I had no big expectations for a sunset in Croatia. Not that I didn’t think they weren’t great, but I had totally forgotten to think about them. The sun sets in the West and that’s where the Adriatic Coast was. It’s a no brainer but sometimes I can be quite forgetful. But aren’t great surprises the best parts of travel?
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Zadar – Dancing Lights at the Shore
The beauty of Croatian sunsets first hit me when I was aimlessly strolling through the historic centre of Zadar. I had no plan of seeing anything in particular, just wanting to treat my skin to sun and fresh the breeze of the ocean. Meandering along the beige cobblestone streets, dancing around Roman pillars and treading carefully around the city walls next to the bobbing boats, I explored the city at leisure. When the orange glow hit the green leaves, I made a beeline towards a nearby park.
The soft light created a see-through curtain in front of which tiny bugs danced. An old fountain gleamed next to me. I nearly forgot I was in a coastal town. But when the sun sunk lower, I chased towards the sound of soft waves. I wouldn’t miss this scene! Supported by airy branches descended unto the black stone beach.
The water was rolling the round pebbles in the spray and the sun was peeking through the pine trees lining the beach. In the distance I could see colourful fishing boats resting in the harbor. People were sunbathing next to a Romantic pavilion. And I had the beach entirely to myself. Still, I didn’t have enough. Why not chase after the sun?
The Old Town is nestled on its own little peninsula, surrounded by water from three sides. So what better way than to greet the sun than here? Incidentally, a display of light and colour of the same name had been installed just at the perfect sun worshipper location. I was too distracted however and missed it. Glued in my spot, I watched the golden orbit turn the sky into soft pinks and purples.
Fun fact: you can even rent a castle in Šibenik from Airbnb (here’s a voucher on me if you’ve never used airbnb before).
Where to Stay in Zadar
A really cute and stylish place to enjoy Zadar from is Boutique Apartments Luce & Tonka. The hostel equivalent is Boutique Hostel Forum, which is great for budget travellers. No need to stay in a dorm if you prefer privacy, you can opt for the twin or double rooms. For an apartment with a swimming pool, look into Apartments Benic.
Šibenik – Fortifying the Sunset Views
Another Old Town you shouldn’t miss but most people sadly do is Šibenik. It’s three times bigger than the sunset in Dubrovnik, just as charming and much less crowded. From here, you can choose from three fortresses to overlook the city and harbour. In the distance on an island is another one if you cannot get enough. Tiny alleys, stone steps and a few distracting views over tiled roofs later I made it to the fortress of St John (Tvrđava Sv. Ivana). By the way, the other castles require an entry fee.
You can even climb up to the fortress (take the right path coming from the other castle, towards the east side). Or get comfortable at the foot of the walls and watch the sun sink above the waters from below. This is what I did because I was running late and didn’t want to waste a second climbing up and squeezing in between a group of teenagers that were blasting their choice of music from their phones.
A little further off I spotted a backpacker from my hostel and took sneaky photos of her silhouette against the orange glow. Those are the best photo opps for sunsets. Doing it the selfie way usually never cuts it – even if you know how to take amazing solo photos.
Where to Stay in Šibenik
Dubrovnik – The Sky of Ice and Fire
Yes, I was at Kings Landing. Every Game of Thrones fan knows Dubrovnik (or should). Plenty of scenes were shot here and in the vicinity. The Old Town is rather small but all the more crowded and pricy. If you can, avoid spending money here and visit restaurants and cafes outside instead. There are ways to not be broke in Dubrovnik though.
One is to skip the lift and instead hike up the mountain for an hour to get the best view over the Croatian city. If your fitness levels aren’t all that up to par or you’re just too lazy – like I was -, stop half way. There are view points on your way to the Old Town and you can see the fortress and city walls from there.
The sun will not set above the ocean from here though, so better to dine out in one of the fancy restaurants east of the Old Town lined along the cliffs. Alternatively, I would climb one of the hills in the Northwest to see the channel islands as well. Even standing on the parking lot near the bus station, I got fantastic views. (Just don’t tell anyone looking at these photos.) Among the big strands of grass between my feet, the pinkish illuminated poppies and long shadows, this seemed like paradise.
Where to Stay in Dubrovnik
Staying in the city of Dubrovnik will be a little more expensive. But if you want the ultimate luxury stay in Dubvronik, you need to head a little outside to Hotel Dubrovnik Palace. The oceanviw pools are marvellous! More mid-range priced is Villa Dard, also with a beautiful view. Affordable and fabulous are Apartments Tomas and backpackers should check into Hostel Petra Marina.
Where else to See a Sunset in Croatia
Basically wherever you stay along the Croatian coastline you will be in for a treat. Don’t fret when you spot clouds – like I did in Zadar – but welcome them. They reflect the light and make the sky even more colourful! And here’s another tip many people seem to forget: stay until after the sun has set. That is when the colours really start exploding. Case in point: the blue sunset over the Grand Canyon.
What Equipment to Bring for Epic Sunset Shoots
If you really want to get the full vibrancy of a sunset in Croatia, you need to get a filter to better control how much light is let in and how the sky is saturated. Opt for a polarising filter and invest in a tripod, so your photos are super crips. If you take landscape photos, the correct lens is essential. For Nikon, the AF-S FX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G ED Fixed Zoom Lens with Auto Focus is a great investment. The Nikon AF-S Nikkor ED is a bit more expensive. For Canon users, it is Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM
Is A Sunset in Croatia Worth the Wait?
What a question! (I wrote it, I know I know). But every sunset in Croatia took my breath away. it might ahve been the season – spring – or it might be the fact that the ocean lies to the west. It’s a perfect country for ocean sunset views! Scout out the best vantage point, maybe a castle like on Hvar Island, and head there half an hour before sunset and stay a while after. This way, you can see the magical change of colours evolve.
Tell me: Would you want to travel to this Baltic country to catch a sunset in Croatia? Have you seen one before?