Ahhh, Hvar. I didn't even knew this gem existed a couple months ago. Originally when I planned to meet my friend Brenna in Europe, we were headed to Istanbul- and I was so excited about it. I was flying from Milan, and Brenna from a mission trip in Zambia, so the plan was to meet at Atatürk airport. Well it's no secret that at the end of June (just a little over a month before our trip) a terrorist attack occurred at the very same airport- killing 45 people and injuring more than 230.
Even then- we were still going to go. I pride myself in not giving into fear or letting world events keep us from exploring the beautiful places that are meant to be discovered. I went back to Paris just weeks after the tragic attacks last November. I spoke at a conference in Orlando less than a month after the senseless shootings there. I wasn't ready to let another terrible act of violence keep me from doing what I love most (I even wrote a passionate blog about the topic).
But when a couple more weeks passed and the attempted military coup in Istanbul hit the news, we began to reconsider. During the coup, over 300 people were killed and more than 2,100 were injured. We saw video footage of Turkish soldiers opening fire at unarmed civilians on the Bosporous Bridge- which was directly across from the hotel where we were supposed to stay: Four Seasons Bosphorus.
And while I still stand firmly by the statements I made in my blog about why now, more than ever is the time to travel, I also believe in using discernment to make wise decisions about where we do so. At the end of the day, traveling somewhere that's in the midst of such civil unrest as 2 single females no longer seemed like a wise thing to do (however, I fully intend on taking that trip to Istanbul in the future and am already looking forward to it).
So once we made that decision, we were at a bit of a loss as to where to go instead. Again, Brenna was coming from Africa and I was coming from Milan. We already had plans to go to Dubrovnik as our second stop, so it didn't make sense to go anywhere too far west in Europe (not to mention, Expedia + Turkish Airlines refused to refund our flights to or from Turkey so we were trying not to lose any more money than we already had).
After hours of research on the internet, we came across Hvar: a glamorous island in the Adriatic Sea just off the coast of Split. This 13th century town claims to be the sunniest spot in all of Europe and is the perfect destination for those seeking beautiful beaches without the overwhelming crowds in more popular or well known destinations. We were sold.
But before I dive right into Hvar, let me back up. If you haven't looked into visiting Croatia, you need to do so immediately- it's easily one of my favorite places I've ever been. Both places we visited were incredibly clean, had some of the friendliest people I've ever interacted with, and the water is clearer than anywhere else you've ever seen in your life. I loved our time there and could have easily stayed for weeks without getting sick of it.
Hvar clearly has something for everyone, because we saw it all: ostentatious yachts in the harbor, families enjoying their holiday by the sea, 20 somethings who were ready to party... you name it. And honestly, it makes sense- because when you find someplace as beautiful as Hvar you want to go- no matter who you are.
So if you're someone who enjoys the most beautiful beaches you can imagine, nice people, great food, or places that are brimming with history- there's not a doubt in my mind that you'll fall head over heels in love with Hvar like I did. Should you find yourself planning a trip (which you definitely should), here's where you need to go:
Wondering where to stay in Hvar?We couldn't have been luckier that on such short notice and during peak season, we managed to get a room at a hotel as great as Pharos Hvar Bay Hill. There was so much about this property that I loved (friendly staff, great pool, modern + clean rooms, etc.) but a few things really stood out compared to other places I've stayed. For starters, can we talk about this room view!? I love that we were elevated enough to get a great view of the water, but sill such a close walk to the port and center of the action (barely 5 minutes). Another thing that impressed me was the breakfast. I've stayed in plenty of hotels in Europe that include a continental breakfast, but that term is a bit different than what we use in the states. It's not unusual for Europeans to grab a croissant or something super light for breakfast, so the American in me is often hangry come lunch. Luckily, that was never the case in Hvar, thanks to the bomb breakfast at Pharos: made to order omelets, delicious fresh fruit like watermelon and kiwi, a yogurt/cereal/granola bar, sausage, bacon... the list goes on.
It was also so easy to arrange transportation to and from the hotel. Pharos offers great prices for airport transfers when you arrive in Split (handling the driver to pick you up and take you to the ferry, the ticket already handled, someone to help you with your luggage on the ferry, someone to greet you at the port in Hvar and take you directly to Pharos. While it could have easily been a pain point, they had everything completely handled and it was only the equivalent of about 60 US dollars. The same was true when we left to go to Dubrovnik- they had an even cheaper transfer that took us from the hotel to the ferry, which took us directly to Dubrovnik. It was so great to have such a friendly staff who helped us arrange so many details in the easiest fashion.
