Friday, 13 May 2022

24 Hours in Stari Grad: For Those Seeking a More Laid-Back Experience

May 13, 2022 – Come with me as I explore different facets of this rustic jewel in this 2-part series, as we spend 24 hours in Stari Grad, one of Hvar's most popular towns.

With an average of over 2715 hours of sunlight a year, the Croatian island of Hvar offers plenty of fun in the sun. From its series of natural wonders including fresh springs, fruit orchards, lavender fields, and award-winning vineyards, to the allure of its world-renowned nightlife, Hvar is guaranteed surpass even the highest of expectations.

A brief history of Hvar

Did you know that the history of Hvar dates back over 5000 years? The earliest inhabitants of Hvar Island were the Neolithic people in 3500 B.C. During the 4th century, Hvar was initially colonized by Greeks, but following the Roman victory in the Second Illyrian War, the island became a part of the Roman Republic.

The island joined the Kingdom of Croatia in the 11th century but eventually fell under Byzantine rule, before becoming a part of the Kingdom of Croatia and Hungary in the 12th century. In 1409, the Venetian Republic regained the right to rule Hvar for over 5 centuries, before it was annexed by the Habsburg monarchy in 1979.

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A map of Europe in 1,000 A.D. with the Kingdom of Croatia. (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Over the next decades, Hvar changed hands a few more times. The French Empire seized the island in 1806 during the Napoleonic wars, before it fell under British rule in 1812. In 1815, Hvar was controlled by Austrians, before it was occupied by the Italian army from 1918 to 1912 under the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Finally, after the end of WW2 in 1945, it became a part of the People's Republic of Croatia.

Right, that was essentially Hvar’s 5,000-year history, brutally squeezed into 3 short paragraphs, but since we only have 24 hours, let’s begin a full day of activities in Stari Grad. Not only does this town attract a more relaxed clientele, as you’ll see, it’s also much cheaper than neighboring Hvar town!

8.30 a.m - 10.30 a.m.

The majority of Hvar visitors begin their trip at the Split ferry terminal. In Summer, the state-owned Jadrolinija ferries or catamarans run regular service lines to 3 different ports on Hvar: Split-Hvar, Split-Jelsa, and Split-Stari Grad.

From Split-Hvar, a catamaran runs almost every other hour, with the earliest ferry leaving Split at 8.30 a.m. Prices for the catamaran are the same for both children and adults, at 110 kuna (€14.50) one way. The Split-Jelsa catamaran first detours to Bol on Brač island (so the line really is Split-Bol-Jelsa), and only runs once a day, departing Split at 4.30 p.m. Tickets are 63 kunas (€8.40) per adult and 30 kunas (€4.00) for children between 3-12 for a single trip. Do note that the catamarans are foot/pet traffic only!

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(Image: Stipo Rajic/Screenshot)

Finally, we have the ferry line that will kick start our trip from Split-Stari Grad. Leaving Split as early as 1.30 a.m., the Split-Stari Grad ferry service runs 7 times a day at the peak of the season. Since it’s a ferry, you’ll be able to drive your vehicle on board so if you’ve rented a car in Split and intend to drive it over Hvar Island, this will be your port of call as well. Prices start at 55 kunas (€7.40) for an adult and 27.50 kunas (€3.70) for children 3-12, for a one-way journey.

10.30 a.m. - 11.30 a.m.

A 2-hour ferry ride later and you’ve arrived in Stari Grad, Hvar Island. The first thing to do is to drop your bags off at your accommodation and make a beeline to Stari Grad’s palm-lined Riva.

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There's no better place to relax and let your mind wander. (Image: Pixabay)

Surrounded by Venetian Renaissance buildings, the Riva is the heartbeat of the city. Here, you’ll find everything you need including cafes, bars, restaurants, souvenir stands, boutiques, and grocery stores. It’s perfect for a spot of people watching while snacking on some Burek (Croatian flakey pastry filled with a combination of cheese, meat, and spinach) with your coffee or Aperol Spritz (I mean, you’re on vacation, and its noon somewhere, right?)

11.30 a.m. - 1.30 p.m.

With your energy levels renewed, time to do some exploring! For 20 kunas (€2.65), head on into Tvrdalj fortress, the summer residence of Croatian Poet Petar Hektorović (1487-1572). Cocooned in this oasis, Hektorović produced some of his finest poetic works on Hvar’s fishermen such as – Ribanje i ribarsko prigovaranje, 1568, eventually becoming a vital figure in Croatian literature during the Renaissance period.

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Step inside the calm of Tvrdalj fortress. (Image: Alain C.)

In the vicinity are also a series of churches such as the Church of St. Stephens, built-in 1605 on the same site of a previous cathedral that was destroyed in 1571 during a Turkish invasion. There is also the church of St. John which houses archaeological remains of the original building that dates to the 5th or 6th century, and the church of St. Petar Muenik and the Dominican monastery that was founded in 1482.

