Dugi Otok is an island located close to Zadar on the mainland and is the largest among the islands located in this part of Dalmatia. Its name literally means ‘long island’ – for it is indeed of this description (it is 45km long) – and is known for its vineyards and orchards, Saharun beach in the north, and Telascica Nature Park that covers the southern part of the island. With a population of just 1,500 people on Dugi Otok, the main villages are Bozava and Sali.
Dugi Otok is a wonderful place to stay if you’re looking to get ‘off the beaten track’! Despite Croatia’s obvious popularity, even in the summer months this island well and truly provides travellers with some peace and quiet, although there are still some wonderful things to see and do here. The island is also suitable to visit as a day trip from Zadar.
Getting to Dugi Otok
There is a year-round, daily Jadrolinija car ferry from Zadar to Brbinj on Dugi Otok which sails twice a day in low season, and three times a day in high. Journey time is 1 hour 20 minutes.
There is another, year-round Jadrolinija car ferry that sails from Zadar to Bozava on the northeastern part of Dugi Otok. It is 1 hour and 10 (or 20) minutes to Bozava; the ferry stops at the very small islands of Rivanj and Sestrunj on the way.
G&V Line Iadera runs a year-round catamaran service from Zadar to Sali and Zaglav on the southeastern side of the island. The boat sails to both places on its outbound route, by only from Zaglav on the return. It takes 1 hour and 10 minutes from Zadar to Sali, and a further 20 minutes to Zaglav. The same company has an additional catamaran route that sails from Zadar to Zaglav and then sometimes on to Brsanj on the island of Mali Iz before returning to Zadar.
What to see and do on Dugi Otok
Undoubtedly, one of the island’s biggest draws is the secluded Saharun (or Sakarun) beach. This beach, surrounded by pine trees, enjoys crystal-clear waters practically as far as the eye can see. The Daily Telegraph has an excellent guide to this beach: see Saharun beach, Dugi Otok, Croatia: Secret Seaside.
Telascica Nature Park
Telascica Nature Park centres around Telascica Bay, from which the park got its name. It is well known for its coves and small islands, as well is its cliffs – the highest of which is Grpascak, at 161m high. Lake Mir is another sight well worth visiting in the Park – this salt-water lake (which is connected to the sea by underground channels) is both warmer than the sea in summer and colder in winter; the temperature of the water can range from 33C to 5C during the year.
There is a relatively wide variety of plant and animal life to see in Telascica, including assorted marine life (such as crabs and sea urchins), coral and sponges. You may also be able to see falcons that nest on the cliffs in Telascica, and it is not unusual to see dolphins swimming off the coast. There is also a small donkey sanctuary – donkeys once being a large part of day-to-day life on Dugi Otok – in the park.
Full details on what to see and do in Telascica Nature Park can be found on their website.
Kornati National Park
One of Croatia’s eight national parks, the collection of islands that make up Kornati National Park are just south of Dugi Otok. It’s therefore a great place to organise a day trip to the National Park from.
Veli Rat Lighthouse
This 42m-tall active lighthouse – the tallest Adriatic lighthouse – is located towards the northern tip of the island. The yellow-ish tower of the lighthouse was supposedly painted using thousands of egg yolks! This is a beautiful part of the island to visit and the lighthouse is sometimes open to climb up; if so, you will be rewarded with even more amazing views. Otherwise, there are a couple of beaches in the nearby vicinity.
Strasna Pec Cave
A slightly daunting road will lead you to the unusual Strasna Pec cave (which translates to terrible furnace) which may have once been home to the island’s very early inhabitants. A guide will lead you through the cave and point out the stalactites and stalagmites of interest.
The island is a great location for diving, best done with a local company such as Diving Centre Bozava. Alternatively, exploring some of the islands bays and coves by kayak is magical – it is possible to rent a kayak from Taxi Frka.
Events on Dugi Otok
The Dugi Otok Trail in March offers competitors three different trails to race on – of 11km, 25km and 38km in length.
The traditional Festival of Sea and Salt in late June in Sali is a largely gastronomic event for you to enjoy the best the sea has to offer.
On the first weekend in August, Sali hosts the Saljske uzance (Sali Festivity) which is essentially one big party! There is live music, fantastic food (particularly seafood and fish stew) and fun and games such as donkey races. It is a very fun time to be in Sali.
The Triathlon Long Island takes place every September – the island is an amazing setting for such a race! There are in fact two options – a middle-distance race and an Olympic distance one.
Eating and Drinking on Dugi Otok
Adagio (Sali) is the place to come for incredibly tasty burgers, chips, wraps and other similar “fast food” options. Nice open-air terrace with a view for dining too.
Although only opened in 2021, Garoful Cookhouse (Sali) is located on the site of what was once the oldest restaurant on the island. These days, they serve up wonderful Mediterranean and Croatian dishes such as risottos, carpaccio, fish platters, fish stew, steaks and more. There’s an excellent Croatian wine list too.
Konoba Roko in Zaglav is one of the best choices for excellent seafood dishes.
Pizzeria Galeb (Veli Rat) serves up tasty and rather humongous pizzas.
For a special meal, head to 3.3 (Zman) which is part of the Villa Nai 3.3 hotel (see below). The restaurant offers an amazing 5-course dining experience with wine pairing in a truly gorgeous setting. Absolutely the top choice for a romantic meal.
Accommodation on Dugi Otok
There are only a few hotels on the island, plus several campsites and a selection of private accommodation options…including the opportunity to stay in the island’s lighthouse!
One of the absolute highlights is the relatively new 5-star Villa Nai 3.3 which is located slightly north of Zaglav, outside the village of Zman. The villa-style accommodation – there are only 8 units – has been created inside a 100-year-old olive grove, with parts of the building created from stone harvested from the olive grove. The site still produces its own award-winning olive oil, and there’s also an excellent restaurant, plus facilities such as a reflecting pool, a spa, a sauna, water sports and other sports offerings.
See all the details of these options on our Accommodation on Dugi Otok page.
Getting around on Dugi Otok
Having your own car is ideally the best way of exploring, as bus services on the island are pretty infrequent. Alternatively, transfers are possible to certain locations from Sali with companies such as Taxi Frka.
You can also easily rent your own wheels – whether that’s a bike or scooter – when on Dugi Otok to help you explore!
There’s plenty of information on the island at the official Dugi Otok tourist office website.