Split are rich in culture and heritage.

To make the most of your day trips, it’s crucial to plan your logistics. They can all be reached independently, but guided tours or at the very least organised transport are usually more convenient. You can rent vehicles on Discover Cars and Qeeq, or book private transfers on GetTransfer. For guided tours, there are a range of options for day trips from Zadar on Viator and Get Your Guide. Make sure to compare prices in order to get the best deal.

You should also consider the best time to visit each destination; peak tourist season in Croatia is from June to August, so this is when Zadar will be most crowded. It’s a great time to get out of the city, but it also means you’ll need to book in advance to make sure you can visit your first choice destination.

Now you know a bit more about the practical side of things, let’s dive into the top ten day trips from Zadar!

National Park Day Trips from Zadar

Croatia has eight stunning national parks, and Zadar is the best city to base yourself if you want to see them. It offers easy access to five parks, including the two most visited, Plitvice and Krka. Staying in Zadar also means you can see everything Croatia’s national parks have to offer, namely islands, mountains and waterfalls.

You can find a lot more detail about the following national parks (as well as Brijuni, Risnjak and Mljet) in our article From Plitvice to Krka: The Ultimate Guide to Exploring Croatia’s Breathtaking National Parks.

Plitvice Lakes National Park

When visiting Croatia, Plitvice Lakes National Park should be on everyone’s bucket list. Just a few hours’ drive from Zadar, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is renowned for its cascading waterfalls, lush forests, and crystal-clear lakes. The park offers a network of wooden walkways and hiking trails, allowing visitors to explore its beauty up close.

One of the best ways to experience Plitvice Lakes is by taking a guided tour. Knowledgeable guides provide valuable insights into the park’s history, flora, and fauna, enhancing your overall experience. Don’t miss the opportunity to take a boat ride across the largest lake, Kozjak, or venture into the lesser-explored areas of the park.

A day trip from Zadar to Plitvice provides the perfect amount of time to explore. You can find all the information you need in our articles The Complete Guide to Plitvice Lakes National Park: Tips and Tricks and How to Plan the Perfect Day Trip from Zadar to Plitvice Lakes. You can also visit the park’s official website by following this link.

waterfalls in front of a turquoise pool on a sunny day
Plitvice waterfalls

Krka National Park

Another gem in Croatia’s national park system is Krka National Park. Around the same distance from Zadar as Plitvice, this park is also famous for its magnificent waterfalls and vibrant flora and fauna. The highlight of the park is the Skradinski Buk waterfall, a mesmerising cascade that flows into a series of emerald pools which also happens to be the longest tufa barrier in Europe.

You can easily explore the park independently on foot, but guided tours are the best way to ensure you get the full experience. This way, you’ll get to see and learn about some of the key cultural and historical sites, such as the Visovac Monastery, Krka Monastery and the Burnum Amphitheatre.

You can get more information by visiting the Krka National Park’s official website here.

Paklenica National Park

Part of the Velebit Nature Park (along with Northern Velebit National Park), adventure seekers and hiking enthusiasts will find their paradise in Paklenica National Park. Situated at the southern slope of the imposing Velebit mountain range, this park offers breathtaking scenery and exhilarating trails.

From Zadar, it’s a short drive to the park, where you’ll be greeted by towering cliffs, deep canyons, and dense forests. The park is a haven for rock climbers, with its vertical cliffs providing a thrilling experience for both beginners and experts. You can also explore multiple caves, including one that’s 175m long, or climb Anića Kuk, the park’s most famous peak.

You can get more detailed information about Paklenica National Park by visiting the park’s official website here.

Horses grazing in a field with mountains in the background
Free roaming horses in the Velebit mountains

Northern Velebit National Park

For those seeking an off-the-beaten-path experience, Northern Velebit National Park is a hidden gem. At the northern end of the Velebit mountain range, this park offers pristine wilderness and stunning landscapes. The park’s remote location ensures a peaceful experience away from the crowds of Zadar, although it will take around two and a half hours to get there.

The youngest and one of the least visited of Croatia’s national parks, Northern Velebit is a paradise for hikers and nature lovers. The park is home to the iconic Premužić Trail, a 57-kilometre trail that winds its way through the park’s diverse ecosystems. It’s arguably the best hiking trail in Croatia, although you’ll need more than one day to hike the full length.

In addition to hiking, the park offers opportunities for wildlife spotting and birdwatching. Keep an eye out for Bosnian mountain horses, bears, wolves, the elusive lynx, chamois, and various bird species that inhabit the area. Meanwhile, botany lovers will appreciate the Velebit Botanical Garden.

For more information about Northern Velebit National Park, follow this link to the park’s official website.

Kornati National Park

Escape to a true paradise of islands and azure waters with a day trip to Kornati National Park. The Kornati archipelago consists of 89 stunning islands and islets, and the rocky, mostly barren landscape creates a desert island atmosphere.

Boat tours from Zadar take you through the park, along the coastline with its unique rock formations and dramatic cliffs. Some also include guided shore excursions, with visits to sites dating back to the Bronze Age. Depending in the tour, you might also get food, drinks, and access to water sports equipment like kayaks.

