Glass catches the last of the summer sun at D-Resort Šibenik, in Croatia

CROATIA is impossibly pretty. Its 1,105 mile-long Adriatic coastline, winding from Slovenia, in the north, down to Montenegro, includes a staggering 1,246 breathtaking islands, islets and reefs (more than one per mile of coast); its interior, a jumble of contrasting landscapes, covers mountain ranges, lakes and sunken forests. But while many visitors head straight for Dubrovnik or Split, for a change of pace, set your GPS for coastal Šibenik and its finest luxury hotel, D-Resort Šibenik.

D-Resort and D-Marin ExteriorD-Resort and D-Marin Exterior, Croatia

Across the bay from Šibenik’s old town, D-Resort Šibenik strikes out chest first on Mandalina, a lick of land that also serves as a superyacht marina. Designed by renowned Croatian architect Nikola Bašić (the man behind Zadar’s genius Sea Organ) and opened for business in July last year, the hotel’s structure was built in a winding form to complement the peninsula it sits on. And surrounded by water on three sides, each of its 63 rooms, six suites, three villas and two restaurants has covetable ocean views.

Bedroom at D-Resort Sibenik HotelBedroom at D-Resort Sibenik Hotel, Croatia

Inside, the details are as striking as the architecture. Guests with an eye for design will get a kick out of pretty much every feature, but of particular note are the imprints left in the white concrete walls by the wooden planks they were cast in, and the six-metre high wooden sculptures by Croatian sculptor Mirko Zrinscak found in the sky-lit central atrium – yes, they do kind of look like sweet potatoes.

The white concrete runs through the rooms too, while en suites are sectioned off with glass walls and irregularly set shelves, giving the space a Japanese-esque feel. Furnishings are luxe in tones of grey, brown and blue by European design brands including Koleksiyon and Verzelloni. The D-Resort Šibenik Spa is set alongside the hotel in a raw concrete building that glows amber at sunrise and sunset. Massage and beauty treatments are on offer, but a full day can easily be lost to lazing between the outdoor infinity pool, sauna and indoor plunge pool.

Spa at D-Resort Sibenik HotelSpa at D-Resort Sibenik Hotel

Never mind Šibenik’s factory-lined periphery, a reminder that up until the 1990s Šibenik was a major industrial centre, its old town is a charming tangle of steep backstreets and quaint courtyards. Its main attraction is Šibenik Cathedral, a Unesco World Heritage site, and, across from it, an award-winning Croatian restaurant – but more on that later. The restored medieval garden of St Lawrence’s Monastery, a square of medicinal plants and herbs that’s only one of its kind in Croatia and rare in Europe, is also worth a visit.

Exterior of D-Resort Sibenik HotelThe exterior of D-Resort Sibenik Hotel

Further inland, the scent of juniper pine fills the air in Krka National Park along with a soundtrack of cascading water turned to full volume. Your eyes need not feel jealous though as the series of seven waterfalls flanked by a verdant landscape is exceptionally beautiful. The park is linked by walkways, do go for a ramble and then take a river cruise to take it all in.

The restaurants outdoor seating at D-resort Sibenik HotelThe restaurants outdoor seating at D-resort Sibenik Hotel

Be sure to travel the 16 miles south to the bubble-out peninsular of Primošten, a crowd of red-roofed buildings encircled by a gently lapping Adriatic. There’s not much high-action during the day, thankfully, so take it easy and walk the shady path that circumnavigates the peninsular, stopping off at coves and beaches along the way, or amble up the hill to the 15th-century church of St Juraj in the medieval old town. Then, after sunset, release that latent energy at Aurora, one of Croatia’s largest and most famous night clubs – it features a pizzeria, a swimming pool and multiple dance floors and cocktail bars over two indoor and outdoor levels.

Art restaurant at D-Resort Sibenik HotelArt restaurant at D-Resort Sibenik Hotel

If you can tear yourself away from D-Resort Šibenik’s Art restaurant – and you simply must for these – book a table at Pelegrini, Croatia’s best restaurant for the second year in a row as voted by Dobri Restorani. The restaurant is headed by Chef Rudolf Štefan, who also received the Chef of the Year title, and his fine-dining flavour combinations will easily win your approval. First-time visitors should skip breakfast in preparation and go for the 10-course taster menu, which kicks off with oysters, moving through, among others, smoked amberjack on bean puree, smoked oxtail in tempura, truffle and prosciutto pappardelle, and lavender ice cream with cocoa popping candy. Each course is paired with the best in Croatian wines, including a brut, debit and R-6 from the celebrated Bibich winery.

A 20-minute drive away from D-Resort Šibenik, Roca  is a traditional Dalmatian “konoba where simplicity reigns. Don’t bother asking if they have, say, a light, sweet white wine, because you’ll get the reply we did, “We have two wines: white and red.” Still, they’re good (and homemade) and Roca has me at hello, or at least the visual version of it. Housed in a solid stone building covered with trellises that hang heavy with sweet-smelling pinky-red roses, it overlooks an olive grove and, beyond that, a vineyard (growing the region’s popular debit grapes).

Roca specialises in cured meat – it’s a working farm – and vegetables and meat roasted “under the bell”. Peka is a popular Croatian meal and, because preparation begins early as the bell is covered by hot coals for most of the day, you’ll need to place your order in advance. While you’re there, try Roca’s super-sweet cherry liqueur – with a 30 per cent alcohol content, it’s one to sip on slowly.

by Natalie Egling

Classic Collection Holidays (tel: 0800 294 9315;) offers seven nights at D-Resort Sibenik from £876 per person. Price isbased on two adults sharing a superior sea view room on a bed and breakfast basis and includes return flights from London Gatwick (other UK departure airports available) and private transfers.


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Glass contributing travel editor

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