Sunday, November 11, 2012

World's Biggest Welcome on Hvar: Vrboska, Milna and Malo Grablje

Croatia's innovative tourism project hits the island of Hvar by kayak to Vrboska after a slight change of route, before a mayoral greeting in Hvar Town.
Arriving on Hvar under the Bridges of Vrboska's Canal - Luka Tambaca Photo (
In a slight change to the scheduled route, the latest leg of the World's Biggest Welcomearrived in the pretty town of Vrboska on Hvar's northern coast on May 25, 2011. A late decision to divert through neighbouring Brac meant that the planned 25km kayak ride from Makarska to Jelsa was shelved, and four kayaks finally set off from the resort of Bol, home ot Croatia's most famous beach, Zlatni Rat, for the short journey across the Hvar Channel to Croatia's premier island.
Putting the 'M' in Welcome
The innovative project to promote tourism in Croatia is entering its final phase and has been an unqualified success so far. The aim of the 2,500km journey through seven counties is to highlight the diverse tourism offerings and stunning natural beauty of one of Europe's hottest destinations.
Using a variety of transportation methods befitting of the activity required - kayak, mountain bike, climbing, hiking and many others - the route has been designed to spell out the word 'Welcome' which will be visible on Google Earth and create the biggest welcome in the world. With five letters completed, the project is currently negotiating the letter 'M.'
Kayaking Under the Stone Bridges of Little Venice
Four kayaks arrived in Vrboksa, home to the island's main ACI Marina, and known also as 'Little Venice' for its picturesque canal and stone bridges. The Welcome team paddled under the bridges until the canal finally petered out.
From Milna to Hvar Town and a Mayoral Greeting
Transferring to the south of the island to the fishing village of Milna, famous for its excellent fish restaurants and family-friendly beaches, the team then proceeded on by kayak to Hvar Town, one of the hottest destinations on the Adriatic coast, and labelled as the new St. Tropez. They were met by the Mayor of the town, Pjerino Bebic, who helped the kayaks out of the water, before extending a warm welcome to the team. Bebic hit the headlines recently by inviting Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to Hvar, and offering to rename a nearby islet Facebook Island should he accept.
In Competition with Ashley Judd
Although still early in the season, the island is already busy with tourism and the Welcome team had some international competition for local attention. Ashley Judd was filming in Hvar Town the same day for her latest series, Missing, the American ABC series in which she co-stars with Sean Bean.
Dinner in the Abandoned Village of Malo Grablje
The team moved inland for the evening's entertainment to the abandoned village of Malo Grablje, a hauntingly beautiful stone village, left deserted by its inhabitants several decades ago, as they sought better economic opportunity on the coast in fishing and tourism. The only building in operation in the village is the Stori Komin restaurant, one of the best restaurants on Hvar. The evening was a chance to relax before pushing on through to the next stage, with the final leg, arrival in Dubrovnik, scheduled for June 3.
Adventure Tourism on Hvar
One of the aims of the project has been to highlight the varied nature of adventure tourism in Croatia, whose tourism stereotype revolves around its pretty Adriatic coast and 1185 islands. Hvar is known for its beauty, great nightlife and excellent beaches, but there is a lot on offer for more active tourists. Local activity specialists Hvar Adventure have a good selection of tours, including kayaking, sailing, scuba diving, rock climbing and hiking, while the Secret Hvar off-road tour is one of the best ways to discover the island's hidden gems.
Copyright Paul Bradbury

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