Croatian cellist Ana Rucner plays Beethoven's Ode to Joy, as Croatia promotes inland tourism and brands itself 'the new star of the European Union'.
Preparations for the 2012 tourist season in Croatia continued on November 22, 2011, with the release of a new promotional video by the Croatian National Tourist Board on its Facebook page, in what appears to be a major departure from the traditional marketing of the country's Adriatic coastline and 1185 islands.
Promoting Inland Tourism in Croatia
The video, a stunning four and a half minute film centred on famous Croatian cellist Ana Rucner playing Beethoven's Ode to Joy in various locations all over the country, is superbly produced and captures the essence of the country, but it is clear that there has been a shift in tourism marketing emphasis by the tourism ministry, which has stated its intentions to work to improve inland tourism.
Croatia's traditional tourism offer has focused on its long and picturesque coastline, crystal clear water and magnificent walled towns, of which Dubrovnik is the jewel, and islands such as Hvar, which has been named as Lonely Planet's number five destination for 2012.
Croatia: The Mediterranean as it Once Was
After the devastation of Croatia's tourist industry due to the war in former Yugoslavia, an extremely effective marketing campaign - under the slogan The Mediterranean as it Once Was - highlighted the delights of an unspoilt Adriatic coastline, which has avoided the overbuilding in holiday spots such as Spain.
The slick advertising worked, and tourists - both new and old - arrived in their droves, and tourism in Croatia is now one of the biggest contributors to the national economy.
Croatia: The New Tourism Star of the EU?
The slogan for the 2012 campaign has a new slogan - Croatia, The New Tourism Star of the European Union - which reflects perhaps the priorities and direction of the country, even though it is not yet a member (entry has been set for 2013).
Far from focusing on the coastline, apart form a few early shots, it is a full two minutes before the viewer sees the Adriatic, and islands such as Hvar do not feature at all. Instead, Rucner plays her way through the fields of northern Croatia and the trams of Zagreb, as a more continental Croatia is portrayed.
The focus appears to be on the traditional way of life in various parts of Croatia and for the interested party familiar only with the coast, it is an effective portrayal of the castles, nature and heritage which exists away from the sea.
Initial reaction has been mixed, with many positive comments on the tourist board's Facebook page contrasting with less enthusiastic reactions on the comments page of national daily Dnevnik, with initial complaints that the video is not targeting younger tourists, who arrive en masse, encouraged by Croatia's hip reputation.
Hvar's premier sailing specialists announce New Year activities to coincide with the Laser Europa Cup regatta, extending Hvar's 2011 season to December 31.
The highly successful and high profile 2011 tourist season for the island of Hvar will continue right up to the New Year bells with the announcement of a special end of season sailing course package by Hvar Adventure on its website on November 23, 2011, a course which coincides with the final regatta of the year, the 35th Laser Europa Cup.
New Year Sailing School and Regatta
The island's leading activity specialists, whose adventure sports includes sailing, sea kayaking, hiking and rock climbing, are laying on a special seven-day elementary sailing school to complement the various other activities which will see Croatia's premier island - rated number 5 destination for 2012 by Lonely Planet - into the New Year.
It what promises to be a busy time in the island's waters, the Hvar Adventure sailing school course will take place from December 26 to January 2, with accommodation included on a half-board basis at the Hotel Delfin in Hvar Town.
Sailing Throughout the Year
While Hvar is known for its vibrant peak season nightlife, whose highlights this year included Prince Harry infamously jumping into a Hvar nightclub swimming pool fully clothed, and Beyonce revealing her baby bump to the world at a Hvar beach club, the island's tourism offer continues through the year, with the focus moving away from the beach during the winter months.
A busy sailing calendar is one of the constants throughout the year, and there are a number of regattas around Hvar and throughout the Adriatic, where keen sailors can crew with the Hvar Adventure team. December alone sees two important races: the Christmas HRM Race(10-11 December), a triangle race followed by a navigational race around Split, sponsored by the Navy; and the Laser Europa Cup.
The latter, in its 35th year, is an international sailing event from December 28 - 31, which has special local poignance this year for the Zvir sailing club, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary.
