Love food? Go to Pag. Love parties? Go to Pag. Love tradition? Go to Pag. The island of Pag, located in the northern Adriatic, is really a destination for those who love the better things in life. Pag is certainly a fascinating island destination that, other than secluded bays to laze in, has the famed 24-hour beach parties in Zrće, UNESCO recognized lace-making traditions, millennia old salt production and world renowned sheep cheese.
Pag stretches across two counties and has the longest coastline of any island in Croatia. To the north, you can reach the island by ferry to Žiglen and to the south; the 340m long Pag Bridge connects the island to the mainland. The island has a population of eight thousand and thirty thousand autochthonous Pag sheep; yep, one person to four sheep.
In the past decade, Pag’s Zrće (zer-che) Beach has become synonymous with an Ibiza-like party scene. Although raving under the sun in waist-high pools and sipping colourful cocktails is a kick, Pag’s enigmatic barren landscape holds many fascinating stories that shouldn’t be left untold to the Pag visitor.
Beyond the revelling crowds of the beach near Novalja is a moonlike landscape decorated with dry-stone fences that, from afar, looks like could have been the island’s lace traditions, design inspiration (more about that later). These old fences are the result of hard-working farmers who keep the Paški sheep in their pastures to graze on grass coated with sea salt brought from the Adriatic by the powerful Bura winds and wild herbs. These gifts from nature is what has made Paški Cheese world famous, as the sheep produces a unique milk high in butterfat and protein, resulting in its peculiar and delicately piquant flavor and aroma. The Paški Cheese producer Gligora has won several superior gold medals at the International Cheese Awards making them the recognized producers of the best sheep cheese in the world, currently. Learn about the Gligora family’s cheese making traditions that span several generations by visiting their farmhouse and dairy factory in Kolan where you can taste their smashing cheese range which also include Kozlar goat cheese, Žiglen sheep and cow cheese, and Kolan cow’s milk cheese.
Not only do the Paški sheep graze on salt which has been stirred up from the Adriatic by the brutal Bura winds which blow in winter, but Pag Town has been a salt production haven since as far back as 999, and produce two thirds of the country’s total salt production. The shallow waters of the closed Pag Bay brought perfect conditions for salt production, allowing sea salt to be drained into small clay saltpans, that set the landscape of the bay today. Bring home a jar of Cvijet Sol (fleur de sel), the salt of all salts, loved by epicures or visit the Museum of Salt housed in a former salt warehouse.
Pag is also known for the fine handicraft of lacemaking started by Benectine nuns of the St. Margarita convent, and is even inscribed on the UNESCO List as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. There is no particular lace pattern indigenous to Pag as the women who make them add their own personal touch to the patterns handed down by their mothers and grandmothers. Pag even had its own lacemaking school since 1906 and today students can take a 1-year lacemaking course during high-school. It is believed that the dry-stone pasture walls that dot the island’s rugged landscape inspired the original patterns of the lace. To understand the importance of the lacemaking traditions of Pag, see the 127 exhibits that date back 150 years at St. Margarita’s convent.
As you explore everything Paški, don’t forget to appreciate a bite of baškotin, a zwieback rusk bread from Pag, and a visit to the fairy tale setting of the Boškinac Winery for a sip of their prize winning wines as you lunch in the shade; celebrity chef Anthony Bordain certainly appreciated it.
Have you tried all there is Paški?