Home TravelEurope Villa Nai 3.3: Exquisite Elegance

Villa Nai 3.3: Exquisite Elegance

by Yemi Edwards

Villa Nai 3.3, a hotel that is part of The Leading Hotels of the World group, is a luxurious eco-conscious architectural innovation that is situated within a hillside on the Croatian island of Dugi Otok. The hidden gem is located just outside the village of Žman. Guests can fly into Zadar and board a ferry or speedboat to Zaglav. A transfer from Zaglav port is available courtesy of the accommodation.

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Goran Morović, civil engineer and owner, along with renowned Croatian architect Nikola Bašić essentially defied traditional construction methods by taking their idea, carving into a rock, to create this stunning agro-tourism resort. Villa Nai provides more than just a unique luxurious break. The property is built on an olive grove that is hundreds of years old. Within the 8-room hotel, an olive oil mill produces award winning olive oil where in the month of October, guests have the opportunity to experience the process of making olive oil.

I was delighted to be asked to visit Croatia and to stay at Villa Nai. To be honest, I never thought about visiting this country as I was under the impression that it was a party lover’s destination. Party destinations are way, way back in the memory bank, these days, food and wellness retreats are more my cup of tea. This experience was an unexpected and very much needed surprise.hotel villa nai 3.3 026

As mentioned above, to get to Villa Nai you will need to ferry or arrange a speedboat from Zadar. Our mode of transport to the port was via speedboat. The route on the Adriatic Sea took us under the Ždrelac bridge. Along the journey was a glimpse of Telašćica Nature and Kornati National parks. A quick stop was made at Konoba Levrnaka, a restaurant/ bar within one of the bays around the Kornati Park. After a short walk to a viewpoint, we enjoyed a glass of a local drink that can be described as plum brandy.  We resumed our journey on water to the port to be collected by Villa Nai’s private transfer service. From this moment the realisation that Croatia was more than just a party country kicked it.

Upon our arrival we were welcomed with towels to refresh ourselves after the long journey. My day started at 1am traveling from Nottingham to London Gatwick for a 5:50 am flight! So this gesture was very much accepted. The hosts presented us with olive leaf tea. Not only was it refreshing, but Goran explained all the health benefits of the tea. The drink helps with the immune system and fights off infections. If you read this article you know that I suffer from a chronic illness. Having this tea was something positive to explore.

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Villa Nai 3.3 is an 8 room luxury resort t. 5 rooms with the choice of sea view or grove view and 3 suites, fairly larger with almost 700 sq ft of space. The suites have a living room area with a  fireplace and a 4 poster bed. The room’s decor consisted of Giorgetti, designer Italian furniture and state of the art amenities, like air conditioning and heated flooring (for unusual cold snaps), both of these run at a Grade A efficiency. Also touch activated lights, ultra chic coffee machine and fridge.

There is a stunning rain shower and beautiful black accents in the neutral coloured bathroom. If you look up while in the bathroom, will notice the sunroof, at night you can see the stars.The roof is in the process of growing plant life to coincide with how green the building wants to be, another unique characteristic to the hotel. The stones from the hillside are significant in the build and look of the hotel. Each room has an extending wall either side making what looks like a crown from above. From the private patio area of each room there is a path to the infinity pool, some rooms have the pool in their view. The hotel was carved into the hill, this eccentric characteristic of the hotel is what makes the building special.

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In the property you will find a small spa. It was at this spa that I experienced the best massage ever given by one of the Balinese therapists. An olive oil paste was used, leaving my body feeling not only radiant, but I felt a slight buzz from the beautiful aromas wafting in the air and latest hours after my treatment. It truly was a heavenly experience.My companions used the steam room and the smaller pool to complement their experience. Just outside within the limestone walls is also a small fitness area with a bike and access to yoga mats. A clay tennis court, walking paths, and a chicken coup are available to explore on the land. When it comes to wellness and well being, Villa Nai promotes enjoying the nature of the land and combining this with your mind, body and soul. It is a place you need to visit and get mentally lost in.

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Within Villa Nai 3.3 you will find 2 dining areas and a lobby bar. Chef Yann Berger spoiled us with fine dining of traditional cuisine using local produce found within the property and mouth watering fish dishes created with catches from the Adriatic Sea. Our meals were like chapters in a super exciting storybook. Over 3 days we experienced the passion that Chef Yann wanted us to feel through his cooking.

With us being on one of the 1244 islands that are part of Croatia, our dishes consisted mainly of fresh fish and shellfish. Other ingredients that complemented our courses included local goat cheese/milk, kumquats and breads to name a few. One of our dishes during our stay featured cockerel. I will admit that this was my first time eating cockerel. It was cooked as a Peka. This is a traditional Croatian way to cook with open fire slowly under a clay lid. This was served in the second dining area called Grotta 11 000, situated in the courtyard behind the lobby bar.