New Year Celebrations on Hvar
After a quiet autumn on the tourist front, allowing locals to attend to the all-important olive and grape harvests, New Year is a big celebration on Hvar, and attracts a number of tourists. Leading the way this year is the island's top hotel, Hotel Adriana - fresh from its inclusion in Fodor's Top 100 Hotels in the World last week - which is offering an attractive spa and luxury half-board package over the New Year period.
The various events promise to bring a successful conclusion to the 2011 season, with preparations already underway for a busy 2012, in light of the Lonely Planet endorsement.
More recognition for Lonely Planet's Number 5 destination for 2012, as the naturist island of Jerolim is named one of top 15 places to skinny-dip by CNN.
The awards and recognition for Croatia's premier island continue to pour in, this time in the form of a report by CNN on November 21, 2011, which named Jerolim Beach among the best 15 places in the world for naturist bathing.
Jerolim is one of the stunning collection of islets known as the Pakleni Islands, which sit opposite Hvar Town and offer a diverse range of activities, as well as numerous hidden bays and coves through the pine forests. They are connected to the main island by regular water taxi departures from the waterfront.
Beaches on Hvar: The Crystal Waters of Jerolim
"Croatia is famed for its FKK (free body culture or "freikörperkultur") beaches," stated the CNN report, "and Jerolim island, the closest of the Pakleni islands to the town of Hvar, is renowned for its unspoilt, rocky shoreline and crystal waters.
"It's popular with naturists (as well as non-naturists), who can be found sunning themselves on the white rocky outcrops.
"For more privacy, get away from the main tourist area, hike through the forest and find a secluded cove. You can also explore the island's coast by boat."
Hvar and Naturism
Jerolim was actually the first island on the Croatian coast to be given over to naturist tourism, after an explosion of interest in this type of tourism in the 1960s, and today naturist tourism is an important sector in the country's offer, with German visitors making up the largest number of FKK visitors.
The history of naturism in Croatia owes much to the recently abdicated Edward VIII and new wife Wallis Simpson, who requested - and received - permission to skinny dip in the waters of the island of Rab in northern Croatia, and they are credited with being a significant factor in the development of naturist tourism.
Hvar is a leading destination for the FKK movement, and it offers numerous naturist beaches on the island itself, as well as another popular islet, Zecevo. As with many other tourists, naturists are attracted to Hvar's beaches by its clear water and reputation as the sunniest island in the Adriatic. The beaches are secluded and well sign-posted for parents who may be concerned at stumbling across them.
More Awards for the Island of Hvar
Jerolim's inclusion in the best beaches list is the latest in a series of accolades for the island.Lonely Planet named it in its top five destinations for 2012, and Conde Nast readers voted it the eighth best island in Europe, while its hotels have also been attracting attention, with Hotel Adriana in Fodor's top 100 and Hotel Riva in the Sunday Times Best 100 Small Hotels in Europe.
Croatia's premier island will soon be easier to discover, as the Google Street View car visited Hvar, the latest in improved mapping and communications.
The modernisation of Hvar continues with the arrival ofGoogle Street View, whose car was seen touring touring the island's roads on November 16, 2011.
The street mapping service will doubtless be of benefit to numerous users, and is the latest in a line of infrastructure and technological initiatives on the island, which have transformed its way of life for good.
The Contrasting Nature of Hvar
The arrival of the Google vehicle, which represents progress and accessibility of information, was in stark contrast to another Hvar newsworthy item this week, the delightful tale of a chance encounter with a lithe, naked harpoon-wielding fisherwoman in one of Hvar's numerous idyllic coves, which earned Dana Smith first prize in the Guardian Readers' Writing Competition.
With the majority of travel by donkey, and ferry journeys to other towns on Hvar often via Split at the start of the last century, the island now has a reasonable network of roads. Access to the southern resorts of Zavala, Ivan Dolac and Sveta Nedjelja was revolutionised by the opening of the infamous Pitve Tunnel (construction began in 1962) and the opening of the new road from Stari Grad to Hvar Town, which reduced travel time between the two main towns to just 25 minutes.
Road Signs and House Numbers on Hvar
A campaign to improve tourist information has resulted in the appearance of dozens of helpful, if somewhat ugly, yellow road signs on Hvar's otherwise pristine roads in the last five years, followed by an ambitious campaign to give the island's streets names and its houses numbers.
