Hvar, as per the Croats, is the sunniest island in Europe. We had planned to spend 3-4 days here – island hopping to the Pakleni islands, experiencing the ‘blue grotto‘ at the neighbouring island of Vis, walking through the historical sites and road-tripping through the island avec wine tasting and beach hopping.
Still in our thirties, and young at heart, we had planned to rent a scooter on our last day and explore the island – how exciting! However, we ended up renting a car as I was totally sun burnt after three days of the sun bathing and had to seek shade to make sure that my soul does not jump out of my skin!
We spent the whole day hopping from one beach to the other, with an occasional swig of wine and sniffs of lavender. The island is big and if you enjoy driving and picnicking, we would ideally recommend two days on the road to do justice to some of its offerings. However, if you are short on time and intend to spend only one day on the road, here are a few things that we would recommend.
Our base in Hvar was Hvar Town, the action packed buzzing town center. Everyone at Hvar Town wants to party and dance, regardless of the time of the day, always. It’s the place to see and be seen! Stari Grad is different. It is quieter – the promenade has fewer people and there is a laid back feel to it. If you want to relax and unwind with some peace and quiet, this is the place.
Walk on the cobbled streets of the town center (of Stari Grad) and peep into the history of the island, imagining how it was centuries ago – churches, shops and houses. There are plaques with information written and you really don’t need a guide book. All you need is a good pair of shoes for a couple of hours of exploration, which will work up an appetite to let you enjoy some good food. There are plenty of restaurants to have a hearty lunch. In fact, the best pizza that we had in Croatia was here – vegetables with fresh rocket …yum yum yum!
The world raves about Italian, French, Chilean, South African and Australian wine. Why doesn’t anyone talk about Greek or Croatian wine? The Greek Nykteri and the Croatian Prosek are amongst the best wines that we have ever had.
If you are a tourist who prefers the organised way of life, there are half day wine tasting tours that are organised by tour operators to let you taste the spirits with some nibbles. The tours will let you explore the wine cellars as well. The tour typically costs EUR 50-60 per person.
We preferred knocking on the doors of the vineyards on our own, and we are glad that we did so! Driving through acres and acres of grapevines, bordered by the sparkling blue sea was a feast for the eyes. We stopped our car at any and every winery that looked ‘cute’ and welcoming and walked in for a tasting. We were greeted by warm and friendly old ladies who barely knew English but had superb selling skills – we ended up buying a few bottles of Prosek!
Hvar is famous for its lavender fields that typically bloom till June/July. We were in Hvar and missed the blooming time by a month or so. But that did not douse my enthusiasm to visit the lavender fields.
We drove through the stepped lavender plantation on our way to Stari Grad. I did get out of the car to smell the few flowers that were still there and added ‘visit a lavender field in full bloom’ to my bucketlist, maybe in Provence.
There are little stalls selling dried lavender flowers, oil and soaps all across the island. We were told that the best produce is available close to the fields. We picked up some oil from Hvar Town, Stari Grad and the lavender fields and found the quality and smell to be similar. The price was the lowest in Hvar Town, bang in the middle of the tourist area, which would be the recommended place to do your souvenir and trinket shopping.
If you a beach bunny and wish to do none of the above listed three activities, you will still be able to find enough and more number of beaches to keep you happy. Beach hopping in Hvar itself is a two day agenda. Considering that we had been treating our taste buds with wine and pizzas during the first half of the day, we had only a few hours to explore the beaches. We made small stops at a few beaches (Ivan-Dolac and Milna) and finally fell in love Zavala beach – plenty of place for everyone, provided you walk 100 meters from the gravel/pebble beach. There was shade and a cobbled walk way – perfect to lay down your towel and munch on some chips.
Wonder why ‘beach hopping’ in Hvar isn’t as popular for ‘island hopping ‘? Guess the beaches offer all the space, peace and quiet as hordes of tourists still don’t know about them! If you do not have sea legs and bobbing on a boat to see the blue grotto or the green grotto isn’t your thing, do not despair! Rent a car, take a map, get a picnic lunch packed, grab a bottle of wine and head out to one of the many pristine beaches that the island has – it will be amongst the best picnics that you have had!
We spent four days in Hvar. We could have spent a week …there is so much to do! Croatia is one place we would love to go back to… again… and yet again!