Attention, budding troglodytes: you’ve struck oil. Olive oil, that is. Welcome to the eight-room wonder that is Villa Nai 3.3, conceived by renowned Croatian architect Nikola Bašić, whose design seems to have coaxed this luxury abode out of the very rock of Dugi Otok island. The ancient family-owned grove that stands here has won multiple gold awards for its olive oil (available to buy in pleasing little bottles), making it a top spot for a tasting. Spacious guest rooms look onto olive grove or Adriatic, plus acres of star-scattered sky at night, and private terraces beneath sail-like awnings have you believing you’re on deck rather than land. Nature’s got you truly surrounded, so immerse yourself in Villa Nai’s envelope-pushing, rock-bred design, like the luxury cave dweller you were always destined to be.
Get this when you book through us:
A bottle of olive oil; GoldSmiths get an olive oil tasting session
12pm, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £610.27 (€721), including tax at 13 per cent.
Rates include breakfast, served in the 3.3 restaurant and prepared using local goat milk, cheese and yoghurt, garden-fresh fruit and veg, breads and pastries.
From 23 to 29 October, 2022, Villa Nai 3.3 will be hosting an extra-special six-night, all-inclusive ‘olive oil immersions’ experience. You’ll be treated to three days at sea and three on land, introducing you to the waters, flora and fauna of the northern Dalmatian region. You’ll also enjoy six dinners at the restaurant, showcasing the Morović family’s world-recognised olive oil. Gino Celletti, author of The Leading Monocultivar Olive Millers of the World, will welcome you, lead tastings and teach you everything you need to know about the olive-cultivating and oil-producing processes.
1 November to 31 March
At the hotel
Garden, free WiFi, laundry service, cigar lounge, smoking terrace, boutique. In rooms: air conditioning, TV, minibar, coffee machine with Segafredo coffee, Dammann Frères tea, kettle, free bottled water, safe, beach bag with flip flops and beach towels, Hermès bath products.
Our favourite rooms
If you’d only shown us the ‘room’ category at Villa Nai 3.3, we would have rated it at suite-level for spaciousness, especially when taking into account the terrace leading out through floor-to-ceiling glass doors. But then we saw the suites, with their canopied four posters, fireplaces and glam living rooms and we were hooked. The rooms are individually decorated, but all keep to the same idea: natural pinks, beiges and terracottas, exposed stone evoking an upscale grotto hideaway, Italian furniture courtesy of Giorgetti injecting some mid-century-modern flair, and super-soft Frette towels and linens. Generously sized bathrooms all come with large soaking tubs and walk-in showers plus thoughtful extra touches, such as adjustable mirrors to suit guests of all heights.
There’s a 23-metre saltwater infinity pool with sun loungers outside, easily accessible from the guest room terraces. There’s a smaller indoor saltwater pool in the spa. There’s also a private section of beach with a little jetty.
Inside the light-filled spa, you can choose a scent for your Finnish-style sauna session, then relax in the sunken saltwater pool or take a breather in the outdoor relaxation area. There’s a treatment room for all sorts of wellbeing-boosting treats, where your skin can feel the benefits of the famous olive oil and paste made from the fruits of the grove outside. Choose from Balinese and Thai massages, cold plasma skin treatments, and more. There’s a small outdoor gym area with stationary bike, elliptical machine and yoga mats for your open-air sun salutations, plus one clay tennis court.
A travel telescope for some night-sky ogling, or a stargazing app to help you pick out constellations.
The common areas and rooms are located on one level and are accessible for wheelchair users, but note that there are some steps to negotiate down to the pool.
Villa Nai 3.3 is an adults-only affair.
Much of the stone used to build the hotel was excavated from the site itself (significantly reducing carbon dioxide emissions), creating a residence that’s deftly integrated into the natural landscape. There’s a desalination plant on site to process saltwater, and composted food waste is put to good use as fertiliser for the garden. In turn, the garden grows organic produce that is then used, along with locally sourced farm- and sea-fresh produce, to create the flavoursome Dalmatian dishes in the kitchen. Your room is polished up and readied for your arrival using products free of harsh chemicals. The hotel has an A+ energy rating.
Sit out on the expansive terrace with its sweeping views over olive grove and sea. If the weather isn’t playing ball, a dining room table by the full-length windows is the next best thing.
