Haludovo Palace: A decaying Cold War resort built by the owner of Penthouse Magazine

Nestled in a pine forest on the Croatian island of Krk, Haludovo Palace was a Cold War-era hedonistic paradise where celebrities, the wealthy, and the mighty came to spent lavish holidays. 

KOmpleks Hotela Haludovo kod Malinske nije zaštićeno kulturno dobro / Foto: Blaga & misterije

Nowadays it is abandoned and looks like an eerie ghost town. The complex is still standing, and is a stark reminder of the golden years when it looked like a filming location for a James Bond movie. Instead of crystal chandeliers and poker tables, garbage and chunks of the ceiling are now scattered everywhere. 

The story about a place known as a “resort of sin” started with a visit to the Croatian island of Krk by a man with a vision. 

That was in the late sixties, and the man was Bob Guccione, the founder of Penthouse magazine. His idea was to turn this beautiful destination into a lavish oasis, a place that would connect the West with the East by uniting the seemingly incompatible concepts of a socialist country and a luxurious destination.

Through tourist attractions, Guccione reasoned, better relations could develop between the United States and Yugoslavia. While Yugoslavia under the leadership of Josip Broz Tito may have been a highly restricted and regulated society, foreign tourists were given a pass and allowed to gamble at the casino. Yugoslavia even banned its visa requirements in 1967, and in 1970 a new international airport on Krk began operations.

Guccione chose the town of Malinska to build the new resort. It was one that would be composed of luxurious hotels and a grand casino, and cater to every imaginable need of its guests. It was a place that would later attract the rich and famous; a place where athletes, actors, dignitaries, and leaders from all over the world would meet.

The Penthouse owner invested 250 million US dollars in the project, and in 1971, under the supervision of famous Croatian architect Boris Magaš, Haludovo was completed.

Penthouse introduced their newest venture to the world in June 1972 and powerful men like Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and Italian politician Silvio Berlusconi rushed to the island of Krk to get their fill of pleasure.

Famous people bring along with them stories, and some of them have been shared by former employees who used to work there. They say that Saddam Hussein left a waitress a 2,000 USD tip during his visit to Haludovo in the 1970s. One time his son forgot a revolver in a hotel room, and this ended up delaying the departure of the entire Iraqi suite from leaving this world of wild entertainment. 

Champagne flowed as guests partied under hanging gardens in the Great Lounge and threw dice in the high-class casino. They were served by cocktail waitresses dressed like bunnies and could constantly enjoy scheduled entertainment or even take a swim in a pool filled with champagne. 

Haludovo was soon considered to be the most extravagant resort on the Adriatic. So extravagant, that on one average day, it was estimated that guests consumed about 100 kilograms of lobster, 5 kilograms of caviar, and drank hundreds of bottles of the finest champagne.

The resort had almost 1,800 beds available and in addition to the casino, there was a golf course, a bowling alley, a fishing village, and a sports bar. You could also find a beauty center with a masseuse, pools, beaches, saunas, and a medical facility.


Even after the casino went bankrupt just a year after opening, Haludovo remained a top destination for the rich, mighty, and wealthy. It was a socialist environment where everything appeared to be allowed, and it remained so through for decades. Businessmen and industry leaders were regular guests. Some of them even got shipwrecked nearby and were saved by the receptionists. 

At the time, the global tourism industry didn’t understand the concept of resorts, so Haludovo was called a hotel town. The complex consisted of the main Hotel-Palace, detached villas, Hotel Tamaris (with a lower tourist standard), and a small fishermen’s village with harbor and houses. It could proudly stand alongside the most distinguished pieces of modernist architecture in Europe. 

The story took a twist in the early 1990s when refugees from the wars fought across the former Yugoslavia were housed inside the resort. The war in Croatia raged and every bed was needed for people; Haludovo was no exception. When the refugees left, the hotel was privatized.

Corrupt management soon took over and used Haludovo as a vessel for embezzlement. The complex changed a owners a few times, but none of them managed to lead Haludovo back to greatness. It hosted its last guests in 2001 and has been in decay ever since.

The post-apocalyptic scenes of a walk through the resort are something one might expect to see in Chernobyl, but definitely not on a highly tourist-oriented island that exceeds one million visits each year. Even today, Haludovo is still acknowledged as a part of Croatia’s cultural heritage with special architectural value.

It remains a vast and open space where one can imagine the excitement of the guests when they entered the grand lobby. The pools are now empty and mostly used for graffiti displays. Since the whole complex is situated by the beach promenade between the towns of Malinska and Njivice, it if often  visited and explored. But it still remains unsafe to do so.

In October 2018, it was announced that an investor had plans to redevelop the venue into a closed resort using outside investment. But nothing has changed to this day and there are talks in the local community that the whole story about a savior for Haludovo was just another political trick. 

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