Hvar, an island for everyone, offering a staggering range of activities to suit all tastes and ages.
Approximately 70km from Sucuraj in the east to Hvar Town in the west, the island has a plethora of divine beaches and bays for swimming and sun worship, as well as historic ofd towns and quaint old villages where you will quite often meet nobody, even in peak season.
As the media and social media focuses on the party in Hvar Town, it is important to note that while Hvar Town is the biggest tourist destination on the island, it is by means the only one, and you only have to travel a couple of kilometres from the vibrant party to immerse yourself in superlative tranquil nature, and a true taste of Dalmatia as It Once Was.
Take the excellent cooking class tour in Velo Grablje at Konoba Zbondini offered by Hvar Tours, for example. Velo Grablje, once the centre of lavender production for all Dalmatia, is a village which fell upon hard economic times due to the mass emigration that occurred in Dalmatia, and indeed its village population was reduced to just five a decade ago. An enterprising group of local youths with connections to the village decided to do something about the decline, working hard to improve life in the village, as well as resurrecting its proud lavender traditions. Croatia's most aromatic festival, the Velo Grablje Lavender Festival will take place for the ninth year in a row later this month; the population has grown to 14, including young children living in the village for the first time in decades; there is even a winter pub, but the centre of hospitality is now centred at Konoba Zbondini, which opened a couple of years ago, as authentic a Dalmatian dining experience as you are likely to find.
And while the party may be in full swing a few kilometres, the only sound you are likely to hear in idyllic Velo Grablje are from the birds and cicadas. In many ways, I think that the village of Velo Grablje is the soul of Hvar Town - many of its important people, particularly its restaurateurs, are from the village, and Sunday Mass often has more than 60 people attending. One of them is Djordje Tudor, who runs the popular Djordjota Vartal restaurant in Hvar Town by the monastery (best meat in town), as well as Zbondini in his native Velo Grablje.
Zbondini is run by daughter Marija, and there is a strong emphasis on traditional cuisine, one which Hvar Tours has made much more accessible to tourists by offering an innovative cooking class tour. It is a fascinating insight into the real Hvar, adn gourmet lovers will be captivated by this excellent excursion into the heart of lavender, from picking one's own wild ingredients and learning about life in the village over the centuries, to sampling their finished products with excellent local wine and company.
Hvar at its finest. For more information on the Velo Grablje Cooking Tour, click here.