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

Sunday, 21 November 2021

No to Sucuraj Marina as Government Turns Down Slovakian Concessionaire

November the 21st, 2021 - There is still a resounding no as an answer the the question of the Sucuraj marina as the Croatian Government turns down a would-have-been Slovakian concessionaire.

As Morski writes, there's still nothing much to say about the construction of the Sucuraj marina which would boast 250 berths on the Central Dalmatian island of Hvar. At a session held several days ago, the Croatian Government entirely rejected the only bid that arrived in the tender because it was deemed to be incomplete and thus rendered invalid.

The concession was to cover an area of ​​slightly more than 100,000 square metres of maritime domain on which the waterfront, breakwaters, moorings, road accesses, buildings and all other associated infrastructure for the potential Sucuraj marina were to be built, which would add a lot to Hvar as a whole with its aforementioned additional 250 berths. The concession was otherwise to be granted for a period of thirty years.

The estimated value of the investment was slightly higher than 390 million kuna  and the tender had already been annulled once back in 2018 because "the concession holder did not provide a mandatory guarantee of a commercial bank in the amount of 1 percent of the total value of the project", which was one of the vital conditions which needed to be met in order to get a thumbs up from the government.

Only one company, Marina Scuraj d.o.o., which was founded in September last year by the Slovak company Sitno Holding Real Estate, which is owned by a Slovakian businessman and former politician, Ľudovít Cernak, applied for the repeated tender.

However, just a few days ago, the Croatian Government rejected the offer of this particular Slovak investor, because the conceptual design submitted in the offer is not in accordance with the spatial planning documents, ie the Urban Development Plan for the Nautical Tourism Port of Sucuraj - UPU 5.

It's worth mentioning that the aforementioned Slovakian holding previously won the tender of the Municipality of Preko for the development of the tourist zone Macjak - Sumljak.

For more, make sure to check out our politics and business sections.

Saturday, 20 November 2021

Summer in Croatia Through the Lens of Croatian Photographer Timotej Gošev

November 20, 2021 - ''I want people to look at my photographs, and simply desire to be right there in the place their eyes are seeing'', says Timotej Gošev, better known as Timotej on Instagram, inviting thousands of people every day to experience the Adriatic summer through his photographs. Total Croatia News managed to interview the photographer with Varaždin roots.

In what ways can photography positively impact the promotion of tourism in Croatia? The question may sound simple to answer, but nowadays photography can be manipulated in such a way that the first impression of a tourist upon arriving at his destination is one of disappointment. It happens in many parts of the world. The use of visual content, to be used responsibly and strategically, can be essential to make Croatia known around the world.

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Krivica Cove and beach, Lošinj (Photo: Timotej Gošev)

Now I live in Croatia, but for 24 years of my life, my only reference was what I saw on the internet and on social networks. Now that I have spent two summers here, I can attest that Croatia has the advantage of meeting the expectations of those who came with a preconceived image in their heads. Those turquoise and transparent waters that you see in photos and videos, they are like that! But the Adriatic coast of Croatia is very extensive, and to it, we must add its more than 700 islands. Imagine the number of remote and wonderful places along almost 6000 kilometers of coastline that must exist to fulfill your fantasy of an Adriatic summer. Well, a Croatian photographer is dedicated to exploring, capturing, and sharing the magic of these places with his thousands of followers.

If you have looked for photos of Croatia to corroborate what everyone is surely saying about it, chances are that you have come across Timotej's photos. Also, if you have seen one of his photos, it is most likely that you have already bought your air ticket to spend the following summer in the Adriatic.

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Lopud Island (Photo: Timotej Gošev)

Croatia will always stand out for its history, and its stories. But being someone who has lived most of his life on another continent, I am aware of the visual impact that Croatia has on other countries in the world. Especially in these times, many friends shared with me photos or videos that they found on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, TikTok, or Twitter, and they could not believe that such a place existed, and especially in Europe. When it comes to paradise islands and turquoise waters, many think of Hawaii, the Caribbean, or the islands of Melanesia. But Croatia has already positioned itself as an alternative Eden, and one that combines dream destinations and a calendar packed with cultural activities.

I find it impressive that a photo is able to motivate someone to book airfare and accommodation. I think this reinforces the idea that the world is there to be explored, and that Croatia is one of those must-see destinations in it. But for this to work as it has been working in recent years, it is necessary that all the tourism promotion forces in the country aim towards the same objective. There is the National Tourism Board, the local Tourism Boards, and why not, talented Croatian citizens who use their platforms and content to highlight their country in a showcase.

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Kamenjak, Istria (Photo: Timotej Gošev)

One such person is precisely the famous Croatian photographer Timotej Gošev, who's approaching his mid-thirties, and currently living in Berkshire, England. He's the owner of the @timotej Instagram account which has become one of the largest social media accounts in the world by sharing travel photography and recommendations from only around Croatia. With almost 100 thousand followers on Instagram, his pictures often go viral and are reposted and shared by some of the biggest media groups such as Forbes, Conde Nast, as well as the biggest re-sharing travel accounts on Instagram such as Earthpix, Travel & Leisure, Wonderful Places & Beautiful Destinations. If you haven't seen his photography yet, be sure to check his Instagram first. He also has an impressive guide to his top 30 favorite beaches in Croatia, you can check it here.

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Dubrovnik (Photo: Timotej Gošev)

Timotej shares with Total Croatia News about his special connection to his country, his photography, tourism in Croatia, his future projects, and much more.

