How we get to Hvar is a story that starts some 18 months before with a pinkie-swear promise between seven friends that we’re going to sail the Dalmatian Coast to celebrate the 40th birthdays of some in the group.
The deposit is paid many months in advance on our preferred cruise – not the one featuring young twenty-somethings partying into oblivion, but the more refined and aptly-named Elegant Cruise, apparently more suited to our age group and partying capability.
Cut to June 2016, and Rob and I are on our way to Croatia without our travelling companions, prompting major changes to our travel plans for the islands. Rather than spending seven days on a cruise ship with people we fear may have been even further up the elegance scale (read: 70+ year age group), we decide to base ourselves in Split and instead, do a day trip to Hvar, arguably the most well-known island in the group.
We catch the morning ferry from Split to the town of Hvar, where we are immediately accosted with options upon disembarking – boat, bike and car hire and any number of different tours to occupy our day.
We decide to navigate the island by land rather than sea, and hire a car – a small vehicle that has seen better days and is best driven in first gear up much of the 500 metre above sea level ascent.
Driving Hvar island is an easy, relaxed day. It’s like stepping back in time – no speed cameras, traffic lights and roundabouts. We’re here at the beginning of the holiday season so whilst we encounter some traffic and a number of groups of bike riders, its nowhere near what it’s like in the peak – the island’s road system is simply not built for heavy traffic so the number of holiday makers on scooters, bikes, in cars and with caravans can make for a frustrating journey on the single lane roadways.
The steep ascent affords spectacular views across small villages to the lavender fields, coastline and ocean. The only disappointment is that there is not nearly enough opportunity to safely pull off the road to take it in.
We travel via Brusje to Stari Grad, our first stop to explore. This is the prettiest village we visit today.
The oldest town in Croatia, Stari Grad (also known as Pharos) was established in 384BC by the Greeks from the island of Paros in the Aegean Sea.
Also meaning ‘old town’, Stari Grad sits in a protected bay surrounded by vineyards and olive-groves. A walk through the narrow lane ways and into small churches hints at the history and very quiet pace of life. Yachts of all sizes are moored in front of the town square, providing us with a glimpse of life sailing (many indicate long journeys are underway).
From Stari Grad, we drive onto Vrboska, a quaint village on the water. We lunch at the Mediterranean restaurant on the corner as you arrive, which is open air with a view of the water.
We’d earlier noticed a sign for a Nudist Camp close by so we decide to head in that direction after lunch. Naturally, the Camp is hidden behind a large fence and trees so we find ourselves a quiet, somewhat secluded beach adjacent where we swim, sleep and relax. A short stroll over the hill behind on our way back to the car though, gives us a bird’s eye view of the Nudist Camp and a number of its bare-butt guests. If hanging out with around 470 strangers in the nude is your preference, here are the camp details.
Whilst Hvar seems logical enough on the map to drive – after all, it’s only one road around the centre – we find ourselves only twenty or so kilometres from Hvar (and our end point) at an impenetrable roadway. We’re left with no option but to backtrack some twenty minutes or so to find an alternative road. We’re still left wondering how the main road indicated on the map – the road we’re on – just disappeared into a bush over the edge of a cliff.
We’re back in Hvar by five and sipping a number of cocktails along the water front as we wait for the later ferry.
And it’s here that we spy a number of extremely intoxicated twenty-somethings being carried off boats and onto land, further reminding us that we made exactly the right decision.
Footnote: three of the five other companions who were supposed to join us in Croatia are now coming to South Korea in September. All is forgiven. The other two are off to some lame music festival in California where a number of supposedly well known bands like Rolling Stones, The Who and Bob Dylan are playing.