JOIN US IN AN INTERVIEW WITH SARA CEMELJIC FROM PAG ISLAND, CROATIA!
Sara is a 29 year old Croatian, born and raised on the Island of Pag. After finishing studies in Zagreb, she returned back home and currently works in the local Tourist board. During her studies, she traveled a lot and realised the importance of local tips when visiting new places. She hopes that her island of Pag guide will help you to explore and experience the island in the most magical way possible.
Croatia in Southeast Europe is a geographically diverse country with balmy beaches and islands. It has a total of 1246 islands, islets and seaside bays with more than 6000 km of coastline. With around a thousand islands in the Croatian part of Adriatic Sea, Croatian archipelago is the largest in the Adriatic Sea while second largest in the Mediterranean Sea, just after the Greek archipelago.
Located in the northern part of the Adriatic Sea, Pag island is one of the easiest island to reach from the Croatian mainland. This is the only island that is split between two counties. North part, which includes Novalja, is a part of Lika-Senj county, while the south part of the island, with the city of Pag, is a part of Zadar county. What sets it apart from the rest of the Croatian islands are its lunar and barren landscape, 80 percent of which is made up of rocks.
Please tell us something about Pag Island.
Island Pag is the fifth biggest island in Croatia, with the longest coast in the Adriatic Sea. The other four being Cres, Krk, Brač and Hvar. You will probably be incredibly surprised when you get there because it looks like you landed on the moon. But that’s not the case at all. Here you can find a lot of party, great food, and endless walks in the nature.
Another interesting fact about Island Pag is that is divided in two different regions and the 15th meridian goes right through island Pag – already at the end of the 19th century, island Pag had one of the 1st sundials in Europe.
When is the best time to visit the island?
Croatia is known for its Mediterranean climate with very mild winters. But what makes Pag specific is the strong and cold wind called ‘Bura’ which blows sometimes up to 200 km/h. Hence, one side of the Pag Island is swept away by the wind & dominated by rocks while the other is covered with vineyards.
The best time to visit is during the spring (April, May) for those who like a bit calmer vacation, or during the summer (July, August) for those who don’t mind crowded places and hot weather. During these seasons you can indulge in a number of activities like swimming, snorkelling, hiking or cycling.
How to reach the island and get around the different towns?
Another interesting thing about Pag is that it has a bridge at its southern end. You can come to the island by using a bus from the nearby town Zadar (nearest airport to Pag, 72 km from the center of Pag) or Rijeka. The ride from Zadar to Pag with the bus takes approx. 30 min-1:30 h, depending where you’re going. Visit the Zadar bus terminal website to know more. The bus stops in the centre of Pag Town. From Rijeka to Pag it takes around 3 hours and 30 minutes by bus.
For any other information about the public transport, visit the local Pag transport operator website Antonio Tours. Their buses depart from Zadar at 10:15 am, 2:00 pm and 8:00 pm and arrive in Novalja at 11:50 am, 3:45 pm and 9:40 pm (they don’t have departures on Sundays and holidays).
Autotrans bus departures from Zadar at 10:45am and arrives in Novalja at 12:15pm.
For additional information, visit the Bus Croatia website.
You can also get to Pag Islands via the ferry (accommodates cars) or catamarans (foot passengers). Pag has two ports, one is Žigljen (main port, connected by a ferry line) on the other side of the island and other in Novalja (port connected by catamaran line).
Žigljen port : Catch a ferry (car ferry) from Prizna on the mainland to reach Žigljen port. You can bring up to 100 kg on car ferries. Jadrolinija ferry company operates the route and the journey time is around 15 minutes. During the high season there are 21 departures each day while in the low season there are only 12 departures daily.
Novalja port : This route is served by catamarans. The catamarans are preferable for passengers traveling without cars. Pets and bikes are not permitted on board. You can bring 20 kg on catamarans, but since your luggage is not weighed it’s okay if you bring a little more.
G&V Line ladera (blue line) run catamaran service in summers from Zadar to Novalja, finally to Rab (45 minutes from Novalja) and Rijeka (2 h 40 minutes from Novalja). It also runs the other way, from Rijeka to Novalja.