The vast majority of your followers and all of those who have come across your photographs on social media already know you for the quality of your work and your captivating images. But few know about your personal side and your history with Croatia. How does this connection with Croatia begin? Were you born and raised in Croatia?

It’s true. A lot of people see my photographs on Instagram, and just by looking at them can say this looks like one of Timotej’s photographs. However, very few people know me personally. Remember, I am a photographer sharing photos from around Croatia, through social media, to the world. I am not another influencer showcasing my life and hoping to influence you to be like me. My goal is to inspire people through my photography to visit and fall in love with Croatia.

It’s also very amusing to me, how so many people are surprised that I’m from Croatia. Even Croatians often assume I’m from somewhere else. I was introduced to Nina Badrić for example, and she knew of my photography but thought I was a Slovenian photographer. I think it’s purely because my name, Timotej (pronounced ‘Timo-tey’ in English), is not so common in Croatia. Think about it, most boys in Croatia are named after the first four books of the New Testament Bible. Ivan (John), Marko (Mark), Luka (Luke), Matej (Matthew). My mum wanted to be a little bit more original with her Biblical name choice, so she looked further down the list until she came to Timotej (Timothy). Simple and straightforward explanation.

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Croatian figs (Photo: Timotej Gošev)

My parents came to study in England after finishing their high school and army service in Varazdin, so I was born in the UK. But a few years later we moved back, so my younger brother was born in Varaždin. After a few years, my parents realized they could make a better life for our family back in England. So, once again, we moved back. Thankfully Croatia is just a drive and short flight away from England, so I was lucky enough to visit very often growing up. I can speak, read, and write Croatian too. I believe an Instagram account like mine, can only really belong to a Croatian, in love with his country.

Nowadays, when one associates the words ''travel photography'' and ''Croatia'', one of the first things that come to mind for a lot of people is ''Timotej''. How did you get started in photography and how has the learning process been so far? Is there another type of photography that you like equally?

I’ve been into photography for as long as I can remember. Cameras and lenses, all the gear, simply fascinates me. So does the quest to snap a perfect picture. As a child, I always wanted to press the camera’s shutter button and shoot everything. This wasn’t possible, as it was still the time of film cameras, and film roll was precious, so parents couldn’t let me waste it taking fifty pictures of nothing. So you can imagine my joy when digital cameras came into existence with memory cards.

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Brseč, Primorsko-Goranska (Photo: Timotej Gošev)

As far as learning goes, when you figure out how to work a camera/lens, the shooting settings, and how light affects the scene being shot, everything comes down to one’s eye for a good picture. Personally, for me, the learning these days mostly centers around training my eyes even more. If you take 50 shots, 1 can easily turn out perfect. But the goal is to be able to take 1 shot and make it perfect first time. Sometimes this means learning to be patient. Waiting. It can also mean making a bigger effort to find a unique vantage point. Doing research to find out what has already been shot where you are shooting.

I love beachscape photography as you all know, and architectural too. I also love to shoot macro shots. I really want to do more wildlife and food photography in the future.

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Restaurant Mandrač, Lopud Island (Photo: Timotej Gošev)

What inspires you to be a travel photographer and how has that changed in recent years?

I’m in love with the Croatian coast and the Adriatic Sea. Its beauty simply inspires me to capture it with my cameras. I am lucky and blessed to be able to call such a place, my country. I want to see and explore as many spots along the coast, and visit as many islands as my lifetime allows me too. Each place is its own world. People today are so obsessed with seeing as many countries as possible, but few have had the pleasure of truly knowing, exploring, and enjoying theirs. I love going back to a place I’ve already visited, to see how it’s changing, developing, and evolving. I am constantly inspired by the big and little changes happening everywhere. The way I see it is, that there is a lifetime of exploration for me and capturing moments with my camera. There is no getting bored.

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How do you manage to balance your time between the UK and Croatia? Has Brexit affected in any way the way you travel between the two countries?

I like to be in Croatia during the summer, so I can enjoy the sea and beaches. It’s where I experience the most joy. Since I got my driving license, I have been planning my life in a way so I could spend the maximum possible time in Croatia every summer. To my surprise, neither Brexit nor Covid19 has affected my travels to Croatia. I have dual nationality. Croatian and British passports and therefore was legally allowed to travel to go to either home. With negative PCR test results, I drove England to Croatia three times during the pandemic. When you have a registered photography business in the UK, going to Croatia to shoot photos is a legitimate and valid reason to travel for work too.

How would you describe the personal style behind your photography? And how about your visual style?

I want people to look at my photographs, and simply desire to be right there in the place their eyes are seeing. To imagine themselves living the moment being shown. My photos need to mentally seduce and show the essence of an Adriatic summer experience in Croatia. People think my visual style is really unique, but it’s a classic beachscape visual style used in travel magazines and by some of the world’s most known beachscape photographers for decades.

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Sveta Nedjelja beach, Hvar (Photo: Timotej Gošev)

It is a beautiful summer day in Croatia, how does Timotej spend it from start to finish?

I like to wake up early. No need for coffee. I really believe in seizing the daytime. I want to be the first on the beach. Put my towel in the best spot, and go for a morning swim to truly wake up. Love soaking in the early morning sun too. Around 9 am, it’s time for a light breakfast, and then back to the beach where I’ll stay until lunchtime being as active as possible. I prefer to stay in apartments, so for lunch, it’s usually time to cook something, rather than eat out. After lunch, it’s back to the sea/beach until sunset. The afternoon is usually about exploration. Then shower, dress up a bit and go to town for dinner and some ice cream. I always end up chilling on apartment terraces late into the night, always in good company getting into deep conversations.

