If emerald-clad hills, amethyst sea and sun-filled days sound like the perfect Great Escape post-lockdown, a holiday to this Adriatic gem is priceless. With an abundance of secluded bays and deserted hiking and biking trails, Hvar island is a top drawer for adventurers and sunseekers looking for island bliss.
OK, so just where is this ‘deserted’ gem? Glad you asked. It’s Hvar island, Croatia.
Right. And where is Hvar island exactly? A two-hour ferry journey from Split which is the main city on Croatia’s Dalmation coast. It’s sandwiched between two other islands – Brac which looks far less green – and Korcula which has less going on.
Why do you keep calling it Hvar island, not just Hvar? Because there’s the town of Hvar as well as the island’s name.
And is this Hvar island really deserted? Right now, yes. Summer holiday homes and rental apartments seem to make up the majority of buildings on Hvar, Croatia, and without the seasonal visitors, it is blissfully deserted. I’ve seen approximately no one on any of my hikes. I’m the novelty tourist who everyone keeps speaking German to.
That must be your dodgy northern accent. Vot are ja saýin?
Um, exactly. Hang on, you mean you flouted UK lockdown rules and escaped to Hvar, Croatia? Actually, Smartypants, I escaped before the latest round of house arrests kicked in. So there.
Alright, calm down! So in this ultimate guide to Hvar island, *cough* what can I do? Right now in spring 2021, it’s hiking or biking – there are lots of trails you can follow – and finding hidden bays to sit in. You can go up to the fortress in Hvar town, too, that’s open. Plus, outdoor terraces of several cafes and restaurants are serving food and drinks and some shops are open. Everything else on Hvar island, from what I’ve seen, is off at the moment (April) such as boat trips to the Pakleni islands, caves and the Blue Lagoon, or renting kayaks. Stari Grad museum, and likely others on the island, is due to open 15 June.
You seem to have missed swimming off your list. And for good reason. The sea is bloody freezing at the mo, like 13C freezing. The clear turquoise water looks deceptively inviting but a courageous big toe test confirmed that swimming in April around Hvar, Croatia’s cute island, is definitely out. The end of May is supposed to be whole body submergable.
For Hvar hiking trails with maps, see my hiking Hvar post.
What are the daytime temperatures on Hvar island then? While it’s not summer weather yet, the sun-filled April days with mid-afternoon temperatures of 14-17C are perfect for hiking and biking. May on Hvar island, Croatia, is approx 17-21C, June 22-26C, July 24-28C and August 26-30C, while September is 20-25C.
So it’s not sunbathing weather yet? Gawd no! The night temperatures have gone down to 2C while I’ve been on Hvar island (“It’s been unseasonally cold this April,” I was told by a local.) But there are magical hidden rocky bays all around the island to discover, yet the must-show-the-world-via-Instagram-filters-just-how-skinny-and-tanned-I-am sunworshippers will prefer the island’s veeery limited sandy beaches to sprawl themselves across, photogenically, of course. But if swimming’s your thang, you’ll love every cove and rocky beach.
Where are the best places to go? There are four main towns on Hvar island: Stari Grad is the capital where the ferry docks. It has a charming inlet for a harbour, adorable oldy-worldy lanes with striking stone buildings and colourful shutters. There’s the museum and the Petar Tvrdalj Palace which I desperately want to go to, but alas, they’re not open yet.
Oldy-worldy isn’t a word. Whatever. As I was saying, there is also Hvar town on the southwest of the island which is the main tourist town. It’s brimming with glute-busting steps through cute narrow lanes (which are busy in normal non-covid summer months, so I’m told), a gorgeous promanade walk, superyachts belonging to people with too much money, boat trips to nearby islands (when operational), a hilltop fortress (known as the Fortica or Spanjola) and pricy restaurants. There’s also the town of Vrboska with its quaint stone bridges, old houses, narrow lanes and a pretty headland you can walk around. Just be aware you might end up in the nudist camp so be prepared to either leg it or embrace your birthday suit.