Jadrolinija (dark pink line) catamaran operates all year between Rijeka to Novalja. The catamaran takes two and a half hours to reach Novalja and also stops at Rab.
It’s recommended to rent a car or bike for your stay on the island (if you want to move from one place to another), since the public transport isn’t developed that much. If you hire a car from Zadar or Rijeka Airport remember to catch the ferry from Prizna on mainland since it accommodates cars.
The island has two main towns and a few small villages. Any recommendation on where to base oneself while touring the rest of the island?
The main cities on the island are Pag and Novalja. While Novalja is situated more on the North side of the island, Pag is situated more or less from the centre to the South of the island.
Pag, known as the town of salt and lace is calm and quiet compared to Novalja. It is the largest town on Pag Island. The town is divided into 4 districts. The Collegiate Church of The Assumption of Mary, the Dogue’s Palace and the Skrivanat tower, the only remaining of nine towers that once surrounded the town are few of the most important structures in the town.
Novalja, the largest resort on the island, is thirty kilometres away from the town of Pag. Once a simple fishing village, the town is now known all over Croatia for the parties it hosts. Novalja has many beautiful beaches in its surroundings – Zrce, Caska, Strasko, Babe, Trincel and Branicevica and the most famous is Zrce.
There are also some small villages that you can visit on the island, such as Lun, Stara Novalja, Barbati, Kolan, Mandre, Šimunni, Povljana. However, the best places for your stay are surely Kolan and Mandre, which are situated in the center of the island, so it is easy to reach other places around.
What are the top three must visit places in Pag Island?
If you visit island Pag, make sure to get to the top of the island, called Sv.Vid. The highest peak Sv. Vid is 348 m. It takes approx. 1.15 h to get there, the path is very rocky and steeply, but it’s worth it. From the top, you have a beautiful view all over the island and even further. Also, from up there, you can see the magnificent mountain Velebit, the highest peak in Croatia. At the foot of the Velebit Mountain is Senj, a city more than 3000 years old. There are two ways to get to Sv. Vid – one is from Šimuni, and the other one is from Kolan.
Also, while touring through island Pag, make sure to visit the Olive gardens in Lun, called Lunjski maslinici. In 1963, the Olive gardens became a botanical reserve. Take a walk throughout the gardens and find olive trees which are more than 2000 years old. After visiting the Olive gardens, take a walk to Lun, a small village nearby. In Lun, almost every household makes their own olive oil, which is a great souvenir from the island. You can buy it everywhere where you see the sign “Olive oil”, right on the doorstep. Afterwards enjoy the beautiful sunset from the beach.
A must see on island Pag is the old town Pag and the fortress Fortica, too.
In the old town Pag you can see the Skrivanat tower, one of the most recognizable parts of the monumental heritage of Pag, which was built in the 15th century. With its construction began the development of the new town Pag in 1443, too. Also, it is the only remaining tower of the former nine towers that surrounded and defended the town Pag.
Fortress Fortica was built in the 17th century and is located near the Pag bridge. In the past, it was particularly important because it controlled the passage between the island of Pag and the mainland. The island of Pag was located on an important maritime route, and various merchant ships moving from the northern Adriatic to Dalmatia and vice versa were often exposed to pirate attacks.
If you have more time in hand, maybe you can visit Church of the Assumption in Pag Town, Pag Lace Museum, The City Museum of Novalja
Which are the best beaches of Pag Island? What is so special about them?
As mentioned, island Pag has the longest coast in the Adriatic Sea, and therefore it has a lot of beautiful beaches and hidden coves. It’s really hard to narrow the best beaches, but the most famous are: Sv. Duh, Čista, Beritnica and Maun.
Sv Duh and Čista are located 2 km north of Kolan, along the main road to Novalja. The visitors are welcomed by the crystal-clear sea and a spectacular view of Pag bay and Velebit mountain. You can reach the beaches by car which can be parked in the parking lot only 10m away from the beach. There is a parking fee (20-25 kn/ 3-4€ approx.) during the summer season. These pebble-sand beaches are suitable for families with children because of the shallow sea that stretches even 50 meters from the shore. Take sun protection with you because there is no natural shade on the beaches. You can find a refreshment in the nearby restaurants.
