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Health and Well Being in Dalmatia, Croatia:
I spend a lot of my time in London doing rather unhealthy activities. Too many meals out, too much wine, too many late nights and not enough exercise. An invitation to visit Zadar and the surrounding area of Croatia to do something OTHER than review food and wine was very welcome. Although, I knew from previous visits to the Dalmatian Coast in Croatia that there would also be plenty of good food and more than the occasional glass of wine too.
Instead of wine, you can enjoy donkey milk, at Dar Mar – a unique part of the health and well-being offering from the Dalmatian coast. Donkey Milk is reputed to be excellent for your complexion and has healing properties both for skin disorders and for some breathing problems.
While Croatia is a relatively small country, about the same size as Scotland, it has large areas of natural parks and an extensive, clean unspoilt coastline, together with a warm sunny climate. That’s a good place to start if you are looking to visit somewhere and come home feeling healthier and fitter. The natural resources are managed to ensure visitors really can enjoy the beaches, the hills and mountains and the lakes and waterfalls. And, what nature has provided is complemented by a good range of facilities so that whether you prefer lounging in a spa, sitting by a pool, rock climbing or hiking through the woods, there are plenty of options.
What first caught my eye was the range of facilities and prices for spa treatments. In general, even in four and five-star hotels, the prices are around a third of London rates (allow around £25 for an hour facial or massage). And, the wonderful coastline means that there are plenty of hotels to suit all budgets with really quite glamorous facilities. A budget-priced hotel in this part of Croatia may not have the boutique-styled bedrooms you can find in London, but you will find well-equipped gyms, indoor and outdoor pools and amazing spa facilities. So, if you are planning on using your hotel as a base and your room as somewhere to sleep, you can also enjoy a spa day or two with a full range of treatments without venturing into 5* price brackets.
There are hotels offering spa treatments which cater for all the family too. At the four-star Club Funimation Borik there’s a whole range of kids spa treatments including a chocolate facial (I didn’t find out if it was lickable). Once your child is bored with film-star treatments, there’s a good kids club and beach facilities here too.
Natural resources play an important part in determining what is on offer in each of the spa hotels. So, for example, even a relatively modest hotel like the BlueSun has what they call ‘Velebit Aromatherapy’ with the natural resources of the area in the form of locally grown herbs, salts and healing muds integrated into the treatments. A 90-minute treatment is about £39.
And if you do want total luxury, of course, it is readily available at places like the Falkensteiner Hotel and Spa Iadera.
If you are planning to get fit, not only are the local hotels well equipped, but there are some great places to go hiking. While Plitvice is stunningly beautiful, it is also busy. Instead, Paklenica offers something much closer to nature.
The park is accessible on foot or by donkey – though these are only used to transport goods to the mountain huts and shelters. You can follow in my footsteps and hike up to the top of the mountain plateau in a couple of hours or less. I’d describe it as a moderate walk, probably better with walking boots and definitely not something to tackle in your stilettos. The route up is semi-made-up, in places quite easy but in other places almost scrambling.
You’ll find rock climbers lining the gorge on the way – this is one of the best places in Croatia to climb.
It’s a pretty walk, along a mountain stream, with mountain flowers everywhere.
And, there are no mountain bikes and no cars so there’s a sense of calm. Once you reach the top, if you have more time than me, you can hike for longer and even stay overnight sleep in the shelters or the mountain huts (there are two, both with limited catering services. And if climbing is your thing, there is a big wall speed climbing event every year on the first of May.
Or if your aim is rehabilitation, then Nin offers therapeutic healing mud. The medicinal mud has been used since Roman times and there is evidence of Roman spas on the site. Open-air rehabilitation and medicinal mud packs are available from July to September, managed for over Forty years now by the Medical Centre of Zadar. It’s a treatment recommended for skin diseases, infertility, rheumatic diseases and a whole range of other illnesses. A new resort is currently being constructed with a hotel and suits to provide wellness based on the healing properties of the mud.
The locals believe that it is the bura, a wind which sweeps down from the Velebit mountains, over the sea and salt pans, bringing fresh air infused with the natural herbs and minerals from mountains and sea, that gives this region special properties for well being. Whether you decide to drink donkey milk, bathe in medicinal muds or just make use of the plentiful spa hotels and resorts in the area, it’s hard to visit this part of Croatia and leave feeling anything other than healthier.
With many thanks to the Croatian Tourist Board for hosting my trip to Zadar and the surrounding area.
I stayed at Club Fumination Borik
and at Boutique Hostel Forum
I flew direct to Zadar with RyanAir – there are flights several times a week from Stansted and Manchester. The journey takes around 2 hours.