It has happened to me on several occasions that I have decided to put my camera aside so as not to miss the experience. How do you manage to consistently create content and live in the moment at the same time? Do you have any advice for other travel photographers?

It’s actually very simple for me. When I go to a place in Croatia, I am not going there to take a picture. I am going there to enjoy the experience and moment of being in a place which brings me total joy. I live the moments fully with my camera at home, or in my backpack. After I enjoyed the place, explored it, I come back with/take out a camera. Also, I don’t live from making social media content and I don’t have any pressure to create content. My advice to travel photographers is that when you decide to shoot a place, make a decision to spend at least 1 week there. Don’t follow the content creator crowd, and a lot of Croatian photographers, are doing this, in that they go to a spot for a few hours with the purpose of taking a photo and then off to the next location.

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Brela, Dalmatia (Photo: Timotej Gošev)

A photographer was telling me how they photographed every nice spot on Korcula Island in 1 day. Don’t make this same mistake. The world’s most famous beachscape photographers, when shooting a particular area, commit to spending a whole summer season there, chasing the billion-dollar shot, as we say. I can’t commit to a whole summer in one spot yet either, but everyone can do 3-7 days. 1 to enjoy without smartphones and cameras at least.

It could be said that you lean more towards photography of landscapes and places, but would you like to also venture into a type of travel photography where you can also highlight the Croatian people, their traditions, and their customs?

My focus is the Ljeto (Summer) in Croatia. The goal is to photograph and show the summertime experience. Naturally, there is a lot of landscape shots. But if you have been following me for a while you also see the entire summer experience. If I go into town at night and see a cultural dance, or traditional outfits, if I like what I see, I will photograph it. But right now, the priority is to show beaches and nature, accommodation, and things one can experience when visiting Croatia in the summer. I am showing what my audience wants to see.

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Town of Rab (Photo: Timotej Gošev)

However, if Drago Sopta retires, I would gladly like to venture off and take over as the photographer of the Croatian National Football team and take pictures of the guys playing football. I believe in myself as a photographer, and my ability to shoot in a variety of styles.

It is said that there is an excessive amount of drone images to visually promote Croatia and that they do not accurately reflect the possible experience of a tourist (for example Izvor Cetina or the Croatian islands from above). But you manage to combine both images with a drone as well as those from a personal point of view. How can both promote tourism in Croatia?

Look, Zlatni Rat Beach shot with a drone, from above, looks like one of the most beautiful spots in this world. It’s unreal. Then you come there, stand on the beach, and you can’t really see it from the vantage point the drone did. So you now have two options. The first is to get upset, choose to be negative, and leave disappointed, as many do. Or you can think about it, and say to yourself, I’m standing on this magical beach full of shape-shifting pebbles, surrounded by perfect water, and enjoy the beach all day. Every destination spot in the world that looks good from above is excessively photographed with drones. Those saying it doesn’t accurately reflect the tourist experience are a very small minority, and they are there for the wrong reason in my opinion. I believe you need both to give the true picture to someone. Let them know what it looks like from above and below. Balance is key. I like to show how it looks from ground level and from the sky.

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Otok Vrnik (Photo: Timotej Gošev)

Many content creators avoid bringing discussion topics to their feed to avoid losing followers or getting into disputes with them. But in addition to visually promoting Croatia, you also take the time to raise awareness about caring for the environment, such as animal rights and the situation about smoking in Croatia. Is it necessary for content creators to be ambivalent in that regard? What responsibilities should someone with so many followers and a lot of reach assume?

I always speak my mind. From day one on Instagram. I have my opinions, and my account is a space where I can share them as well as my photography. I don’t expect everyone to agree with them and that’s okay. Does Croatia have a smoking problem? Yes. Have tourists noticed it? Yes. Is it destroying our beaches? Yes. A lot of what I highlight are facts and truth. Common sense. It’s already been said by others, and it’s very much connected to keeping Croatia’s land beautiful and not destroying it. I don’t live from Instagram, so if I lost all my followers tomorrow, it does not affect me in any way. As for disputes, occasionally some arise, but surprisingly not a lot. I think the things which I’m highlighting are things the overwhelming majority of my followers agree with me on. We all want to keep Croatia clean and beautiful for generation after generation.

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One Table Restaurant, Hvar Island (Photo: Timotej Gošev)

Regarding the promotion of tourism in Croatia, what aspects and efforts made by the national and local tourist boards in the last two years can you highlight?

I don’t see anything the National Tourist Board does, and as the majority of the tourist sector in Croatia, see them as irrelevant, and a waste of taxpayers’ money. The Local Tourist Boards, on the other hand, are great. I’ve had the chance to work with a lot of them now. It’s hard to keep everyone happy, but they are doing their best. I can say and see they are finally embracing social media, and valuing its importance more than ever. Making sure they have a strong social media presence, as well as using people like me, and other Croatian photographers to showcase their tourist regions to the world.

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Žitna Beach, Korčula Island (Photo: Timotej Gošev)

In what aspects do you think the promotion of tourism in Croatia should improve? Is there something you can criticize?