Beritnica beach is one of the most idyllic bays on island Pag, which leaves you with a breathtaking scenery. Access to the beach is somewhat difficult, so not many people go there. It can only be reached by foot or by boat. It is located in the village Metajna, on the other side of the Pag bay. You can find a refreshment. There are no restaurants or bars on the beach, so make sure to bring your own refreshments with you. If you are into sports, there’s a climbing route Stogaj above the beach.
From the coast in Mandre, you can see the island Maun, which hides a lot of beautiful beaches and bays. It’s reachable by boat from Mandre, and the ride takes approx. 30 min. You can rent a boat in Mandre. Other than the beautiful nature, Maun is a great place for diving and fishing.
What are the best daytrips for nature, culture and history from Pag Island?
For those who love extreme sports and lots of adrenaline, there are a lot of possibilities, as ski lift and bungee jumping at Zrće, or canoe safari , Una rafting, rafting Cetina and much more, just ask in one of the local agencies.
Since island Pag is a very touristic place during summer, a lot of tourist agencies offer various daytrips. Not far away from Pag, you can find one of the most beautiful national parks – Krka. The majestic waterfalls and the untouched nature of the Krka river, including one or more preserved ecosystems, will take everyone’s breath away. While you’re there, don’t miss the small town Skradin, which is a little less than 20 minutes away (by car). You must try their famous Skradin risotto.
The biggest city nearby Pag is Zadar. You can get there by bus or with car (it’s approx. 1 hour drive away). The most popular neighborhood is Poluotok (Peninsula), which is home to five churches from different eras, including the famous Saint Donat church. Also, there you can find the unique color installation called “Pozdrav Suncu””, which is one of the most famous monuments in Zadar. Next to the Pozdrav Suncu, you can hear a magnificent concert from the sea organs. The organ looks like a series of broad steps leading into the sea, but of course there is an engineering mastermind behind the scenes, making the sea produce the beautiful melody. All around the city center you can find small shops, bars, restaurants, and a lot of street food. Don’t forget, Hitchcock stayed in Zadar in 1968. And said that Zadar has the most beautiful sunset.
Island Rab is an awesome choice for a daytrip, too. You can take the catamaran (Rapska Plovidba Service) from Novalja or the boat from Tovarnele (Tovarnele is the last village on the north side of the island) to get there. The ride takes approx. 45 minutes. The island Rab has an extraordinarily rich history and is known today as the “Happy Island”. Rab is recognizable by the four Church towers that form its outline. The southwestern side is covered by one of the last oak forests of the Mediterranean. Island Rab has a lot of sand beaches and the most popular is Rajska plaža (Paradise beach). Make sure to try the Rapska torta (Rab cake), it’s just delicious.
Which are the most celebrated events and festivals of Pag Island?
The most famous festivals on island Pag are : Lace festival in Pag, Summer carnival in Pag, Cheese festival in Kolan and a lot of music festivals on Zrće.
The Lace festival begins in the end of June and lasts 4 days, and it hosts a lot of embroiderers from Croatia and other countries around Europe. Pag lace is under the protection of UNESCOs intangible heritage and it’s an expensive but worth it souvenir from island Pag.
The Pag summer carnival is the oldest summer carnival in Croatia and surely one of the most attractive events. People in Pag are known for their sense of humor, and even if you don’t speak the language, you will understand them. It takes place at the end of July.
Cheese festival is a unique festival which gathers all the cheese producers from the island and other producers from all the region. Here you can try the treasure of island Pag – Pag cheese. It’s sheep’s cheese, Paški sir (pronounced as Pashki Seer), has received accolades internationally in numerous competitions. It is said that the ferocious wind Bura sweeps down from the Velebit mountains on the east side of the channel, picks up salt and deposits on the island, including on the herbs that the sheep eat which gives a special flavour to the cheese. Beside the cheese, you can try olive oil, prosciutto, wine, honey, and a lot of other things. It takes place on the last Friday in August.