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 Church of St. Stephens. These churches contain many important artworks by famous Venetian artists which are still on display today. (Image: Rory321)

Make sure to make time for wandering around the backstreets of Stari Grad to admire the architecture and take the opportunity to stop by Škor Square for a series of highly-instagrammable pictures. If Mamma Mia had another prequel (or sequel?), this be an ideal setting with its curved archways, stone houses, shuttered windows, and quaint staircases.

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The word škor derives from the word škver, meaning shipyard in the Dalmatian dialect. (Image: Chrissieb94/Tripadvisor screenshot)

Also wander along Srinjo Kola (translated to: Middle Street), one of the busiest and largest streets on Hvar Island during the 1870s and 80s, when maritime trade in the region was at its peak. Once bustling with merchants and traders from all over Europe, Srinjo Kola today has more of a bohemian vibe, housing quaint cafes and traditional souvenir stores. Don’t forget to peek at the ancient Roman mosaic discovered during an excavation last year!


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(Image: Vilma Matulic)

1.00 p.m. - 2.00 p.m.

Time for lunch! Before moving to Croatia, I had no clue that the pizzas here were outstanding. I guess it’s difficult when you’re overshadowed by neighboring Italy who arguably invented the dish. But what’s not to like about a wood-fired, slightly charred thin crust, tangy tomato base with innovative toppings? And the icing on the cake, it's a quick, cheap, and filling meal on its own. 

So, you know where this lunch recommendation is going. Head on over to Mola Podloža and treat yourself to a Pharos pizza - think breakfast in pizza form, complete with bacon and runny egg. This, paired with an ice-cold beer makes a perfect lunch in my books, all for around 100 kuna (€13).

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Dalmatian prosciutto makes a fantastic pizza topping. (Image: Pixabay)

2.00 p.m. - 5.00 p.m.

As much as you’d want to take a nap right now, I’d suggest a visit to the Stari Grad Plains. Stari Grad is home to one of the oldest cultivated plains in the world which dates back over 2,400 years when the Greeks colonized Hvar Island in the 4th century.

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The same crops from centuries ago still grow today. (Image: Visit Hvar tourist board/Facebook screenshot)

For over 2 millennia, locals have maintained the plans in almost their original form, so much so that in 2008, the plains were declared a UNESCO world heritage site for being one of the last remaining ancient Greek agricultural plains in the Mediterranean. Today, they grow the same crops as the 4th century Grecians – olives and grapes, producing some of the best olive oil and wine in the world.

While you can opt to walk around the plains, I’d prefer to rent a bike at one of the many kiosks clustered along the Riva and explore at your own pace. Stop and check out the ancient ruins along the way, sample some olive oil, or enjoy a glass of local wine at one of the restaurants in the area (e.g., Hora, Rugonj, Dionis). The best time to visit is from end-May to mid-July since it coincides with the Lavender Festival, and you’ll be able to avoid the intense heat of high Summer.

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Lavender bushes bloom between May-July. (Image: Pixabay)

5.00 p.m. - 6.30 p.m.

After returning your bikes to the Riva, it’s time to head back to your hotel to complete the check-in process and freshen up for a casual evening in Stari Grad.

6.30 p.m. - 8.00 p.m.

For our final activity today, you may want to watch the sunset from Glavica Hill. While Glavica Hill is considered a hike, I’ve made it up with relative ease in just sandals (not the heeled kind though!). The path is well marked, and the entire trail is shaded by Mediterranean pine trees which provides some reprieve from the afternoon heat.

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A breathtaking view awaits you at the top of Glavica hill. (Image: Steven D/Tripadvisor screenshot)

Before starting the 20–25-minute walk to the top, head to a grocery store or TISAK to grab a couple of drinks, so that you’ll be able to sit and watch the sunset as it illuminates Stari Grad and the neighboring island of Brač. The sunsets in Croatia are some of the most dynamic I’ve ever seen, with the horizon turning shades of blues, purples, oranges, and pinks before the teal blue of the evening blankets the sky.

8.00 p.m. - 10.30 p.m.

After a day of walking and biking, time to wind down at one of the most authentic, family-run restaurants in the city – Blue Doors Restaurant. With its courtyard seating, you’re treated to stunning views of the harbor, augmented by warm service and a romantic atmosphere, complete with dim lighting and soft music.

Try their seafood plate for 2, piled high with fish and seafood freshly caught that morning, and a Dalmatian signature, the black risotto made with squid ink. No meal is complete without a refreshing bottle of their own Prošip or Graševina, perfect for sipping on a warm summer evening while watching the fishing boats bob along with the gentle waves.

With such an activity-packed day, it might be time to wrap things up in Stari Grad in preparation for Part 2 in Hvar town where we’ll kick start the day with one of my favorite cafes on the island.

How to get from Stari Grad to Hvar by bus?

Getting around Hvar Island without your own ride is quite straightforward. There is only one bus service between Stari Grad-Hvar run by Čazmatrans. Bus services begin at 6.30 a.m. and run 7 times a day for the 30-minute journey, which costs around 25 - 35 KN (€3.50 - €5) per trip which you pay with cash when you board.

You may have noticed that our 24 hours in Stari Grad did not allocate any beach time in the crystal waters of Hvar Island, but the fun’s not over! I promise there’ll be plenty of time in the sun and sea when we reach Hvar Town. So, continue to watch this space for suggestions on spending 24 hours in Hvar Town!

