Early on in our vacation planning we had pondered the idea of Croatia as part of our Schengen exile (if you don’t know what I mean, read our article on the Schengen visa rules) until we could return to Italy. We tossed the idea around but were worried it might be too foreign, that language might be an issue, would it be safe to travel, was it too far…all the hymning and hawing you do when pushing beyond your comfort zones. We were already in Wales, had a month planned in England and it would be easy to just stay another month. But the universe spoke to us once again and now we can’t believe we are in the middle of our Croatian dream.
Here is a video of our time on Hvar Island, Croatia
The idea for our itinerary came from an article I read about Croatia in Conde Nast Traveller magazine while we were housesitting in Wales. Sitting by the fireplace and watching the horizontal rains whip the fields through a thick fog outside made the thought of a sunny coast and islands seem so appealing. So, I followed some of the suggestions and built a tour following the southern coastline of Croatia, we found a cheap flight to Zadar from London, Stansted (Ryanair for $80 each CDN) and that became the starting point.
After Murter and Brac, third on our list of island hops and following a day of ferry travels we arrived in Hvar, the island known to be favored by celebrities, the well heeled and yacht traveling jet setters. Each of the islands has been special but Hvar has it all, maybe more touristy than the others but its popular for a reason.
As soon as we got off the ferry we noticed it was lusher, greener and more tropical looking than the others we had visited. The roads were good and it was easy getting to our apartment just above Hvar Town and with an incredible view over the channel where we couldn’t get enough of watching the sailboats, tugboats and cruise ships continuously traveling by.
The first morning I ventured out on my own as Janet had sprained her ankle the day before in Split while we were wandering and waiting for our ferry (she healed in a few days). From our apartment, I walked down the hill onto the waterfront and arrived at a boardwalk that followed an incredibly scenic path into the old town. As I walked down along the sea I made my way past the places that would fill our days over our time on Hvar; past a beautiful cove where I had some beach time, past the Hula Hula Club where we would spend a day lounging with cocktails in hand and gazing out to the sea, past the Amfora Hotel Resort where we’d spend a day poolside and eventually into the old town of Hvar where we’d have cappuccinos in the morning watching new tourists arrive off the cruise ships, cocktails at the end of a busy day and a dinner with new friends on our last night.
Hvar town is so lively, where you can just sit at a café and watch people all day, the Korean tourists zealously taking their photos in the most animated of poses kept us entertained for hours (inspired a series of photos). Ferries, sailboats, yachts and cruise ships are constantly transporting tourists in and out of the towns harbor and it bustles all day and night with activity starting early in the morning.
Getting here is easy as the port is well connected. You can arrive by ferry from the mainland or other islands that will bring you right to the harbor front, also by bus just steps from the center and we drove in by car with a parking lot nearby (for a fee).
The town has so much to see and do and could keep you entertained for weeks. First and foremost, you’ll see it above the harbor, beckoning to you from above the old town and up on the mountain is the old Spanish Fortress. You have to at least climb to the top and take in the stunning vista from above but it’s well worth it to pay the entrance fee (about $8CDN) to walk through the fortress. You reach it from behind the bus station at the back of the old town, walk up the hill and through the gate then follow the signs.
Hvar has a beautiful harbor where you can rent a boat on your own, catch a ferry or take a water taxi to one of the adjacent islands. We managed to hook up with another couple and got a better rate (shop around, our first quote was $500kn, then we found $400kn and settled for $200kn for each couple) on a ‘for hire’ water taxi that took us to the island of Palmizana and back. We spent the day on the island, rented loungers, swam in the crystal clear blue bay and had lunch at one of its excellent bayside restaurants. It was a day in paradise and we were so glad we made the effort to go, try this island or one of the many others and you won’t go wrong. Top on our list was the island of Jerolim consistently rated as one of the most beautiful islands in the world, its popular for its clothing optional beaches but nothing was open early in the season so we opted for Palmizana. A few other beaches to try on the Pakleni Island are Stipanska, Zdrilca/Mlini or Vlaka.
If you need more site seeing visit some of its towns, we spent a lovely afternoon in Jelsa less than a half hour from Hvar Town. We also drove to Sucaraj on the opposite end of the island (about an hour and a half drive) for some stunning scenery (and because we needed too for the ferry ride to Korcula). You could also visit Milna, Zarace, Velo Grablje, Sv. Nedjelja, Brusje, Vrboska and Stari Grad.
Hvar has a number of beach clubs where you can catch some rays on a comfy lounger while thumbing through a magazine with trendy cocktail in hand. For a fee you can spend the day resorting at Amfora Hotels pools, we were told $100kn for the day (about $20 CDN) but managed to get in for free one day, a few days later they wanted to charge us so we went to the Hula Hula Club instead and put those funds towards drinks and lunch.
The town has all the amenities you could imagine in spades: restaurants, cafes, bars, bakeries, grocery store, pharmacy, shopping, tourist information, excursions…you name it and you’ll find it.There are also some museums, a church, a bell tower and lots of history to explore in this town that is often referred to as little Venice, the city that once ruled this area.
Hvar was our favorite island and Hvar Town our favorite place to stay while visiting this bit of Croatian paradise. May was a nice time to be here, room rates were low, it wasn’t too busy, most things were open and the weather was a pleasant 20 degrees Celsius although the sea was still a bit cool for swimming. It gets very busy in the summer months of July and August with very hot weather. I think September would also be a nice time to visit with the sea still retaining the warmth from the sunny months but with less tourists. We’ll be sure to return here someday soon! Want more pics?: here is a link to the photo gallery