In a nutshell, if you're wanting to stay somewhere that offers all the amenities and perks of a luxury resort but still offers a relaxed atmosphere (Bonus perk: I've never seen so many attractive 20 and 30 somethings in my entire life all in one place - and that's not an exaggeration) then Pharos Hvar Bay Hill Hotel is the place for you.
Want to know the best restaurants in Hvar, Croatia? Let me tell you about two of my favorite:
I have been making a list of superlatives for everything that I do on this trip, and so far Divino is tied for first place of "Best Restaurant View". No picture will do it justice, but this restaurant offers a breathtaking view of the Hvar archipelago Pakleni Islands (along with unique gastronomy and superb wines). Brenna and I couldn't stop saying "WOW" to each other (so much that it became a joke for the rest of the trip) because everything was just that good.
We chose the chef's tasting menu, which is always my favorite to try (it really let's the chef flex and prepare his best dishes based on the seasonal ingredients). No matter what you order, you won't be disappointed because all the food is delicious and the view is unlike anything else you've ever seen (I'd recommend timing your reservation around the sunset so you can make the most of it!)
Our meal at Divino was a truly unforgettable experience and I will definitely go back next time I find myself in Hvar!
We loved eating on the terrace of San Marco Restaurant at The Palace Hvar so much, we actually ate there twice. (Bonus: if you stay at Pharos you can bill it to your room because the hotels are owned by the same property). They offer Italian fare (which I surprisingly still thoroughly enjoyed even after 2 weeks in Italy- that means it was really, really good). Aside from delicious views, we loved the view from the rooftop terrace, overlooking the center of town as well as the water (if you haven't connected the dots already- I'm all about finding restaurants that have both great views and great food).
There are so many things to do in Hvar! Even if you only have a short amount of time, I would suggest:
For our first full day, we did a half day wine tasting with Hvar Wine Tours. I was a bit apprehensive of Croatian wine. I thought I'd probably like it fine, but we tend to hear so much buzz about more renown wines like ones from Napa or Bordeaux or other regions. So I kind of assumed Croatian wine wouldn't hold a candle to those. However, they went out of their way to help us understand the history and traditions of Hvar wine so we could fall in love with the island and its wines- and fall in love I did.
We learned that Plavac Mali is one of Croatia's best known grapes they use to produce their wine. The grape is native to Croatia, and gives the wine a unique and recognizable taste. I've never tried wine like it before, but loved how dry and full-bodied the red wines were.
The tour takes in two of the most charisamtic and respected winemakers in Croatia, both based in the picturesque wine town of Jelsa. I loved our Ivo Dubokovic candlelit tasting experience (which takes place in his family konoba could not be more intimate). Along with tasting the delicious wine, we also got to try a variety of olive oils and cheese (all were delicious).
If you love wine, I highly recommend booking this excursion with Hvar tours for a truly unique experience unlike any other wine tasting you've done. Although be warned- these wines are usually around a 15% alcohol level so don't go on an empty stomach!
Our day trip to Vis was easily one of my favorite things I've done so far in Europe. Also through Hvar Tours, this excursion lasts a full day and you will love every second. Hop on a speedboat (a nice one too) with just a few other people (not some giant boat where they cram 50 other people next to you) and pretty soon you'll find yourself exploring the barrier islands in the Adriatic neighboring Hvar. No pictures that I include will do it justice though- the sun was dancing on the water and it literally looked like glitter sparkling. The water was so clear that you could see to the bottom whenever we would dock. We got to swim in the green cave which was incredible. Our skipper was also so nice and showed us lots of unique parts of the islands throughout the day (he also had a bomb playlist that we listened to on the boat all day). We made some new friends from Lisbon that we loved talking to throughout the day. Overall, it was one of my very favorite days and I can't recommend it enough. You have to see Croatia by boat, and this excursion that Hvar Tours offers is a one stop shop that allows you to cover tons of territory in just one day.
Overall, Hvar is an incredible place and I'm so thankful I got to experience it. I was honestly pretty pissed off that I wasn't going to Istanbul, but I probably would have never found this hidden gem otherwise. Brenna and I have already sworn to each other that we'll go back together someday because we loved it so much. I'll be eagerly anticipating it until then.
If you have any questions about Hvar or Croatia in general that I didn't address, you can send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now I'm off to have lunch with a new friend, Caroline from The Belle Abroad who lives here in London. I can't wait to talk travel + see more of this city that I seem to be falling more in love with everyday!
Wishing you a very happy Tuesday, and as always- thanks for stopping by!