Zrće is the most famous party beach in Croatia, foreign medias like to call it Croatian Ibiza. During the summer, Zrće never sleeps – there is something going on 24/7. Zrće hosts a lot of music festivals, and the most known are: Hideout, Fresh island, Black sheep, Sonus and much more. For any party animal, Zrće should be on their bucket list.
Can you tell us about the local food of Pag Island? Which are the best places to try the local cuisine?
When it comes to food, island Pag can offer a lot of great local specialties which you can’t try anywhere else. Besides the famous sheep cheese, island Pag is known for its lamb and sea dishes. Also, if you get here in spring or early summer, make sure to try skuta – it’s fresh sheep cheese, similar to ricotta.
Among others, a few food festivals take place on the island too, such as Skutafest, Lambfest, Seafest and Cheesefest in Kolan county (from May-August, at the end of each month is one festival).
The best places to try local food are : Konoba Bodulo ( Vangrada 20, Pag) Didova kuća (Šimuni 39, Šimuni), Konoba Prtorić (on the road from Šimuni to Mandre , you will see the sign for the konoba and just follow the instructions), Konoba Bonaca (Lungo mare 9, Mandre), Konoba Nono (Rudina 1, Kolan), Konoba Figurica (Figurica 11, Kolan) and Boškinac (Škopaljska 220, Novalja).
Where to head for shopping in Pag Island? Anything that one must bring back from the island?
Each village/town on the island is known for some products, so if you want to buy some lace and salt (one of the 3 salt factories in Croatia is in Pag) head to Pag; for cheese and skuta head to Kolan, you can also learn there how Pag cheese is produced by visiting the MIH Sirana factory or Gligora cheese factory, in Kolan which are the two main cheese producing companies on the island. For olive oil head to Lun, to know more click here.
Other then that, you can find a lot of small gift shop in almost every village/town and there you can find some postcards, magnets etc. Also, if you visit some of the mentioned food festivals, you will find various handmade souvenirs and products.
Can you suggest a place from where one can get the best view of island?
As mentioned, Sv. Vid is the highest peak of the island and it offers a great view on the whole island and on the mountain Velebit. Also, when you exit Pag (going to the direction of Novalja) and go on the main road, on the top of the hill is a parking place where you can leave your car and enjoy a beautiful view on the city Pag.
Would you suggest any shows in Pag Island to music, drama or art lovers?
For the last 21 years, Pag hosts PagArtFestival. It is a classic music festival with artist from Croatia and all over the world. It is a must see for every art lover, and a beautiful experience. Since 2015, Kolan and Novalja host one show each, too. Art lovers will also enjoy a visit to the atelier by Branka Ćetković (Mandre).
Things to Know :
Currency : Croatian Kuna (subdivided into 100 lipa) is the official currency of the Republic of Croatia. With euros you can pay for accommodations, excursions and car rentals without getting ripped off on an exchange rate. For everything else you have to use Croatian Kuna. Though Croatia joined EU in 2013, it still hasn’t introduced Euro as the official currency.
Biking routes : Most popular biking route on the island is from Pag Town to Gorica and back to Pag Town along the salt pools. Other routes are Novalja – Lun – 52 km (easy/moderate), Novalja – Pag – Košljun – 69 km (hard), Novalja – Sveti Vid – Mandre – 51 km (hard), Novalja – Stara Novalja – Metajna – 53 km (moderate). All the bike routes on the island are well marked and there are more 120 kilometres of cycling paths which offer amazing views of the wild rocky terrains and green woods.
Snorkeling/Diving : Enjoyed between May and October. If you wish to explore the Adriatic Sea, know that there are several diving centers on the island which offer this unique experience. Scuba Pag Center offers different diving excursions and equipment rental. They also offer the possibility of night diving. Aquamatic Diving Center besides diving also offers accommodation, boat trips and snorkeling for those who aren’t really fond of diving.
Distance of Pag Island from few major European cities : Zagreb – 225 km, Split – 216 km, Zadar – 76 km, Ljubljana – 245 km, Munchen – 645 km, Beč – 580 km, Milano – 615 km, Budapest – 565 km, Prague – 900 km.