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Novalja is Croatia's response to Ibiza. Every summer the tiny bay of Zrće Beach transforms into a clubbing extravaganza with festivals that attract international DJs and performers. When the sun is high in the sky you can go diving, explore the sandy coves along the coast of Pag Island or linger over coffee in the Old Town. The few visitors that venture here in winter will be treated to the religious festivities of Pag Carnival every Saturday from January to Ash Wednesday.
Some hostels in Novalja have free breakfast and most rooms offer air con, whether you choose a dorm or a private room. Chill under palm trees by the pool of one hostel or around the outdoor bar of another. You can stay in the vibrantly decorated dorms of a town centre hostel with a restaurant and bar too. Some Novalja hostel rooms have balconies, while others have outdoor terraces where you can have a barbecue with fellow travellers.
Novalja is the northern town of Pag Island and its narrow lanes extend off the church square and behind the marina. Most visitors hang out on the promenade that lines the seafront. Here, the cafés and bars reach around the bay to the sand-and-pebble Main Beach at the southern end. Party capital Zrće Beach is an 8-minute drive east from Novalja and the sleepy medieval village of Caska is a 20-minute walk further on from there.
The main attraction in Novalja is the nightlife. Every July, Hideout Festival dominates the town, closely followed by Sonus Festival on Zrće Beach in August. For daytime activities you can go quad biking across the lunar landscape of Pag Island or stop by the mysterious flattened land of Paški trokut (Pag Triangle). If you continue south to Stogaj, you can go rock climbing right on the waterfront. Travellers looking for a slightly different experience can join the locals for a healing mud bath at Lokunja – an hour in the mud has been said to cure any skin ailment.
Novalja is on Pag Island, which is connected to mainland Croatia by a bridge – so if you're flying into Zadar Airport it's just a 1.5-hour bus connection to Novalja. From Split Airport, the bus journey time is 5 hours. Once you're in town you can catch regular buses south to Pag Town (30 minutes) or shuttle buses to Zrće Beach, although taxis are an affordable option too.