Ugljan is an island in Croatia near Zadar. It has not yet been discovered by the crowds and it is a paradise for hikers and cyclists.
What is Ugljan?
Ugljan is a Croatian island off the coast of Zadar in the Adriatic Sea. The island is an oasis of tranquility and very suitable for the active traveler. With over 200 kilometers of hiking and cycling trails, it’s easy to spend some time on this island. Unlike many other places in Croatia, Ugljan has not yet been discovered by large groups of tourists, so it’s easier to connect with the locals.
About the island
The island is about 22 kilometers long and 3.8 kilometers wide at its widest point. There are 9 villages, all of which are located by the sea. The rest of the island consists mainly of a beautiful unspoiled landscape full of olive trees, green pine forests, and fig trees. It also smells very nice in most places, because many herbs such as rosemary, thyme, basil, and oregano grow there.
It has a long history, especially when it comes to olives. On this island, they have been producing olive oil for over 2000 years and you can see several centuries-old olive groves. It is therefore not surprising that the island is called Ugljan. Ulje means oil in Croatian. This is why Ugljan is sometimes called The Olive Island.
In the south, Ugljan is connected by a bridge to the neighboring island of Pašman.
How to get to Ugljan?
Ugljan is very easily accessible by boat and ferry from Zadar. The crossing takes about 20 to 25 minutes. The boats go quite regularly (almost every 90 minutes) and arrive at Preko, in the center of the island. There are two departing points:
- The boat named Dora departs from Zadar Old Town close to Liburnska Obala 4. This is only accessible to pedestrians.
- The ferry departs from Gaženička, the main port of Zadar. You can also bring your car on this ferry.
You can buy a ticket for the ferry at one of the offices of Jadrolinija (the company of the boat and the ferry) or online. Check this website for times and buying an online ticket. Ticket prices start from 15 kuna.
Transportation on Ugljan
From Preko you can continue your journey on foot or by bus. The buses always connect to the boat, so are already waiting for you. A bus ticket costs (depending on your destination) between 10 and 22 kuna. You can buy these from the driver (cash only). Check this website for a timetable and prices.
What to do on Ugljan?
Visiting Ugljan is a great idea! What is there to do on Ugljan?
Hiking and cycling
As I mentioned before, Ugljan is truly a paradise for hikers and cyclists. At the tourist information in Preko, you can get a map with all hiking and cycling trails. This way you can compose your own route, but there are also a number of example routes on the back.
Hiking on Ugljan
Hiking is possible almost everywhere on Ugljan. There is only one busy asphalt road that crosses the island, the other roads are narrow and mostly unpaved. If you go hiking, it is useful to pick up the route map at the tourist information, because this mp also lists all unpaved roads and hiking trails that are not on Google Maps.
A number of routes are marked on the island. The trails that are suitable for both hiking and cycling are often numbered. In addition, there are some trails that are only accessible on foot, they are marked with a smaller red sign. Sometimes you also see red with white dots on the trees and rocks, they let you know that you are on the right trail.
The numbered hiking and biking trails are usually very accessible and fairly flat, but the specific hiking trails can be very tough. Especially around Šćah (the highest peak of the island, 286 meters high) and Fort Saint Michael, there are many paths full of boulders.
From the mountain tops, you have a great view of Ugljan, the mainland with Zadar, and the islands around Ugljan.
Cycling on Ugljan
If you didn’t bring your own bicycle, you can rent bicycles at various places on Ugljan (there are some places in Preko, near the ferry). With a regular bicycle, you can discover almost the entire island by following the paved roads and the paths along the coast. Looking for a little more adventure? Various MTB routes can be found in the center of the island.
Tip: Would you like to cycle on Ugljan for a day? You can book this bike tour, that starts from Zadar. With this tour, you will be dropped off by boat in Preko and you can explore the island by bike all day long. They provide the bikes.
Enjoy the fine beaches and the crystal clear sea
Croatia is known for its crystal clear seawater and you will see that a lot on Ugljan. You can swim tens of meters offshore and still see the bottom of the sea. There are no sandy beaches, mostly pebble beaches or a quay with a staircase.
Especially along the east side of the island (where all the villages are located) you will find many beaches and they often have sunbeds that you can use (for free). A wonderful place to spend an afternoon!
Tip: Because the water is so clear, it’s a great place to go snorkeling! It is therefore a very good idea to bring a handy Easybreath snorkel mask with you.
Explore the cute villages
There are nine villages on Ugljan. From north to south:
- Muline: This is the most northern village and here you can visit several interesting archeological sites. For example, you can see the remains of an old olive press (plus a replica, so you can see exactly how it worked) from Roman times. There are also some beautiful beaches here.
- Sušica: Not far from Muline is the small village of Sušica. Here you will find multiple campsites and beautiful hiking trails along the coastline.
- Ugljan: Ugljan is the second largest village after Preko and has the same name as the island. Here you will find very nice restaurants and terraces and the monastery of Saint Jeronimo from the fifteenth century is a beautiful sight.
- Lukoran: A pretty village that is scattered a bit along the coast in several bays. From each bay, you have a different beautiful view.
