In love with my Croatian vacation: the beauty of an undiscovered island

Dr. Vedrana Högqvist Tabor
6 min readJul 29, 2016

We have spent our first week of vacation on Dugi Otok (Long Island in Croatian), the 45 km long and (on average) 2 km wide island in the middle of the Adriatic sea.

Olive orchards

When arriving and while driving across the island, on it’s only road, vastness of olive trees was a predominant motif: they are everywhere, and as long as the island stretches. Olive trees with their roots reaching into the rocky soil so depleted of any water during the summer months, yet still good enough for them to grow.

Olive trees along the road.

In the end of July green olives are sunbathing and still growing, ready to be picked at the end of October, or even better in November (olive oil will be less bitter if done so, we were told) and to be pressed into the olive oil fitting divinely with the fish we ate.

Our hosts left us a small bottle of their own olive oil to try it, tempting us to ask for more. And so we did. Rich and thick, great to go with anything, but probably the best with a bit of stone oven baked bread and some salt.

In the old times, before the 2nd world war a young man living on this island could not marry if he did not plant at least 50 olive trees. Some traditions make sense.

Beaches

I understand that I should have started my story with this description, to bring closer all the great swimming opportunities Dugi Otok provides. But, a part of me is selfishly thinking I want to keep it for myself, I want to come back next year and then after it again, and not to see over exploited nature and the new resorts. I would like for tourism to grow slowly, to change with consciousness, not to be predominantly run by measuring quantities of people that can be squeezed in sqm.

Sandy beach Sakarun hidden in a tiny bay surrounded by many pine trees was our pick on the first day. I shall not use adjectives, I will put in a photo instead.

Sakarun beach has the real sand, like what I have experienced in Thailand or Dominican Republic. Also, the water is quite shallow for the first 20 or so meters.

On our second day we went to the nature park Telašćica, on the southern end of the island, with it’s rocky formations, salt lake and the beautiful, quiet bays.

The bay where we swam.
One of the bays at Telašćica nature park, with a small island in the middle.
High cliffs of Telašćica, it’s salt lake is a tiny patch of water on the left side of this photo.
Seaside view of the cliffs.

We found a recluse from summer heat in one of the bays, with a small pier where locals on a boat brings island’s produce to sell. Eating watermelon on the beach brought me back in time, to when I was a kid, before the last war, when we ate watermelons, peaches and apricots, and collected the kernels on small piles next to our beach towels.

Local markets and supermarkets on the boat.
Watermelon refreshment under the morning sun.

Life slows down, one becomes aware of deep breathing again. Sea indeed has a magic touch.

In the next few days we discovered many more beaches, hidden in the bays or reachable only by the sea passageways: sandy or rocky, turquoise blue that I forgot it exists in so many shades and with fishes around us.

We went swimming here too, it was quite hard to get into the water, unless one jumps in. Also, the depth after the first few meters goes to 60 meters.

Waking up with a view

Our base was in Sali, a 600+ fishermen village, also serving as an administrative centre of Dugi Otok. It is a great base for starting to explore the island. It’s marina docks many yachts, so the place becomes quite populous during the summer.

5 am view of Sali from our terrace. Island in the background is Pašman.
Oleander trees in many different colours along the streets of Sali.

Dolphins and the lighthouse

Sailing back to Sali, we saw three dolphins playing around on the waves. I do not have any pictures of the event, as I was enjoying the real version of it. It is so much more HD than on the TV.

The lighthouse was on the northern part, big and yellow clean. It is the tallest of all the Croatian lighthouses, the brochure says. It is close to Veli Žal beach. Definitely worth visiting.

End of July is hot in here

This year, on purpose, after a long time we decided to go to Croatia during a peak holiday season. Mostly because we wanted to spend a part of our vacation together with my sister and her partner, and this is the usual time for them to go on a vacation.

It is hot, with temperatures easily reaching over 35ºC during the day. Sun is relentless, and hiding under the tree shade or dipping into the sea provides decent refreshment. Still the best is to avoid being in the sun from 11am to 4pm. Even the most hard core sun-tanners burn easily.

In September and October one can still swim and enjoy. Water temperatures should be above 20ºC, and there is not much, if any, rain. Locals will have more time to dedicate to guests, and private, secluded beaches should be even emptier then in July.

Food & wine

Picking up fish from the market is a must, if you can force yourself to be there at 7am or earlier. We bought some freshly caught fish (I saw the boat coming in at 5am), and our hosts grilled it for us.

Nona selling the fish.
Grilled fish, potatoes baked in olive oil and salads. We had a bottle of Istrian Malvazija to help us digest.

Dugi Otok is not known for it’s wines, and we saw only a few of grape wines growing on the islands. There is a “funny” story about some half entrepreneurial half con trial of producing local wine while importing most of the grapes from another country. That did not work very well, and as a result there were plants left, which are now tended by the local people. We heard the wine is great, but did not try it. Next time.

The only time we ventured into exploring the restaurants was not a great experience at all: seafood was chewy, fried in a sunflower oil, and the greens were overcooked and under spiced. Prices were crazy high, and the staff was unfriendly. However, our wine pick (Žlahtina from Vrbnik on island Krk) was great, and we enjoyed another evening of peace and tranquil.

Fig season starts in two weeks and to my eternal sorrow- I will miss it.

Fig trees can be found all over Sali.

National park of 80 something islands

Kornati national park starts at the southern tip of Dugi Otok, and stretches for many kilometers to the south. The big island, named Kornat is almost as long as the entire park, with the reminder of islands scattered along its western side.

Again, photos will paint a much better picture then my words.

We saw an island goat chewing grass on one of the tiny islands of Kornati archipelago. Still unsure where does it get it’s water, and is it a lonely goat, or does it have a companion.

We loved our stay at Dugi Otok, and will try to be back soon and visit the places we missed (caves, climbing, more sailing) and to re-visit some of the things we loved so much during this stay.

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Dr. Vedrana Högqvist Tabor

CEO @Boost_HealthApp|| TEDx speaker || Cancer hunter || Hashimoto’s patient|| Parentpreneur || Learning from own mistakes since 1977