(€1 = 7.54 kuna)

For more on travel in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Wednesday, 4 May 2022

Suncani Hvar Continues Investment Cycle: New Riva Marina Hotel Opens in June!

May 4, 2022 - The new-and-improved Riva Marina Hotel by Suncani Hvar opens in Hvar town just in time for the summer! 

The start of summer is well and truly around the corner, though we're already feeling a breath of what it used to be with a tourism boom since the long Easter holiday weekend. With Covid measures lifted and travelers back to planning trips as scheduled, all forecasts reveal a standout summer ahead, which will be enhanced this year on Hvar thanks to the newly renovated Riva Marina Hotel. 

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Namely, Suncani Hvar Hotels continues with intensive investments in 2022 to strategically reposition its portfolio towards high-quality offers and services. The most significant investment this year is the complete renovation of the Riva Marina Hotel, worth 40 million kuna. The planned opening of the newly renovated hotel is at the beginning of June.

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Hotel Riva, located in the center of Hvar, is one of the first hotels in Hvar town, opening in 1914, precisely 15 years after the historic Hotel Elisabeth. It was named Hotel Kovačić after the initial founder of the hotel and named 'Riva' in 2006 when it was completely renovated. In 2022, this century-old hotel with striking and original architecture will change its name to Riva Marina, emphasizing its first-class position in the heart of Hvar's marina. The hotel is intended for guests who expect superior service and high-quality accommodation and will primarily be focused on the British and American markets.

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rivamarina13.jpeg"Today, trends in the hotel industry are changing rapidly, and it is important to keep up with new challenges and competition, both in Croatia and in the wider world market. The Riva Marina hotel renovation confirms the company's development strategy, aimed at continuously improving the quality of portfolios and services for high-paying guests, which will further raise the competitiveness of the entire Hvar destination," said Gordana Tomičić, President of the Management Board.

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Thus, the Riva Marina Hotel will have 50 new unique rooms and suites ready for this season, providing every guest with complete comfort and enjoyment. Carefully designed and executed interior design further emphasizes the historic building itself, and its quality continues the direction harmonized with the most prestigious Hvar hotel Palace Elisabeth. The newly renovated hotel will also have a new restaurant and bar concept, designed according to the latest standards and adapted to modern world travelers. Guests will enjoy a variety of delicacies and drinks on the iconic outdoor terrace that offers a unique view of the yachts and marina.

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The project was entrusted to the architectural studio Tissa from Poreč, the interior design by Oto Blaha, and the contractor Kvantum from Zagreb.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Friday, 15 April 2022

Ancient Adriatic Treasures Discovered Near Hvar

April 15, 2022 - Significant progress has been made in the research of the seabed around Hvar, testifying to the island's importance as far back as ancient times thanks to new Adriatic treasures found. 

As 24Sata writes, iron ship cannons, amphorae for the transport of wine and olive oil, ceramic vessels, and many other items are just some of the findings of the latest research on the seabed of the island of Hvar. The findings prove that Hvar was an important maritime center 3000 years ago, in fact, one of the "guardians" of traffic in the Adriatic Sea. Research of the Hvar seabed has been going on for decades, and the last one was conducted by the company Khantaros, along with the Art Academy of the University of Split which both specialise in underwater research. All was done with the support of the Split-Dalmatia County through the project "Maritime is good!". According to everything that was found, Hvar was one of the important points for the control of maritime routes and the establishment of maritime dominance in the Adriatic and the eastern Mediterranean during late antiquity.

In certain positions that show the highest density and value of material archaeological research using a probe will continue, with expectations of finding extremely valuable archaeological artifacts. This research could provide key information about the history and archeology of Hvar and Dalmatia in general. 24Sata spoke about the details with the head of the research, Teo Katunarić Kirjakov, a senior lecturer at the Academy of Arts of the University of Split:

“Near the island of Šćedro, which means ‘Merciful Island’ in Old Slavonic, a real multitude of traces of life from all periods have been found. Šćedro has always been an island that has protected sailors in its safe harbours, from prehistoric times to the present day”.

However, the "Merciful Island" failed to provide a haven for a cargo ship with wine amphorae from the second or first century BC, which was caught in a storm and violently pulled to the seabed. Neatly arranged amphorae of the ship's cargo still lie intact in the depths of the sea. It is the only fully preserved ancient shipwreck in the Split-Dalmatia County and as such we must preserve it, said Tea Katunarić Kirjakov and added that extremely valuable finds were discovered in the bay of Stari Grad:

“The bay of Stari Grad is deep and well protected from almost all winds, and people have lived along the shores of the bay since prehistoric times. And then in 385/384 BC the Greeks from the island of Paros founded a colony at the bottom of the bay of today's Old Town and named it Faros”.

