ROOM WITH A VIEW
Evergreen Hvar is one of my favourite Adriatic islands. I no longer count how many times I have visited the island. Most of the experience is a summer-holiday, I spent several summers on the island where I cooked octopus, baked fish and enjoyed the beautiful nature. We never get bored of it. This is life that recharges your batteries for the year ahead. Delightful climate helps you to forget your everyday problems. Above all, stress-free, peaceful and delicious at unbeatable Hvar home kitchen. A real Dalmatian FJAKA or higher state of mind typical of Dalmatia and similar to nirvana, or as the locals call it, God-given.
Hvar is still quite wild and largely uninhabited island. Over the beauty of the island, reminiscent of the Garden of Eden, there is no point in wasting words, since there is no shortage of various urban legends for approval. One of them talks about the singer Beyonce, who fell in love with the island so much that she named her daughter with the name of one of the island’s plants – Blue Ivy (blue ivy). When ferry brings you closer to the island, it smells of Mediterranean plants, in summer crickets are starting with their symphony. No wonder that it was given so many different names. Among other things, it used to be called Austrian Madeira. In Hvar urban has been coexisting with rural for centuries. Towns Hvar, Stari Grad, Jelsa and Vrboska and on the other hand less touristic places Poljica, Zastražišće, Zavala,… The charm of the interior of Hvar can be felt on the old road through Brusje full of wonderful views of the neighbouring islands and fields of lavender.
Hvar lives two tourist lives. Summer crowds, visits of celebrities from Tom Cruise to Prince Harry is exchanged by autumn-winter lull and true Hvar ‘fjaka’. It has not always been so at the coolest Adriatic island. Interestingly, tourism here first began to develop in the winter months. Due to the mild climate, the island has been a climatic health resort ever since 1868. It offers a lot more and also outside the main tourist season. World-class wineries, olive oil, rock climbing, biking and rural tourism. The island actually offers much more than beaches, waterfront with luxury yachts and infamous parties at the club Carpe Diem.
Perhaps part of the problem is also messy destination management. In terms of marketing, four destination organisations operate with the island – Hvar, Stari Grad, Jelsa and Sućuraj. Too many for such a little and so special island. On the other hand, the island receives constant attention of foreign media and numerous awards. In 2012, Lonely Planet has announced Hvar as one of the top five destinations, Conde Nast as one of the top 10 islands in Europe. Visits of stars and mega yachts fill yellow press and provide free promotion of the island.
Meetings industry goes hand in hand with cuisine and oenology. The island of Hvar is also interesting from this point of view; it is one of the hottest Croatian wine points. Over 2.400 years of wine-making tradition is concentrated around ‘Stari Grad’ (the Old Town), which is now on the map of UNESCO heritage. Oldest vine plavac mali can be found on the island of Hvar.
The tradition is continued by famous winemakers ‘Zlatan Otok’ (Golden Island), Tomić, Carić, Plančić and Duboković. It is necessary to try native white variety of wine Bogdanuša.
Today Hvar is primarily the scene of various events. This year Ultra festival will be held here which will attract over 60.000 visitors to Split, including 5.000 VIP guests in Hvar who will be entertained at a special venue at Hotel Amfora. List of various convention events is also interesting. In June this year, Hvar will host a large start-up conference; also lined up are a number of smaller events. Most of them take place in the flexible convention centre of the Hotel Amfora.
Hotel company ‘Sunčani Hvar’ (Sunny Hvar) has enhanced the quality of their hotels that now satisfy even the most demanding guests. The largest among their hotels is the Hotel Amfora, a modern hotel with a conference centre and a luxurious additional offer; it is away from the old town, where they renovated boutique hotels Adriana and Riva.
The offer is complemented also by hotels of lower category. Stari Grad and other smaller towns still remain, as regards the offer of accommodation, in the shadow of Hvar.
Logistically the organisation of events on the island is certainly more complex than on the mainland. However, today in addition to the quite degraded ferries of Jadrolinija you can use the more comfortable passenger catamaran, which can also be privatised. Each year Airport Split has more connections, even out of the main season. Number of flights during the season surpasses those of many of the South-East European capitals. Road connectivity within the island, however, requires a bit more patience, especially during the high season.
Culinary gems are always a bit hidden, among them is also Palmižana on the nearby Paklinski islands, but otherwise you will find authentic taverns around the island where they will prepare you meat or octopus baked »ispod peke«.
Hvar hides such gems as the village of Velo Grablje, with just seven inhabitants, which is the manufacturing centre of Hvar lavender. In the middle of summer Hvar is really overcrowded, but in early autumn and spring it is a perfect choice for the organisation of congresses and incentive programmes, both at sea and on land.
Destination grade: 4,12 – QUALITY MEETINGS DESTINATION
5 excellent meetings destination
4 quality meetings destination
3 advisable meetings destination
2 average meetings destination
1 pretty OK meetings destination
A. Natural and Cultural Factors 4,50
Central Dalmatian islands are inhabited since prehistoric times. Due to its island specificity they create as a geographical and cultural-historical finished whole. Hvar is now on the UNESCO list of natural heritage and is the main adventure pearl of the Adriatic.
B. General and Transport Infrastructure 3,80
Since Split is accessible from the highway, way to Hvar is significantly shorter. Sunčani Hvar is aware of the difficult access to the island, which is particularly problematic for congress and other business travellers who come for 2 – 3 day’s events. Improving flight connectivity weighs even in the worst case a two-hour drive from Split to the island.
C. Tourist Infrastructure 4,30
Sunčani Hvar took care of cosmopolitan transformation of Hvar into a world’s top destination. The renovated hotels Riva and Adriana in the old town can meet the needs of the most demanding guests, without missing good restaurants, bars and exclusive beaches. Well maintained walkway connects the old part with the largest hotel, the Hotel Amfora.
D. Meetings Infrastructure 3,60
Hvar has put itself on the meetings map by building a convention hotel Amfora with a congress centre and two large halls. The largest one can take up to 370 people theatre-style, and the other 320. Both are flexible, A/V connected and can be converted into five break out rooms, complemented by three additional ones, designed for smaller, intimate meetings. For special events and receptions Hotel Palace offers a wonderful ambience at San Marco terrace on the main town square.
E. Subjective Grade 4,40
Despite the notoriety of the island and its visibility Hvar is still sweet, genuine and full of sincere, authentic Mediterranean experiences. Island culture fascinates and conquers even despite the more difficult access. It is worth it!
Comparison with the region:
None of the more than 1.000 Croatian islands has such karma and recognition as Hvar. Definitely a “must” Croatian destination, right behind Dubrovnik. Distance from the mainland gives it a touch of boutique smallness.
Hvar wine and island’s culinary art have thrilled the gourmet and the World traveller Anthony Bourdain who already after the first visit became one of the biggest promoters of Hvar. Definitely you will also be reminded of Hvar by the taste of olive oil, red wine, and the fragrance of lavender. Follow the steps of Anthony Bourdain in Croatia.
Ultra festival teaser:
Photo credits: TZ Hvar & Sunčani Hvar