Hvar Island on Sunday Times List of Affordable Med Destinations
Croatia's most exclusive island features on the Sunday Times list of best affordable tourist destinations for holidays in the Mediterranean under £400.
The island of Hvar was a surprising inclusion in the Sunday Times list of affordable destinations in the Mediterranean on Sunday April 3, 2011. Known for its 2,724 hours of annual sunshine, hotel refunds in the event of snow, and voted one of the top ten most beautiful islands in the world by readers of Conde Nast, Croatia's premier island is a popular tourist destination, albeit with a more upmarket and exclusive reputation.
Its inclusion in the British broadsheet's recommendations in Summer for Under £400 is good news for tourists wanting to visit the party atmosphere of Hvar Town and see the mega yachts of Hvar lovers such as Bill Gates, Bernie Ecclestone and Roman Abramovich.
Exclusive Hvar Town: Affordable at £126 Per Week
The jewel in the island's crown is Hvar Town, which claims to have the oldest organised tourism in Europe with the founding of the Hvar Health Society in 1868. While the island's legendary climate is still a main attraction, Hvar Town has undergone an exclusive makeover in recent years and is seen by some as the new St. Tropez.
The driving force behind this upmarket image has been the multi-million euro investment in the town's hotels by Orco Group, who bought a majority share in Suncani Hvar, the State company running the town's hotels, in June 2005. Each hotel has been completely overhauled and upgraded, and there is now an enviable choice of waterfront luxury accommodation in the Riva, Palace, Adriana and Amfora hotels, with service and prices to match.
The Sunday Times report found that there were affordable options in private accommodation, which is a popular choice for tourists, citing a week at the Badoljo studio, costing just £126 a week, based on three people sharing.
Affordable Hvar: Stari Grad, Jelsa and Vrboska
While there are affordable places to stay in Hvar Town, there is a much wider selection in other historic towns on the island, which are all accessible from the main town by bus, and which offer a more tranquil, but equally rewarding holiday experience. Three of the most popular are on the northern coastline and offer their own attractions, activities and excellent beaches, as well as significantly cheaper prices in the numerous bars and restaurants.
Stari Grad is the oldest settlement on the island, dating back to 384 BC, and has a stunningly prserved old town, as well as the UNESCO-protected Stari Grad Plain, an agricultural landscape established by the ancient Greeks and still in use today. Its annual sporting highlight is the Faros Marathon, a 16km swim starting and ending in the town.
Vrboska, also known as Little Venice, for its picturesque canal and striking stone bridges, is a sailing paradise, as well as home to the main marina on the island.
Jelsa, connected by daily catamaran to Split, is a popular family resort with excellent beaches and life revolving around its compact square. A major highlight in the Jelsa calender is the 500 year-old religious procession at Easter (also under UNESCO protection), where a cross-bearer carries a heavy cross barefoot through the night on a 22km procession through the churches in the surrounding villages.
Activities on Hvar
One of the strengths of Hvar Island as a tourist destination is the diversity of activities to suit every wallet and energy level. There are excellent local tourist agencies offering an imaginative range of activities for tourists.
These include Hvar Adventure, who have a range of sailing and sea kayaking packages for water enthusiasts, as well as hiking, cycling and rock climbing for land-based customers; and Secret Hvar, who specialise in discovering the hidden and otherwise inaccessible Hvar, through off-road jeep safaris. The offer includes the Five Senses Tour, an innovative and fascinating introduction to the island through its sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touch. One of the tastes of the tour is a sampling of some of the island's award-winning wines.
The combination of climate, vistas and tranquility make Hvar an ideal location for yoga and meditation, and some of the best programmes are offered by Suncokret Dream, a boutique holistic yoga centre in the inland village of Dol. In addition to its yoga and meditation packages, Suncokret offers excursions to discover the island's natural resources, with olive and grape picking holidays, and introductions to the island's indigenous plant and animal life.
One of Hvar's great attractions is also one of its cheapest - the island has an enviable selection of stunning beaches, many of which are within easy walk of the main tourist resorts. A little more exploring will reveal hidden coves, one of the reasons that Hvar is a major destination for naturists.
Hvar is ever more accessible with the increase in flights to Split, and the transfer from Split Airport to Hvar is a relatively straightforward affair. With its legendary beauty and diverse tourism offer, it is little wonder that the island is becoming more popular, and the Sunday Times recommendation of Hvar as an affordable destination will only serve to increase that popularity.