The Greeks not only significantly changed the appearance of the islands they occupied but also the appearance of the coast and the seabed of the bay. It is not certain what the seashore next to the town and the bay in front of it looked like in ancient times, but in the area of the Bonj bay, an artificial embankment along the rocky shore is visible. This is perhaps the most valuable and the only preserved part of the built ancient coast, as explained by Katunarić Kirjakov. Near the town of Sućuraj, in the far east of the island of Hvar, numerous valuable finds were also discovered:

“The eastern cape of the island of Hvar, Cape Sućuraj, and its deep well-protected bay was an unavoidable port in that waterway, while the oldest underwater find in the area is a Greek-Illyrian helmet from the fifth century BC”.

Finds from all periods have been recorded in the wider waters of Sućuraj, including a Roman shipwreck and a fighter plane from World War II - concluded Tea Katunarić Kirjakov, who went on to describe her personal experience of diving among objects hundreds and thousands of years old:

“It's a magnificent thing. The most impressive find is the Roman shipwreck near Šćedro, where all artifacts have been completely preserved, unlike many other locations that were devastated. By the way, parts of a Roman villa with a breakwater are also being explored under the sea near Šćedro. It is possible that the Roman ship that sank near the island was sailing toward it. And when you dive in and arrive at that world of peace and quiet that you disrupted after two thousand years, it’s simply indescribable. We must preserve such locations, we must not allow their devastation, concluded Katunarić Kirjakov.

24Sata also discussed the latest research with Igor Mihajlović, a senior conservator and archaeologist at the Department of Underwater Archeology of the Croatian Conservation Institute, who researched several shipwrecks in the Hvar area:

“The most recent site currently being explored is a shipwreck in the Pakleni Islands, which can be dated to the 17th century.

Three large iron anchors, six iron cannons, fragments of glass cups, several specimens of maiolica-type ceramic vessels, and numerous items related to the ship's weapons were found.

The interesting thing about this shipwreck is that the probe in the stern area found bone remains of a 170 cm tall man. Along with the bones, a bronze saint's medal from Rome was found, with the image of St. Longinus piercing Jesus on the Cross. These findings indicate a sudden sinking of a ship caused by extremely bad weather or an attack by another ship.

An extremely rare find was collected from the site – a ship bell made of bronze. So far only four ship bells from the period from the 16th to the 18th century have been found, concluded Mihajlović.

For more, check out our lifestyle section.

Saturday, 9 April 2022

Condé Nast Traveler 2022 Readers’ Choice Award: Vote for Palace Elisabeth, Amfora, and Hvar Island!

April 9, 2022 - The island of Hvar was voted the #1 island in Europe last year and has a chance to defend its title in the Condé Nast Traveler 2022 Readers’ Choice Awards! But some of Hvar Island's best hotels are taking the spotlight this year, too. 

The Condé Nast Traveler 2022 Readers’ Choice Awards have opened the polls for their annual survey, which includes two famous Hvar hotels Palace Elisabeth and Amfora, as well as the island of Hvar itself in the choice for Best Hotels & Resorts and Islands!

The Reader’s Choice Awards rank the best hotels, resorts, cities, islands, airlines, airports, and cruise lines in the world and it is Condé Nast Traveler’s biggest yearly travel award. 

“The last two years changed how and where we all traveled, but also the trips we’re booking now. That makes it more important than ever for you to weigh in on the places getting you excited to travel again—from your all-time favorite hotels, cruises, and beach resorts to the countries, cities, and islands you're escaping to in 2022 and beyond. Plus, we want to hear all about what your last travel year looked like. So please vote, share, and tell us everything," writes Condé Nast Traveler.  

Receiving this recognition of excellence is highly valued in the travel industry.

So, how do you vote? 

Step 1: Visit https://www.cntraveler.com/rca/vote

Step 2: Log in with your Facebook account or ‘Register’

Step 3: Click on the “Islands” and/ or "Hotels and Resorts" category

Step 4: Search - Hvar / Palace Elisabeth / Amfora / and vote

Share your travel experience by voting in the 2022 Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards by June 30, 2022.

And don't forget...

Sunčani Hvar Hotels Spring Specials are here, with enticing offers at two of its most in-demand hotels - Adriana & Amfora!

Spice up your Easter break with a minimum 2-night stay at Adriana spa hotel, with prices starting from 59 EUR per person and breakfast included! But that's not all. Adriana guests will receive a bottle of house wine and a 10% discount at its restaurants and bars during their stay. This offer is valid for the month of April with a free upgrade upon availability. 

And if you can't make it in April but still want to explore the charms of Hvar this preseason? 

Amfora resort has also announced a Spring Special during one of the most beautiful periods to visit the island. From 51 EUR per person with breakfast included (and a minimum 2-night stay), guests also receive a bottle of house wine, a 10% discount at its restaurant and bars, and a free upgrade upon availability. This offer, however, is valid from April 20 to June 1, 2022! 

For more, check out our travel section.

Tuesday, 8 March 2022

Why Doesn't Hvar Olive Oil Have the Origin Label Yet?

March 8, 2022 - In recent days it has been said that many islands have already received designations of origin or geographical origin for their olive oils, but Hvar olive oil has not yet. Why? And why is it important to have this label?

Olive oils from Cres, Krka, Korčula, Šolta, and most recently Brač are mentioned, while the people of Hvar are currently proud of their multi-millennium oil production, which has been used as food, medicine, and light on their island for a long time, writes Slobodna Dalmacija.