The Grotta has outdoor seating and access to an open fire and charcoal oven. Chef Yann transformed the cockerel into a very moreish coq au vin. Our food was always paired with one of their olive oils.There are 3 varieties of olive oil that are produced on site. Goran gave an immense amount of information about the health benefits of their award winning olive oils that writing it all out would make this article a few pages long. So, for that reason you can read about them individually here.

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The Lobby Bar featured an array of well known cocktails and beers, the bartender also introduced us to local wines and liquors. You know I’m Prosecco queen, well I was able to sample Prošek, not exactly Prosecco because it is a sweet dessert wine, but I still was a bit of a fan. Sweet drinks are not my favourite, but when in Rome!  Aperol Spritz were the signature drink for myself and my female companion. But we were also given a liquor tasting of homemade limoncello, which our bartender decided to create a new refreshing drink for us. He combined the liquor with Prosecco and we christened the concoction “Limoncello Spritz”.

Even though you can visit Villa Nai 3.3 and stay within the grounds and enjoy a peaceful escape from the outside world, some may want to go exploring the island of Dugi Otok. The island of Dugi Otok is one of 1244 islands in Croatia’s archipelago. If you have a chance, take a look at the website for Dugi Otok. It is very informative and also gives you up to date information about the area. The hotel arranged a guided tour to a few places to consider visiting when you are on the island.

Sali is a sleepy fishing village in the centre of the island in the process of regeneration. There is a plan to finish the dock so that passengers can use the port from other ports. At the moment you will find local fisher people and their families living in this tiny picturesque area. There is a school, hospital, fire house, library, and ATM. Though it sounds minuscule, we learned that there is a village on the island with only 15 residents. If you visit in august, you can take part in the Saljske Užance (Sali Festival). This is a 3 day festival celebrating Sali. Locals dress in costumes and enjoy local cuisines and donkey races!

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Between the Adriatic sea and Telašćica Bay is a salt lake called Plano Jezero Mir, one of the few salt lakes in Europe. You can take a stroll around the lake and see marine life, sea bass, crabs and eels. Follow the path up to a viewpoint where you will see the lake from a cliff view. Along the trail there are some steps that you may recognise the stones that were used. This was one of Goran’s (owner of Villa Nai 3.3) projects! Telašćica Nature Park is a phenomenal park featuring this salt lake as well as cliffs, beaches, islands, and pine forest all under one ‘outdoor’ roof!

Driving through we spotted the donkeys that live on the island. One can enter the park by land or by sea. If you are a nature lover, then exploring this park should be on your list. At the north most of the island you will find the fishing settlement, Veli Rat, home of the lighthouse. If you dare to climb the 165 steps you will be rewarded with epic views of the open sea. The lighthouse is still in use with an apartment for hire and is also a place to hold a wedding. There are nearby trails if you would like to discover more of the area surrounding the lighthouse. If you like cats, there were some local felines peacefully inspecting the visitors as they make their way into the building. I love cats so I had to take their picture.

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Sakarun is the famous beach in the region that has been twinned with the likes of the Caribbean. The water is shallow for people like me who cannot swim and an attraction for all ages. On our visit, unfortunately the weather was not cooperating, but I could imagine what it would be like in the height of summer. We witnessed the preparation of cleaning the beach at the time, plastic is a big issue with the area because of the currents. It was interesting to see that the locals pride themselves in their beauty spot and make the effort to clean the beach for visitors to be able to enjoy.

Lastly, if like us you depart Villa Nai 3.3 and have a few hours to explore before heading to the airport, then Zadar will not disappoint. With evidence of the difference between old and new towns you will find an array of eccentric cafes, restaurants, bars, and shops. If you remember I mentioned Nikola Bašić, the internationally known renowned architect that gave Villa Nai 3.3 life. During the second world war Zadar was destroyed and he constructed this extraordinary device to lift the spirit of the city. The Sea organs create harmonious sounds from the way the device reacts with the waves. There are beautiful marble steps above where you can sit or lay and enjoy the melodic music of the sea.

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Goran referred to the Villa Nai 3.3 as ‘home’ and it was definitely that. We could see that he and his wife were very passionate about the project, the land, the olive oil and what it could provide to its guests. The small but attentive team did everything they could to make sure we were comfortable and happy during our stay. Each department gave us each our very own personal experience. Our needs were catered to no matter the situation. Both inside the villa and out, we were treated with great hospitality. Staying at the Villa Nai 3.3 was not only an oasis of comforting bliss, it opened my eyes to the culture, the history and the awareness of such pure nature in Croatia. It is definitely a place where you can see that the inhabitants adore their surroundings and are happy to enrich our view of their country. My stay at Villa Nai 3.3 was for sure an unforgettable encounter.

Villa Nai 3.3
Žman bb, 23282
Žman
Croatia

Author

  • Yemi Edwards

    Yemi is a former photographer, editor/writer and presenter. Still a thrill-seeker with a husband who is a motor racer, Yemi lives life to the fullest despite being a Spoonie! Residing in East Midlands, you will find her buried in cookbooks, exploring unique travel havens, navigating SEN parenting and counting the days until owning the title of an empty nester!

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