The biggest issue I noticed is the relationship between the local tourist boards, and the locals working in the tourist sector. It seems everyone is against the tourist boards and everything they do, with only a small minority pleased. I’ve been to places, and I like to talk to locals, and the moment they find out I’m involved with the local tourist board, they don’t want anything to do with me! Why? Well for starters Local Tourist boards should have nothing to do with political elections and political parties. The tourist boards should exist to serve the tourist, those offering tourist services, and they should be neutral. Also too many tourist board employees, naturally have friends working in the tourist sector and thus drive tourists to only use their services. I think you can guess what kind of issues that can create. The tourist boards should be the pride of the local tourism sector. A fair helping hand, letting the tourists know all their possibilities. Show them all the options on offer, and let them choose which to go with. I also really think it’s time for an official tourist app, where everyone in the tourist sector can list their tourist offers for free. Create it with taxpayer money. Tourists can use the app to find out and search for everything. Beach information. Boat rentals. Taxi numbers. Available accommodation. In 2021, one shouldn’t have to go to a tourist office for information anymore.

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Badija Island (Photo: Timotej Gošev) 

In what ways can photographic content contribute to effective tourism promotion in Croatia? How important is it?

People travel to different places in the world for different reasons. Everyone is looking for something specific. An image they have seen either in a photo or video usually serves as the primary mental motivation for doing so. They want to see that image with their own eyes. I have always argued that people come to Croatia first and foremost for the natural beauty of the sea and beaches. The old towns. Natural parks. I loved our old tourist slogan, the Mediterranean as it once was. So, before booking a flight or hotel, people want to know what the particular area they are potentially going to visit has on offer. I have been the first Croatian photographer to share certain places in Croatia on Instagram for the very first time, and the response was, we had no idea this place existed.

I’ll give you a personal example. I grew up spending summers around Zadar. Since I was a kid. Only recently as an adult, I discovered one of the most beautiful spots in Croatia. Vrsi, right by Zadar. I never saw this spot advertised anywhere. So I never went there. Some beaches like Zlatni Rat were advertised everywhere, so normally, I went there, and it was crazy crowded. By showing a little bit of every place, you are now giving people the choice to go to so many places.

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Stiniva Cove, Vis Island (Photo: Timotej Gošev)

If you could describe Croatia to your followers as an ideal travel destination, based on five unique aspects, which ones would you choose?

1. Raw natural beauty everywhere. 2. The crystal clear blue water. 3. Safety. We are an extremely safe country for tourists throughout the day and night. One of the lowest crime rates in the world I believe. 4. Quality of food and drink. 5. There’s something for everyone.

Is there anything in particular in Croatia that catches your attention and would you like to investigate further? I have seen that at some point you inquired about the history of abandoned stone houses on the Croatian coast and islands. It is really a fascinating subject.

The abandoned stone houses are a sad story. I really hope the property ownership laws change soon. They are killing Croatia. A lot of people say it’s impossible. But I believe there’s an easy fix to it if you apply common sense. Pass a law, that every property in Croatia within 2-3 years has to have one owner owning 100% of it. No more multiple owners, owning small percentages. If some owners can’t agree on a deal between themselves, it goes to auction among all the owners, and the highest bidder gets the property. Why hasn’t this happened? I hear lawyers in Zagreb make a killing on these property disputes. I also think Croatia has a serious waste management problem. Especially on the islands. I’ve heard shocking accounts from those who live on the islands about what really happens with the waste tourism generates. I think the situation is worse than many believe. And if that’s really true, we need to do something about it. I truly believe the world sees Croatia as a clean country where natural beauty can be seen in abundance which is its biggest selling point. The land is really ‘Lijepa Naša’ and it needs to stay that way.

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Otok Vrnik (Photo: Timotej Gošev)

Connected with this issue are the party sailing trips such as The Yacht Week. Everywhere they go, they leave so much rubbish behind it's unreal. In the sea. I’ve seen it. Again and again. All the locals I meet in the entire tourism sector as well as those simply living in the spots The Yacht Week comes by, wants these party sailing holidays banned. It’s beyond me how this hasn’t happened yet. Whoever is giving them the green light to continue summer after summer needs to be put in the spotlight.

Besides being a travel photographer, do you also consider yourself a travel journalist? Many content creators upload their photos or videos and that's it, but you like to include reflections, chronicles, and recommendations alongside your images. Is it something that you are interested in developing further in the future?

I grew up reading travel magazines like Conde Nast, and I currently collect travel-themed coffee table books full of pictures with text. There’s always a story behind what you see in a photograph and something to learn. I do consider myself an excellent writer in the English language. People have noticed this, and this past year, a few travel magazines and a national airline, asked me to write for them about Croatia, as well as showcase my photography to their readers. I hope more people will ask in the near future. It’s something I love doing.

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Čikat Bay, Lošinj Island (Photo: Timotej Gošev)

What does your Instagram profile look like on a summer day in Croatia? How do you usually interact with your followers or people who need help or recommendations?

During the summer the plan is to share 2-3 posts a day. The pictures being posted are usually what I photographed 1-2 days prior. Also, because we are in the summer season, many of my followers are currently in Croatia, or about to visit. This results in a crazy amount of questions. I used to answer every question without fail in previous years, but with an increasing number of followers, it’s impossible sadly. Remember I’m not getting paid to do this. It takes a lot of time. This summer I was receiving roughly 300-500 messages a day. A lot of people also don’t read the caption in my posts and then send messages, for example, asking what’s the name of the beach in the picture I just posted, without making an effort to read the caption where this has already been stated. This is very frustrating. However the questions generally are usually based on recent posts, so I try to answer a lot of them in one of the next posts or stories.

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Bol, Brač Island (Photo: Timotej Gošev)

Besides photography, what other things do you spend your time on? Do you have any other interests or hobbies that are just as exciting?

