Hvar Holiday Planning Guide
Hvar Island, the "queen of the Dalmatian islands," draws visitors with its pristine beaches, mild climate, secluded pebble coves, ancient olive trees, vast lavender fields, and pine-forested hills. Croatia's sunniest and longest island has been an important strategic and nautical hub since prehistoric times. Experience the flavor of Hvar Island in small inns serving homemade wines, where locals sing traditional island songs. Or, for those seeking a more luxurious getaway, cosmopolitan Hvar offers sumptuous five-star hotels, complete with celebrity visitors (and high prices). For a classic Hvar vacation, try private accommodations like hostels and apartments in private homes, which can offer a more diverse crowd. The town of Hvar is crisscrossed by cobbled streets lined with Venetian palaces, and offers exciting nightlife.
Places to Visit on HvarHvar
: Claiming to be the sunniest place on the continent, Hvar town is a picturesque location for a Croatian holiday, with quiet coves and a lively medieval town center.Stari Grad
: The historical heart of Hvar, one of the oldest towns in Europe, Stari Grad boasts a medieval fortress, narrow streets, and small squares, which stand out against a backdrop of deep blue water, vineyards, and olive groves. Jelsa
: The only place on Hvar with abundant fresh water, Jelsa boasts more luxuriant vegetation than elsewhere on the island. The fertile plain lying to the west of the town is a World Heritage Site.Vrboska
: Founded in the 15th century as a fishing harbor, Vrboska is best known for the fortress Church of Sv. Marija (St. Mary), built as a refuge for the town's inhabitants during the 16th century.
Things to Do on Hvar
Popular Hvar Tourist AttractionsSpanjola
: The highlight of many Hvar itineraries, the fortress offers a panoramic view of Old Town and the Pakleni Islands, and features an impressive collection of amphorae and other ancient and medieval artifacts.Pakleni Otoci
: These islands are especially popular with visitors who have small yachts, since they offer many peaceful coves for diving, underwater fishing, swimming, and water sports.Dubovica
: Nestled in a cove surrounded by hills, this beach offers its visitors an opportunity to swim in clear waters while sheltered from the wind. Explore the 18th-century country house perched on a rock above the sea.Carpe Diem Beach
: Relax on the shore or try out your best dance moves at Carpe Diem Beach, one of the most popular tourist attractions on Hvar and the site of a thriving club scene, featuring DJs from all around the world. Milna
: Situated in the shade of a pine forest, this village boasts two beaches and a remodeled Renaissance summer palace serving local dishes. Jerolim
: Well known for nudist tourism, the cobblestone beaches on this island offer showers and a restaurant. Franciscan Monastery
: Sitting just a short walk from the bustle of Hvar's main square, this monastery holds a rich collection of art and Greek, Roman, and Venetian coins in a peaceful seaside setting.St. Stephen's Cathedral
: Built at the height of the Dalmatian Renaissance, this is the most impressive building in Hvar, featuring an elaborate four-level bell tower.Sveta Nedilja
: Built on the steep, sunny slopes of the island below its highest peak, this village boasts unspoiled natural beauty and clear seas. It is well known for producing the best types of Hvar red wine.Sveti Klement
: The largest of the Pakleni Islands, with a picturesque fishing village, a little chapel, vineyards, vegetable gardens, and olive groves, Sveti Klement makes a great destination for a romantic Hvar holiday. Zavala
: The pebble beaches here are surrounded by clear water, perfect for those seeking a peaceful Hvar vacation. You'll enjoy the rich lavender and rosemary scents flowing through the olive groves and vineyards.