The process of house numbering is particularly chaotic - and quintessentially Dalmatian. Residents are now required to present proof of ownership to the local catastar, at which point large land registry maps are pored over and plots identified. House numbers are then randomly assigned, which could prove a challenge for the island's 15 postmen. In some locations, the new house numbers are temporary, and are subject to imminent change...
Idyllic Hvar: A Natural Paradise
The nature of Hvar is changing with increased tourism and better infrastructure and information, but the good news for purists is that the real Hvar - away from the nightclubs frequented by Prince Harry and beach clubs visited by Beyonce - has remained virtually untouched. While the appearance of naked harpoon-wielding octopus fisherwomen may be rare, the aromatic lavender and rosemary fields, and the island's hundreds of undiscovered coves remain as they were a century ago.
The natural heritage of Hvar is perhaps best exemplified by the UNESCO-protected Stari Grad Plain, the largest cultivated field in the Adriatic, with olive and grape production continuing uninterrupted since the Ancient Greeks introduced the practices 2,400 years ago.
More recognition for the Suncani Hvar chain, as stylish Hotel Riva included in the top 100 best small hotels in Europe, as decided by Sunday Times readers.
Interest and recognition in the island of Hvar shows no sign of slowing down with Hotel Riva the latest waterfront hotel to be voted as one of Europe's top hotels, according to a report in Croatian daily, Jutarnji List, on November 17, 2011.
Hotel Riva in Sunday Times List, Hotel Adriana in Fodor's
The hotel was included in the top 100 best small hotels in Europe in a survey conducted by readers of the Sunday Times, released last weekend. It is the second award for the island's leading hotel chain, Suncani Hvar, following Hotel Adriana's inclusion in Fodor's 2011 Top Hotel Awards for 2011 last week.
Both awards are continuing good news for the hotel chain, whose massive investment from the ORCO group in 2005 has helped transform the town into one of the hottest destinations on the Adriatic.
The Sunday Times list did not include luxury five-star hotels but focused more on smaller hotels with a personal approach and well-designed space. The Sunday Times described Hvar as "a smaller Cannes" with the hotel bathed in sunshine and overlooking the a beautiful beach. The Suncani Hvar website describes Hotel Riva as follows:
Description of Hotel Riva
"Hovering on the waterfront promenade in the heart of the medieval Hvar town, Riva, one of Croatia's trendiest boutique hotels, offers you the finest in Adriatic ambiance.
"Completely reconstructed in 2006, incorporating a beautiful 100-year-old building, Riva brings together the best of both worlds: old world charm and state of the art luxury. You’ll find yourself at home in one of Riva’s rooms featuring uniquely designed interiors, contemporary furnishings and an exceptional view of the sun as it sets over the Paklinski Islands."
The hotel has 54 rooms, offering spectacular views to the water, as well as the very popular Roots restaurant and stylish BB Club, one of the town's premier nightspots. It is ideally located on the waterfront close to premier cocktail bar Carpe Diem and restaurant Gariful.
More Awards for Hvar
The hotel has enjoyed a very successful season, with record occupancy reported in one of its other flagship hotels, the Hotel Amfora, which includes the unique Bonj les Bains beach resort in its offer, voted among Europe's top 20 beaches by the Times in 2010.
Recognition of the hotels is in line with the general positive noises about Croatia's premier island in recent weeks. Lonely Planet named it in its top five destinations for 2012, while the prestigious Conde Nast Readers' Awards 2011 cited Hvar, which also boasts the oldest organised tourism in Europe, in its top ten islands in Europe.
The 2011 Guardian Readers' Writing Competition has been won by Dana Smith for her encounter with a naked octopus fisherwoman in a secluded cove.
The island of Hvar has picked up numerous awards in recent weeks - Top Destination in Croatia 2011 (Vecernji List), Top 5 Destinations for 2012 (Lonely Planet) and Top Ten Islands in Europe 2011 (Conde Nast) - but the accolades are also being won by its tourists, with Dana Smith winning the prestigiousGuardian Readers' Writing Competition on November 11, 2011.
The story was based on their experiences of a recent holiday to the island, and highlighted a side to Croatia's premier island that receives less coverage than the nightclub antics of British royalty or baby bumps of American pop stars.