Out of the summer season, I live in England, so when I’m not working, I really love to play sports. I play football, basketball, volleyball every week, competitively. Then there’s gym and lap swimming. I’ve always been into cooking too. So, always trying to master certain dishes and learn new ones. In the summertime, besides photography, it’s very much every activity connected to the water. I’m a big water sports lover. I love diving. I’m a very active individual. I love the company of friends too. I’m a very social extrovert that likes to laugh a lot.

What next projects do you have planned? What are the next steps in Timotej's life and career?

Oh, I have a lot of ideas. Some are already slowly turning into reality. I would love to see more art stores around the world selling my prints of beautiful beachscapes from around Croatia. At the moment it’s just a few in England. As well as being a good photographer, I also believe in my ability to capture video, so expect to see some epic short films soon. I’m also already working on my very own coffee table book taking you on a journey around Croatia’s coast and islands. I’m really excited for this. I have the photographs and text, and just need to find the right publisher to make the dream come true. Lastly, due to demand, I think I will slowly get into trip planning. So many people want me to plan their visit to Croatia. I’m honoured.

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Pritišćina beach, Vis Island (Photo: Timotej Gošev)

Your talent as a photographer, and your Instagram account, have resulted in many collaborations over the last few years. What’s your favourite one so far? Is there one you would really love to do in the future?

It’s hard to pick a favourite. I love them all. This past summer I did a collaboration with Valamar Hotels. Had the chance to visit all their hotels across Croatia over a period of 6 weeks. It was amazing. Shooting the hotels, rooms, beaches in front of the hotels. The facilities. Loved every second. The sailing collaborations are always unforgettable too. What would I love to do? Shoot Villa Sheherezade in Dubrovnik. Or shoot a mega-yacht in Croatia. I dream big.

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Lopud Island (Photo: Timotej Gošev)

Finally, are you planning to ever move to Croatia permanently?

If you ask me, “Timotej, would you like to live in Croatia one day?” The answer is obviously going to be a definite yes, yes I would. However, I wouldn’t want to live there throughout the whole year. I can see myself living there between April and October. I’m the type of person who dreams of having multiple homes. At least two in two different countries. But in life, you should also never say never. If the right opportunity arises, who knows, I might end up living in Croatia all year long. Living there would give me the chance to photograph Croatia during all the seasons, and not just summer.

For everything you need to know before planning your next summer vacation in Croatia and all these magical destinations shown in this article, be sure to check Timotej's Instagram account and our new guide to everything Croatia, Total Croatia, here.

If you don't have Instagram, follow him on Facebook.

For more on lifestyle, follow TCN's dedicated page.

For more about Croatia, CLICK HERE.

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.

Tuesday, 2 November 2021

Squid Games on Hvar, as Peskafondo Celebrates 10 Years

November 2, 2021 - Global media talk about Squid Games is a recent phenomenon, but the island of Hvar will celebrate 10 years of competitive squid excellence this weekend with a record turnout at Peskafondo 2021. 

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Just over 10 years ago, about 15 days after I launched Total Hvar, the first event I ever reported on for my new portal took place. 

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I really wasn't keen and I didn't think that the event would be a success. 

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A squid fishing competition in Hvar Town at the of October in Hvar Town, organised by the arguably the most famous fish restaurant on the Adriatic, Restaurant Gariful. It didn't sound that exciting to me, but I reported on it anyway. 

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There is a reason why Gariful is one of the most successful hospitality businesses on the Croatian islands, and I remain a fat blogger. 

Over the past decade, Peskafondo has grown each year, and as it celebrates a decade of late season entertainment for a growing number of competitors, locals and tourists, my hat goes off to young Gariful for this excellent example of how to provide interesting and authentic content after the main season has long finished. 

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Back in 2011, I seem to remember that there were just 11 teams taking part in th two-day event. This year - so far - there are 72 teams from all over Croatia, as well as international squid-fishing teams from Germany, Italy, Slovenia, and Bosnia and Hercegovina. 

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At Peskafondo 2011, there were about 100 people enjoying the event. Gariful is expecting 1,500 - 2,000 people this year, a huge increase. 

And with quite a programme. 

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And it is not just squid games these days. Peskafondo also includes the Hvar Big Game Fishing competition, as well as a very eagerly awaited event by the little ones - Hvar Kids Day.

This is what Kids Day was like as a standalone event several years ago, including parachute jumpers landing on the main square, as well as an appearance from Mickey Mouse and friends.

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Peskafondo quickly established itself as far more than a fishing competition, bringing together friends from all over th country. The fishermen from Sinj complete with delicious prsut, were always a hit, for example. 

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Fine wine, excellent sea food, live music, and a real carnival atmosphere - Peskafondo has done an excellent job over the years at extending the season a little and bringing a lot of colour to those quieter winter months. 

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Peskafondo 2021 kicks off this Friday, and TCN will be covering the event, which was the first we ever reported on all those years ago. It promises to be livelier than ever, so if you are on the island, I do encourage you to check it out. 

There is still time to register to compete, which you can do via the Peskafondo Facebook page.  Let the original squid games begin!

Here is a flavour of what awaits - a video report from Peskafondo 2021.  

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To learn more about Hvar Town, check out the TC Hvar in a Page guide

Tuesday, 2 November 2021

New Valamar Stari Grad Nature Resort to Reposition and Redevelop Hvar Tourism

November 2, 2021 - The new Valamar Stari Grad nature resort will be a fully sustainable resort positioned for family vacations that respects the highest standards of green building.