Planning a Hvar Vacation with Kids
Places to Visit on Hvar with Kids
Hvar's Mediterranean climate makes it a great destination for traveling with kids. Your children will appreciate the sandy beaches near Jelsa
, the unspoiled nature of Sveti Klement
, picturesque villages like Milna
, and the ancient town of Stari Grad
boasts heavenly beaches under pine trees and the Pakleni Otoci
offer a range of water sports, from scuba diving to underwater fishing. The steep drop off at Dubovica
makes it a good spot for distance swimming. For a slice of history, climb the stairs of the medieval city walls to Spanjola
, while enjoying a panoramic view of Stari Grad
and the Pakleni Otoci
Things to Do on Hvar with KidsHvar Adventure
offers families great opportunities to try sailing, sea kayaking, hiking, or cycling. If you are traveling with teenagers, consider taking a thrilling speed boat ride to blue caves and secluded coves with Ilirio's Hvar Tours
. Bare Hvar Sailing Tours
provides a more relaxing experience—the whole family can learn about topography, history, and local customs. Next to swimming, sunbathing, and playing volleyball on sandy beaches, kids can choose between adventure cycling, horseback riding, supervised painting, and ballet in Jelsa
. Soaring through the skies over the Adriatic Sea with Skydiving Hvar | Skydiving Croatia
or scuba diving at Diving Center Viking
is something your children will remember for the rest of their lives.
Tips for a Family Vacation on Hvar
Renting an apartment in a high-quality private home may be the best way to optimize your family vacation in Hvar. You'll appreciate the hospitality of the local landlords and the genuine Croatian affection for kids. On the other hand, many hotels have kids' clubs. Hvar town
can get very busy, especially in July or August, and its beach parties are more appealing to teenagers than to young families. Jelsa
is the best place on the island for families with babies and toddlers. Child-friendly squares are perfect for weary parents, who can sip their refreshing beverages at picturesque cafes while keeping an eye on their children playing.
Dining and Shopping on Holiday on Hvar
Cuisine of Hvar
To truly complete your Hvar vacation, you have to taste the island's unique gastronomic offerings. Homemade wines, fresh fish, and locally produced olive oil are central to the local cuisine. You can choose from a number of posh restaurants in Hvar town
or visit some of the small inns or "konoba" in the little villages of Vrboska
, Sveta Nedilja
, and Milna
. Sit in the shade of the olive trees, smell the lavender, and listen to old island songs while waiting for your food to arrive. Stari Grad
also boast traditional restaurants or taverns serving a vast range of unpretentious seafood specialties, such as grilled squid, black risotto, shrimps on "buzara," and octopus carpaccio. Another local specialty is "peka"-style octopus, slowly cooked in a traditional Croatian fireproof vessel over hot coals—but be aware you'll have to order this at least three hours in advance.
Shopping on Hvar
As Hvar becomes a hot Mediterranean destination, the narrow streets and squares of Stari Grad
are starting to fill up with more designer shops and jewelry stores, full of original pieces made from coral, semi-precious stones, and pearls. Art and craft galleries present the works of local artists, with a vast selection of maritime paintings. Along the harbor, the stalls are stocked with domestic specialties, such as olive oil, lavender honey, lavender oils in lovely painted glass bottles, fruit and herb liqueurs, dried figs, and lemon and fig marmalade, all of which make perfect gifts to bring back home from your Hvar trip. Take a look at the region's unusual handmade lace, made from the threads of agave leaves in the tradition of Benedictine nuns. Some of the best Croatian wines are produced on the island, and although a quality wine is by no means cheap, you can purchase a few bottles for a reasonable price in one of the many vineyards. Go farther from the tourist flow to find higher-quality goods at lower prices.
Know Before You Go on a Trip to Hvar
History of Hvar
Thanks to its important strategic location, Hvar has been well known since ancient times. Greek settlers founded an Ionic colony named Pharos (which means "lighthouse") on the site of Stari Grad
. When Croats came to the island in the early medieval period, they adapted the Roman version of that name (Pharia or Fara) to Hvar. You'll find traces of these settlements in the ancient villa rustica in Stari Grad Plain
, which feature an impressive collection of amphorae.
After the collapse of the Roman Empire, Byzantium controlled the island before it came under Croatian rule between the 9th and 12th centuries. Due to Hvar's significant strategic position, Venetians also kept an eye on the island, placing it under protection from pirates and introducing wine cultivation. Around that time, the town of Hvar
developed around a central square, starting on the north side in the 13th century, and then circling to the south in the 15th century. In the 14th century, the island was given to the Kingdom of Hungary and even briefly seized by the Bosnian king Stephen Tvrtko I, the Split Duke Hrvoje, and the Dubrovnik Republic before Venetians took over once again. They remained the island's chief rulers until the end of the 18th century.
