I’m mendacity on a desk at a dreamy lodge on an idyllic Croatian island being gently massaged with olive oil pâté.

Only a regular Thursday afternoon, then.

The five-star Villa Nai 3.3 on the island of Dugi Otok within the Adriatic Sea is the one place on the planet the place you’ll be able to take pleasure in a therapeutic massage with this pâté – an intoxicating, skin-enriching combination of pale inexperienced olive paste, rosemary oil and cumin seeds.

However maybe that’s not shocking provided that olive oil is a really large deal on this a part of the world. Each week, the native papers fiercely debate whether or not candy or bitter olive oil is tastier. The topic reportedly provokes extra livid dialogue than any political challenge. Locals even take olive oil as a painkiller, as its molecular construction is sort of equivalent to that of ibuprofen.

The lodge

Villa Nai 3.3, which sits on prime of an immense olive grove cascading down the mountainside, displays the seriousness with which olive oil is taken in Croatia. And this isn’t merely a brand new phenomenon; accounts from the traditional Roman period praised the distinctive high quality of the olive oil from the area.

The olive oil produced right here is next-level and it’s not simply me saying this – the lodge has world accolades as proof. Whereas many people have bijou trophy cupboards displaying medals from conkers or tiddlywinks contests, Villa Nai 3.3 has a trophy room (a cupboard is simply not large enough), overflowing with awards from olive oil competitions everywhere in the world.

Olive oil and water on a table

Over the previous couple of years, the Villa Nai 3.3 olive oil has picked up gold medals on the Milan Worldwide Olive Oil Awards, the Athena Worldwide Olive Oil Competitors, the NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competitors in New York and Olive Japan 2021. Do you know there have been so many worldwide olive oil competitions? Me neither.

Villa Nai 3.3’s olive oil is constituted of the fruit of its historical 500-year-old groves, which cowl greater than 40,000 sq. metres. This product distinguishes Villa Nai 3.3 from the opposite glorious lodges round Croatia and is a serious purpose why it has slid to the very prime of many “excellent lodges” lists.

The importance of the olive oil is mirrored within the identify of the lodge. The perfect variety of days it must snow yearly to supply the right olive oil on Dugi Otok is claimed to be 3.3. In the meantime, “Nai” means “snow” in Previous Dalmatic, an extinct language from the area. Therefore Villa Nai 3.3.

The olive oil expertise 

On one morning of my journey, I get to soak up the oil and pure splendour of Villa Nai 3.3 at a number of completely different places, as a part of a gaggle tour. 

At each cease, like caricatures of seasoned wine connoisseurs, we’re inspired to smell the bouquet of every olive oil earlier than swilling it round our mouths and savouring its wealthy, heady flavour.

We begin the tasting on the lodge’s personal pier, jutting out into the glowing turquoise waters of the Zadar archipelago in northern Dalmatia, earlier than transferring on to a peak overlooking the property.

Views of the coastline

From there, we’re in a position to observe how brilliantly designed Villa Nai 3.3 is. The well-known Croatian architect, Nikola Bašić, has ensured that the one-storey lodge – constructed totally from vivid, regionally excavated limestone – blends seamlessly into the panorama. 

Consuming and consuming 

The olive oil is used everywhere in the lodge, from the pâté therapeutic massage and the scrumptious olive oil tea welcome drink to the lodge’s signature cocktail, The Olivetto.

Shaken by its creator, the barman William, as if he’s auditioning for a remake of the Tom Cruise movie Cocktail, it mixes olive oil with gin, egg white and Korlat, a neighborhood liqueur combining honey with herbs. This olive oil-infused drink slips down very properly certainly.

Olive oil performs an equally distinguished position within the lodge’s high-class delicacies. All the pieces from the native speciality “soparnik”, an 80cm-wide Croatian model of a Cornish pasty stuffed to the gills with chard, fennel and garlic, to a pink mullet caught simply hours earlier than and cooked on a dangling griddle over an open fireplace on the Grotta outside restaurant, is immeasurably improved by lashings of olive oil.

External view of the hotel

Different actions

Even when you’re not as eager on olive oil as Popeye is, there may be nonetheless masses to do on this island, akin to taking a ship journey across the attractive Kornati Nationwide Park and exploring among the 140 uninhabited islands which are scattered round it.

Leaving the tiny port of Zman on Dugi Otok, I’m instantly handled to a really particular second when our boat is joined by a frolicking pod of dolphins who playfully bask in some formation dancing with our boat. Are they auditioning for a possible new TV present, Strictly Come Dolphins?

View of the coastline

Later, we cease on one other island, Kornat, on the distant Saint Mary’s Church, which was constructed within the Byzantine period. The important thing to the church is stored in a slot by the doorway in order that storm-tossed fishermen can all the time discover shelter there throughout turbulent climate.

On one other day, we scale the 164 steps to the highest of the 42-metre-high Veli Rat lighthouse on the north-western tip of Dugi Otok. The tallest lighthouse within the Adriatic Sea, it was inbuilt 1849 and plastered with greater than 100,000 egg yolks, which produce a extremely resilient coating. Happily, the lighthouse smells of sea salt reasonably than way-past-its-best omelette. 

The climb is a critical exercise, however it’s price it for the view from the summit. On a transparent day, you’ll be able to see all the best way to Italy, 60km away.


Villa Nai 3.3 has all of it, then. It’s the good get-away-from-it-all vacation spot. The eight rooms are ingeniously designed to be fully personal, and judges from the Main Lodges of the World group (to which it belongs) have deemed it the cleanest lodge on the planet.

Down the centuries, everybody from Julius Caesar and Benito Mussolini to George Bernard Shaw and European Champions’ League-winning footballer Luka Modrić has fallen in love with this most fascinating a part of Croatia. It’s very straightforward to see why.

You could have ravishing seas, attractive surroundings and delightful, historic websites.

Oh sure, and the world’s best olive oil.

Crimson Savannah (redsavannah.com) provides a 5 night time keep at Villa Nai 3.3 from £3,225 per individual based mostly on two adults sharing a deluxe sea view room on a mattress and breakfast foundation, with personal return transfers from Break up and return financial system flights from London Luton to Break up with EasyJet.