Hotel company "Helios Faros" d.d. from Stari Grad on the island of Hvar launched a significant investment cycle in its facilities after a 2019 recapitalization by the new owners of "PBZ Croatia osiguranje" to manage mandatory pension funds and "Valamar Riviera" from Poreč, reports Slobodna Dalmacija.

So far, more than HRK 91 million has been invested, which includes the renovation and launch of the first hotel under the new brand "Hvar (Places Hotel) by Valamar" in Stari Grad - Faros (formerly the hotel "Lavender") and landscaping "Arcade Sunny Hotel by Valamar".

A few days ago, the Supervisory Board gave the green light for additional investments of HRK 223.2 million, which is, of course, an excellent reason to talk to Vladimir Bunić, the director of the Stari Grad hotel.

Slobodna Dalmacija asked how tourists reacted to the novelties in their offer, as progress is more than evident.

"'Places Hotel by Valamar' has genuinely become a hotel chosen by guests looking for an easy beach holiday in attractive locations. They especially liked the design of the hotel and the excellent offer of the new restaurant and bar concept, with extended breakfast time and an all-day à la carte offer. In the 2021 season, we welcomed them with renovated accommodation facilities, renovated existing ones, and built a new restaurant with sunbathing areas.

Hotel 'Arkada' became part of the brand 'Sunny by Valamar' and welcomed guests with renovated rooms, restaurants, and exciting children's facilities. This investment will contribute to repositioning the destination according to higher value-added services and further developing tourism in Stari Grad and Hvar."

And what are the effects of those investments?

"Helios Faros" is a listed company, so we will be able to talk about the season's results only after the quarterly financial report is published. Nevertheless, we are satisfied with the high level of guest satisfaction with the new hotel "Hvar Places by Valamar", intended for guests seeking freedom of choice, modern design, and an authentic destination experience with full respect for nature and the environment. One of the most significant features is the offer that gives guests complete freedom to enjoy the restaurant offer in the rhythm that suits them best."

Fantastic pool complex

"It is true; this complex is increasingly becoming the center of daily entertainment with live music and DJs, which continues after sunset. The hotel has 179 rooms that are a blend of Mediterranean tradition and modern design. All are equipped with extremely comfortable beds with top-quality mattresses. They also have a smart TV, super-fast Wi-Fi, air conditioning, and everything that a modern traveler needs to experience a dream vacation. The freedom of cashless payment with a bracelet and contactless check-in also contributes to maximum comfort."

And now an investment of HRK 223.2 million?

"Let's say that the investments are mostly related to constructing the first sustainable eco-resort in the "Valamar" portfolio on our coast, completing investments in "Hvar (Places Hotel) by Valamar", constructing the "Aquamar" pool complex, and arranging the overall tourist zone. "Nature resort" is the new "Valamar" concept of a fully sustainable eco-resort positioned for family vacations. The resort's construction will be achieved by respecting the highest standards of green building, which includes environmentally friendly materials with minimal impact on the environment, the use of renewable energy sources, and a high level of energy efficiency. Furthermore, the "Valamar nature resort" in Stari Grad is the first tourist project to use prefabricated buildings and modular construction designed according to "Valamar" accommodation quality standards."

A concept inspired by nature and sustainable design

"Yes, the architecture of the resort fits into the natural environment of the island in the design of buildings, while the interior design is signed by local designers and artists using local traditions and materials. Furthermore, the felled trees will be used in landscaping, and each felled tree will be replaced with newly planted ones, while digitization will eliminate the use of paper throughout the hotel. In addition, great emphasis will be placed on the offer of local food and produce, so all interested producers and family farms who grow and produce organic indigenous island varieties and ensure they come directly from the field."

When will the construction begin?

"The project will be implemented in two phases during 2022 and 2023, to realize the green initiatives in full potential and realize all aspects of sustainable development of the resort. We also plan to apply for green EU funds, and upon completion, the conditions for issuing green building certificates will be met. Bungalow-settlement "Trim", although it retains its original architectural form, will experience major changes and improvements in the interior design in a new and modern "Valamar" brand focused on guests' comfort."

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Helios Faros render

What about the staff?

"Caring for employees, their development and education, as well as the overall working conditions, is key to the long-term success of the company and ensuring a high level of quality and service we provide to our guests. As we have mentioned before, we intend to include as many staff from the local population as possible, in the spirit of the idea of doing business on and with the island."

Very ambitious medium-term development plans

"We intend to put Stari Grad on the map of the most luxurious resorts in Croatia, as evidenced by the "Helios Faros" Business Development Plan, which assumes investments totaling about HRK 800 million in sustainable tourism of high added value. This will positively impact the economic growth of the city and the island and the opportunities for the further career development of our employees. Furthermore, by 2025, the reconstruction and construction of new hotel and resort capacities of 4* and 5* categories with a total of 700 accommodation units are planned, which speaks for itself about employment potentials for the inhabitants of the island of Hvar," concluded Bunić.

You can watch the full video on HRT.

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

Monday, 1 November 2021

Digital Nomads Discover Remnants of Famous Jelsa Bench Tourism

November 1, 2021 - The Jelsa bench is probably the most famous in all Dalmatia, very much on the digital nomad trail, but sadly a shadow of what it once was. 

A Dalmatian friend in luxury tourism once described the moment he understood his market and the opportunity completely. 

In an olive grove and an olive oil tasting and lunch for wealthy New York clients, one of them marvelled at the fresh lemons on a nearby tree.

