An unexpected jewel along the Adriatic coast of Croatia: Lukovo Šugarje
The first thing that came to mind, when we first caught a glimpse of the Adriatic Sea, was “Wow!” As the car turned at the bend of the road and trundled down the snaking mountainous roads of the Croatian coastline, we’d watched the glinting blue and emerald come into view.
Croatia, the country famed for its Game of Throne filming locations, is speckled with islands along the coastline. If you’re one of those who fantasize balmy days, stunning sunsets against sapphire waters and ancient walled towns, this country will make your fantasies a reality.
We are on our way to Zadar. Two days ago, we’d camped out on Rab Island–one of the lesser known islands in comparison to Hvar, Brac or Pag. We’d wanted to avoid the crowd, parties and noise. We’d wanted a haven where we didn’t need to bother about fending people off our sun-tanning spots, a sweet snorkelling spot and no hassle. Rab, on the Internet, sounded like the island to do so. We’d loaded our car onto the ferry that moves between the island and mainland a few times a day. Despite the Rab’s close proximity to mainland, the ticket prices for the both of us and our car had cost us almost €35.
Unfortunately, while Rab might have been everything that everyone else had recommended, in peak season August, it wasn’t. It was packed and overcrowded. At Camp Padova III, large campervans, makeshift pavilions, mobile homes, and family-size tents were all tightly sandwiched together. Our tiny tent was sandwiched between a huge campervan and another couple’s tent. At night, we could hear them storing.
Even then, the site’s private beach wasn’t spectacular. We had to drive to Suha Punta Beach, near Kampor, to enjoy a pebble stone beach with calm water. It was beautiful but we’d expected more. Especially when we’d just paid €39 per night to camp! After two nights, we bid Rab island goodbye. We wanted out of the sardine-fish can and would trade it in for anything with space–even if it meant having to fork out more for our accommodation.
Now driving to Zadar, we find ourselves taking the scenic route down the Croatian coastline once more. I am still enamoured by the breathtaking view. Our car windows are down, the music pumped up. Even Chris, while keeping an eye on the road, turn every now and then to admire the azure depths that spread below.
The surprise called Vera’s at Lukovo Šugarje
Then, we continue our drive through the winding stretch that hug the coast. It is still another two hours to Zadar. We drive past a lovely block of brick cottages that have backyards that lead directly into the sea and a sign caught my eye.
“Wait, turn back, turn back,” I cried to Chris. “Let’s check out these houses. They might have a room free!”
We park the car outside where I thought I’ve seen the sign. We walk around the entrance, announcing our presence. A blonde lady at first comes out and upon seeing us, goes back into the darkened doorway. A few minutes later, a hefty but cheery white-haired lady comes out to greet us. No, she comes out to pull me into a hug. She says her name’s Vera.
Following her, she shows us a nautical-themed room that’s painted in ocean blue. Paintings of sailboats dot the wall. It’s so cute. There’s a wide window that opens up to a shared balcony. The sparkling ocean unfold below. On the balcony is a small round table with two wooden chairs. “You can have your breakfast there,” she says in halting German.
We fall in love with the room and the whole place immediately. It’s perfect. Apart from a couple and a small family of four, there are no other guests. The secluded place also comes with a private ‘beach’ will only take us 2 minutes to get into the water from our room.
Maybe it’ll be expensive. I look at Chris, didn’t dare to ask how much this paradise will cost. Chris asks instead. We hold our breath.
“30 euros including breakfast,” she replies. 30 euros? I can scarcely believe what I’ve heard. Can it be so cheap–after what we’ve paid to camp at an overcrowded three-star camping spot? Here’s a room with a comfortable looking double bed and a sea view, a private beach and a nice lady who promises that we can have breakfast outside every morning.
“Okay?” she asks. We nod. It’s beyond okay. It’s freaking fan-tas-tic! “Okay, now come with me to kitchen. I make you coffee.”
Pure relaxation at Lukovo Šugarje
Zadar can wait. We decide to spend a few nights at Vera’s. We later learn the name of the village: Lukovo Šugarje. The nearest town is about 20 minutes drive away and residents like Vera normally do their shopping when the grocery van comes by. The nearest restaurants are 15 minutes away so we tend to let Vera cook for us. And I’m not exaggerating, but eating a three-course meal in her sweltering kitchen is cheaper and actually more delicious than a meal at one of these touristy seafood restaurants.
We spend our days, reading and lounging on the private beach. It’s actually concrete which does get hot in the middle of the day, but we’ve a large picnic blanket and beer to counter the heat. When it gets unbearable, we leap into the water to cool down. The barren, moonlike landscape of Pag island loomed in the horizon.
Eventually, our time to explore the rest of Croatia beckons. Staying at Vera’s was a refreshing detour that only an open schedule could have provided. That is why we’d always prefer slow travel over straitjacket holiday planning. Unfortunately, unlike our backpacker hey-days, having time on our side is no longer a given but rather something to be fought for. Still, we make do with what we have. Rab Island, Zadar and Primošten were all beautiful places in Croatia but we still love the little corner at Vera’s at Lukovo Šugarje the best.