Today, according to the agricultural advisor mr. sc. Stanislav Štambuk, this island area cultivates more than 250,000 olive trees. Farmers have made good progress in terms of proper implementation of agro-technical measures, fruit picking and processing, and oil storage. There are several modern oil mills, so extra virgin olive oils are most often produced.

This is sufficiently evidenced by the numerous recognitions of Hvar olive growers and oil mills won in the country and abroad (USA, Japan...), it is surprising that an island of less than 300 square kilometers has as many as six protected values ​​on the UNESCO List of Tangible and Intangible Heritage (Faro Choir, agave lace, procession 'Za Krizen', klapa song, Mediterranean food, and the art of drywall construction), but no indication of origin or geographical origin among 33 Croatian agricultural and food products registered with the European Union.

Slobodna Dalmacija decided to check what the problem is, especially because these labels are on the one hand a valorization of achievements so far and on the other an incentive to follow the path of progress and better quality even more decisively.

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Olives from Hvar (Photo: Mario Romulić)

''There has been talking for a long time on Hvar about initiating this procedure, however, the initiative was somewhat more seriously concretized at the end of 2019 with representatives of the Association of Olive Growers St. Spirijun in Milna. Since then, several enthusiasts have been working continuously to gather the necessary arguments, such as historical evidence, data on varieties, geo-climatic conditions, traditions, processing, use of names and labels, invoices, delivery notes, media articles ..., and when all this is completed we could at least go for a geographical indication because the differences between the designations are small anyway, and the benefits are almost the same'', said prof. dr. sc. Ivica Ljubenkov, an expert who also helped the people of Brač in their candidacy for the origin label.

A tradition dating back to the ancient greeks

One of the problems, as been found out, is that on Hvar, which is famous as the sunniest island (more than 2,700 hours of sunshine a year), there is not a single well-known indigenous olive variety, such as people from Šolta have Levantine, or people from Korčula have Lastovka.

And the candidacy for the label of origin is somehow the easiest to 'wrap in cellophane' of these original varieties, the logic of the European Union is not always in line with the thinking of our people.

Also, it must be added, that despite the declarative desire, the road to acquiring the label is long and difficult, in part due to the low involvement of some olive growers and members of the association.

''We are really proud that in the upper part we have evidence of olive growing and olive oil production from the time of the ancient Greeks. This fact is confirmed by an olive tree from the Kuharača site near Zastražišće. The ancient olive tree is truly a natural rarity and a kind of cultural monument. Evidence of olive processing also exists at the Kupinovik site near the Old Town - Faros, next to the old Roman villa rusticae. There are important artifacts such as two olive presses, a mill with a millstone, several basins for sedimentation, several oysters for storing oil... Numerous remains of architecture testify to multiple alterations, which means that the villa functioned for a longer period of 1 to the 4th century'', says the young, but multi-award-winning olive grower Eva Marija Čurin from Gdynia.

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Olives from Hvar (Photo: Mario Romulić)

She is also the secretary of the association, which has more than 150 members and is actively involved in the process of obtaining the label. She adds that the "Days of Olive Oil Days of the Island of Hvar" event in Jelsa is organized every year, with the aim of encouraging olive growers to socialize, have a healthy competitive spirit, educate and, above all, increase the quality of Hvar olive oil.

Therefore, the goal is to contribute to the development of olive growing on the island of Hvar, to gain in importance both locally and internationally.

However, the association will not achieve this without its members, so the event was launched to educate these valuable olive growers about the benefits of the label and to encourage them to be more involved in collecting materials needed to obtain it.

''If we recapitulate everything that Professor Ljubenkov and our Eva Marija told us, I would like to tell the membership that, in addition to the objective benefits we would get from labels, they also protect the consumer himself, as the end-user of Hvar olive oil. The labels certainly bring protection against unauthorized use and damage to the reputation of oil that would be produced on Hvar according to pre-established rules. In this way, the consumer would have a guarantee that it is an oil that is recognized and protected specialty of the area from which it originates, and we are aware of the quality we have can only say that this label will be only the first step in further promotion of Hvar olive oil, the island where we live and produce'', concluded Đorđan Gurdulić, president of the Association of Olive Growers "St. Špirijun" from Hvar.

When it comes to olive oil, Croatia is one of the leading countries in the industry. From Istria to Dalmatia, you can find all the information you need to know about the origins, processes, and where to buy Croatian and Hvar olive oil on the Total Croatia page, now in your language!

For more on Croatian products, producers, companies and exports, make sure to check out Made in Croatia.

Friday, 4 March 2022

Sunčani Hvar Hotels Spring Specials: Preseason Deals at Adriana & Amfora!

March 4, 2022 - Because you don't have to wait until the summer to visit Croatia's sunniest island. Sunčani Hvar Hotels Spring Specials are here! 

It's no surprise that the glamourous Hvar town is one of the busiest summer hotspots in Croatia. Still, many may not know that the popular town is also a gem in the offseason months - and you get to experience it without the peak season crowds. 

