After Split, my second favourite destination in Croatia is the island town of Hvar. Often compared to Ibiza, Hvar is inundated with around 20,000 people a day in the high season. We prefer to avoid crowds, so only visit Hvar either at the beginning or the end of summer. There are pros and cons to sharing space on this small island with thousands of other tourists, of course. The party vibe when the town is gearing up for the high season is infectious, and can be a great deal of fun. All the bars and restaurants are open and there is no end to the things you can do. The caveat is, of course, that you’ll have to jostle for space in what is a rather tiny city with limited capacity, considering that the cool part of town is demarcated by 13th century walls with borders that obviously have stayed the same since they were built.
The mild disappointment of a few closed restaurants and bars when visiting at the end of the season is more than offset by the feeling that you have the island to yourself. On top of that, you get exclusive service in the town’s under-filled restaurants and an opportunity to experience a bit of the local vibe as most of the restaurants and bars that remain open end up catering primarily to people who live almost permanently there. In such places, I felt as if I had stepped back in time, to an era when workers were those that sailed the seas and tilled the land, and when men were men. Or something like that.
One the the restaurants we were lucky to visit at such a time was Dva Ribara, or the Two Fishermen. Located on the right side of the harbour (looking out to sea), it stood out from the other restaurants with its charming country cottage decor and unpretentious atmosphere. The spread of fresh fish on ice in front of the terrace also did much to draw our attention. Right in the middle, there was a large piece of monkfish. This fish, in our opinion, is the king of tasty fish. Without hesitation, we booked the fish and a table for the evening.
The food was utterly divine. Baked in a woodfired oven, smothered in olive oil and accompanied with herbs from the owner’s own farm, it was the epitome of Dalmatian fare. Simple, freshly made and full of flavour, we simply could not have enough. The fish was tender and moist with that lovely slightly smoky aroma you can only get from a traditional oven. Although we got two whole fish in the end, there was not enough to go around. For dessert, we were served homemade sage ice-cream. This was quite the revelation; who would think to combine sage and ice-cream? But there we had it, and it was sublime.
The most memorable thing we did on Hvar was to book the Hvar Offroad Tour with Secret Hvar. Our guide, Galileo, was born on the island and lived most of his life there. He was one of the most knowledgeable guides we’ve had the pleasure of touring with. He knew everything about Hvar – its history, its geography, its agricultural economy; there was no question too stupid he couldn’t give an interesting answer to. Our post “Hvar Island Tour“, chronicles our adventures and experiences with Secret Hvar.
Another worthwhile adventure is to take a walk around the left side of the harbour, following a road which will eventually lead you to a trail through a tree covered path in the direction of a small nude beach – Mikićevica. It’s more of a secluded cove than a beach really, but nevertheless, you’ll see it signposted along the way. Even if you are not into nude sun bathing, it’s still a lovely place to visit. Along the way, we bought a small bottle of Travarica, a local herb brandy, from a grandmother selling homemade liquor from her mobile shop. When we got to the cove, we were the only ones there, which was divine. It felt like this patch of the Adriatic belonged to us, and us alone. Refreshed from the swim and slightly tipsy from the Travarica, we began walking back along the coast in time to experience the sunset over the sea. In the distance, there was a nearby island with one solitary house on it, and we wondered what it was for and who lived there. It was a picturesque moment to be remembered.
If you prefer not to venture outside the old town, you can always take a walk up to the 16th Century fortress which looks down upon the town and offers many stunning views of the islands. The walk itself is lovely, following winding paths through the forested area separating the town from the fortress. I especially love the gigantic aloe vera plants, with their huge stamens extending skywards, that line the paths.
The fortress you can visit once, and that should be quite enough. But the city itself, I could discover again and again. I love walking up and down the multiple side alleys, especially in the evening, where you never know what you’ll discover. There’s something magical about the little boutique art shops and konobas that you encounter at every turn, their open doors throwing an inviting glow onto the narrow streets, leading into spacious gardens and secret alcoves you’d never have guessed were there. In the old town, there is always something new to be discovered.