Holidays in Croatia 2011: 10 Things Not to Miss on Hvar Island
Lavender festivals, off-road safaris, Neolithic caves and ancient religious traditions, all washed down with the finest wine and fish -- Hvar has it all.
With its party atmosphere and reputation as the new St. Tropez, it would be easy to think that Hvar Town was the only place to be on Croatia's sunniest and most exclusive island, but there is great diversity on Hvar, in terms of location, activity, views and mood -- something for everyone. Here are 10 things not to miss.
A short water taxi from Hvar Town are the Pakleni Islands, a collection of small emeralds in a turquoise setting of pristine sea, where tourists can lose themselves in the pine forests, find a hidden cove, enjoy quality food while looking back at historic Hvar Town, or sail into the marina.
Easter Procession in Jelsa
Religious tradition is strong in Dalmatia, and one of the highlights in the Catholic calendar is the Easter Procession in Jelsa, a 500-year-old tradition and under UNESCO protection since 2009. Six cross bearers leave Jelsa, Vrboska, Pitve, Vrisnik, Svire and Vrbanj simultaneously at 11pm on Maundy Thursday, carrying a heavy wooden cross barefoot through the 22km procession through the other villages, accompanied by acolytes and hundreds of Catholic followers for a night of prayer, reflection and chanting that ends at 7am on Good Friday.
The Pitve Tunnel
Described by some as the scariest tunnel in Europe, the 1.4 km ride through the tunnel from Pitve to Zavala will remain long in the memory. It was never intended for public use and owes its origins to the need to supply water to the south of the island, but the roughly drilled out tunnel has an atmosphere of its own. Added to the occasion is the fact that there are no lights and only one lane of traffic, something tourists sometimes do not understand. Judge for yourself in this journey through the Pitve -- Zavala Tunnel.
An excellent way to get a bird's eye view of the island is by taking a panoramic flight, available in season only. A light aircraft with capacity for four passengers offers a stunning one-hour tour of the island, and is an excellent way to put the island into geographical perspective. Views of Hvar Town and the Pakleni Islands, as well as the UNESCO-protected Stari Grad Plain, a vast Greek agricultural complex still in operation today, are particularly worthwhile. The plane can also be chartered for transfers to Split and Dubrovnik.
Lavender Festival in Velo Grablje
Tourists in June and July experience the island at its colourful and aromatic best, the highlight being the thousands of lavender bushes in bloom. Hvar is known as the Lavender Island, and a festival celebrating the history and importance of lavender is held in the village of Velo Grablje in June.
Humac and Grapceva Cave
Far from Hvar Town is one of the island's most atmospheric villages, the abandoned shepherd's village of Humac, a collection of enchanting stone ruins and breathtaking sea views. An excellent restaurant operates in the summer, providing sustenance for visitors, including those who venture on to the enchanting Grapceva Cave, whose stalagmites and stalactites date back to the Neolithic Age.
Jeep Safari with Secret Hvar
The best sights on Hvar are often the most inaccessible, which is why an off-road tour with local specialist Secret Hvar is worth the investment. The tour includes a trip to the peak of the island, offering panoramic views of the sea, mainland and islands beyond.
Sunset Cocktail at Hotel Adriana
Of course the main action is in Hvar Town, which has recently undergone an expensive upgrade, driven by large investment from the Suncani Hvar hotel group. The sunsets in Hvar Town are stunning, and nowhere does it better than the Top Bar of the Hotel Adriana which offers a range of cocktails to accompany the wraparound view of the old town, harbour and Pakleni Islands.
Fish Lunch in Milna
Hvar is a gastronomic delight and offers a high standard of quality dishes in restaurants throughout the island. A fish platter in the fishing village of Milna, a few kilometres away, is hard to beat. It is an enticing combination of spectacular view, good wine, fresh fish, friendly service and excellent beaches -- the perfect way to while away an afternoon in the sun.
A Day at the Beach
Surrounded by some of the most pristine sea in the world, a visit to the beach is a must. Hvar excels with the choice on offer, with many beaches within walking distance from the main towns, as well as hundreds of hidden coves off the beaten track for the more adventurous. The island is also a naturist paradise.