Well-cut linen and a wide-brimmed hat.
Andrej Ivansic is the chef in charge of both restaurants at the hotel. 3.3 is the fine-dining option, with an à la carte menu of contemporary Dalmatian dishes crafted with the famous olive oil and all-organic seasonal produce. There’s also a tasting menu of seven courses, each paired with a fine Croatian wine. The elegant dining room seats 22 people at Giorgetti tables laid with Frette linens. On the other side of the glass doors, there’s a huge terrace dining area, possibly the nicest vantage point at the hotel. You can enjoy breakfast here from 8 to 11am, and dinner from 7 to 11pm. We wholeheartedly recommend adding the Island fish soup to your dinner order.
Grotta 11000 is the more rustic dinner option (open 7 to 11pm), with local goat meat, fish and seafood fresh from the Adriatic sea, and veg from the organic garden, all prepared on an open-air wood fire and served in an enclosed, grotto-like terrace.
From the 3.3 restaurant, move past the 70s-reminiscent decorative screen of circular motifs to the relaxed Lobby Bar (open 8am to 1am). This is the place to start your day with an organic coffee, settle in at apero hour for a signature Olivetto cocktail crafted with Nai 3.3 oil (of course), or spend an evening familiarising yourself with the Croatian wine list. Choose a comfy Giorgetti armchair or make your way out to the bar’s separate terrace.
Room service is available from 8am to 11pm from the restaurant menu.
Villa Nai 3.3 is located outside the village of Žman on the Croatian island of Dugi Otok.
Zadar airport is around 55 minutes away. Transfers (consisting of limousine and speed boat travel) are available starting at €600 each way. If you’re getting yourself to Zaglav or Žman port by ferry or catamaran, the hotel can pick you up for free – just book your transfer in advance.
There’s free valet parking on site, although you’re likely to be arriving on Dugi Otok by boat. Between hotel transfers to get you there, hiking and biking opportunities around the slender island, and organised excursions, a private car isn’t essential for your stay.
Staff can arrange helicopter transfers, which will get you from Zadar airport to the hotel’s helipad in around 20 minutes.
Worth getting out of bed for
Olive oil tasting sessions are a year-round affair and a prime reason to visit. Time your stay right, and you can join in the olive harvest, too. You can get to know the Dugi Otok terrain by hiking and biking, or explore the coastline by sailing, snorkelling or scuba diving your way around its waters, discovering its bays, coves and beaches. There are also several national parks for nature-bound day trips, including boating spot Kornati National Park, a collection of unspoiled islands dotted with the occasional hill fort, and rich in indigenous wildlife and plants. See the saltwater lake and cliffs of Telašćica Nature Park, the birdlife and waterfalls of Krka National Park, or the mountain slopes and beech forests of Paklenica National Park. Round off your adventures with an off-shore fishing trip and learn to hook your own tuna.
A little way up the coast in Žman village, the grilled octopus and beef dishes at unassuming waterside restaurant Konoba Regula are a hit with locals and visitors alike, as is the homemade cheesecake. Take a seat outside for a view of the water while you eat. You can sample the excellent local goat’s cheese and other goat products at the OPG Žampera farm.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this small-scale luxury residence and unpacked their bottles of gold-standard olive oil, a full account of their Croatian island break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Villa Nai 3.3 on Dugi Otok…
Checking into this S-shaped residence, designed to mimic the natural contours of the rocks and also to resemble an unobtrusive, run-aground yacht, is more like arriving into a private eco home. Indeed, you can hire the lot, staff included, should you wish to. Exposed stone walls, inside and out, plus natural pinks and terracottas, reflect the terrain outside. The grotto trope appears in the gorgeously secluded guest rooms, in the serene spa, and in the rock-enveloped dining terrace. Gastronomic adventures aplenty await, from sampling the award-winning olive oil, to Dalmatian fine dining, to sea-fresh fish cooked in the wood-fired oven. A thousand or so sturdy, low-slung olive trees fill the view from the rooms, and if you’re lucky, they’re accompanied by a stretch of clear, blue Adriatic. Outside it’s perfectly peaceful, with the rhythmic burr of the crickets and the occasional herb-scented breeze helping you appreciate the wild island beauty laid out before you.