"Do you think I might pick one of those lemons," he asked my friend after he noticed my friend watching him. A lemon was plucked from the tree.

"You know," said the rich New Yorker at the end of the week, "the highlight of this excellent trip was picking that lemon. Living in New York, I just never had the experience of picking a lemon from a tree before."

Simple pleasures, taken for granted by locals, which cost nothing. Croatia, your safe, authentic lifestyle destination. 

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I feel the same way about the (now) famous Jelsa bench. 

The original Google, the island Wikipedia, call them what you will, but the local male elders of a certain age, and at a certain time of day, would convene on the bench each day to put the world to rights. And not just in Jelsa, but most Dalmatian towns and villages. 

It was an authentic way of life, and one which was admired by many tourists. Life on the bench, a symbol of Croatia, your safe, authentic lifestyle destination. 

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After only 13 years living on Hvar, the unthinkable happened - an invitation from the village elders to sit with them on the bench! This was kind of a big deal, and many locals were shocked that I had received the invitation so soon after my arrival in Jelsa. For 13 years is the blink of an eye in bench years. 

I had perhaps been a little obsessive about the Jelsa bench over the years, monitoring its incredible versatility and international appeal. 

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Czech models used the bench occupants as background models in their Hvar photo shoots.

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Australian bloggers travelled to Jelsa to take selfies on the hallowed bench. 

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Bands jetted in from California to play live concerts on the bench. 

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Others travelled on holiday from Sydney, and then took the ferry to Hvar for the sole purpose of sitting on the Jelsa bench. 

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My most creative moments came when I sat alone on the bench, harnessing the aura of the collective IQ of its regulars.

And then one day, the bench was tossed aside in the name of progress. A concession was given to a company to open a restaurant in the Gradska Kavana behind the bench, and the outside space the bench had sat on for generations was given to the restaurant as part of its outside space. It was a concession which led the mayor to announce he was suing me in a public meeting in Vrboska, as you can see above. I am still waiting for the promised lawsuit some three years later.

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But the Jelsa Bench in exile continued to make the news, featuring as the lead story in the national media about The Jelsa Phenomenon, showcasing the influential people who hailed from Jelsa. These included the current Prime Minister, Health Minister, and Head of the Supreme Court. But the lead photo in the newspaper? The academic colossus of the bench in exile. 

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An American digital nomad friend arrived in Jelsa last night. Among many other things, he confessed to being a little intrigued by the Jelsa bench, promising to find out the latest, as well as sending back a selfie. 

And what a disappointment, as what passes as the Jelsa bench these days is just a shadow of its former self, as well as being located now on the road. 

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The weather-beaten bench on the road is a far cry from its previous majestic position looking out to sea. That previous majestic position is now occupied by th restaurant  

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A fence has been erected, with the bench very much on the outside on the street below. 

The Jelsa bench in exile will have to adapt, but it is a shadow of its former glory. 

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To learn more about Jelsa tourism beyond the bench, visit the TC Jelsa in a Page guide.

Sunday, 17 October 2021

Company Investing 800 Million Kuna in Hotels on Beautiful Dalmatian Island

October the 17th, 2021 - One large and well known company is set to invest a massive 800 million kuna into creating new hotels and summer resorts on one beautiful Dalmatian island.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Crnjak writes, the Supervisory Board of the hotel company Helios Faros from Stari Grad on the island of Hvar has adopted the proposal of Capital Investments (Capex) for 2022 in the total amount of 223.2 million kuna, the company has reported.

This represents a continuation of investments in the repositioning of the tourist portfolio of this successful Hvar-based hotel company, which was taken over by the pension fund PBZ Croatia osiguranje (insurance) with a 78 percent share, and Valamar Riviera with a 20 percent share at the end of the bankruptcy proceedings which took place back in 2019.

According to Valamar, these investments are mostly related to the construction of Valamar's first sustainable eco-resort, the completion of investments in the Hvar Places hotel by Valamar, the construction of the Aquamar pool complex and the overall arrangement of the tourist zone.

“The nature resort is the new Valamar concept of a fully sustainable eco-resort positioned for family holidays. The construction of the resort will be achieved by respecting the highest standards of green building, which includes environmentally friendly materials with minimal impact on the environment, the use of renewable energy sources and a high level of energy efficiency. The Valamar nature resort on the island of Hvar is the first tourist project that will use prefabricated buildings and modular construction designed according to Valamar's accommodation quality standards,'' the company pointed out when discussing their next moves on this beautiful Dalmatian island which is popular with guests from across the globe.

The concept is inspired by nature and sustainable design, meaning that the future resort’s architecture will blend into this beautiful Dalmatian island’s stunning natural environment in the design of the buildings themselves, while the interior design will be ''signed'' by local designers and artists using local tradition and materials. Felled trees will be used in the landscaping, and each felled tree will be replaced with newly planted ones.

Great emphasis will also be placed on offering local food and groceries produced right there on the island by locals, while digitalisation will eliminate the use of paper throughout the hotel. The project is planned to be carried out in two phases during 2022 and 2023, and in order to realise all green initiatives in their full potential and acheive all aspects of sustainable development of the resort, the plan is to apply for so-called ''green'' EU funds for the project.

During the global coronavirus pandemic which well and truly marked the unprecedented circumstances of 2020, business operations Helios was restarted, and in 2021 the first renovated hotel, the Hvar Places hotel by Valamar, was finally opened.

