We did a day trip by driving around the Island of Hvar so we could explore beyond the Hvar town.
Hvar is actually the longest island in Croatia coming in at 68km east to west. Since we were in Hvar town which is pretty much the western end, we decided not to go all the way east and ended our journey at Humac (almost half way).
It was a beautiful cool, sunny morning when we headed off at 7.30am with these destinations in mind:
Beach Malo Zarace
Heading out of Hvar we went up the “old road” which was the link between Hvar and Stari Grad before the D116 road & tunnel were built. It takes you along a narrow winding road past Fort Napoleon and right through the sleepy town of Brusje.
First stop, an old village, apparently inhabited since the 15th century, Brusje is full of quaint old stone houses collected together. Some well maintained as residences and vacation rentals, others literally crumbling before your eyes as nature tries to claw the rocks back into the earth.
It is a really cute village showcasing what life may have been like in a bygone time. This is especially so when looking at the communal baking oven and communal oil pressing area which shows how the villagers worked together to the benefit of all.
Five kilometers from Brusje is the village Velo Grablje which was founded in the 14th century. We didn’t drive to the village, but viewed it from the road above: red roofed stone houses dotting green hills against the blue sky and commanding views over the Pakleni islands created a perfect romantic picture! Apparently the village is nearly abandoned having but a few permanent villagers.
Leaving Velo Grablje you really start to see the incredible dry stone walls (suhozidi in Croatian). These were built as far back as 2,500 years ago and were used as boundaries of properties and to protect soil and livestock from the harsh winters winds. These walls are truly remarkable. Some further readings about them.
From Velo Grablje you keep climbing and make your way over the highest point of the mountains separating the south from the north, then drive on past Selca on route to Stari Grad.
Surprisingly, Stari Grad is the oldest town in Croatia and one of the oldest towns in Europe. Back in 384B.C. the same year when greek philosopher Aristotle was born, the Greeks from the island of Paros settled in the town on the island of Hvar. Today Stari Grad has the largest ferry terminal as well as the largest supermarket and drug store on the island. We spent an hour wandering around its gorgeous narrow streets, small squares and along the Riva, imagining life back in the old days.
With its vast natural harbour protecting it from the worst of the storms and the flat fertile lands in the Stari Grad Plain, Stari Grad was a perfect place to set up a new community, and unlike many on the island of Hvar, this community is still thriving.
We headed out of Stari Grad and made our way to Vrnoska, which dates back to the 15th century. Vrboska is a small charming town located at the north of Hvar island. The two sides of the town are separated by a small harbour with both sides of town being at the base of a deep cove lined with pine forests, olive trees and vineyards.
From Vrboska we took the scenic coastal road to Jelsa. Along the way there were numerous places to stop and swim or just to admire the beauty of the water along a tree lined shady coast. Jelsa is a town with views of high peaks from both Hvar and over on the mainland at Biokovo Nature Park just above Makarska.
We spent an hour exploring the Riva, squares and pebbled streets and enjoyed our quick lunch break by sitting at the main square, munching on our tasty pastry and coffee while admiring the harbour with huge mountains of the mainland at the backdrop. If we were to pick another town to stay rather than Hvar, we would stay here for its tranquility and beauty.
Climbing from the sea level of Jelsa on winding roads, we made it to Humac with an elevation of 350m.
Humac is an old village 10km from Jelsa and hasn't been inhabited for centuries. Nature has been slowly claiming back this abandoned land where stone houses and stone streets used to stand. Nowadays the village is brought to life only once a year, on St. John and Paul's day, patron saints of Humac, which is 26 June and when inhabitants return to their roots. Surprisingly we discovered a couple of charming restaurants camouflaged among the ruins.
Beach Malo Zarace
Having gone as far as wanted to the east, we started to head back with a plan to visit a few swimming spots on the south side of Hvar. First stop, the rugged Beach Malo Zarace..
In order to reach Malo Zarace beach, you have to drive down a very narrow one lane windy road. It’s very dicey when there is oncoming traffic to avoid. The small quiet pebbly beach is surrounded by clear turquoise water and cliffs, and overlooked by a super cute church making it a very romantic setting.
We didn’t get to swim at Malo Zarace as there was a pretty strong wind blowing directly onto the beach, but we certainly regret that we didn’t as it was stunning.
Not getting to swim at Malo Zarace was disappointing, but we were optimistic about Dubovica beach as it is a sheltered pebbly beach with emerald water nestled under green hills. You will need to walk down a rocky footpath to get to the beach, so we would recommend shoes rather than flips flops. The surrounding green hills, the stone buildings on the beach and the emerald water together set the reminiscent mood for the beach. Although it got a bit breezy that afternoon, the beach was very protected. We spent a good couple of hours swimming in the refreshing water and admiring the whole surroundings, pleased that we could cap the day off with a good swim!
The scenery for a road trip around the Hvar island is spectacular: olive groves and lavender fields growing among strong stone walls, views of Island of Brac and the Pakleni islands from different angles, quaint villages with uniform red roofs dotting green hills, bays with turquoise water nestled under cliffs. A visit to the Island of Hvar certainly would not complete without a road trip around the island!