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It is Croatia’s premier island and the birthplace of organised tourism in Europe over 150 years ago. All you need to know about the island of Hvar, in a page.
- Sunniest island in Europe, most UNESCO heritage: welcome to Hvar!
- How to get from Split to Hvar
- 5 things not to miss on Hvar
- Hvar beaches – an introduction
- Where to stay on Hvar – a look at hotels
- Where to stay on Hvar – villas and private accommodation
- Getting around Hvar – taxi, car rental, bus and scooter
- Things to do on Hvar – food and wine
- Things to do on Hvar – culture and activities
- Day trips from Hvar
- 5 things you never knew about Hvar
- Hvar nightlife – is it as good as they say?
- Festivals on Hvar
- Meet the destinations – Hvar Town
- Pakleni Islands – gifts from above
- Stari Grad – 2400 years of timeless heritage
- The wine town of Jelsa
- Little Venice a long way from Italy – Vrboksa
- Southside beach Heaven – Zavala, Ivan Dolac and Sveta Nedjelja
- For more information about the island of Hvar
(Copyright Romulic and Stojcic)
Where to start? Imagine an island which was the sunniest in all Europe and in the top 10 most beautiful in the world. Then learn that the same island has more UNESCO heritage than any other in the world.
Not to mention the oldest public theatre in Europe and the birthplace of organised tourism in Europe.
An island with a diet protected by UNESCO and indigenous wines exported around the world.
An island which offers culture dating back millennia and some of the best nightlife on the Adriatic.
Its pristine sea and gorgeous beaches regularly feature in lists of the world’s cleanest and best. (Check out the video below for a sampler).
As they say in local dialect, Welcome to For!
How to get from Split to Hvar
Here is the comprehensive TC overview of how to reach the island from Split, including catamaran connections to Dubrovnik and other islands. There is a direct ferry from Ancona to the car ferry of Stari Grad in the summer.
5 things not to miss on Hvar
With so many things to see on the island, a one-week holiday is nowhere near enough, but if time is an issue, here are 5 things not to miss:
- The Pakleni Islands – gorgeous emerald jewels in front of Hvar Town and the best beaches and chance to avoid the crowds.
- The wine – there are several indigenous grapes which only grow on Hvar. These include Bogdanusa, which translates as a ‘gift from God.’ Do try the local wine, or even better, do on a wine tour.
- Take the off-road Jeep safari, which takes you all over the island and into Dalmatia’s rich heritage.
- A walking tour of Hvar Town has many highlights. These include the imposing Spanish fortress – incredible views of the Pakleni Islands, Europe’s oldest public theatre, the Arsenal, and the birthplace of Ivan Vucetic, the fingerprinting godfather of dactyloscopy.
- Adventure tourism. While many come for the beaches, there are some incredible options for cycling, hiking, kayaking, climbing and sailing.
Hvar beaches – an introduction
The island’s beaches have achieved world renown, and CNN named Jerolim beach the top naturist beach back in 2012, describing it as a place of „untouched nature, rocky shores, and crystal clear sea.“ Did you know that Jerolim, the island of the same name, was also the first naturist island in Croatia? As one of 16 Pakleni Islands, Jerolim has been welcoming naturists for a long time.
Most of Hvar’s beaches are rocky or with small pebbles. There are some sandy beaches (Perna on Pakleni Islands, Mina and Grebisce in Jelsa), but they are rare. However, with so many bays and coves to choose from, you will have no problem finding the perfect beach. Here are our top 5 beaches on this gorgeous island.
Where to stay on Hvar – a look at hotels
There is a reasonable selection of hotels in the main island’s towns, and the majority are run by the Sunčani Hvar Hotels company in the Hvar town. Hotel Palace Elisabeth, the revamped 5-star hotel just off the main square, has just been opened last year.
The scene in Stari Grad is also changing. While the planned Four Seasons resort in Brizenica Bay is inching forward, the luxury 5-star Maslina Resort round the corner from the main ferry terminal opened in 2020. And Valamar is planning to turn the town’s main hotels into 4-star accommodation.
The Senses Resort in Vrboska is also a recent addition of 4-star quality. Only in Jelsa is the more luxury hotel sector not yet addressed.
Most hotels work only seasonally, but there is always at least one open in Hvar Town. For example, in the very center of the town, Hotel Park works throughout the year. You can check availability and book. You can check availability and book.
Where to stay on Hvar – villas and private accommodation
The likes of Booking.com and Airbnb have transformed the private accommodation all over the world. You don’t need our help to find those sites, but if you are looking for something special, there is an excellent island-based company offering the very best accommodation and luxury villas.
