Travel review: Family Hotel Funimation Borik, Zadar, Croatia
PUBLISHED: 13:44 04 June 2014
Croatia is such a strikingly beautiful tourist destination, it's strange to think that just two decades ago the country - which was part of the former Yugoslavia - was at the heart of the bloodiest conflict in Europe since the Second World War.
As we made the 15-minute drive from Zadar airport to our hotel on a warm June evening, the bullet-hole ridden buildings served as a chilling reminder of the ethnic civil war which saw Croatians reclaim their independence, as fighting ensued with Muslims and Serbians and thousands lost their lives.
Pushing these thoughts aside however, the warm balmy air was welcoming, and the country certainly does have the “feel of the Mediterranean as it once was” about it, a motto propagated by its tourist board.
With a rocky, indented shore and more than a thousand islands, the country boasts one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in Europe.
To top that off it’s just a two-hour flight away from London – making it a perfect choice for that romantic weekend getaway or family holiday destination, which was our purpose.
The Falkensteiner’s Family Hotel Funimation Borik is a large white concrete complex nestled next to the beach amongst pine trees, and has the feel of a ‘70s holiday camp thanks to the round-the-clock entertainment on offer.
Its animation team was so big I couldn’t begin to remember everyone’s name, and the top notch staff engaged our twin sons with sandcastle building and darts competitions, while our young daughter began to affectionately refer to them as her “teachers”.
She was keen to join them every day for treasure hunts, the indoor ball crawl, and best of all the nightly mini-disco where they all put on a pretty professional looking show.
One of my sons became a regular at high noon’s Crazy Games which were announced by loudspeaker, taking part in competitions with the mainly German guests to balance a pole on his nose, play card games and catch a ball in a cup.
In between, they all had a whale of a time for hours on end in the hotel’s massive complex of warm pools and never failed to tire of the orange flume, which took your breath away with its speed.
Happy kids make happy parents, and I whiled away several hours basking in the fresh sea breeze on the sun loungers underneath the pines, reading a book – as I hadn’t managed to for years.
On a couple of occasions I even made it over to the hotel’s state-of-the-art spa.
It’s really hard to come by hotel rooms that cater for five, as the maximum capacity for a family room is usually four making the hotels we can stay in few and far between. But here the simple, modern style bedrooms have separate twin rooms separated by sliding doors, plus a tiny kids-size bunk bed room, so there was plenty of room for all of us.
Owned by Austrian “Wellness” hotel chain, Falkensteiner, the four-star hotel’s buffet style meals offered up such delicacies as calf’s liver, roast lamb and sea bass, and are based on the simple Croatian diet of meats and boiled vegetables.
The hotel is just outside Zadar, an ancient walled town dating back to Roman times, where the classy pizzeria Restaurant Bruschetta is well worth a visit, with a first rate calzone priced at around 30 kuna, which is less than a fiver.
Prices are not to be balked at, with three massive ice creams setting us back just over £2, or 18 kuna.
Organised coach trips are available to the country’s national parks, but we made the 45-minute trip to Krka using the hire car we picked up at the airport.
Once there you can park in the village and take a 20 minute boat ride up the river to the national park.
It costs 95 kuna to enter, which is around £12 for adults, and it’s well worth it to swim in the icy lake at the foot of the cascades.
The place is awash with nature, with magical blue dragonflies and croaking frogs inhabiting the lush forest, and as soon as we stepped foot off the boat we spotted a three-lined viper.
We didn’t see any wolves or wild boar however as we made the hour-long round trip walking around the paths in the shady pine forest.
In fact we enjoyed the walk so much we decided to skip the boat ride back and walk the four km back to the village, much to my sons’ consternation once they realised.
The same holiday with so much staff attention in more mainstream European countries would set you back a packet, but with prices at less than £400 each all-inclusive for a whole week, Croatia comes out tops in more ways than one.