Two Weeks In Bosnia & Croatia: Hvar Island
You could spend your whole time on Hvar in Hvar Town, but the island is one of Croatia’s largest and boasts sights of all kinds worth exploring.
For our first venture out of Hvar Town we took advantage of the busses (operated by Čazmatrans) that crisscross the island to get to Stari Grad (literally “Old Town”, as historians believe it’s Croatia’s oldest town). The old town is laced with picturesque cobblestoned lanes and dotted with some interesting sights (the pool and gardens at Tvrdalj Castle—which is more of a villa than a castle—and The Church of St. Peter and Dominican Monastery). We were excited to see that Fig Cafe—a restaurant we first discovered in Hvar Town—had a location in Stari Grad as well and sat down for lunch (burrito, yogurt, granola, fruit).
For our second venture out of Hvar Town we rented a car from one of the handful of local rental companies around the bus station. Our first order of business was to drive the old road between Hvar and Stari Grad (the local road via Brusje instead of highway 116) to take in the dramatic views from the island’s rugged western end. After joining up with the 116 closer to Stari Grad, we continued eastward to the small towns of Vrboska and Jelsa. Vrboska was quite small and sleepy; the only sight of note here was the views from the Fortress Church of St. Mary.
Jelsa had a bit more going on. The harbor was buzzing with activity and the old town is chock full of cute streets (and a little church in a square!). Funny enough, Jelsa has its own Fortress Church of St. Mary which offers similar great views. We grabbed an outdoor seat by the harbor at Artichoke for lunch (pasticada and truffle and prosciutto pasta) and grabbed ice cream for dessert from nearby Slasticarna Jelsa.
Back on the road, our original plan was to stop at picturesque Lucisca Beach, but the journey there was quite sketchy. The dodgy one-way tunnel through a mountain (Tunel Pitve) probably should have tipped us off, but that wasn’t so bad. At one point while driving westward along the island’s southern edge from Zavala, the road, without warning, turned into very rough loose dirt and gravel and tightened to a single track with no room to pull over for oncoming traffic (not that there was much of it) or turn around. Worse yet, we were high up on a cliff and there were no barriers on the cliff edge-side of the road. We are pretty comfortable driving in tough conditions, on tight roads, and perched up on cliffs, but suffice it to say this driving situation was the tensest one we’d ever been in. After what seemed like forever, we approached the stopping point for Lucisca Beach, but desperate to get off this damn road, we just drove right past it until we met back up with the 116. We settled for a rest at Dubovica Beach instead, which was more than sufficient as a substitute! (We would like to note that this was in July 2017 and at the time it looked like there was some work about to start to pave, or at least smooth, and widen this road. So hopefully others don’t have to experience the same tense drive in the future!)
Once we rested up at the beach, enjoyed some lemonade and watermelon from the cafe, and regained the color in our faces, we drove to Restoran Santa Marija, a guesthouse and restaurant situated on a farm in Dol which was recommended to us by some friends. We had a tasty, relaxing meal (cevapi, chicken, mixed salad) and then walked through the farm and made friends with some donkeys, ponies, goats, and chickens. On the drive back to Hvar Town we realized our sketchy drive did something to our rental car—we think some loose rocks were kicked up into the undercarriage. Unfortunately we couldn’t sort it out ourselves and had to pay for our mistake upon dropping the car off. Lesson learned!
Dodgy drive aside, our time on the island of Hvar was truly special and the perfect way to end our two-week trip to Bosnia and Croatia. There are some places we’ve traveled to that tug on our heart strings and make our souls ache when we look at pictures or recount stories. Hvar has firmly established itself as the latest addition to this group of special places. There is no doubt in our minds that we will someday be back. And next time we’ll rent a four-wheel drive!