I knew when I went to Croatia that I wanted to go island hopping. On board a yacht or self guided via ferry, I did not mind how. However I also knew I had just two weeks in this magical country and there were so many other places I wanted to visit. I had to compromise (with myself!) and decided to make Hvar the only island I would spend significant time on, so it really needed to sparkle to help me satiate my island dreams.
I arrived fresh off of the catamaran from Dubrovnik. I was lucky enough to get a seat at the bow, looking out of the wide glass door, admiring and longing for Dubrovnik as it disappeared into the horizon. The three hour journey time flew by as we stopped at various islands on the way to Hvar as the sun set in our wake. It was with was with excitement, and some hunger pangs, that I stepped off of the boat onto the harbour and was immediately enchanted.
Hvar harbour is lined with restaurants, ice cream and lavender stands, and dozens of boats from tiny little ones that look as though they’d only fit a couple in them, through to some very impressive large modern yachts. There’s not a lot of space at Hvar harbour so many were moored off of the main shore on bouys. It was entertaining watching people being ferried to the shore by tiny RIB boats and then struggle to climb up the rocky harbour wall.
Exploring Hvar for a couple of days was a dream. Another town full of history; the fortress on the hill and the cobbled streets, the beautiful islands surrounding it, the turquoise water, the majestic sunsets. Yet, it did not quite have the same level of majesty as Dubrovnik’s old town. The impact of tourism was clear, not just from the crowds looking to party, but from the type of bars, excursions and 5* hotel resorts just around the headland. Hvar is definitely a place that those with money come to holiday. I was on a backpacker’s budget so found it challenging when drinks were the same price as in pubs in the UK (thanks Brexit for devaluing the pound!!).
Here’s the highlights from my few days on Hvar:
- The Pakleni islands were probably my favourite part of Hvar. If I can call them that, as technically they’re just islands near Hvar. Anyway, I digress. There are dozens of excursions available to the different Pakleni islands. They will all promise to take you to a beatiful beach, or beach resort for an admittedly low price. However, I recommend hiring your own boat and self navigating your way there. I buddied up with four lovely people from my hostel and together we hired a little boat, borrowed a cool box from the hostel and went off on our adventures for ~£20 each. We were given a map, some tips on where to stop and then we were out on the open seas in the scorching sun. It was truly a lovely day, admiring the rugged Pakleni islands (complete with dozens of nude hikers!), swimming in the clear waters, relaxing on traditional Croatian stony beaches, drinking beer and deciding which yachts we will own in the future when we’re rich! One of the very best days of my trip!
- The view from the fortress, or fortica, on the hill above Hvar harbour is stunning. The walk up starts in the old town and goes up steep stairs before you enter the park beneath it and can meander up in dappled sunlight underneath an intermittent canopy of trees. It’s not a long walk up, but it can be steep. The reward at the top is the incredible view of the harbour. I am a sucker for a good view, particularly if it has shimmering water in it. I sat in the shadows of the fortress eating my breakfast (spinach and cottage cheese burek; I was addicted) and relaxing for almost an hour before heading back down.
- Hvar town was wonderful to explore. There are plenty of places where you can make your way down to a little stone jetty, or some sea-smoothed rocks to jump in the sea and cool off, or to just lay and sun-worship and read a book. It really is a serene place to be in the daytime. Wandering around also affords you some views of the historical buildings of Hvar like the monestary on one of the headlands. But you can also continue to walk round to some of the best places to watch a Hvar sunset, namely Hula Hula bar if you want some club music and over-priced drinks before you get ready to head to Carpe Diem nightclub on one of the Pakleni islands. My favourite sunset was when I continued to walk around the bay a little further and sat on a bench watching the sun go down slowly through subtly impressive colour changes.
Have you been to Hvar? What was your highlight?