Here’s our ultimate guide to Hvar. Some islands have a little of everything. Not many islands combine it all in such an outstanding and compact package.
Hvar is the perfect mix of Croatian culture and lazy days on the beach.
Hvar is an island you might never want to leave
For many visitors Hvar resembles a dream. Combine seemingly endless sunshine with cute medieval towns and vineyard-dappled landscapes, then throw in secluded coves, rugged mountains and brilliantly blue waters. While most of the world hasn’t heard of this Croatian island, it’s been a hangout for wealthy Venetians since the 15thcentury.
The ultimate Hvar Island Guide
Before thinking about how to get there and what to do, you have to make sure you’re in the right frame of mind. Hvar runs to a sultry summer rhythm, even in the height of December. While you could visit Hvar on a day trip from mainland Croatia, the more time you have the better. This is an island for lying back, soaking up the sun, sipping drinks at coastal cafes, and spending long evenings walking around lantern-lit towns. The most important Hvar information you can get is to slow your pace. This island is best when you travel slowly and absorb all the beautiful nuances.
Why visit Hvar?
Some islands have a little of everything. Not many islands combine it all in such a cute and compact package. Hvar has a medieval history and its small towns are amongst the finest in Eastern Europe, especially the World Heritage-listed Stari Grad. They’ve been spruced up with designer boutiques and fine dining restaurants, without losing their old cobbled charm. Hvar City is just as appealing (it’s more like a village than a city) while Jelsa and Vrboska are more off the beaten path.
Rugged mountains and rolling vineyards fill the island’s interior, tumbling down into warm Adriatic waters. There aren’t many sandy beaches but you’ll find a number of quiet coves and deserted rocky shores. It’s easy to explore the land with a rental car and you can also consider renting a boat to reach tiny islands nearby, like the Pakleni Islands and the Blue Cave. The long evenings are for enjoying the atmosphere of the towns and dining on Italian-inspired fresh seafood.
Something You Didn’t Know about the Island of Hvar…
The locals claim that Hvar is the sunniest place in Europe but that’s not true. With an annual average of 7.7 hours of sunshine a year, Hvar is certainly in Europe’s top five, although it falls behind the island of Malta.
Getting to Hvar Island
There’s no airport on Hvar, which is part of the appeal. You’ll have to come by boat, with the best option being the fast catamaran from Split, a Croatian city with an international airport. It’s also possible to include Hvar on a Croatian island hopping itinerary and take an onward catamaran to Brac or Korcula.
Where to Stay on Hvar Island
On many islands you stay on the beach and take day trips to the town. Hvar is the opposite. Stari Grad is utterly charming in the evening and is our recommendation for where to stay. Hotels within the World Heritage area are boutique and expensive but it’s easy to grab a great deal on the hills overlooking the town. Local women used to wait at the ferry port and offer their spare rooms to tourists coming off the ferries. This system has been professionalized by Airbnb and there are some superb deals if you’re prepared for a 15-minute uphill walk: note that work may be hard after an evening of coastal cocktails but you’ll enjoy stunning views from a room on the hill.
Things to do on Hvar Island
Hvar offers countryside walks, boat excursions, beach days, art galleries, fortresses, vineyards, cathedrals, kayaking and kite surfing. You will absolutely love all the things to do in Hvar with very little planning ahead of time. Hvar is a small island so you can easily plan an itinerary once you arrive. Just slow your pace down and the things to do will find you. And even if you only visit Hvar for two days make sure you take the time to walk around the cobbled towns: Stari Grad and Jelsa were constructed when the Republic of Venice ruled over Hvar, so you get a sense of Venetian style without having to put up with the tourist crowds and sewage problem.
Continue the Adventure After Hvar
Hvar doesn’t have an airport and most people visit the island as part of a longer Croatian vacation. You could take the ferry east to Split, a city of medieval palaces and cobbled promenades. Or travel south to Dubrovnik, Croatia’s crowning jewel, a fortified city that’s full of enchantment as long as you avoid the peak July and August months. You could sail along the Dalmatian coastline or hop to other unspoiled islands nearby, such as Lokrum and Korcula.
Croatia featured heavily in the Game of Thrones and there are more than a dozen filming locations to find if you have a week or more in the country. And seen as you’re in Eastern Europe, why not continue the adventure to other unique destinations? Montenegro is only a three-hour drive down the coast while Slovenia has superb mountains and lakes.
Does visiting Hvar take a lot of planning ahead of time?
Nope. There are some islands where you need to be prepared. Not Hvar. The more unprepared the better. Turn up without a plan and you’ll love this little island in Eastern Europe.