During your visit to Kornati National Park, take the opportunity to swim, snorkel, or simply relax on the beaches during summer, as they’ll usually be less crowded than Zadar. You can also explore the underwater world through a diving excursion, where you can discover colourful reefs and fascinating shipwrecks.

You can find more information about Kornati National Park by visiting the official website here.

small boats in a small cove surrounded by dry grassy terrain
A small cove on Dugi Otok island

Dugi Otok

Dugi Otok, located off the coast of Zadar, offers a perfect escape from the city. Known for its stunning beaches, rugged cliffs, and charming villages, Dugi Otok is a paradise waiting to be explored. The island is home to the famous Sakarun beach, with its white sand and turquoise waters that rival those of the Caribbean.

In addition to its natural beauty, Dugi Otok has cultural and historical sites worth visiting. The most popular is the Telašćica Nature Park, a protected area known for its unique saltwater lake and cliffs that plunge into the sea. You should also visit the charming village of Sali, where you can experience the island’s laid-back lifestyle and enjoy delicious local cuisine.

There are many types of boat trips to Dugi Otok. Options include trips that stop at different beaches around the island, snorkelling trips that take you to various swimming spots and sea caves, or full-day kayaking trips. You can also take a boat trip that stops at both Dugi Otok (usually at the Telašćica Nature Park) and the Kornati Islands.

Pag

Known for its unique landscape and delicious cheese, the island of Pag is a hidden gem in the Adriatic Sea. With its lunar-like appearance and rugged coastline, Pag offers a unique contrast to the surrounding islands.

The island is famous for its production of Paški sir, a distinctive sheep’s milk cheese that has gained international recognition. You can visit one of the local cheese factories to learn about the cheese-making process, as well as indulge in a tasting session. Similar to manchego, Paški sir is best paired with locally produced wine, bread, olives, smoked ham and olive oil.

In addition to its culinary delights, Pag offers beautiful beaches and historic sites. Explore the town of Pag, known for its medieval walls and ancient salt pans, or visit Lun, a small village home to the Olive Gardens of Lun nature reserve. Pag also has many popular beaches, like Zrće, Bošana, and Ručica, in addition to numerous secluded coves and bays that dot the coastline.

a small harbour with boats and buildings and arid terrain the background
Pag

Zrmanja River

For adventure seekers and nature lovers, a day trip to the Zrmanja River is an absolute must. This pristine river is located northeast of Zadar and offers thrilling activities such as rafting and kayaking. The crystal-clear waters and lush vegetation create an idyllic backdrop as you navigate the river’s rapids and cascades.

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced paddler, there are options for everyone. Guided rafting tours can take you through the most exciting parts of the river, or you can rent a kayak and explore at your own pace. You can also just hike along the river, stopping at secluded swimming spots along way.

Šibenik

The historic city of Šibenik is about an hour from Zadar (on the way to Split) and offers a wealth of cultural and architectural treasures. The UNESCO-listed St. James’ Cathedral is a masterpiece of Renaissance architecture, and the narrow streets of the Old Town are home to other gems like St. Jacob’s Cathedral and the Church of St. Barbara.

Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Šibenik City Museum, which provides a fascinating insight into the city’s history and culture. You should also visit one of the wineries; Rak, Bokal and BARAKA are all good options.

Additionally, the waterfront promenade provides stunning views of the Adriatic Sea and the nearby islands, as do numerous fortresses such as the St. Nicholas’ Fortress, the St. Michael’s Fortress and Barone Fortress. With its rich history, a Zadar to Šibenik day trip will transport you to a bygone era.

Steps leading up to a big white cathedral pictured on a sunny day
St. Jacob’s Cathedral in Šibenik

Split

Located less than two hours’ drive from Zadar, Split offers history, culture, and modern amenities. The star attraction of the city is the UNESCO-listed Diocletian’s Palace, an ancient Roman palace that now forms the heart of the old town. You can also see the Cellars of Diocletian’s Palace, one of the best-preserved ancient underground complexes in the world.

In addition to the palace, Split offers beautiful beaches, bustling markets, and lively cafes. One of the best things to do in Split during spring and summer is to visit the Marjan Hill, a nature park that offers panoramic views of the city and the surrounding islands. You should also visit the vibrant Riva promenade and enjoy the Mediterranean atmosphere. Other top sights include Fortress Klis, Jupiter’s Temple and the Game of Thrones Museum.

Conclusion

Zadar serves as the perfect base for day trips to some of Croatia’s most captivating destinations. From the natural wonders of Plitvice Lakes and Krka National Parks to the island paradises of Dugi Otok and Pag, there’s something to meet every preference. With careful planning, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t make the most of your time in Zadar by exploring the wonders that lie just beyond its borders.

CTA: Head to Booking.com to book your trip to Croatia, or check out Unlocking Croatia’s Treasures: Discover the Top Reasons to Visit for inspiration on other places to visit in Croatia!

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