The Ultimate Road Trip: Renting a Car in Zadar and Exploring the Dalmatian Coast

The Dalmatian Coast is a stunning region located in Croatia, known for its rich history, beautiful landscapes, and vibrant culture. One of the most popular cities along this coast is Zadar, which offers a perfect starting point for exploring the region. With its ancient Roman ruins, charming old town, and breathtaking sunsets, Zadar is a must-visit destination for any traveller. In this post, I will be talking about Renting a Car in Zadar and Exploring the Dalmatian Coast.

The Dalmatian Coast has a long and fascinating history, with influences from various civilizations such as the Romans, Venetians, and Ottomans. This rich history is evident in the architecture and cultural heritage of the region. From ancient Roman ruins like the Forum in Zadar to medieval fortresses and churches, there are countless historical sites to explore.

In addition to its historical significance, the Dalmatian Coast is also known for its natural beauty. With crystal-clear waters, picturesque islands, and stunning national parks, this region offers a diverse range of landscapes to discover. From the famous Plitvice Lakes National Park to the stunning Kornati Islands, there are plenty of natural attractions to explore along the coast.

Why renting a car is the best way to explore the region

When it comes to exploring the Dalmatian Coast, renting a car is undoubtedly the best way to go. Having a car gives you the freedom and flexibility to explore at your own pace and visit off-the-beaten-path destinations that may not be easily accessible by public transportation.

One of the main advantages of having a car is the convenience it offers. You can easily travel from one destination to another without having to worry about schedules or waiting for public transportation. This allows you to make the most of your time and see more of the region in a shorter period.

Compared to other modes of transportation such as buses or trains, renting a car also allows you to explore remote areas and hidden gems that may not be easily accessible by public transportation. You can take scenic routes, make detours, and discover lesser-known attractions along the way.

Tips for renting a car in Zadar

When renting a car in Zadar, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure a smooth and hassle-free experience. First, it’s important to choose a reputable rental company. Look for companies with good reviews and a wide selection of vehicles to choose from. It’s also a good idea to compare prices and read the terms and conditions of the rental agreement before making a decision.

When signing a rental agreement, make sure to carefully read the terms and conditions, including any additional fees or insurance requirements. It’s also important to inspect the car for any existing damages before driving off. Take photos or videos of the car to document its condition and report any damages to the rental company.

In terms of driving regulations and safety tips, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the local traffic rules and regulations.

In Croatia, driving is on the right side of the road, and seat belts are mandatory for all passengers. Speed limits are generally 50 km/h in urban areas, 90 km/h on open roads and 130 km/h on highways.

Must-see destinations along the Dalmatian Coast

The Dalmatian Coast is home to numerous must-see destinations that are worth exploring during your road trip. From ancient cities to stunning natural landscapes, there is something for everyone along this coast.

One of the top attractions along the Dalmatian Coast is Dubrovnik, known for its well-preserved medieval walls and stunning views of the Adriatic Sea. The city is also famous for its Game of Thrones filming locations, which attract fans from all over the world.

Another must-see destination is Split, home to the famous Diocletian’s Palace. This ancient Roman palace is a UNESCO World Heritage site and offers a unique glimpse into the region’s history. The city also has a vibrant nightlife and a bustling waterfront promenade.

For nature lovers, a visit to the Plitvice Lakes National Park is a must. This stunning national park is known for its cascading waterfalls, crystal-clear lakes, and lush forests. It’s a paradise for hikers and nature enthusiasts, with numerous hiking trails and boardwalks to explore.


You can check our One Week in Croatia Itinerary to plan this particular trip.

Exploring the historic city of Zadar

Zadar itself is a historic city with a rich cultural heritage. The city’s history dates back to ancient times, with influences from the Romans, Venetians, and Ottomans. One of the highlights of Zadar is the Roman Forum, which was once the centre of the city’s social and political life. Today, visitors can explore the ruins of the forum and learn about its fascinating history.

Another must-visit attraction in Zadar is the Church of St. Donatus, an impressive 9th-century church that is one of the most important examples of Byzantine architecture in Croatia. The church is located in the heart of the old town and offers stunning views of the city.

Zadar is also known for its unique Sea Organ and Sun Salutation installations. The Sea Organ is an architectural marvel that uses the power of the waves to create beautiful music, while the Sun Salutation is a solar-powered art installation that lights up at night.

Top Things to Do in Zadar

Now I have already talked about the Top Things to do in Zadar in our dedicated post about this beautiful city. But some of the quick things which should be in your itinerary are this.