As a way to tempt travelers to Croatia's sunniest island in the calm before the tourism storm, Sunčani Hvar Hotels Spring Specials are here, with enticing offers at two of its most in-demand hotels - Adriana & Amfora!

Namely, spice up your Easter break with a minimum 2-night stay at Adriana spa hotel, with prices starting from 59 EUR per person and breakfast included! But that's not all. Adriana guests will receive a bottle of house wine and a 10% discount at its restaurants and bars during their stay. This offer is valid for the month of April with a free upgrade upon availability. 

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And if you can't make it in April but still want to explore the charms of Hvar this preseason? 

Amfora resort has also announced a Spring Special during one of the most beautiful periods to visit the island. From 51 EUR per person with breakfast included (and a minimum 2-night stay), guests also receive a bottle of house wine, a 10% discount at its restaurant and bars, and a free upgrade upon availability. This offer, however, is valid from April 20 to June 1, 2022! 

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And should you need another reason to visit Hvar? 

The island Hvar was voted the #1 island in Europe according to Condé Nast Readers’ Choice Awards, with readers naming its abundant nature, culture, and rich history as to why you should visit. 

“With warm summers and mild winters, the island of Hvar is the sunniest spot in Croatia—there are over 2,800 hours of sunshine annually. It may be known for its beaches and turquoise water, but there’s another side to this resort island. From the town of Hvar on the island’s southern shore, make the slow, uphill climb to Tvrđava Fortica, a 13th-century fortress with the best views on the island. Pro tip: To see Hvar’s spectacular fields of lavender in full bloom, visit in early summer. The harvest takes place in late July, but you can buy all sorts of scented souvenirs in the local markets year-round,” writes Condé Nast Traveler.

Need we say more?

For more on travel in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Monday, 28 February 2022

Jelsa Becomes the First International Dark Sky Community in Southern Europe

February 28th, 2022 - With its dark night sky now officially certified, the town on Hvar island is set to become a notable astrotourism destination

We recently reported that considerable efforts were being made on Hvar island to decrease light pollution, as part of Jelsa Municipality’s bid to become an International Dark Sky Community.

The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) has now granted the coveted title to Jelsa, making it the first International Dark Sky Community in Croatia and southern Europe. Jelsa is also the 37th local self-government unit in the world to bear the prestigious title, reports Morski.hr.

The International Dark Sky Community is a title given to local communities that have shown outstanding commitment to dark sky conservation through the implementation of lighting policies, education on dark sky conservation, and citizen support for the initiative.

‘Jelsa Municipality has set a high standard that should be followed by other local governments in your country and this region of the world. We’re honoured to bring attention to Jelsa as a prominent leader in setting an example of how the proper use of lighting benefits people's well-being, as well as the night environment in our communities and beyond’, said the International Night Sky Protection Programme Director Ashley Wilson.

The process of declaring Jelsa an International Dark Sky Community was set in motion by the Jelsa Tourist Board Director Marija Marjan, and the procedure and activities related to the bid were managed by the Croatian Astronomical Union. In the past two years, the municipality has swapped 82% of its unprotected public lighting for fully protected 3000K lighting in accordance with IDA requirements.

The project was implemented over the course of a year, and it involved numerous activities ranging from public telescope observations, lectures, exhibitions, events and astronomy schools for elementary school students to the development of a five-year work plan and environmental lighting guidelines.

Jelsa’s bid was submitted in December last year, and once the additional conditions required by the IDA were fulfilled, the municipality was granted the title of an International Dark Sky Community.

The International Dark Sky Places is an initiative launched in 2001 as a non-regulatory and voluntary programme meant to encourage communities, parks and protected areas around the world to preserve and protect the natural night sky through the adoption of effective lighting policies, environmentally responsible outdoor lighting, and education.

‘Careless use of artificial lighting can disrupt entire ecosystems, have an adverse effect on human health, unnecessarily waste money and energy, considerably contribute to climate change, and obstruct our view and connection to the universe we live in. Jelsa joins the international community of more than 195 protected areas that have made exceptional contributions to the protection of the dark sky from light pollution, and is well on its way to becoming the first serious destination for astrotourism in Croatia’, stated Jelsa Tourist Board.

Places that are known for dark night skies, especially those destinations that have received official certification in this regard, are extremely rare and attract amateur astronomers from all over the world. Citizens of countries that are struggling with light pollution, such as Germany, France, Spain and Italy, constantly seek out locations that will allow them to enjoy the dark night skies.

A Croatian island now joins the list of such locations, with Jelsa officially certified as an ideal location for night sky watching. As such, it will surely attract a new group of tourists, who will no longer have to travel to the Canary Islands to gaze at the night sky.

Thursday, 25 November 2021

VIDEO: Classic Island Vibes and Vistas of Spectacular Summertime on Hvar

November 25, 2021 – From the epic medieval harbour of Vrboska and the buzz of Hvar town to the historic streets of Stari Grad and 250 kilometres of brilliant beaches, this new footage of summertime on Hvar is making us yearn for next season.

