Otok Obonjan is something special. An island about an hour off the coast of Šibenik and originally inhabited by snakes, and then cub scouts, it is now home to Obonjan festival, a six-week long wellbeing and music retreat at which guests are encouraged to stay for as long as they desire. No ordinary festival, Obonjan is for those who want to escape, soul-search, sunbathe, unwind, relax and party, in ultimate comfort. Tents are more akin to glamourous tepees and forest lodges are spacious and luxurious, kitted out with a bathroom, in-built USB ports and plug sockets, air-conditioning, a full length mirror, wardrobe space… you may as well be in a hotel, except that this hotel belongs to nature, and with it comes the sound of the cicadas that hum from the trees, sunlight that streams in through the canvas, and the view of the ocean through the olive trees as you unzip your tent in the morning. Happily helpless against the chilled-out island vibe that washes over you as soon as your foot touches Obonjan soil, you soon realise that there are very few more paradisiacal places in the Adriatic than Otok Obonjan. Every sunrise and sunset is a picture perfect painting, and no matter where you are on the island you are struck by stunning vistas of clear blue sea and other islands dotted far and wide in the distance.
The perfect day on Obonjan might go as follows: start with an early-morning yoga class, aptly billed as ‘Wakey Wakey Yoga’ or blow off the cobwebs with ‘Hangover Yoga’, which takes place on a wooden platform set among the trees by the Zen Den. With treatment rooms at the Zen Den itself looking out onto the ocean, it is the perfect setting to unwind with a massage, or venture out to the forest for some spiritually healing reiki. Stick around for some lunch at the Green Bar, with a selection of truly virtuous, truly tasty salads, smoothies, juices and protein snacks. In the afternoon, sunbathe around the pool or sea-side at the Drift Bar, where music plays and cocktails flow, or take advantage of the timetable of talks, workshops, films, music and comedy on offer from key and interesting industry players. At dinnertime, dine at Bok, with delicious, fresh fusion food that will both stir the palette and prepare you for an evening at the Amphitheatre. With a capacity of 1,000 and a stereo system that produces a sound that cuts across the island as clear as the cloudless sky above, it is the ultimate venue to listen to the stellar line-up of DJ sets that go on into the early hours of the morning.
Hit by infrastructure issues that delayed the opening by a week, Obonjan received some not-so-positive press before the first islanders had even stepped off the boat. Not to be deterred, this only made the organisers and staff even more determined to ensure the ultimate happiness of the visitors that came out to support the festival. Always accommodating, understanding and helpful, it felt like their sole mission was to ensure everyone was having the best time, regardless of circumstance. When a thunderstorm hit the island one night and quite literally rained on the parade of revellers at the Amphitheatre, they quickly created a make-shift venue complete with decks and a DJ at The Pavillion in the middle of the island – a large shelter with no walls, and happily, just steps from Pavillion Pizza (because Obonjan is all about the balance between being good and letting go), we danced for hours whilst the rain poured and bolts of lightening lit up the sky.
We left Obonjan feeling chilled, refreshed, happy and sun-kissed. Being some of the lucky few that visited in the first days of its inaugural year, we can only imagine what Obonjan will be when it realises its full potential, and we cannot wait to experience its second coming.
- Earplugs. Being a small island, sound carries, and the Amphitheatre rarely has an early night.
- Spending money. It may be Croatia, but expect London prices.
- Sturdy footwear. The terrain is rocky, and can chew up flimsy flip-flops.
- BYOB. The lodges are kitted out with fridges to keep it cold and there’s nothing like a crisp glass of white whilst watching the sun go down from your deck before dinner.
Keep an eye out for next year’s dates by visiting their website here!
Words by Sophie Tye