- Sutomišćica: In this village, you will find a large luxury marina and many beautiful beaches. It is also recommended to check out the summer residence of the noble Lantana family from the seventeenth century. The building is (unfortunately) boarded up and somewhat dilapidated, but you can still see how beautiful it was.
- Poljana: A village around a bay and a church from the thirteenth century. It is adjacent to Preko, but this has more of a local vibe since there are fewer tourists in this area.
- Preko: The capital of the island. This is the most vibrant place, there’s always something to do. Here you’ll find most of the restaurants and more crowded beaches (but never too crowded).
- Kali: Beautiful fishing village in a bay overlooking the island of Ošljak. In the village, you have several beautiful narrow streets that lead up to the church.
- Kukljica: Right on the southernmost tip of the island. This village is also located in a beautiful bay and is surrounded by forests and rocks. This is also where the bridge to the island of Pašman is located.
Climb to Fort Saint Michael for the best view
Near Preko you will find one of the must-sees on Ugljan: Fort Saint Michael. This fortress dates from the sixth (!) century and it is now a large ruin that you can visit. It is located on the second-highest mountain of Ugljan (263 meters).
You can get there by car, bicycle or on foot (it’s quite the climb!) and from the fortress, you have a beautiful view of Ugljan, the surrounding islands, and Zadar. The fort doesn’t have a gate or anything, so you can just walk in. Be careful where you walk, because there can be some loose stones.
Just off the coast at Preko is the tiny island of Galovac. It is uninhabited and there is a monastery in the center of the island. Since it is very close to the coast, you can swim, paddle, or sail to the island. In the summer you can sometimes visit the monastery in the evening. Make sure you cover your shoulders and knees (don’t go in only wearing your swimsuit). Would you like to visit it? Then it is best to ask at the nearby tourist information point if and when it is possible.
Discover the colorful benches
In 2014 the project “Every place has its own bench” started and since then colorful mosaic benches have appeared in many places on Ugljan. Each and every one of them is a sight to behold, there are so many details. It is fun to discover them all. I saw a lot of them on the north side of the island, in Muline and Ugljan.
Where to stay on Ugljan
Do you want some peace and quiet during your travels to Croatia? Then it is highly recommended to spend a few nights (or longer) on the island of Ugljan. There are no large hotel chains on the island, almost all of the accommodations are apartments or houses that you can rent. These are a few accommodations I can highly recommend:
- Apartment Kostić in Poljana: This is the apartment where I stayed for more than two weeks myself. A spacious and clean two-bedroom apartment. From the balcony, you have a fantastic view of Zadar, the island of Galovac and Poljana. However, the very best thing about this place is the hospitality of the family who lives below the apartment. I have rarely felt so at home anywhere.
- Franov Residence in Kali: Nicely furnished apartments with pool and BBQ. From the balcony you have a beautiful sea view.
- Mrdina house in Kali: Would you like a real olive island experience? Tucked away in an olive grove, this stone cottage is the perfect place to truly unwind.
- Villa Gellia in Ugljan: For an ultimate luxury holiday you can also rent various villas on Ugljan. Villa Gellia is one of them and it really is a beautiful place. The villa has a large swimming pool and from here you also have a beautiful view of the sea and the surrounding islands.
Would you like to check out more places on where to stay on Ugljan? Check Booking.com.
Food & drinks
Along the coast, you will find several nice places to have a drink or a bite to eat. These are a few recommendations:
- Beach bar Bičikleta in Ugljan: a great and very awesome decorated bar on the coast. A very good place for a drink.
- Konoba Ugljan: great restaurant for lunch and dinner. The menu includes many grill dishes with meat and fish.
- Čoko Roko: a nice bar for both food and drinks. From the terrace you have a beautiful view of the harbor.
- Taverna Joso: cozy restaurant that is a bit out of the way. Tasty meat and fish dishes.
Book your holiday to Croatia
These were my tips for visiting the island of Ugljan. Would you like to discover Croatia yourself? These websites are very useful if you want to book a trip to Croatia:
- You can find the cheapest airline tickets via Skyscanner.
- Do you prefer to take the train? That’s a great idea! That’s what I did. From The Netherlands, I traveled by train to Salzburg, and then on to Zagreb. You can book European train tickets via Rail Europe. In Croatia itself, it is best to continue your journey by bus.
- From my own experience, I know that Flixbus is good and cheap when you’re traveling in Croatia. With this bus company, you can reach almost all (tourist) places.
- Check Booking.com for the best hotels, hostels, and apartments. Are you looking for a place to stay away from the crowd? Then you can find awesome accommodation on the Nature house website.
- Check Rental Cars or Discover Cars for the best deals on rental cars in Croatia.
- You can find great tours and tickets for attractions at Get Your Guide.
And these travel guides are full of tips for more beautiful places in Croatia:
Rick Steves Croatia & Slovenia
You can also read more about the most beautiful places in Croatia on this website. For example, also read these articles:
- 14 fun things to do in Zagreb
- Visit Plitvice Lakes National Park: Nature at its best!
- What are the best things to do in Zadar?
Many more articles about Croatia will be published on this website in the coming months. Would you like to stay updated? Subscribe to the newsletter.
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