A blissful week in Hvar, Croatia
By Chloe Hambidge
Highlights: Blue Cave, Trg Sv Stjepana, Arsenal, Franciscan Monastry, Fortica, Hula Hula Beach Bar
With Croatia being made up of 1,246 islands, Hvar can be considered a honeypot of all its acclaimed beauty. After spending 7 blissful days at this stunningly quaint city, it didn’t take me long to understand why its got a name for glamour and getting people dancing, on tables in particular. Adorned with marble steps and hugged by hillsides scattered with terracotta-roofed tiles, you can’t help but experience a sense of comfort despite only just stepping foot on its cobblestones. It’s beautiful harbour is the centre of the cities escapades, scattered with small sailing boats bobbing across the horizon as well as yachts onlooking the cities historic buildings, it was my favourite place to sit after dinner with a few drinks.
Wandering through 13-century walls I felt as if transported in time, these walls surround ornate Gothic palaces such as the iconic bell towers Cathedral of St Stephan and the Arsenal as it stands proud in the square, when I think back to my trip I have many fond memories of the square and its lines of delightful restaurants all servings a wide range of cuisine and all to a high standard. Another thing I loved is the lack of cars when in the confines of these walls, it just makes your wanderings all the more tranquil and authentic, a break here promises relaxation and peace (while the sun is shining at least- by night you may stumble upon a different fate).
Hurtling by the Dalmatian coasts prime offerings, its alluring waters are sure to fill you with excitement as your ferry whisks you over to Hvar Island from Split, where extravagance and luxury mingle. Stepping foot off your comfortable yet speedy catamaran, you will be greeted by a blast of Croatian sun and a marble cobbled stoned promenade aligned with palm trees heading into town or straight to the turquoise beaches- it’s a hard choice sure to send you into a frenzy. Luckily with 7 days on the island, we were in no rush and took in all we could at a slow sun dazed pace. Despite transporting to paradise and the only reminder of home being our sweat clad jogging bottoms, we faced a challenge- a seemingly endless flight of stairs up to our apartment in the hillside; with our suitcases. The only thing spurring on our hike and making us not hate ourselves for booking such a high up haven, was the anticipation of the views awaiting us- and they certainly did not disappoint. With the cutest local cats perched as if a vantage point of our ventures into the cloudless sky, it made the trek all that more bearable. Although, this destination wouldn’t be ideal for those who are less bodily abled, unless staying in the luxury hotels in town which are nestled next to the harbour and are equipped with golf buggies ready to escort you into its regal walls.
Once getting ourselves settled we were eager to explore, following the blue glow of the coast awaiting us below. The trek down to the town was definitely a lot more pleasant as we seemingly skipped instead of crawled. Desperate to put a towel down and soak up some rays we found our perfect spot, the charming cove next to the rustically regal 15th– century monastery with an elegant bell tower. Built by a humble family of stonemasons from Korcula, the buildings surrounding are brimming with fine paintings and polyptychs, for those who desire a few hours of shade and culture. Bobbing with boats and fish darting between your feet, we loved this quaint corner of Hvar whether we were curling up with a book or nipping in for a quick dip. This crescent of pebbled beach is backed up by a delightful restaurant, a few stools filled with swimming goodies and souvenirs as well as an on the go crepe stool- what more could you possibly need?
As the sun dipped below the neighbouring islands scattered across the horizon, the islands neutral tones come alive by the warm glow of the orange and red painted sky, emitting a cosy golden hour glow. We watched this from the advantage point of our balcony as we congregated to take in the spectacle. Freshly done up in our glad rags, we were ready for the glitz and glamour of Hvar after dark, seemingly dancing to its own rhythm this small and mighty island truly transforms in the evening with an endearing cocktail of backpackers, posh yachties and eager teens ready to party, we were quick to settle in. Partaking in a fabulous dinner adorned by candle light and a star studded sky, it really is the epitome of sophistication as your surrounded by timeless monasteries and imposing walls with the backtrack of the peaceful lull of docked boats hugging the promenade. With endless dining opportunities from Italian to Asian, it would be rude to miss out on the piece-de-la-resistance which is the islands exquisite seafood. I indulged in the Seabass more than once and it’s the perfect light and flavoursome meal after a day in the sun. The nature of Hvar as we soon came to realise is by night, the party never stops, so we had to properly experience what all the hype was about. Venturing to the bars hugging the harbourside, it’s not until you explore the seemingly secret tucked away side streets that you see its vibrancy; free to dance the night away happy hour can last until 11pm and crazy shots keep you on your toes such as the Headache shot where you were a Viking helmet and get hit repeatedly by a glass until you neck the shot- crazy, I know. Not for the faint hearted, you can enjoy a more layback side of the scene with tables all along the walkway right by the waterfront. Taking a backseat all whilst enjoying the music and atmosphere, this being what most holiday goers opted for, the good vibes stretching to every corner of the island.