Getting around Hvar – taxi, car rental, bus and scooter
Hvar is long and thin, and there is one major road which runs the length of the island. There is a reasonably well-developed bus network and schedules coincide with the ferries. Island taxis are expensive, but scooter and car hire are popular ways of moving around. Before booking your rental car on the mainland, consider how much you will use it. It may be the case that a couple of days of island rental and no ferry costs will be much more practical.
Also, if you come to Hvar town by catamaran, one of the easiest and simplest things to do to explore the whole island is to rent a scooter or car at some of Hvar town’s many rent a car services. An excellent rent a scooter service located right next to Hvar town bus station will provide you all island information you need.
Things to do on Hvar – food and wine
The island’s gourmet offering is of the highest quality. Consider the following, for example. Its Mediterranean Diet became intangible UNESCO heritage; its olive oil is so highly prized that it is actually the most expensive in the world; and its wines come from a variety of mostly indigenous varieties, which you can only find on the island.
Seafood obviously plays a large part in the Hvar diet, and Hvarska gregada is a traditional dish to try. For those with a sweeter tooth, don’t miss the 800-year-old paprenjak. The biggest concentration of restaurants is in Hvar Town, which has more than 70. While the emphasis is on local food, in recent times sushi, Asian and other international options have arrived. Be aware that almost all restaurants close in the winter, although you will be able to find a bite in Stari Grad and Hvar Town. Learn more about the island’s wines, then check out some of the wineries in the virtual wine road below.
Things to do on Hvar – culture and activities
The island is a true paradise for both culture and activity lovers. The oldest public theatre in Europe, Hvar’s Arsenal, which was built on the main square in 1612, finally reopened in 2019 after reconstruction. To testify its importance for European cultural heritage, the Arsenal also got a prestigious Europa Nostra award in 2020, honoring the rejuvenation of an unavoidable focal point in the city’s port.
An easy walk along the sea from Hvar Square, the largest square in Dalmatia, across Hvar’s waterfront, the road leads to the Franciscan monastery from the 15th century. Within this protected cultural property there is also a museum. The monastery is also known for the magnificent painting of the Last Supper, and inside its garden hides more than 300 years old Rosalli’s cypress, protected as a natural monument and a natural rarity.
There are many traditions and customs which date back centuries and are unique to the island. These include the UNESCO-inscribed Za Krizen (Behind the Cross) procession, which has taken place annually for over 500 years, even in pandemic-marked 2020. Looking for some cultural tours while visiting the island?
Hvar is a sporting paradise, with a growing sporting reputation. It has become an established location for the annual OTILLO swim run, for example, as well as the winter training camp for one of the top cycling teams in the world, Bahrain McLaren. Its Hvar Half Marathon along the old road from Stari Grad to Hvar Town is now more than 10 years old, and it attracts an increasingly international field on what is surely one of the most beautiful road races in the world.
Day trips from Hvar
Once you have discovered Paradise, why would you ever want to leave?
While there is plenty to do on the island, there are also some great day trips to be had. The Blue Cave is one of the most popular day trips of all, but here is what you should know before booking. For decades, wooden taxi boats have been sailing from the center of Hvar every day and taking tourists to the beaches of the nearby Pakleni Islands – Palmižana, Stipanska, Mlini, Ždrilca.
Other popular day boat trips include the neighbouring islands. If you are looking for a closer look at what there is to explore, check out the TCN series, 25 things to know – for Korcula, Brac, Vis, Solta and Split.
5 things you never knew about Hvar
Did you know that the New York Times reported that the island was for sale back in 1932? Or that there are 8 island dialect words for chisel? Or that if you give birth on the ferry from the island to Split, your newborn gets free ferry travel for life? Here are a few things you probably never knew about Croatia’s premier island.
Hvar nightlife – is it as good as they say?
The new Ibiza, one of the world’s top 7 hen and stag night destinations, and a host of other claims about the party island. Really? Hvar Town is very vibrant in summer, with numerous night bars along the waterfront open until two am (Aloha bar, Kiva bar, Nautica bar, SEVEN, Sidro bar, BB Club, Lola bar, Jazz bar), and a few nightclubs where you can welcome the dawn. Every evening, Hvar’s waterfront turns into a dance floor full of young people eager to have fun.
Among the most famous night clubs on Hvar, Pink Champagne and Carpe Diem stand out. Another party place on the island is a night and strip club Temple, 20-minute walk the steep hill from Hvar city center.
Therefore, if you are looking to party, there is a decent amount of action. Just make sure you come between mid-June and the end of August, as the main club, Carpe Diem, is highly seasonal. And when the party’s over in the town, it continues at the Carpe Diem Beach Club at Stipanska beach on Pakleni Islands.
The well-known Ultra Europe Beach party at island’s biggest hotel Amfora is the most significant party event of the year. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, it was not held in 2020, and the details for 2021 edition are yet to be announced.