  • Visit the Sea Organ: Experience the unique musical instrument powered by the sea’s waves, creating beautiful, calming sounds.
  • Explore the Sun Salutation: Witness the stunning light display as the solar-powered installation comes to life during sunset.
  • Stroll the Old Town: Wander through the historic streets, marveling at the ancient architecture, churches, and charming alleyways.
  • Discover St. Donatus Church: Admire this 9th-century masterpiece of Byzantine architecture and its historical significance.
  • Climb Bell Tower of St. Anastasia’s Cathedral: Enjoy panoramic views of Zadar from the top of this Romanesque-style cathedral.
  • Greeting to the Sun: Experience the interactive light installation that illuminates the night sky, located near the Sea Organ.
  • Visit Zadar Archaeological Museum: Explore the rich history of the region through a fascinating collection of artifacts.
  • Admire the Land Gate: Discover the Venetian-style entrance to the Old Town, a well-preserved historical landmark.
  • Relax at Kolovare Beach: Enjoy the sun and crystal-clear waters at this popular city beach.
  • Try Local Cuisine: Savor Dalmatian dishes like seafood, lamb, and Pag cheese at local restaurants and konobas.
  • Take a Day Trip to Kornati Islands: Explore this stunning national park, known for its untouched natural beauty and clear waters.
  • Visit Plitvice Lakes National Park: Take a day trip to witness the breathtaking cascading lakes and waterfalls.
  • Attend a Zadar Summer Festival Event: Enjoy concerts, theater performances, and cultural events during the summer season.
  • Wander the Forum: Step back in time at the Roman Forum, the ancient heart of Zadar.
  • Experience the Museum of Illusions: Have fun with optical illusions and mind-bending exhibits.
  • Go Sailing or Windsurfing: Take advantage of Zadar’s ideal location for water sports and sailing adventures.
  • Explore Paklenica National Park: Hike or rock climb in this stunning karst landscape with dramatic canyons.
  • Visit the Museum of Ancient Glass: Learn about the history of glassmaking in the region and see ancient glass artifacts.
  • Enjoy Zadar’s Nightlife: Discover lively bars, clubs, and cafes for a memorable evening out.
  • Shop at the Green Market: Experience the local culture by browsing fresh produce, handmade goods, and souvenirs.

Discovering the natural beauty of the region’s national parks

The Dalmatian Coast is home to several national parks that showcase the region’s natural beauty. When you are already exploring Zadar you have to visit the most famous national park in Croatia the Plitvice Lakes National Park, which is known for its cascading waterfalls and crystal-clear lakes. Visitors can explore the park on foot or by boat, and there are numerous hiking trails to choose from.

But if you want to be more adventurous then I could recommend you to visit another stunning national park in the region the Krka National Park, which is famous for its waterfalls and emerald-green pools. The best of all is that you can swim in the park’s designated swimming areas and explore the park’s hiking trails and boardwalks.

For those looking for a more adventurous experience, the Paklenica National Park offers excellent hiking and rock climbing opportunities. The park is located in the Velebit mountain range and is known for its rugged landscapes and stunning views.

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Sampling the local cuisine and wine along the way

No road trip along the Dalmatian Coast would be complete without sampling the local cuisine and wine. The region is known for its fresh seafood, olive oil, and Mediterranean flavours.

One of the must-try dishes in the region is Peka, a traditional Croatian dish that consists of meat and vegetables slow-cooked under a bell-shaped lid. This cooking method gives the dish a unique flavour and tender texture.

Another popular dish in the region is Crni Rižot, a black risotto made with cuttlefish ink. This dish is a staple of Dalmatian cuisine and is often served with fresh seafood.

When it comes to wine, the Dalmatian Coast is known for its high-quality wines, especially red wines made from indigenous grape varieties such as Plavac Mali and Dingač. There are numerous wineries along the coast where visitors can sample these wines and learn about the winemaking process.

Best beaches to visit on a road trip

You will also encounter some stunning beaches around the Dalmatian coast, and there are plenty of options to choose from during your road trip. From secluded coves to sandy stretches of coastline, there is a beach for every preference.

One of the top beaches in the region is Zlatni Rat, located on the island of Brač. This unique beach is known for its distinctive shape, which changes depending on the currents and winds. It’s a popular spot for windsurfing and other water sports.

Another stunning beach is Sakarun, located on the island of Dugi Otok. This beach is known for its crystal-clear turquoise waters and white sandy shores. It’s a perfect spot for swimming and sunbathing.

For those looking for a more secluded beach experience, the island of Vis offers several hidden gems. Stiniva Beach, located on the southern coast of the island, is a secluded cove surrounded by towering cliffs. It can only be reached by boat or by hiking down a steep path, making it a hidden paradise.

My Suggestion: You can start your journey from Zadar to Split and then from Split, you can take the 5 Island tour which would take you to all these islands and you will absolutely enjoy your time.

Planning your itinerary for a Dalmatian Coast road trip

When planning your itinerary for a Dalmatian Coast road trip, it’s important to create a flexible and realistic plan that allows you to make the most of your time. Start by deciding how many days you have for your trip and what destinations you want to visit.

Consider the driving distances between each destination and factor in time for stops along the way. It’s also important to consider the time of year and any seasonal attractions or events that may be happening during your visit.

When it comes to accommodations, there are plenty of options along the Dalmatian Coast, ranging from luxury hotels to budget-friendly guesthouses. It’s a good idea to book accommodations in advance, especially during the peak tourist season.

Conclusion: Why a road trip in Zadar is an unforgettable experience

A road trip along the Dalmatian Coast is an unforgettable experience that allows you to explore the region’s rich history, stunning landscapes, and vibrant culture. From the ancient city of Zadar to the breathtaking national parks and beautiful beaches, there is something for everyone along this coast.

Renting a car gives you the freedom and flexibility to explore at your own pace and discover hidden gems that may not be easily accessible by public transportation. It allows you to create a personalized itinerary and make the most of your time in the region.

Whether you’re interested in history, nature, or culinary experiences, the Dalmatian Coast has something to offer. From exploring ancient ruins and medieval cities to hiking through national parks and sampling local cuisine, there are countless opportunities for adventure and discovery.

So, if you’re looking for a memorable and immersive travel experience, consider embarking on a road trip along the Dalmatian Coast. With its stunning landscapes, rich history, and vibrant culture, this region is sure to leave a lasting impression.

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