One of our favourite evenings took place at Hula Hula Beach Bar, we got there at around six and it was the perfect time to soak up the evening warmth whilst watching the sunset paint the sky. The cocktails here were delicious with a soundtrack of upbeat tunes to match it. Recline on a day bed or a table at the bar, its full of fun loving individuals and unbeatable views- it’s impossible to leave without meeting new people. A definite bonus is its early closing at around 10pm, allowing you to wander back to the electric harbourside bars, the restaurants also stay open until late evening, and you definitely can’t beat a pizza after a few beverages.
Branching out from the town, we stocked up on snacks and explored the highly acclaimed beaches belonging to this fabulous island. By far our favourite place to congregate, Pokonji Dol Beach is the place of dreams, its beauty latched on to us and didn’t let go. A 25-minute stroll form Hvar town, it didn’t stop me from returning multiple times throughout my week away, it’s a blissful journey full of natural beauty as you snake along the coast. As if lifted from a bond film, this idyllic bay lapped by the teal of the Adriatic is the most accessible beach from Hvar town yet holds an unprecedented level of peace as you get the best of both worlds- beauty and lack of crowds (despite its wonder). With warm pebbles heated by the summer sun and the opportunity to rent comfortable sun beds its appeal is endless. What had me hooked from the start was the patchwork blue water, baby blue to deep turquoise, which swept the shore as I rounded the corner towards the beach. Another bonus is if you work up an appetite after a long hard day of basking in the waves, Pokonji Dol is flanked by two delightfully authentic restaurants serving the days best catch, and the best local ice-cold beers. It’s the perfect antidote for the eager traveller seeking a week of relaxation.
Despite the temptation to revel in the islands pristine pebbled beaches, follow the soft lapping waves and the distant clink of Champagne flutes into town and you won’t be disappointed in what it beholds. Brimming with boutique shops boasting evening finery made from the best materials juxtaposed by gift shops over flowing with checkered hats sporting the Croatian flag and fridge magnets. You could spend hours walking the cobbled steps surrounded by the shaded confines of ancient fortresses. Feel as if on an intimate secret with the locals as these picturesque streets are a far cry from the hustle and bustle of Split. Stumble upon twisted laneways decorated with intricate iron balconies and cascading flora from above, I felt transported to a medieval set where the only thing I could hear being that of my own footfall and the laughter of fellow holiday goers. You cant help but imagine the peace that comes with a life here, I could’ve wandered them walkways endlessly, especially as the sun sets and illuminates every path. Bypassing the mouthwatering scent of the fresh flavours wafting out of each restaurant, you can’t miss the small but sweet market located right in town. You may smell if before you see it as lavender hangs in every direction, these therapeutic aromas drew me in immediately, it’s a great souvenir to take home as its sweet smell will always transport you back to your time there. Although, what truly had my heart was the jewellery stands, adorned with crystals and anything from gold, silver or woven- each one being a masterpiece, it just shows that everything in this town is made to impress. It doesn’t stop there, there’s more to see then just Hvar town and its Venetian architecture, venture out to small sandstone towns, amongst the oldest in Europe where you can revel in a calm demeanour amongst its ongoing countryside, flanked by lavender fields and vines full with wine grapes.
A definite highlight for me was the day we did our boat tour, there is no better way to see the Croatias’ true beauty then sailing along the Dalmatian Riviera. With the early morning sun waving us off our first stop was Budikovac island, these clusters of islands hold patches of translucent blue and glowing aqua, as if something from the Caribbean, I quickly understood why Croatia gets its much deserved acclaim. Here, we relaxed with a local beer and had a snorkel where we watched fish dart from rock to rock. This peaceful start to the day made us all the more excited to see what else was in store, and as luck would have it, the seas did not disappoint. Whilst hurtling towards out next destination we were greeted by the waters friendliest creatures, dolphins. Diving along the side of our boat, there was a group of three who had no idea they had made our day, the water was still and the boat was silent, we were truly transfixed- but the show must go on. After watching our new friends swim away we headed to the Blue Cave. Entering at around 12:30, we were lucky enough to have the cave all to ourselves. It truly is a sight to behold, glowing in infinite glory this natural phenomenon holds an air of peace like no other. The only sound we could hear was the water breaking apart as we entered and the cave slowly illuminating before us. Lit up by the sun as it shines from the outside world and entering through the water below, I was left spell-bound trying to take it all in. The water is so clear that you can see bridges of rock below you as the rock face travels all the way to the depths below. This is something you definitely need to see when visiting Hvar as the magical light effects makes this iconic piece of Croatias alluring natural scenery such a memorable blue. You can also take in the green cave, which illuminates a gorgeous emerald green colour. From there we approached Stiniva Beach; a stunning cove which hides an idyllic pebble beach, with a back drop of rough cliff faces this crescent of beach is much like a mirage. A perfect haven to depict the flourishing of the islands intact nature and magnificent rocks, it’s the ideal place to swim, sunbathe and even indulge in a cocktail or two. It wasn’t voted ‘The best beach in Europe’ in 2016 for no reason!