Pag Island Transformation: From Party Destination to Adventurous Vacation

By 29 July 2021
Pag Island Transformation: From Party Destination to Adventurous Vacation
© Fran Bukša

July 29, 2021 -  For a very long time, the island of Pag's chief tourist attraction has been loud, late-night parties at Zrće beach. Now, as the events of the past year and a half forced the tourist sector to give up their rinse-and-repeat method of operating, Pag has finally seized upon the many opportunities of its unique landscape. Enter Pag Outdoor Summer, aimed at transforming Pag into a destination ideal for an adventurous vacation. A look at the Pag Island transformation. 

Pag is slowly but surely reinventing itself as a multifaceted destination. In the past few years, Moon Island, as it's been nicknamed due to its vast barren landscape, has been going through a touristic renaissance.

Perhaps taking note of the example set by the island of Hvar, Pag is taking its place in the world as a luxury tourism destination with its UNESCO-protected intangible heritage (Pag lace), award-winning Camping Village Šimuni,  champion cheeses, and the star-studded cast of regular visitors, such as Zlatko Dalić, Luka Modrić, and Dejan Lovren, who owns a four-star hotel in the town of Novalja.

Or maybe the tourist directors have simply learnt the importance of clear and optimistic communication from Boškinac, Croatia's latestMichelin star restaurant and boutique hotel, which has been fully booked all throughout the season of 2020 when even the most popular destinations suffered losses.

When I was a child, all of Pag's riches - the cheese, the lace, the salt - even the 1600 years old olive gardens of Lun were poorly advertized to potential markets. Just like a treasure, they have been kept from the world, but not because they were considered too precious to share. It was because there was no one with the skills and knowledge of how to utilize them. Thus, the island was left to the winds of chance (and since Pag gets the front row seat when it comes to the effects of the Bura wind, this was an intended pun).

Though it left a large portion of the island bare of much vegetation, the Bura wind provided unique conditions for a number of activities: from the production of the famous Pag cheese to posing as a set for film crews in search of unusual locations - the opportunities which were luckily recognized and seized.

Last year, when maintaining good health became more important than ever, the people in charge finally came up with a plan for turning Pag's understated natural beauties into a tourist product.

Finally, the times were changing. Pag Outdoor Weekend was born.

What is particularly encouraging about this project, as I have found out through my research, is the fact that the plan of making Pag  an active tourism destination actually started years ago with the collaboration of Pag's six tourist boards. Thus, five years ago, the predecessor of Pag Outdoor - Pag Island Trail & Trekk race - colloquially known as Life on Mars, as a tribute to Pag's distinctive terrain - was presented to the world. 

In 2021, the tourist boards decided to take a step further with the creation of Pag Outdoor Summer, a project which will try to extend the season and diversify the tourist offer. 

The project is based on four main activities: biking, hiking, cycling, and kayaking. Nothing was left to chance. Long before the first tourists arrived, the first phase of building, marking, and tidying a comprehensive infrastructure of trails infrastructure had been finished, ably supported by a financial injection by the Ministry of Tourism.

Accompanied by professional guides and mountaineers, tourists are invited to take part in free hiking, cycling, and walking tours all across the island. The routes carry attractive names sure to pique your interest: The Embrace of Stone and Wind (a cycling tour to Pag's windmills), The Sunny Hour Tour above the Vlašići settlement, known for its sand beaches and for the dreamers who fancy walking under the starry skies - The Night of the Full Moon tour, which ends on a beach overlooking the town of Pag just in time to catch the first glimmering rays of the Sun at dawn. (Be sure to check the photo gallery below.)

So far, the public reaction has been more than positive. Although Pag has long been known as a great hiking destination among nature lovers, never before has there been an organized attempt to market it to the wider public. Though only the area around Novalja can boast green Mediterranean forests, all across the island, Pag's mountain trails are bathed in the scent of lavender, sage, and precious immortelle - and if you start your trek in Pag, you'll be greeted by a nature reserve Dubrava -Hanzine, which translated to English means 'a forest of oaks'. Yes, on an island where few evergreens survive, there are endemic species of deciduous trees!

If you continue hiking further up, the stony greys of the mountains will contrast with the deep blues of the sea surrounding Pag Bay, and the relief carvings the persistent Bura wind has created in the rocks are sure to awaken your imagination.

Pag is the northern Adriatic's best-kept secret - don't miss a chance to discover it.

An overview of trails covered by Pag Outdoor:

 camera: Elvis Šmit

video editing: Alan Crljenko

 And this is how it looks in practice:


credit: Fran Bukša


credit: Alan Crljenkio


credit: Elvis Šmit


credit: Alan Crljenko


credit: Fran Bukša


credit: Alan Crljenko


credit: Alan Crljenko



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