PADDLE CROATIA 2019
DATE: 18-25 May 2019
DURATION: 7 days / 7 nights
This SUP or kayaking touring trip kicks off in Zadar, Croatia's oldest continuously inhabited city, which is located on the Dalmatian Coast. After visiting the famed Plitvice Lakes and exploring Zadar's Roman and Venetian ruins by bike, we hop across to the islands of the Zadar archipelago for a truly local experience. For the majority of the trip, we will be based in a quaint town of Molat and it is from there that we will stand up paddle board daily, across the Adriatic’s sparkling clear waters to multiple picturesque fisherman ports, picturesque beaches and tunnels that were used during the Cold War to hide submarines.
If you drove the length of the Dalmatian Coast from Italy to Montenegro, you’d be excused for thinking you’re travelling along Europe’s most beautiful coastline. Olive groves and pine forests cloak the land and the green of Cyprus trees contrast with an impossibly blue sea.
Craggy cliff-faces drop away to reveal hidden coves where deserted beaches beckon. Islands dot the horizon as far as the eye, with most being small and uninhabited.
A number of islands (such as Molat), are easily reached by ferry and the villages upon them remain steeped in tradition. Successive wars have seen them all but cut off from the outside world and tourism has largely overlooked them.
The area of present-day Zadar traces its earliest evidence of human life from the late Stone Age, while numerous settlements have been dated as early as the Neolithic and the 9th-century BC. In 59 BC it was renamed Iadera when it became a Roman municipality and then in 48 BC, Zadar became a Roman colony.
In 1202, Zadar was conquered and burned by the Republic of Venice, which was helped by the Crusaders. It changed hands a number more times before the Turks conquered the Zadar hinterland at the beginning of the 16th century; making the town an important stronghold and ensuring Venetian trade in the Adriatic.
The Treaty of Rapallo in 1920, resulted in Zadar falling under Italian rule. Then, during World War II, Zadar was heavily bombed by the Allied Forces. After the defeat of the Axis Powers, it was returned to Croatia whose armed forces defended it in October 1991 from the Serb forces who aimed to capture it.
Today, Zadar is a historical centre with astoundingly beautiful ruins displaying layers of culture and history. It is one of the most popular Croatian tourist destinations and was named "the entertainment centre of the Adriatic" by The Times and "Croatia's new capital of cool" by the Guardian.
Authentic Croat culture still dictates the slow pace of island time where pig is roasted on a spit to tender perfection, the potato salad is sweet and the fish dishes are cooked in the old manner (over hot coals).
September is one of the best months to visit the area, as the sea is still warm enough to swim, yet the crowds have thinned out and the winds are generally still.
On arrival, you will be transferred from the airport to your accommodation in Zadar, which is located in the very centre of the historic Old Town; on the Old Roman Forum. The Forum is to Zadar the equivalent of what Saint Marco square is to Venice, so you really can’t beat the location. Get lost in the maze of the decumanum (a grid of Roman streets that still remains today) and step back in time on thousand-year-old stone roads.
The group will meet in the mid-afternoon to take a bike ride along the city's coastline and watch the sun set behind the offshore islands that will be our paddling ground. Afterwards, the evening you may head to a local eatery for a meal and drink, or explore the many points of interest in the Old Town, at your leisure.
Activity: 15km cycling (1-2h with stops)
After breakfast, we drive to Plitvice National Park. It's hard to find a place to rival the natural splendour of the 295-sq.-km forest reserve, which is considered a 'must see' attraction. The lakes are renowned for their distinctive colours, ranging from azure to green, grey or blue. The colours change constantly depending on the quantity of minerals or organisms in the water and the angle of sunlight.
A chain of 16 terraced lakes, joined by waterfalls, extend into a limestone canyon. Walkways and hiking trails wind around and across the water, and an electric boat links the 12 upper and 4 lower lakes. The latter are the site of Veliki Slap, a 78m-high waterfall.
Plitviče is one of the oldest and the largest national parks in Croatia and is listed on the UNESCO World Heritage register.
In late afternoon we return back to Zadar and the evening is free for you to continue exploring the narrow streets of the Old Town and enjoying some local wines or beers.
