Nin is a coastal town in Croatia’s Zadar region known for its historical significance and natural beauty, including salt production. Nin’s salt production provided the town’s residents with their livelihood for centuries. The love of salt cultivation was passed from generation to generation, much as a family business, but in this case, a town business. Nin is nestled between five Croatian national parks, including Plitvice to the north, Kornati and Krka to the south, Paklenica to the east, and the Velebit mountain range above the Nin Bay like a big brother watching down on them and sharing the mountain’s minerals when the strong Bura winds blow. The unique mineral regeneration makes their salt ecosystem not just special but extraordinary. The salt flats are a protected retreat for birds and animals on the shallow Nin Bay.
Nin is a charming town on the Adriatic about thirty minutes north of Zadar, Croatia. The town’s coast is known for the high mineral content of its mud in the Nin Lagoon, where people cover themselves in healing mud and relax on the beaches. Wading in the high mineral waters of Nin’s coast is typically what people envision when thinking of Nin. I would recommend at least one one-night stay in Nin; the lagoon is a must, and there are fantastic views around the area. It’s best to visit in June before the tourists come or in October, but if you must come in July and August, be sure to get out on the road in the early morning.
When you enter Nin, head to the center first. A large parking area can be found just outside the old town gates with meter parking by the hour. Pay with cash or by text, and then walk through the old town. It’s small, but there are many charming shops. Don’t buy any salt products because next, you will be driving onward to Solana, a salt museum, a fantastic salt shop, and gorgeous salt flats. Walk through the town where archaeological sites are left behind in the open air for you to look at. Visit the church of Saint Nicholas, the tiny church outside the center, and The Church of the Holy Cross. After visiting the lovely old town, drive onward toward Solana. As you drive towards Solana, just outside the town center, you will see the protected Solana salt flats inhabited by unique species of birds.
In Nin, salt is not just a commodity; it’s a symbol of tradition, community, and resilience. Solana’s dedication to producing high-quality salt honors this symbolism and becomes a bridge between the past and the future. The Solana property spreads out over fifty-five acres. The minerals from the Velebit mountains and the local plants blow down onto the salt flats from the Bura wind, making their salt high quality with vital nutrients for life. Their philosophy is to protect biodiversity, seeing the salt pan as a mother in an environment where people have been working generation after generation, bringing people together with the love and respect for the salt that provides their livelihood and great taste.
The Salt-Infused History of Nin
Salt production has been pivotal in shaping this charming town’s cultural and economic landscape for centuries. Solana has been instrumental in carrying forward this age-old tradition of salt production. Sea, sun, and human hands, a practice that started with Roman soldiers cultivating salt here in two thousand BC. Roman soldiers were paid in salt, which made its production influential to their conquests. In 1423, the Venetians bought the salt works in Nin to heighten their dominance in the industry. Then, for five centuries, the biodynamic ecosystem rested until 1954, when the family opened Salona, and Krešimir Zanki led his family in salt production. In 1955, many residents of Nin joined the family working on the salt flats. Through the twentieth century, women worked on the flats raking the salt while men used carts to collect and move the salt into the production line. The proximity to work inspired young hearts to love, leading to marriages between different families on the salt flats.
Solana is a testament to salt’s enduring importance in the region. With a deep respect for tradition and a commitment to innovation, Solana has reinvigorated salt production in Nin, blending ancient practices with modern techniques. Solana’s approach to salt production goes beyond business; it’s a commitment to preserving the environment that has sustained this tradition for centuries. They demonstrate how traditional industries can evolve in harmony with nature by employing sustainable practices that minimize ecological impact.
The Salt-Making Process
Step into the museum of Solana and witness the meticulous process of salt production. Each stage is a correlation between human expertise and natural forces, from the collection of seawater to the controlled evaporation in expansive salt pans. Visitors to Solana can experience salt formation firsthand and gain a deeper appreciation for the history that has unfolded on these shores. Salt is produced the same way today as it was when the Roman soldiers oversaw its cultivation.
Natural sea salt is produced the natural way, the way it’s been done since the Roman times. They produce salt without electricity, relying on nature to make it utilizing a biological filter from the Nin Lagoon filled with natural organisms, minerals, green algae, clay, and calcium sulfate. Flood gates usher in 100% ecological salt water into their salt harvest eco-reserve during the summer, depending on the weather. When the waters evaporate, the salt is raked into piles. Wagons were used 50 years ago when 200 people were needed, but now it’s done with trucks, making work less labor intensive, and they don’t need as many people. Everything else is done the same as when Solana Nin opened in 1954. The most challenging job is collecting ordinary kitchen salt, mountains of salt piled with scrapers.
Salt production at Solana is a family job; everyone working here has had family members work here before them. Their salt is exported everywhere in the world—particularly the fleur de sel and kitchen salt. The fleur de sel also called the flower of salt, is prized for its higher mineral content and used as a finishing salt to put on top of already prepared food. The name comes from the crystals that look like flowers. It’s cultivated from salt that has crystallized on the surface of the salt pan. The salt is collected from a thin mesh in the morning or evening and off the surface from the top of the salt pan with a delicate mesh rake. Most of their fleur de sel is exported to Japan, where it’s highly prized.
Once you have finished your museum tour, be sure to explore their store. They sell salt in many ways, kitchen salt can be found as fine, or course, from small bags to ten-kilo bags. They have unique ceramic pieces to store salt and many different sizes of fleur de sol to purchase. They also have lots of beauty products. I bought their salt water, which is suitable for skin issues and healing properties. They have lots of delicious creations, including salted chocolates. I bought a jar of their salted white chocolate spread, and it’s fantastic! We used it on everything and loved it. We also fell in love with the children’s books about the crawfish living in the salt flats’ waters. Our neighbor’s daughters loved the book!
Solana Nin has a webshop if you need to top up on salt before your visit.
A visit to Nin will be a lovely little adventure through history and tastes. I recommend the mud bath and a visit to Solana. The area is also fantastic for a road trip; you can include Pag in your journey, too, if you like. Pag also has a salt producer called Solana Pag, but theirs is not nearly as cool as the Nin one. The blog post 9 Places to Visit from Zadar has several other nearby areas, and you can create your own road trip itinerary that includes a day in Nin. If you are coming without a car, don’t worry because there are buses from Zadar to Nin for an easy day trip. Walking from the center of Nin to Solana Nin is about ten minutes, and it’s a lovely walk. I hope you enjoy a trip to Nin on your next Croatian vacation. Subscribe for more Croatian travel tips and have a lovely day.