Where Croatian culture begins.

Dalmatia - Zadar

With the intense blue of sea, the lush deep greens of pine and olive groves and the pure white of Dalmatia stone, the Zadar region’s colour palette is extraordinary and unique in the world. 

It is only in this part of land that you will peek into the world’s smallest cathedral – the Church of the Holy Cross, in the city of Nin, before touring the largest Roman forum on these shores of the Adriatic. And if that were not enough, you will discover the origins of Croatia’s cultural identity in the city of Zadar, with over 3,000 years of history.

Discover the 3000 years of Zadar’s fascinating history

The region of Zadar tells the story of the sources of Croatian cultural heritage better than any book.

Nearby Nin (the oldest Croatian royal city) boasts the smallest cathedral in the world (the Church of the Holy Cross measures but 36 paces!).

Where to go

The routes of Croatian rulers

The trail begins in the north, on the vivid white cliffs underneath the Velebit mountain, where the view of the surreallandscape of Croatia’s most indented island, Pag, stretches before you. Pag offers beautiful coves and beaches with unspoiled nature, as well as centres of modern tourism. The lace of Pag is very famous, as well as Pag cheese, and its secret ingredients, the wind “bura” and salt which give it a specific and recognisable flavour. To pass the routes of Croatian rulers means to feel a notable diversity of experiences given by thousand-year-old towns, such as the 3,000-year old Zadar, whose fortifications have been inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List. In Nin you will find the smallest cathedral in the world, and the modern and lively tourist centres such as Biograd na Moru and picturesque places of the Dalmatian hinterland, Ravni Kotari, and the islands will overwhelm you with their specific Dalmatian temperament. All those who visit the medieval fortress of St Michael on the island of Ugljan during sunset, by bike or on foot, will have the opportunity to enjoy the view of an earthly paradise made up of emerald islands, and a golden string of pearls immersed in the sun that will be remembered forever.

As the centuries-long centre of the Illyrian tribe of Liburni, and the capital of Dalmatia for millennia, Zadar is a place whose rich spiritual and material culture is best testified to by its walls and numerous sacral monuments, crowned by the symbol of the city: the 9th century Church of St. Donatus, the most monumental Croatian building of the early Middle Ages. Enjoying the protection of as many as four patron saints — Zoilus, Simon, Chrisogonus and Anastasia – Zadar takes pride not only in its abundant archaeological and monumental treasures, jealously guarded down the centuries, but also in the fact that the foundations of the oldest university in the Land were laid here in 1396. Replete with rich archives, libraries and outstanding treasuries of sacral music, Zadar is also the city in which the first Croatian novel was written, and where the first newspapers in the Croatian language were printed.

A land that inspired the gods

Although it may seem pretentious to describe the Zadar region as an area of divine inspiration, it is indeed a land of singular natural beauty. This claim is best borne out by its numerous national parks.

With its mountains, lakes and waterfalls, its canyons, caves, karstic holes and the blue expanse of the open sea embraced by a string of lovely islands full of small welcoming ports and romantic beaches, it is easier to paint this part of the world by the brush than by words. Without forgetting the sound of the sea organ – the architectural wonder of the Zadar waterfront from which, as Alfred Hitchcock once said, one can watch the most beautiful sunset in the world.