Every year I go back to Croatia to visit my family, I make it a point to visit a new city or town, and each time I do I am never disappointed with the surrounding beauty. Croatia has some of the most amazing natural beauty I have ever seen, and I know I am biased but it really is just that beautiful! Along with beautiful sea side towns, cities, waterfalls, natural parks, Croatia has over 1200 islands with only 50 that are inhabited. You can enjoy the mainland and island hop to any of these gorgeous islands all in one trip! Your trip to the beautiful country of Croatia is just not complete without visiting at least one of these amazing islands. Since there are so many to choose from, I will tell you about one of my favorite islands to visit.
The island of Hvar has a reputation of being one of the most beautiful in Croatia and has been named by some travel magazines one of the most beautiful in the world. Hvar also holds a very interesting past because it has been ruled by the Greeks, Romans, and Venetians. Hvar is about 60 km from Split making it an easy day trip or transfer to the island via water taxi or ferry. The island is composed by different regions and cities, the 3 main ones being Town Hvar, Stari Grad and Jelsa. It also has several small villages such as Milna, Vrboska and Zavala, and many untouched areas. In addition, the Pakleni Islands are also part of Hvar island, closer to the Town of Hvar.
If you like turquoise blue water that is crystal clear, mountains, beautiful architecture, history, a party scene, and some of the best seafood than the Island of Hvar is just for you! Listed below are my reasons why this island is a must visit when in Croatia.
1. Visit the Fortress in Hvar Town (Spanjola Fortress)
The Spanjola Fortress is perched high on a hill above Hvar town, and is the first thing that your eyes see as you approach the town. Originally built in the 13th century by the Venetian, Spanjola Fortress not only has historical importance to the island, for sheltering citizens during the Turkish invasion in 1571, but also offers the best view you can have from Town Hvar and the Pakleni Islands. Today the fortress does not provide safety or protection, but is merely open for tourists to enjoy the amazing view from the top. To reach the fortress from Hvar town there is a 20-30 minute hike up to the top. The hike consists of a pretty long flight of stairs and a winding road with trees and benches for shade as you make your descent up. There is a small entrance fee to enter the fortress and explore the area (about $5 USD a person), but so so worth it for that photogenic (and Instagram worthy) view!
2. Sit by the Harbor of Hvar Town
The small harbor of Hvar Town is the perfect place to watch the turquoise blue water, watch the boats sail to and from the harbor, and enjoy a drink or coffee at one of the many cafes. I think that is one of my favorite things about Croatia, the simplicity of life and watching the view and hours go by without a care in the world.
3. Eat at Restaurant Paladini in Hvar Town
Restaurant Paladini is tucked away in a small alley to the left from the main town square, St. Stephen’s. If you like seafood, pizza, and other traditional Croatian food coupled with a good glass of local wine, than this restaurant is for you! there is a pretty outdoor seating deck on the second floor and of course the service is amazing!
4. Swim in the Crystal Clear Adriatic Sea
I will be the first one to say that the Adriatic Sea has the clearest water I have ever seen! I mean so crystal clear that you can literally see all the way to the bottom without any issue. The island of Hvar, especially in Hvar Town, has the most beautiful water I have ever seen in all of Croatia. I am not sure what it is, but the water seems even more blue here, as if that was even possible! There are several little beaches scattered throughout the island or rock ledges that you can sit on and soak in the sunshine.
5. Buy a souvenir made of Lavender
If you did not know, the island of Hvar is actually nicknamed the Lavender island because of its numerous lavender fields. These fields are at their most beautiful in July and you can literally get a whiff of lavender everywhere you go. If you are in Hvar at any other time and miss the lavender fields in their prime, than you can buy various souvenirs that contain lavender such as soaps, scented oils, and scented pouches. There is also a lavender flavored ice cream that pops up from time to time. I cannot say I have tasted it myself, but I have heard that you either love it or hate it! I guess it is worth a shot, so maybe next time I am there I will take the plunge and taste it.
6. Explore the Main Square in Town Hvar and Wander Around the Many Adorable Streets
The main square in Hvar Town is called St. Stephen’s square and is one of the largest squares in the Dalmatia region in Croatia. It stretches from the harbor to the main cathedral and forms a rectangular square that is 4500 square meters! You will find locals, small stands with souvenirs, cafes, and tourists all gathering in this square. It is also a great place to sit and enjoy the beautiful view of the harbor with a coffee or cold drink in hand. St. Stephen’s square is also a good starting point when exploring this small town because you can go in either direction and find an adorable street, alley, or the sea!
7. Visit the Pakleni Islands (Hell’s Islands) From Hvar Town
The Pakleni Islands are an archipelago of small islets which stretch out in front of Hvar Town. This archipelago got its name from a pine resin that was once harvested here to waterproof boats, and also because it is said that numerous ship wrecks occurred at the small islets because the islets were not easily seen in the dark. There are many swimming bays and coves on these islands and some of the most gorgeous water! We were dropped off at one part of the archipelago, and found our way to such a pretty little bay with calm crystal clear blue water and small cafes lining the shore. The Pakleni Islands make for a perfect day trip from Hvar town or from Split!
8. Explore Stari Grad (Oldest Town in Croatia)
Stari Grad (meaning old town) is the oldest town in all of Croatia, and one of the oldest in Europe! Stari Grad has been settled since the prehistoric times, but it was the Greeks who set up the first known colony in 300s BC. The most significant and important monument in Stari Grad is the Tvrdalj Castle. Tvrdalj Castle is a fortified palace that was once the home of famous Croatian poet Petar Hektorovic. Take some town and wander around Stari Grad and take in the beautiful little cobble stone streets and white washed stone buildings.
9. Try local Hvar Wine and Eat some Traditional Croatian Food
Croatia is becoming more and more recognized for its wine each year. The island of Hvar as many wineries that specializes in different types of wine. There is a rich red wine that is full of flavorful accents of blackberries, dark cherries, and peppers. There is also a white wine that is made from a special white grape that is indigenous to the island of Hvar (Thanks to the Greeks that colonized it) and it is characterized by a pleasant freshness. While on the island of Hvar, make sure and get some fresh seafood especially the mussels and calamari. If seafood is not your thing, than do not fret, get yourself a slice of burek or other filled pastry! Burek is flaky pastry filled with either meat, spinach and feta cheese, or cheese. Either combination is delicious and so good that you will be going back for more!
10. Climb to Sveti Nikola on Island of Hvar
Sveti Nikola is the highest peak on the entire island of Hvar, rising 628 meters above sea level. It is located right above the Southern Shore of Zavala and Sveta Nedjelja. At the top there is a stone cross and small chapel of St. Nicholas from the 15th century. The climb might be a little treacherous, but the view makes all of the sweat so worth it! It is a great place to see other neighboring islands such as Brac, Korcula, and Vis, and a perfect spot to watch the sunset and enjoy a glass of wine.
And Here are my 10 reasons to visit the island of Hvar! If these reasons are not convincing enough to visit this gorgeous island during your stay in Croatia, than I don’t know what will!
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