Destination Inspiration: Dugi Otok, Croatia

Destination Inspiration: Dugi Otok, Croatia

Just a two-hour ferry crossing from Zadar, the spectacular landscape of Dugi Otok is home to secluded coves, oceanside restaurants and design-driven hotels. Read on for the lowdown on Croatia’s best-kept secret.


Dugi Otok, Croatia.

Why now?

Sharing the Adriatic coast with the likes of Slovenia, Hungary and Montenegro, Croatia marks Europe’s
centre point. With a small population of just 3.9 million spread
across its 48 inhabited islets, the country has fast become the
ideal holiday destination for those seeking a quiet getaway and a
fix of sun, sea and good grub.

Head to the pocket-sized Dugi Otok – meaning “long island”.
Blessed with craggy cliffs, low-slung villas and rust-coloured
roofs, this place is home to some of Europe’s best beaches,
promising gin-clear waters and baby-blue skies. While it’s almost
impossible to peel yourself away from the seafront, trust us, it’s
well worth doing so to discover the isle’s many handsome old towns,
of which Sali, Luka and Savar are our favourites.

Yet to be taken over by edgy creatives (though it surely won’t
be long before the digital nomads move in), there’s a contagious
charm to Dugi Otok’s shabby-chic beachside shacks and old-school
restaurants. The perfect day? A morning hike along one of its many
trails, a lunchtime spent bobbing in the waves and an evening
feasting like a true Croat.

Villa Nai

Don’t miss

– an atmospheric cave system found on the outskirts of
Savar village. Remaining something of a mystery, the caves were
accidentally stumbled upon following the discovery of a flint
artefact dating back to the Stone Age. You’ll arrive at a grand
entrance, before climbing a winding staircase, passing a collection
of unusual rock formations. Then, out of nowhere, 360-degree vistas
across Kornati and the Adriatic will appear. Alternatively, and for
organised walking tours and water-based activities, visit the
southern tip of the island, where Telašćica Nature
is a must for wildlife lovers.

Where to stay?

Villa Nai
. Built into a hillside overlooking Kornati National Park,
this eco-conscious hideaway comprises eight rooms, two tasty
restaurants, a spa and an infinity pool. Dreamed up by the Morović
family, the design-driven, one-storey space was brought to life by
the incredibly talented Croatian architect Nikola Bašić, with
natural local stone being utilised to embody the location’s rural
terrain. Each room showcases sweeping views across tangled olive
groves, Aleppo pines and the sparkling sea – we can hardly think of
a better place to wake up each morning. At in-house restaurants
Grotta 11,000 and 3.3, whizz-kid head chef Denis Galić presents
fresh, seasonal dishes including crumbly pastries, platters of
fresh seafood and homemade sorbets: prepare to indulge like never

Where to go for dinner?

Garoful, the island’s first restaurant, which opened
in 1974, was reborn in 2021, in its original outpost in Sali’s old
town, just a stone’s throw from the sea. Sticking to its classic
Mediterranean roots, menu highlights include pumpkin tagliatelle,
expertly cooked steaks and a sensational lamb burger. Whispering
Angel fans will delight at the extensive wine menu, with a chilled
glass – or bottle – of rosé best enjoyed overlooking the
sun-drenched harbour.

Villa Nai 3.3 | Photos by Tom

And for a drink…

Have you even been to Croatia if you haven’t sat at a bar stool
sipping on an extra-large piña colada? Proving that size isn’t
everything, tiny beach bar Sol – all weather-worn blue shutters
and rustic stone exterior – is beloved for its well-crafted
cocktails and long drinks. Pull up a chair under the leafy pergola
and settle in for the evening.

Who to take with you

That friend who pretends the River Thames is the Caribbean.
They’ll delight in the azure waters and golden sands of Dugi Otok’s
breathtaking Sakarun Beach.

When to go

Croatia is home to more than 1,000 islands, with Dugi Otok being
one of the few that remains almost completely untrodden by
tourists. Plan your visit in August, to enjoy empty beaches even in
peak sunshine season.

Essentials to pack

Flip-flops that we can wear to dinner? Yes, please. Make
Chloé’s Lou recycled crochet rubber flip-flops
your holiday staple.

How to get there

Take a direct flight from London Heathrow to Croatia’s Zadar
Airport, from where Dugi Otok is just a two-hour ferry ride

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