The region of Dalmatia is located on the eastern shore of the Adriatic Sea, stretching from Rab in the north of Croatia to the Bay of Kotor in the south. Just in front of the largest city in this area, Split, there are islands whose beauty is very difficult to rank.
This time, our journey took us to Hvar. As citied by travel journalists, the island of Hvar is considered to be among the top 10 most beautiful islands in the world. It is well known that the data journalists provide is not always completely accurate, but this time they haven’t made a mistake. Hvar is a true jewel in the heart of Dalmatia!
The island is 72km long and 10km wide at its widest part. With an average of 2,718 hours of sunlight annually, it is the sunniest island in the world. Visitors are attracted by its rich history, wonderful nature, fabulous cuisine and, of course, scuba diving.
This part of the Adriatic Sea is characterized by a special blue color. The water is clear, with the land moving into the deep immediately off the shore. The most interesting underwater attractions include gorgonia, caverns, smaller caves and traces of the past with numerous remains of amphoras and anchors. Apart from scuba diving, the area is also famous for great freediving spots.
Our host was SSI diving center Aqualis, in the city of Hvar, run by Zsanett Jakab and Robert Schnitzer. With their support, we managed to visit some of the best dive sites this region has to offer. Poseidon Pillar cavern and Vela Garska cave (one of the best small caves we have visited) are located near the dive center. Pellegrini dive site is packed with numerous antique amphora, with depth varying between 16 - 35 meters, a must-see when diving here. Yellow and red gorgonia make the locations of Stambedar (small island) and Baba Reef (lighthouse) unforgettable.
Diving aside, there are many more reasons to visit Hvar. It is one of the most visited Croatian islands and is a top tourist attraction. Fantastic landscapes, many cultural-historical events and food are the reasons tourists come from all over the globe to “conquer” this island during the season. We went to a few different kinds of restaurants during our visit. Black Pepper and Primi Piatti are two very popular restaurants in the city center. Black Pepper is located on the stairway leading to the fortress. They serve local food, prepared in a specific way. The many different cocktails available make the experience special. Primi Piatti is a modern restaurant in which the “star attraction” is a wood-burning stove. Great pizzas are best combined with local beers.
Rugonj tavern is positioned in the middle of the island. The vineyard surrounding it adds something special to the atmosphere which is reinforced with traditional dalmatian “klapa singing” and excellent local wines. Going deeper into the island we ran onto the nearly deserted village of Malo Grablje. Only one family remain with their Stari Komin tavern. We will always remember their perfect food prepared on a coal fire.
The highest point of the island is called Saint Nicholas and is 612m above sea level. From there you have a great view of the islands of Vis, Korcula and Brac. Hvarcijenda tavern is just under it and offers local cheese, ham, olives and barbeque. If you are in the mood, you can play a game of “balote” or take a walk up the mountain. In the shadow, among the smell of mountain flowers, you’ll certainly want to stay longer, as did John Cooper, this taverna’s owner.
Hvar is definitely one of the most spectacular islands in Croatia. Any of the facts listed in our story are more than enough reasons to visit it.
The Aqualis Dive Center and Hvar tourist organization provided great logistical support during this trip.
Written by Janez Kranjc
Photos by Ivana O.K. & Janez Kranjc