Helios Faros' business development plan otherwise assumes investments totalling about 800 million kuna in sustainable high value-added tourism that will positively impact the island of Hvar's economic growth, the company said. By the year 2025, the reconstruction and construction of three more hotels and resorts of categories 4 * and 5 * with a total capacity of 700 accommodation units is planned.

For more, check out our business section.

Friday, 15 October 2021

Valamar to Open First Sustainable Eco-Resort in Croatia

October 15, 2021 - Valamar and PBZ Croatia Osiguranje will continue with significant investments in repositioning the tourist portfolio of Stari Grad on the island of Hvar with the first sustainable eco-resort in Croatia valued at 220 million kuna.

The construction of Valamar's first sustainable eco-resort is only part of the investment that Valamar and PBZ Croatia Osiguranje are planning to manage mandatory pension funds for 2022, reports HRTurizam

Namely, the Helios Faros Supervisory Board decided that Valamar and PBZ Croatia Osiguranje will continue with significant investments in repositioning the tourist portfolio in Stari Grad on the island of Hvar to 4* and 5* in the amount of HRK 220 million.

In addition to the already mentioned sustainable eco-resort, it is planned to complete the investment at the Hvar [PLACESHOTEL] by Valamar, the construction of the Aquamar pool complex, and the overall arrangement of the tourist zone.

The eco-resort is Valamar's new concept of a fully sustainable eco-resort positioned for family vacations. The construction of the resort will be achieved by respecting the highest standards of green building, which includes environmentally friendly materials with minimal impact on the environment, the use of renewable energy sources, and a high level of energy efficiency.

Valamar's eco-resort on Hvar is the first tourist project that will use prefabricated buildings and modular construction designed according to Valamar accommodation quality standards.

The concept is inspired by nature and sustainable design, so the resort’s architecture blends into the island’s natural environment in the design of the buildings while the interior design is signed by local designers and artists using local tradition and materials. Felled trees will be used in landscaping, and each felled tree will be replaced with newly planted ones. Great emphasis will also be placed on offering local food and groceries produced on the island, while digitalization will eliminate the use of paper throughout the hotel.

The project is planned to be built in two phases during 2022 and 2023, and to realize all green initiatives in full potential and all aspects of sustainable development of the resort, the project will apply for green EU funds.

Valamar and PBZ Croatia Osiguranje d.d. jointly acquired Helios Faros, a tourist company in Stari Grad on the island of Hvar, through bankruptcy proceedings. During the Covid-marked 2020, business at Helios was restarted, and in 2021 the first renovated hotel Hvar [PLACESHOTEL] by Valamar was opened.

Helios Faros' business development plan assumes investments in the total amount of around HRK 800 million in sustainable high value-added tourism that will have a positive impact on the economic growth of the island. By 2025, the reconstruction and construction of three hotels and resorts of categories 4* and 5* with a total capacity of 700 accommodation units is planned.

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

Friday, 15 October 2021

Hvar Named Best Tranquil Destination by Sea, 3rd Most Tranquil in Europe

October 15, 2021 - It has been a good few weeks for Hvar. Having been voted the best island in Europe once more by Conde Nast, more recognition as the best tranquil destination by the sea, and the 3rd best tranquil destination overall in Europe. 

Just a few years ago, at the height of the crazy party tourism insanity - a time when Hvar made a list of the top 7 bachelor party destinations in Europe - it seemed that the damage of Croatia's premier island might be tarnished forever. 

What should have been a higher quality holiday experience based on natural beeauty, sun, culture and gastronomy gave way to a party story making headlines for all the wrong reasons.

And then something happened (and perhaps the pandemic helped a little). 

A new direction for Hvar Town with a focus on higher quality tourism came into being. And slowly, but very surely, the results are being felt, as I wrote a few months ago in Peak Season Hvar Town 2021: a Destination Returning to High Quality.

And the new direction was noticed. Last week, Hvar was voted the Best Island in Europe at the annual Conde Nast Traveler Readers Awards the second time in three years, having also won the award in 2019. 

I have noticed Hvar appearing in a lot more lists this year related to quality tourism. I am not a fan of these lists, as most are clickbait and few have any substance behind them, but one that came out this week offers an interesting snapshot of Hvar's directional change, and it comes with a plausible meethodology. 

Europe’s Most Tranquil Escapes by OVO Network, had lots of good news for those looking for a more relaxed Hvar experience, as it once was.

Our research also shows that the best seafront location in Europe for tranquility is Hvar, a charming island in Croatia right on the Adriatic Sea. Hvar offers better access to hotels than any other area in the study and has the fewest people per km2. 

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(Source www.ovonetwork.com)

Of course, one can find tranquil destinations far from the sea, but Hvar scored very well here too, coming third in Europe overall. 

About the methodology:

OVO Network set out to discover which European cities offer the most tranquil surroundings for holiday goers.

In order to put this together OVO Network analysed a wide range of data sources including:

  • Google Maps API to collect the number of spas and hotels within a locality
  • Google Keyword Planner to get search popularity and trends data over the past few years
  • Air Quality to estimate how untouched by tourism a locality is
  • Density of people per km2 which was calculated by taking the population and dividing it by the size of the relevant city or area

Once all the metrics were collected, a ranking system was put together in order to score these cities and an overall ranking column was created to rank from the best to the worst performer.

Interestingly, one of the areas were Hvar was marked down was its relative lack of spas per capita. A situation that one may assume will be rectified once the transformation from party image to best tranquil destination by the sea is complete. 

Learn more about Hvar in the TC Hvar guide.  

You can see the complete list here. 

 

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