From Jelsa to Sucuraj: The Bays and Stone Towns of Eastern Hvar
Relatively undeveloped and undiscovered, the eastern part of Hvar has some stunning bays and historic stone towns, including the eco-village of Humac.
With most of the tourism focused on the west of the island, relatively few visitors venture east of Jelsa when visiting the island of Hvar, unless they are arriving on the notorious Sucuraj to Jelsa road from Dubrovnik. Although a lot less populated and developed than the more fashionable western neighbour, there is much to discover in the stone villages and exquisite bays.
Humac, Poljica and Mala Stiniva
The first point of interest on the winding hilly road is the eco village of Humac and Neolithic Grapceva Cave, which are some of the best hidden gems in Dalmatia. The first village on the main road, however, is Poljica, which has one of the best oil presses on the island and is an excellent place to buy some of the island's famous olive oil. While not as impressive as Grapceva, the Zemuinska Cave has impressive stalagmites and is more accessible.
There are Roman walls and graves with ancient inscriptions, as well as the pretty parish church of St. John, but a diversion to the coast at the entrance to the village is also worthwhile. The road to Mala Stiniva is a curious one - by rights it should be worse than the main road, but it is more modern and better maintained, and comes with an intriguing fork: turn right and the road meanders along the coast before stopping abruptly (there is a stunning bay below, with difficult pedestrian access); turn right and the road also goes nowhere, although the delightful hamlet of Mala Stiniva, one of the most picturesque in Dalmatia, can be accessed on foot.
Zastrazisce and Velika Stiniva
Next up is Zastrazisce (which takes it name from 'guardhouse'), a village made up of the hamlets of Mola Bonda, Podstrana, Donje Polje and Grudac. The 19th Century parish church of St. Nikola dominates the hilltop, but there is an older church - St. Barbara - which was built in 1621 on the foundations of a 14th century church.
At 316m above sea level the peak of Vela Glava was an ideal observation point of marine traffic, commanding a view from the island of Solta to Makarsa, and there is a partially reserved Illyrian fort there.
As with Poljica, a left turn to the coast is essential, this time leading to Vela Stiniva, one of the hidden gems of Hvar. There is good climbing to be enjoyed on the steep cliffs, and tourism is surprisingly well developed given the remote location. Although the full-time population is only two people, there is a restaurant in summer, as well as wheelchair-friendly private accommodation.
The Bay of Pokrivenik
Another worthwhile detour before reaching Gdinj is the bay of Pokrivenik, a popular spot for sailors with its deep bay, hotel and restaurant. Of additional interest above the bay is Badan Cave, which is 61m long and inhabited in Neolithic times, and its entrance is clearly visible from the bay.
Gdinj and the Gdinske Uvale
Continuing along the main road, the eight hamlets of Bonkovci, Stara Crkva, Banovi Dvori, Vrvolici, Visoka, Talkovici, Dugi Dolac and Nova Crkva compose the settlement known as Gdinj. There are some fine buildings to enjoy, including the Church of St. Juraj with its 16th century cemetery, which lies outside the town, There is a protected building, once owned by Ivko Radovanovic, which houses a library and some of his paintings.
There are also prehistoric drystone walls from the Bronze Age and evidence of Illyrian burial sites, but most visitors who spend time in the Gdinj area turn right to some of the best, and least visited beaches on the island. South-facing and more than 60km from the glitz of Hvar Town, the bays of Rapak, Torac and Tvrdni Dolac are an ideal hideaway.
Bogomolje to Sucuraj
The last village before the eastern port of Sucuraj is sprawling Bogomolje, a collection of hamlets which share a school, cemetery, parish church dating back to 1750, and a memorial for Second World War victims by Joka Knezevic. Nearby Bristova cove used to host steamships and there is a 13m long cave in the cove.
From Bogomolje, the road straightens and the views of Biokovo Mountains on the mainland and the island of Korcula to the south are stunning. Apart from the occasional wild boar, the 21km to Sucuraj are a joy, from where one can catch the ferry to Drvenik and mainland discovery.