Party tourism has created plenty of controversy on the island in recent years, and the authorities claim to be working to reposition Hvar as a brand and destination.
Festivals on Hvar
There are some rather interesting festivals on the island. Among them:
Puhijada, the edible dormouse festival – yes really – in Dol in August. Quite bizarrely, this is the biggest festival on the island some years, attracting up to 5,000 people. Never eaten a dormouse? It is something like this.
The Lavender Festival in Velo Grablje in late June. The island is famous for its lavender and was once the world’s 8th largest producer. The small village of Velo Grablje was the centre of production, and some enterprising locals started the annual lavender festival a decade ago. Harvesting lavender is hard work! This is how it looks at 6am on top of the island in a lavender field in early July.
The Wine Fest in Jelsa marks the most popular wine event on the island, taking place at the end of August every year.
The Ultra Europe Beach party, which takes place in July. You can see 2018 after-party in Split and the beach party at Hotel Amfora, above.
Meet the destinations – Hvar Town
There are only superlatives to describe Hvar Town – it truly is one of the most beautiful places on the planet. For the best overview, have a cocktail at Top Bar at Hotel Adriana. From there you will see the Spanish fortress (well worth the hike), the home of organised tourism in Europe (the location of the birthplace of the Hvar Health Society in 1868), the largest square in Dalmatia, the oldest public theatre in Europe, the exclusive waterfront which attracts the yachts of the likes of Bill Gates and Roman Abramovich, the birthplace of the godfather of dactyloscopy, CNN’s top naturist beach, as well as all the magic of the Pakleni Islands. Learn more about this special town.
Pakleni Islands – gifts from above
As if the island was not beautiful enough, God gave the Forani the Pakleni Island as well. A collection of wonderful natural treasure, many of which are accessible by speedboat and water-taxi in season. They offer an astonishing diversity as well. The world’s top naturist beach, one of the most famous clubs on the Adriatic, an arboretum, art gallery, the lowest vineyard in Croatia, as well as an eco-island whose only permanent resident until recently was a donkey named Mercedes. I was so inspired by Mercedes, I made her the star of my last book (you can buy Lavender, Dormice and a Donkey Named Mercedes online). Learn all you need to know about the Pakleni islands.
Stari Grad – 2400 years of timeless heritage
The first capital of the island was the town known today as Stari Grad (literally, Old Town). The Ancient Greeks from the island of Paros sailed into the deep bay in 384 BC and established the settlement of Faros. Next to it, they divided and cultivated a fertile field of 80 hectares. Today the field is better known as UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Stari Grad Plain.
Stari Grad has a gorgeous old town, and it is pivoting itself more towards the luxury tourism market. The mayor even recently decided to ban new hostels. Here are 25 things to know about Stari Grad.
The wine town of Jelsa
Gorgeous little Jelsa stole this writer’s heart when he first saw it back in 2002. It was my home for 18 years and is also the birthplace of the Total Croatia project. Wine lovers will delight in the outstanding local wines made byTomic, Dubokovic, Huljic, Caric and PZ Svirce, and beach lovers have some excellent family choices. The restaurant scene is improving year on year, and with a direct catamaran to Bol and Split, Jelsa is a very attractive alternative for someone looking for a quieter holiday. Nothing beats a relaxed drink on the main square, however, one of the great chilling zones of Europe. Here are 25 things to know about Jelsa.
Little Venice a long way from Italy – Vrboska
Perhaps even cuter is Vrboska, a lovely 3km walk around idyllic coves and bays from Jelsa. Vrboska is known affectionately as Little Venice after its small canal and gorgeous stone bridges. The most unusual and prominent building in town is the imposing church fortress at the heart of the old town. Don’t miss the views from the top of the town and the deep bay. Vrboska also has the biggest marina on the island itself (the ACI marina at Palmizana is on the Pakleni Islands), and there are also some seriously good wines to be tasted, including one served in a 3-star Michelin restaurant in Amsterdam. Here are 25 things to know about Vrboska.
Southside beach Heaven – Zavala, Ivan Dolac and Sveta Nedjelja
While the main historic settlements are on the north of the island, many locals head south for their weekend houses and best beaches and swimming. Zavala, Ivan Dolac and Sveta Nedjelja are the main resorts. In addition to great swimming and beaches, the wine is also outstanding. Plavac Mali flourishes on the steep southern slopes. Wines to look out for are Zlatan Otok Grand Cru and PZ Svirce’s Ivan Dolac Barrique.
For more information about the island of Hvar
I wrote the first modern-day guidebook a few years ago, which was last updated in 2016. As a result, it will not be up to date for the latest restaurants etc., but the fundamentals are all there. It is available on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle.
Catch the very latest from the island on Total Hvar, the birthplace of TCN.