Among the top ten most beautiful islands (Conde Nast), one of the world’s sexiest islands (Forbes Magazine), the sunniest island in the Adriatic and the new St. Tropez; it is not difficult to find superlatives about Croatia’s premier island, enjoying a boom after the recent glitzy facelift to Hvar Town.
While the celebrity yachts of the likes of Bernie Ecclestone, Bill Gates and Roman Abramovich may grab the headlines, there is so much more to the island of Hvar than the exclusive party atmosphere of the main town. One of the island’s strengths as a tourist destination is the sheer diversity on offer, with something to cater for every type of tourist.
Hvar Town – home of the oldest organised tourism in Europe – has plenty in terms of nightlife, beaches, cuisine, history and culture, as well as easy access to the stunning Pakleni islands a short water-taxi away, but the real diversity of Hvar can be found all over the island.
Archaeology buffs can delight in the ancient settlement of Stari Grad, dating back to 384 BC, and the immaculately preserved (and UNESCO-protected) Stari Grad Plain, or explore the delights of the Neolithic caves such as Grapceva. Lovers of tradition will find plenty to enthral, most notably the Easter Procession, a 500 year-old tradition of carrying the cross through the night on Maundy Thursday.
Hvar is a sailing paradise, with an endless stream of hidden bays and small islands to discover. With two ACI marinas and plenty of mooring space in the main towns, the island is a must-stop on an Adriatic sailing holidays. There are regattas, sailing schools and other water sports, such as sea-kayaking, on offer, while the range of pristine beaches – naturists, family and hidden – are an obvious attraction.
Hvar is a very popular year-round destination for cycling holidays, one of a range of activities adding to its diverse appeal. Rock climbing, hiking and off-road safaris for those looking to discover the more hidden parts of the island. The inaugural Hvar Half-Marathon takes place in August, as does the annual Faros Swimming Marathon.
Fine wine and fine dining are an important aspect to any holiday, and the winemakers of Hvar do not disappoint. Whether it be an organised wine tour, an impromptu drop-in or a bottle of the local red in a waterfront restaurant, the quality of the local wine, spearheaded by internationally recognised vinters such as Andro Tomic and Zlatan Plenkovic, is an added flavour to any trip to Dalmatia.
The range of Dalmatian fish and meat dishes, all served up with the freshest local produce, will ensure a gastronomic feast that will linger in the memory. Old stone waterfront restaurants serving up traditional local fare, washed down with the finest island wines against a backdrop of Dalmatian acapella music is an endearing memory in the minds of many visitors.
Away from the crowds, yoga and meditation, painting holidays, discovering the island’s flora and fauna or taking part in the olive, lavender or wine harvests offers an opportunity to discover more of Hvar’s nature. And for those looking to detox from stressful lives, very little can beat the sunny relaxation of people-watching on a pretty Dalmatian square over a coffee and strudel (or something stronger).
A backdrop to every visit is the wonderful climate, described as one of the healthiest in Europe. So convinced were the Austrians in the nineteenth Century that they helped found the Hvar Health Society in 1868, the first organised health holidays in Europe. Whether or not the much-touted promise of a free night’s accommodation in the even of snow still holds or not is unconfirmed, but one thing is sure – a holiday on Hvar is a magical experience in one of the world’s most stunning settings.