As we have been seeing in recent weeks with YouTuber sensations Oli White and Joe Sugg, the future of tourism promotion in Croatia is becoming firmly entrenched in the digital age. A suggestion to go for a swim with a baby shark in the Gariful underfloor aquarium garnered an astonishing 1.2 million views in just a few days.
A few weeks ago, I was contacted by a Huffington Post travel writer who also has her emerging brand with 170,000 followers in just over a year (check out Travel Break for more). Stephanie found us via Google and wanted to know if we wanted to partner on a project to film some aerial shots of Croatia by helicopter.
Helicopter became seaplane (many thanks to ECA for arranging) and Croatia became Hvar, as Stephanie and very talented photographer Taylor Michael Burk agreed to spend 12 hours in our company on a tour of Hvar, with an itinerary left completely up to Total Hvar.
Stephanie had just been covering Ultra Europe in Split, and with Ultra in Hvar due to kick off in the afternoon, I was keen to show a little of tranquil Hvar before we headed closer to the party. A relaxing coastal drive along Vitarnja to Vrboska is not a bad way to start the day, with its delightful and deserted little coves.
And there are surely few more picturesque places than Vrboska, whose famous canal was looking particularly photogenic.
I have learned with press trips to build in enough pauses in the schedule to allow visitors to catch their breath, and morning coffee at Lem overlooking the old town was accompanied by a donkey photo opportunity.
(copyright Romulic and Stojcic)
The abandoned village of Humac is one of the treasures of Dalmatia, and one could not get a bigger contrast to the Ultra party than the deserted stone magic, where silence is only interrupted by the sound of cicadas.
Next stop a brief walking tour of Jelsa, pointing out some of the highlights of the town, including the excellent new wine bar, Artichoke, a delicious spot to stop for a refreshing glass.
And what better way to experience the heritage of Dalmatia than really close up? As a 2 year-old, my daughter used to like playing in this stone 'bunar' and Stephanie kindly agreed to get in.
For my infant child, it was the perfect accessory to crowd control, but Stephanie had other ideas...
It was Wine O'Clock, and the imperious Andro Tomic was on hand to take us through a tasting of the Tomic range in the Romanesque cellars of his Bastijana winery. Can I just say that the Plavac Mali Barrique 2009 was sensational?
And so the slow journey west began, stopping off first of all in Stari Grad, the oldest town in Croatia, and one dating back some 2400 years.
Rather than take the fast road, a leisurely drive along the old road to Hvar, through the villages of Selca and Brusje, an insight into Dalmatia in an age gone by, and home to fields of lavender.
And first stop in Hvar Town of course, was an appreciation of THAT view, from the Spanish Fortress.
Taylor was in photo heaven, and he and Stephanie vied for the best shooting spots.
Until Taylor was left along to film some excellent footage of Hvar Town from above on a perfect day with trademark blue skies.
Lunchtime, and where better to soak up the waterfront atmosphere than at Gariful, whose kitchen produced an excellent meal once again. Here is the selection of seafood starters.
But Ultra, Ultra was here, and the boats kept docking with more party revellers, while the team from Ultra Korea gorged on lobster on the table behind.
Time for a boat ride to the Pakleni Islands to introduce our new friends to the 'laganini' lifestyle.
The Ultra party had started - the view of Hotel Amfora from the sea.
One only has to be at Kordovon Beach on the other side of Jerolim for about 30 seconds to realise that it is one of the great paradises of Europe. Huffington Post named it one of the top 7 secret naturist beaches in Europe after discovering it on Total Hvar, and I think Stephanie will attest to its relaxing magic (see her enjoying a glass of wine in the lead photo of the article).
With less than three hours to go, the race was on to get back to Hvar. But not too quickly...
Another photogenic stop at the fabulous Top Bar at Hotel Adriana.
And although we were pushed for time, it was hard to drag Stephanie and Taylor away. This place is just GORGEOUS...
But drag them away I did, for I wanted them to have a completely different view of the Hvar restaurant scene (and the subject of another blog very soon), surely the craziest restaurant on the island, Lucullus. Crazy Stipe (read more about him here) opened the Champagne with a sword, just one of the highlights of an unbelievable half an hour in his company.
Travel broadens the mind, and different destinations have their own speciality food. One of the weirdest delicacies on Hvar is the edible dormouse, which is only actually eaten in three places in Croatia - on the grill on Dol on Hvar and Dol on Brac, as well as dormouse stew in Gorski Kotor. It is a speciality which can only be ordered in advance, and few restaurants prepare, but the magnificent Me and Mrs Jones was more than up to the task, having this dormouse special ready for us as the 12th hour approached.
Hvar is a magical, magical island, full of heritage, tradition, nature, wine and gastronomy. Come and discover the piece of it which suits your needs.