Ask any image-conscious Croatian, and you’ll probably be told that the most beautiful of the over 1000 Croatian Islands is Hvar. Indeed, exploring Hvar was the highlight of our sailing adventures on the Dalmatian Coast.
We anchored in Stari Grad, the oldest town in Croatia. Despite its central location at the heart of the Adriatic coast’s trading routes, there was no permanent settlement here before 385BC, when the Parans, of Ionian Greek origin, established the colony of Pharos, and subsequently, Croatians settled here. The town became known as StariGrad airbrush makeup, a singularly appropriate name meaning old town. From here, we took a local bus to Hvar town, considered the most striking of Hvar island’s villages. The ride through Hvar’s rugged interior, a palm-sweating, white-knuckle trip, is stunning, especially in spring when the blue-mauve lavender adds its colors to the scenery and perfumes the air.
We arrived for our first view of the splendid town at sunset. As we came around the bend, taking in the panorama, we gasped: Idyllic Hvar shimmered before us, curved around its uniquely indented harbor with docked boats of all description, its grey flecked buildings interposed between the brilliant white of the wharf and the blue of the Adriatic, and crowned atop, its castle fort with walls trailing down to the town. Scores of couples and families strolled its brilliant promenade, rimmed with lively cafes and restaurants.
We wandered through the town’s ancient walled gate where cobblestone paths wound in a maze of architectural wonders – sculptured porticos, ancient wooden doors and bridges spanning alleyways, leading up the town’s steep hills towards the castle. The imposing citadel atop was the perfect spot to begin our explorations. The unparalleled hilltop views of the town, the brilliant harbor and countryside provide an unmatched sense of the town’s environs. Built by the Venetians in the 1550’s, Hvar was destroyed in 1571 when Uli Ali’s galleons razed the town to the ground. Having been entirely rebuilt, it is one of Dalmatia’s best preserved towns.
On the square’s south side, the Venetian arsenal, considered an architectural highlight, today houses the town’s theater. The waterside Franciscan Monastery and simple church, built in 1583, is striking and the last of the historic sights in the conventional sense.
More than its historic allure, Hvar’s appeal is visual – its true beauty isn’t a matter of any individual building or site, but rather the combination of its parts, set together between its idyllic harbor and its shining sandstone buildings, to the backdrop of its lush Mediterranean mountains.
Sylvia is a trip consultant, planner and manager who creates unique intercultural adventures for families and loves to impart information,tips and personal experiences especially related to family adventure travel.