Smith and her husband found and booked an all-inclusive deal with a local family with the Adriatic their front garden. Fresh produce brought by the family - squid, aubergines, salads, wine - were the backdrop to the perfect holiday, but the memorable experience happened on a nearby seemingly deserted cove.
The superbly-written piece - which earned the author a 7-day all-inclusive holiday to Cancun - tells of the couple's tranquility being disturbed by a lithe naked woman who appeared from nowhere, disappeared into a nearby cave, only to reappear with a harpoon and then emerge an hour later with an octopus. The story highlights three aspects of Hvar which are not as well publicised as the vibrant nightlife in Hvar Town:
Hvar as a Destination to Escape the Stresses of Life
The couple found evidence that the naked lady was spending time in the cave, and the author's husband speculated that she was perhaps a loss-adjuster from Dubrovnik living out an island fantasy.
Hvar is in fact a very popular destination for executives to de-stress, and there are a surprising number of North Americans who travel large distances for the solitude and peacefulness of its clear turquoise waters and pine tree background. Away from the bright lights of Hvar Town, the majority of the island is relatively de-populated, and small settlements on the eastern side of the island - Vela Stiniva, Pokrivenik, the Gdinj bays and the small island of Scedro - offer a different type of tourism, whose thrust is peace, nature and the transparent Adriatic
Hvar's Abundancy of Hidden Coves
Hvar is rich in beaches, and for tourists willing to travel a little off the beaten path, it is possible to find a choice of coves with complete privacy, where the chance of an encounter with a naked harpoon-bearing native is limited. The Kabal peninsula north of Stari Grad, for example, is rarely visited, yet offers some of the best beaches on Hvar.
Hvar as a Premier Naturist Destination
Ever since another British royal went skinny-dipping with his new wife on the island of Rab, naturism has been part of the Croatian tourism offer. Edward and Mrs. Simpson's infamous swim 75 years ago is credited as a major factor in the development of nature tourism in Croatia, and it caters to a significant number of the country's visiting tourists.
Hvar is an important centre for naturism in Croatia, with the island of Jerolim off Hvar Town given over to naturists, while the outskirts of the pretty town of Vrboska house a popular nudist camp and beach. Read on for more information about Hvar as a naturist destination.
Hvar's leading hotel chain is named as main sponsor of 35th Laser Europa Cup on the same day as Hotel Adriana is included in Fodor's Top 100 Hotels.
Contrary to popular belief, the tourist season on the island of Hvar continues until the end of December with the Laser Europa Cup regatta, and this year's main sponsors have been confirmed as leading island hotel chain, Suncani Hvar, according to a press release on their website on November 10, 2011.
Zvir Sailing Club Celebrates 60 Years
The regatta, in its 35th year, is the culmination of a busy sailing year on the Adriatic, will take place from December 28-31, and an international festival is expected. The event is also significant for local sailing club Zvir, whic is celebrating its 60th anniversary.
Suncani Hvar, which has been supporting the event since it started, will be offering special rates in two of its hotels for the regatta's participants, with single rooms at Hotel Delphin and Hotel Palace starting at 51 euro half-board. There is also the option to take advantage of a 10% discount on Best Available Rates at the 4-star Hotel Adriana, which was today celebrating its inclusion in Fodor's Top Hotel Awards 2011.
Hvar as a Leading Sailing Destination in Croatia
Hvar is one of the most popular sailing destinations on the Croatian coast, and sailing tourism in the former Yugoslav republic is increasing in popularity. In addition to the island's renowned beauty and celebrity draw (Hvar was last week declared as the fifth best destination for 2012 by Lonely Planet), there is the added benefit for sailors to explore the enchanting Pakleni Islands, a collection of emerald jewels in the pristine waters opposite Hvar Town.
While the main tourist season is over and local attentions turned to the olive harvest, there are still numerous sailing events before the end of the year. Leading local activity specialist Hvar Adventure offers crewing options for people interested in taking part. There are several other regattas between now and the end of the year.
Sailing Activities on Hvar
With its two ACI marinas, one in Vrboska, the other in Palmizana, full during the season, business is booming, but there are also numerous opportunities for tourists who want to sail but who do not have a boat.
In addition to the regatta crewing option, Hvar Adventure run an excellent sailing school on the island, with 7-day courses for all levels, from beginner to advanced. They also offer various packages for half and full-day sailing, as well as longer trips throughout Dalmatia.