Sailing in Croatia: Magic labyrinth between Zadar and Kornati

Sailing in Croatia: Magic labyrinth between Zadar and Kornati

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Take a round trip snaking between the charming islands closest to the city of Zadar – and maybe you’ll find inspiration to continue on toward Kornati. Discover sailing in Croatia at its finest

Zadar is one of those rare cities woven together from endless interesting points and corners. Protected by the mighty Velebit mountain and nurtured by the fertile Ravni kotari from the north, it opens and spills into islands dotting the sea on the south. If you decide to explore the region by foot, you’ll have your breath taken away by the imposing Velebit and the magic Paklenica canyons, but those among you visiting Zadar by boat get to enjoy the unique labyrinth of islands big and small stretching across the blue.

Sailing In Croatia Zadar Kornati Turquoise Sea 01
Sailing in Croatia at its finest between Zadar and Kornati

Discover tiny islands of Sestrunj and Mali Paranak

Although four days are enough to cover the area by boat, this corner of paradise is so captivating you might decide to spend the entire summer discovering its many faces at your own pace. After leaving the city of Zadar and the northern shore of Ugljan behind, turn west, toward the turquoise waters surrounding the island of Srednja Sestrica and toward the strait between the tiny islands of Sestrunj and Mali Paranak. Both of those are a sight for sore eyes as well as great anchoring spots, but while Sestrica is true Mediterranean wilderness, Sestrunj offers some activities.

Zadar Archipelago Sestrunj 01
Sailing in Croatia between Zadar and Kornati: small village of Sestrunj

Telašćica Nature Park begins with Telašćica cove and only gets better after that. The salty Mir lake and its imposing cliffs are not to miss, while the famous Kornati archipelago with its 152 pearls is a definite must

Up on the hill, the village of Sestrunj on the island of the same name is just large enough for several smaller piers, several houses, a smart bench (!), a coffee shop – and around 30 permanent residents to enjoy it all. Next stop on your journey to the soundtrack of cicadas and crickets is the isle of Iž. In those waters there are several well marked fisheries and pretty much nothing else to disturb your peace. The welcoming marina Veli Iž in the town of the same name is ready to accommodate your every need and is an ideal haven on stormy nights, but as small as the town may be – it’s still too big for our taste.

Drop your anchor in vicinity of islet Školjić

Instead, spend a night or two in the secluded Vodenjak cove hidden in the meandering coast of this quiet island. Rumors are next season the cove will welcome its first restaurant, but until then you can get food delivered from anywhere else on the island – mostly delicious fresh sea food and barbecued meat.

Veli Vodenjak Cove 01
Veli vodenjak cove in front of Školjić on Mali Iž is a great place stop before continuing toward Kornati

Inside the cove, like a tiny jewel in the cove, the charming islet of Školjić attracts the eye on the glistening turquoise water dotted with buoys. Drop your anchor in its vicinity and you’ll be safe from northern wind. Almost all coves on the western shore of the island of Rava offer the option mooring at buoys, and are protected from northern winds.

Dolphins In Croatia 01

Dolphins Zadar Archipelago 01
Sailing in Croatia between Zadar and Kornati: On our way to Telašćica we were surprised by a pod of dolphins

Between the island and the neighboring Žutska Aba lies one of the most beautiful, most secluded and most romantic spots in the region

If you want to spend some time on this beautiful island, but prefer totally secluded areas, we recommend you set sail for coves of Paladinica or Grbavac. The former is the largest anchoring spot on the island, but the latter lures with gastro delights at (sometimes pricey) Villa Rava. A day only has 24 hours, but how many beautiful memories you can pack in that time is completely up to you. Our suggestion for creating at least some of them is a pit stop for gas and supplies at Sali on Dugi otok – and then, serenity. Telašćica Nature Park begins with Telašćica cove and only gets better after that. The salty Mir lake and its imposing cliffs are not to miss, while the famous Kornati archipelago with its 152 pearls is a definite must.

Croatia islands

Boat sailing in Croatia
Mala Proversa is the doorway to the marine heaven of the Kornati archipelago

Sail through the Mala Proversa strait, connecting two dots on the island since the Roman era, and enter Telašćica cove, then tie your boat in the Mir cove and start your adventure: 2.2 kilometers of safe hiking trails, picturesque and photogenic lakes (swimming is allowed in the park), impressive cliffs definitely worth a photo or two.

Croatia Nature Park
Sailing in Croatia between Zadar and Kornati: Telašćica Nature Park

Set sail for the island of Žut

Even on hot summer days, the 30-minute walk to the cliffs is well worth the sweat – especially if you meet the locals – sometimes deer, but mostly donkeys ready to hang around for the price of a juicy apple. Next stop after Telašćica Nature Park is obvious – Kornati, but we’ll leave that story for some other time and just taste the waters, setting sail for the island of Žut, known for its many coves. Between the island and the neighboring Žutska Aba lies one of the most beautiful, most secluded and most romantic spots in the region, so drop your anchor and chill for a day.

Kornati Archipelago Panoramic View 01
Welcome to the heaven on Earth – Kornati archipelago

Žut is the second largest island in the Kornati archipelago, named for its proximity to the neighboring isle of Kornat: Žut comes from iunctus (joined adjacent), and not as the locals sometimes think, from the yellow (žut, yellow in Croatian) colored flowers almost covering the island all summer long. The port of Žut is large and well protected from all winds, so leave it to Aeolus whether or not you have to moor in the ACI Marina Žut, or rough it in the wild in one of the tiny nearby coves.

On your way back, be very careful while passing through the Mali Ždrelac strait, as the underwater is rather rocky. Once you pass the 16.5-meter tall bridge, you’ll know you’re very close to Zadar, where your trip and our story began. For one last dip in the sea, we recommend the southern side of the island of Ugljan and its sandy beaches stretching hundreds of meters into the sea.

Marinas and anchorages in Zadar archipelago
Marina Benjamin on the isle of Iž (+385 23 277 006) offers 45 berths, a service shop and supplies. Vodenjak cove on the same island (+385 95 905 2549) counts 16 buoys and mooring requires reservation. Dolinje on the island of Mali Iž (+385 91 289 1800) has 10 buoys, plus four moorings and nine buoys in front of a private restaurant (the restaurant is currently closed; contact number +385 91 303 5555). Paladinica cove on the island of Rava (+385 98 449 309) offers excellent anchoring and mooring options (20 buoys), and a restaurant, whose owner also owns 15 buoys in the Lokvina cove.

Guests of Villa Rava (+385 92 288 3310) enjoy complementary mooring (10 + 6) in Grbavac cove. On the island of Žut, the ACI Marina (+385 22 786 0278) offers 120 berths and 15 buoys, as well as a supply store and a restaurant. Another island with a restaurant is Žmara (+385 98 757 165), whose Hiljača cove offers 10 buoys and several private mooring options. The uninhabited Strunac cove (+385 98 186 7883) has 10 buoys and the local restaurant offers six more. The gastronomic heart of Žut, restaurant Fešta (+385 99 347 3519) offers 40 berths. During your visit to Telašćica Nature Park (+385 23 377 096), you can use berths in the well protected Mir cove, or buoys in the coves of Tripuljak, Kruševica and Kučinmul. Mooring is free throughout the park, with entrance fee. The port authority mooring at Sali (+385 23 250 563) offers 80 berths, shops and restaurants, while you’ll find fuel stations in the nearby Zaglav, 1 km away.

Text Josipa Vlahović Cikatić

Photos Boris Kačan

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