DJI_0105_gradHvar.jpg© Goran Šafarek

Hvar Town is overflowing with life in summer. By day, families wander by the waterside or between restaurants in the old town. By night, bars and discos are vibrant and full. In Stari Grad, a constant stream of excited new visitors arriving by boat. Such scenes tell of the popularity of summertime on Hvar. Arguably, this is Croatia's most well-known island for holidaymakers.

_W6A8775_StariGrad.jpg© Goran Šafarek

But, away from the throngs of people in Hvar Town and Stari Grad, there's a distinctly different side to this island. Famously, Stari Grad Plain (Starogradsko polje) on the interior looks much the same now as it did over 2000 years ago. That's how long grapes and olives have been cultivated here. Pretty rows of vines and fields of olive trees or lavender colour the landscape all over Hvar. Passing by these agricultural endeavours gives a better reminder of just how much room there is for everyone on Hvar.

IMG_5362_DxO.jpgAs shown above, the long, ancient harbour at Vrboska © Goran Šafarek

With 250 kilometres of its own coastline, Hvar is not short of beaches. People love swimming in the island's crystal clear waters. Sailors love them too. In the ancient harbour of Vrboska, there's an altogether different feeling to arrivals by boat. Here, elegant yachts gracefully cruise into the long, thin harbour. They find temporary homes near small, traditional fishing boats. Inside, summertime sailors may have chosen this beautiful part of the island because of its famous restaurants. After the gastronomic joy of lunch, maybe they'll wander the historic promenade or visit one of the famous winemakers near here.

DJI_0991_Vrboska.jpgIn the background, sailors into Vrboska © Goran Šafarek

All these different aspects of summertime on Hvar and more have been captured in an all-new video made by Goran Šafarek. Goran, who is an independent biologist, publicist, photographer and filmmaker, was on the Adriatic working in summer 2021. His assignments included film work commissioned by Croatian National Parks. But, he took advantage of being on the coast and made time between assignments for a family sailing holiday. He visited Korčula island and Hvar island, using the opportunity to make new videos of each.

_W6A8752.jpg© Goran Šafarek

Total Croatia News has already published Goran's new video of Korčula, which you can watch here. This new one of Hvar has us pining for summer and making plans for next.

For more info about Hvar island, look here. And for the latest news from Hvar, bookmark Total Croatia News pages here

Tuesday, 9 November 2021

Team 45 Degrees Sailing Takes on Peškafondo 2021

Tuesday, November 9, 2021 - After a COVID-19 instigated break last year, the much-acclaimed Peškafondo 2021 was back to celebrate its 10th year as an international fishing and tourism event. 

365 GARIFUL HVAR

Organised by the “365 Gariful Hvar” association, 48 teams entered and competed in the waters of Hvar. Each team was comprised of four members, and registration was 500 kuna for each member. There was also an ongoing opportunity to donate in order to partake of the non-fishing festivities, money that will go to a local charity as chosen by the “365 Gariful Hvar” association. Read more here where Ivan Gospodnetić, owner of the much famed Gariful restaurant, talks to Paul Bradbury about why he started this festival in the first place and how he has watched it grow and evolve over the years.

KICK START CELEBRATIONS

Not having any idea what to expect, we were invited by Ivan via Paul to join in on the festivities and boarded the catamaran to Hvar town on Friday. The program officially started at 1 pm so we decided to catch the 10 am ferry to give us plenty of time to get settled before festivities kicked off. Little did we realise that the Šibenik Klapa group were on the same ferry, and they started things off early, pulling out their instruments and playing for all of us on the ferry. What a great way to kick off the weekend! 
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THE SQUID GAMES BEGIN

As the ferry pulled alongside the Hvar Riva, they continued to play as they disembarked the boat, being welcomed warmly by everyone already gathered and set up outside Gariful restaurant. Peškafondo and Big Game Fishing 2021 was off to a great start. Teams began to gather at the tables set up outside the restaurant, everyone was registering, getting their t-shirts, having a warm hearty lunch. The trumpet signaled at 3 pm and was the sign for all of the fishing boats and their teams to head out in search of the desired squid. They would disperse in the waters around Hvar and Pakleni islands and put their lines down hoping for a bountiful catch. 

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DAY ONE CELEBRATIONS

At 8 pm the boats returned amidst live music and the buzz of dinner beginning, and the catches were weighed and measured in full sight of everyone in attendance. Most teams were pretty successful and it was a great atmosphere for everyone to warm up and wind down after the hours spent out on the boat. The wine and beer were flowing, and the celebrations continued into the night. 

DAY TWO BEGINS

The next morning at about 8 am, the big game fishing boats departed the Hvar Riva and spent all day out fishing, in pursuit of the elusive big catch! After another very colourful departure of the squid fishers at 3 pm again, they spent another afternoon out to catch as many squids as they could find. It was a much harder day out, as rain impeded the time out for many, especially those in boats without shelter. Fishing is certainly a sport that is at the mercy of the weather 

RAIN, RAIN, RAIN

The rain continued as the days' catches were weighed and measured, and it certainly did not dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd that came out to support their friends and family members. A very wet award ceremony ensued, and it was great to see mixed teams, kids, and families having participated, as everyone came up to receive their prize and/or trophy. 