And finally, Jelsa is just south of Vrboska. The coastal road walk between the two towns winds past some incredible properties. But be careful as the islanders seem oblivious to two sides of a road and drive wherever.
For hiking trails with maps, see my hiking Hvar post.
How can I get around Hvar island? Hike, bike or bus it. When things open again, there are places where you can rent scooters and quad bikes, too. Public transport is limited to the minibus that only serves the four main towns.
How expensive is Hvar island? That depends on the season, location and accommodation. Hvar town is the most pricy and you can max out your credit card in no time. But off-season in other Hvar island locations you can rent 1-2-bedroom apartments from £18 a night (not luxury stays). Peak season is upwards of £50 a night for standard apartments but waaaaay more for luxury options and hotels.
Any accommodation recommendations? Yes, siree! I’m in Stari Grad which I’d say is the best place because you can hike and bike to all the other towns around.
Yeah, but I asked for accommodation recommendations. Not for you to gloat about how smart you are for your choice of destination. I was getting to that. Adrienn Apartments in Stari Grad are amazzzing. (The Adrienn Apartments Facebook page is here.) The clean apartments come in different sizes with a balcony and a communal garden with calming sea views. Plus, the owner Adrienn is super welcoming with her cherry strudel (must be my German accent again) and the apartments are in a great location, close to a beach and quiet at night.
A good night’s sleep. I guess that’s why you put zzz in amazing. No, I was just overzealous with the Z key.
What’s the currency in Croatia? Kuna. Approx 8.5 kuna to £1 or 7.5 kuna to €1 as of April 2021.
I don’t speak a word of Croatian. Don’t worry, nor do the Hvar island natives.
Say what? Yeah, that’s what the mainlanders often say when they arrive. The dialect here is infused with Italian words because once upon a time it belonged to Italy. But most people speak English.
Do I need a visa to go to Croatia? Currently, Brits can stay for a total of 90 days, free visa on arrival, every six months. Croatia’s current non-Schengen status means days here don’t count towards the 90 days in Schengen EU countries, such as France and Spain etc. But Croatia is hoping to join the other 26 Schengen countries in 2022, so this year is the time to visit if you’re an EU travel addict and are expecting to max out your 90 days in Schengen countries. Got that?
Erm, nope. Basically, post-Brexit, you can stay in Croatia for 90 days in any 180. These days are additional to any days spent in the 26 EU Schengen countries.
Staying in the UK this summer? Check out my quirky glamping breaks in the UK or Britain’s best holiday destinations.
What are the covid entry requirements to Croatia? This will probably change. Currently it’s:
- a negative PCR test taken within 48 hours of arrival;
- or a vaccination certificate showing you’ve had both jabs;
- or proof via a PCR test that in the last 180 days (up to 11 days before your arrival) you already had covid.
But check the government website for up-to-date covid entry requirements to Croatia. People travelling from the UK are in the third-country list, but if you’re arriving from another EU country, regardless of nationality, look at that section. Obviously if you’re currently in the UK, you won’t be able to leave there until rules change, which means you’ll arrive just in time for the warm sea temperatures.
Do I need anything else for my arrival in Croatia? Yep, proof of booked accommodation. This doesn’t have to be for your whole stay as I understand it, but definitely for the first few nights, or possibly the length of your quarantine if you have to do so. Plus, fill in this Enter Croatia form before you arrive. For more info, read these Q&A by the Croatia Tourism Board.
And how do I get to to Hvar island? Easyjet have flights to Split but check which destinations are flying there. Then jump on the car ferry to Stari Grad on Hvar island (four a day) or the daily catamaran to Hvar town. Jadrolinija runs most of Croatia’s ferry services, click for the current timetables. When operational, there are also ferries from Italy and Krilo Catamarans run services from Dubrovnik.
So would you recommend Hvar island in Croatia? YEEESSS! It’s my new favourite place! Until my next destination, at least.
One last thing. Is Croatia on the UK’s ‘green list’ of countries Brits can go to? F%$! knows! Does Boris know?