Hvar: An encounter with the obvious

By Rob Packer

As if it weren’t obvious that January is not the time to be visiting Croatia, a day trip to the island of Hvar from Split really brought it home.

The view over Hvar's harbour.

Hvar lies two hours south of Split—or one hour on an inconveniently-timed catamaran—and is known as one of the world’s most beautiful islands, and has an award to prove it. The island is ruggedly beautiful and looks every part the flooded mountain top that it is: Croatia’s long, thin islands are really just another parallel range of the limestone Dinaric Alps formed in the same tectonic process that created the Pyrenees and the Alps. In the summer, it is Croatia’s second largest tourist centre after Dubrovnik and full probably doesn’t begin to describe it; in the winter, though, the island’s main town, also called Hvar, seems to shut down much like the rest of Croatia. Winter also causes another problem in that the island’s ferry service is reduced to three sailings a day: what do you do with nearly six hours in Hvar town if it’s not beach weather?

The answer is: walk around the Venetian old town, spot St. Mark’s Lions all over the place and climb up to the fort for a view over the harbour—all stunning—, listen to the church bells which sound strangely like a gamelan orchestra, have lunch and then drink coffee all afternoon long, which Croatians prefer to do outside so they can enjoy the view, but lily-livered foreigners like me who’ve been living below the Tropic of Cancer for the last twelve months shelter inside.

I know I’m being harsh on Hvar, because it really is a beautiful place (see the photos). It’d just be nicer to be able to sit under the palm trees by the—amazingly clear—sea after seeing the old town.

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