And then the final party began.  With the help of more delicious food, drinks, and live music, the vibrant and dynamic festivities continued into the night. An apt way to end the adult portion of a fantastic weekend celebrating the much-esteemed squid, in the quintessentially Dalmatian manner of celebration.
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SHOUT OUTS FOR THIS EVENT

We had a couple of take-aways and shoutouts from this event.

AMAZING FOOD

Oh my goodness the food. Warming, fill-your-boots, hearty, nourishing food for a large crowd of people is one thing that Croatians really excel at. And all teams gathered by 365 Gariful Hvar Association totally went above and beyond to ensure that not only did the food taste good, it tasted amazing and it also showcased specific Croatian traditional dishes from a couple of different regions. Like arambaši from Sinj and the famous Skradin risotto! As well as demonstrating how heart-warming and relevant traditional cuisine still is in the setting of modern events and festivities. 

Huge vats of slow-cooked meats and seafood wafted incredible smells that led you down the Riva. All chefs were engaging and got involved in the fun, all while they were cooking and serving. They took time out to talk to us and show us what they were cooking. They helped to make the atmosphere bright and warm, despite the persistent rain! 

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LACK OF RUBBISH

We were also very impressed by the lack of rubbish and the major lack of single-use plastic. Serving plates and utensils were paper and wood, cups were washable and reusable. And the staff working the event were fast, efficient and effective. There was no chance for any rubbish to blow onto the ground or into the sea because it was cleared away so fast. Full carafes of wine and bottles of sparkling water were brought to your table before you even realised that the existing bottles were running low. It was an incredibly clean, well-organised environment, which is an awesome achievement in normal circumstances and especially so given the incessant wet weather.

HIGH ENERGY ATMOSPHERE

The music was great. Even though it was all in Croatian, based on the enthusiasm from everyone else around us, they were clearly playing popular and classic Croatian songs. And we loved the variety. From the homespun acoustic style of the Šibenik Klapa to the powerful seasoned performance of Indira Vladić (Levak), it was all upbeat, enormously engaging, and great fun to be in the midst of.

The atmosphere was just great. The various elements, the music, the food, the staff, the logistics going on throughout the weekend, they all added up to a really enjoyable, wholesome event. 

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ALL-INCLUSIVE

We also loved the fact that you don’t have to be out on a fishing boat to enjoy this event. In addition to the 500 kuna fee to register as a member of a team on a fishing boat, you could also donate and participate in the on-land parts of the event. Which were aplenty! Everyone felt included no matter your age, nationality, or fishing and squid catching skills, or total lack of! This was especially true on Sunday, which was Kids Day. Complete with bouncy castles, balloons, games, and activities, thank goodness the sun came out to shine down upon what felt like the whole of Hvar and their kids! The sound of delight, laughter, and joy filled the main square of Hvar. 

Given that we were non-Croatian-speaking foreigners who knew very little about the event and pretty much knew no one at this event, we felt very welcome and included. We had the opportunity to meet some of the fishermen, many of whom also work in the marine tourism industry. We enjoyed chatting with the chefs as they described what they were cooking for us. As well as making some awesome connections with individuals from other areas of Croatia, like Monika from Sinj (see her article here).

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All in all, this was an event that we have heard nothing about during our five-year stay in Croatia. And now we have been, we can’t stop talking about it!

I think Ivan from Restaurant Gariful put it well when he said “I can't describe the happiness I feel knowing Peškafondo is no longer just about Hvar, it's becoming something that can be about all of Croatia.”

If you’re looking for an “authentic” experience in 2022 or beyond, this is one event you really need to check out. We highly recommend this event to any foreigners and Digital Nomads who find themselves in Croatia once the summer crowds have gone and are looking for real local events to take part in. This is all of those things in spades. 

If you have questions on anything sailing in Croatia, feel free to ask below in the comments or check out Total Croatia, Sailing in Croatia: Your One-Stop-Shop for everything sailing.

If you’re looking for a little more history around this event read Paul Bradbury’s interview with Ivan ‘Gariful’ Gospodnetić here: Celebrating 10 year of Peškafondo.

For more on the programme and reflections on the last ten years of Peskafondo, read Squid Games on Hvar.

Saturday, 6 November 2021

Great Archaeological Finds Discovered in a Cave on Hvar

ZAGREB, 6 Nov 2021 - The cave called "Babina Špilja" on the Adriatic island of Hvar was explored by archaeologists this summer and autumn when they found ceramic items and animal bones dating back to the early Neolithic period and a pebble with natural markings, which appears to have originated from the Mesolithic.

The discoveries are currently in Oxford for radiocarbon dating, archaeologist Marcel Burić has told Hina.

The results of that analysis will be completed in January 2022, and they will indicate whether or not people had existed on this Croatian island also before the early Neolithic.

The exploration was triggered off by the results of the doctoral thesis of researcher Alen Miletić who has studied the topography of prehistoric sites on the western side of Hvar.

Babina Špilja is at an altitude of 200 metres.

Burić said that researchers of Columbia University in the City of New York and of La Sapienza in Rome are included in the project of exploration of this site.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

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