Under Venetian rule, the island prospered from fishing and the farming of lavender, rosemary, and olives. It also became one of the centers of Croatian literature during the Renaissance. Your tour of Hvar might well begin with the coastal towns of Stari Grad
, which are the cultural and historical centers of the island. Other important cultural attractions in Hvar include lovely Tvrdalj Castle
, designed by the well-known poet Petar Hektorović, and Franciscan Monastery
, which holds paintings by famous Venetian artists as well as coins, lace, valuable documents, and nautical charts.
After the fall of the Venetian Republic, Hvar was annexed by the Habsburg Monarchy. Add Dubovica
to your Hvar itinerary if you want to get a sense of the island's atmosphere in the 18th century. After this period, the island changed hands between the French, British, Austrians, and Italians before it joined the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, which became the Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia after World War II. Hvar became part of the Republic of Croatia when it was recognized as an independent state in 1992.
Landscape of Hvar
Surrounded by the clear blue sea, Hvar has a karst landscape featuring a jagged coastline speckled with tiny inlets and gravel coves. The hilly interior is dotted with lavender fields, ancient olive trees, and dense vineyards nestled at the foot of rugged mountains. Countless terraced plots on the slopes of the hills are also covered in rosemary, heather, and other aromatic plants, which give the island's honey its flavor. The entire island was forested once, but today only small pine woods and groves of holm oak and fir remain. The widest part of the island is a fertile plain where olives, grapes, figs, lemons, oranges, and carob are cultivated, while uncultivated land is covered in shrubs and maquis. Visitors interested in a boat excursion during their Hvar vacation should go to the nearby Pakleni Otoci
, which boast secluded strands of white sand and pine groves crisscrossed with hiking trails. The southern cliffs hover above Dubovica bay
. From Spanjola
, enjoy the splendid vistas of Stari Grad
and the Pakleni Otoci
Holidays & Festivals on Hvar
Croatia's music festival scene is flourishing. Festivalgoers should add FOR Festival in Hvar town
to their Hvar itinerary. This small festival, which hosts international DJs and takes place at a converted monastery and Carpe Diem Beach
, promises an intimate experience with only 2,500 tickets on sale.
Around the months of April and May, locals organize the Maundy Thursday Procession, a 600-year-old tradition in which chosen cross-bearers walk overnight between the villages near Jelsa
while chanting and praying. The sight of cross-bearers followed by a group of pious parishioners can truly take you back in time.
Hvar Travel Tips
Climate of Hvar
The mild Mediterranean climate is characterized by gentle winters, warm summers, and many hours of sunshine. Hvar is Croatia's sunniest island, with 2,718 hours of sunshine a year, which allows swimming from May to November. However, when planning a holiday in Hvar, you might skip the high season months of July and August to avoid the crowds. Winters in Hvar are very pleasant; snow falls rarely (once in 20 years) and some hotels on the island offer a free stay if it snows. Two types of winds blow in the winter: the "bura," or north wind, which brings clear weather, and the "jugo," which blows from the sea and brings rain.
Transportation on Hvar
Stari Grad provides a convenient starting point for a tour of Hvar; here, buses meet the car ferries and water taxis and take you to various destinations, such as Jelsa and Hvar town. Ten buses run daily, excluding Sunday, between Stari Grad and Hvar town, but only in the summer. Taxis are overly expensive, but the minivan Radio Taxi Tihi, with a picture of Hvar painted on the side, is a good option if there are enough passengers.
The most attractive way to explore other parts of Hvar is to rent a scooter or a car at Antonio Rent
and take the scenic route, which winds through the interior mountains. You have to drive carefully, since the roads on the island are often steep and curvy and lack protective rails. You can also rent a boat to visit secluded coves or one of the Pakleni Islands. Also, in the summer season, two Jadrolinija ferries a week leave from Stari Grad to Ancona, Italy.
Language of Hvar
In the past, each village on Hvar Island had its own Croatian dialect, but today most villagers speak standard Croatian. However, Milna
is known for the Chakavian dialect, which was the basis for the first literary standard of the Croats. Today, the dialect is spoken by only 12 percent of Croats.