Activity: 2-4h walking tour
After breakfast, we cat a boat to Molat Island, which will serve as our our base for the remainder of the trip. Molat has 3 villages and a total population of just 150 in winter/ 500 in summer; we will stay in the biggest village (also called Molat).
Once we have settled into our accommodations, we’ll paddle out of Jazi Bay to circumnavigate the south side of the island, where the waters are shallow and stunningly turquoise in colour. Our first stop is a pebble stone beach, where we can enjoy a swim or snorkel. A little further on and we stop for a bit longer at Sabuša, where we play a round of 'picigin' ( a Dalmatian water ball game). The paddle excursion ends in Lučina harbour, after which we rest a while before the evening meal accompanied by local wine/ spirits.
Activity: 10k paddling (3h)
After breakfast, we can either bike ride to - or transferring by van to - the village of Zapuntel. From there, we paddle across to Ist Island and it's stunningly sandy beach, then hike up an ancient pilgrimage route toward Snow Lady Chapel to take in some spectacular views of the archipelago.
After lunch, those with the energy can join us for a trip to an island that was once used by the Romans as a quarry, before we return to our base in Molat.
Activity: 18k - 24k paddling (3h), 40 minute hike, optional 8k cycling (1.5h)
A relaxed kind of day with a paddle in the sheltered waters of Brgulje Bay and a stop in at a small village pizzeria for coffee. On the return route to Molat we should have the wind at our backs.
Activity: 8k paddling (2h)
After breakfast, we paddle from Molat harbour to the Bonastar Peninsula to explore a network of 400m long caves that were used in WWII. We then continue to the shipwreck of the ‘Michelle’, which sits partially above the surface. After a snorkel stop, we continue to Veli Rat lagoon and take a break to explore the pebble stone beach and – for those feeling energetic - the nearby lighthouse, which is the tallest in North Dalmatia. We return following the coast of Dugi Otok and take in a number of interesting stone formations.
Activity: 25km paddling (5h) or 1/2 the distance with a boat transfer
After breakfast, we paddle to the island of Brščak for a snorkelling exploration of its southern side. We then continue to Dugi Otok to paddle within the 150m deep submarine caves that were used during the Cold War. We continue from there to island of Zverinac to sample its famous olive oil, have lunch and a refreshing swim before returning to Molat.
Activity: 25km paddling (4h)
The catamaran departs Molat at 6.50am for Zadar (arriving at 7.50h), so breakfast is packed to go and we bid the group a fond farewell. Those who wish to remain in Croatia longer, may then travel on to Split, Zagreb or Dubrovnik and reacquaint themselves with the more heavily touristed side of the country.
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Trip style: Adventure, culture
Activities: SUP, kayaking, hiking, snorkelling, bike riding, swimming, culture & history
Group size: 8 people
Minimum age: 15 years (with adult)
Fitness level: Moderate
SUP skill level: Intermediate
Commences/ ends: Zadar
Fly in to: The ideal arrival airport for this trip is Zadar. Your first alternative is Split and your second alternative is Zagreb.
PRICE: Au$2750 plus GST / USD 2100
7 nights accommodation (twin share)
7 x breakfast
3 x dinner (served with local wine/ spirits)
5 days of paddling or kayaking in the archipelago (6-10km/day)
Rental of touring boards, leashes, paddles, life vests, dry bags
Bicycle rental and old city tour in Zadar
Bicycle rental and tour on Ist Island (19km)
Snorkel an Italian shipwreck
Visit to submarine tunnels
Plitvice Lakes day tour
Hike on Ist Island to a Copper Age settlement and archaeological site (dating back to 3500 to 2300 BCE)
Visit a Roman quarry
Entrance fee for Plitvice Lakes
Ferry, shuttle and boat rides
Airport transfer on arrival
Local guide/ translator/ SUP Instructor
Airport transfer on departure
Meals and beverages where not stated
Visas & departure taxes
Travel medicine & travel insurance
Optional extra activities
The average air temperature in May varies between a low of 15 degrees and a high of 23 degrees Celsius.
Dubrovnik-Zadar by bus (8 hrs)
Split-Zadar by bus (3hrs), Cost: 100HRK/ person
We recommend catching a flight to Zadar airport for those on a tight timeline.