Where Should I Stay on Hvar? The 2024 Guide to the Island's Villages and Regions

If you’ve ever seen Harry Potter – and if you haven’t, we’re not sure whether to be impressed or concerned – then you know that Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has four houses, each with its own personality. Young students entering the school are each put into a house by a magical sorting hat that divines their innermost thoughts and instincts.If any place on earth is as magical as JK Rowling’s make-believe world, then it is surely island Hvar. And rather like Hogwarts, Hvar has several hamlets and regions, each with a unique character and spirit. But decoding the island’s geography from a distance is as difficult as casting a Patronus charm under Professor Snape’s glowering gaze. Leave it to us! Hvar Away will “sort” you into the town that will best suit your fancy.We’ll lay out the different factors that you should consider in selecting a great getaway spot, and then list the places that best fit your preferences.

Your Favourite Landscape

Do you feel most inspired when you’re exploring twisting stone lanes, old churches, and little shops? Or would you rather be gazing out over the endless blue sea, listening to the waves? Maybe a breath of fresh mountain air is what you need to feel like you’re really on vacation. Hvar is a small island but its many micro-climates make it feel bigger; there’s something here for everyone.

Town: Hvar or Stari Grad

If you want to be in a town setting, your best choices are clearly Hvar Town and Stari Grad, which both offer live music, film, museums, craft coffee, shopping, dining, spas, bars, and other cosmopolitan pleasures in an unbelievably picturesque setting. Jelsa is also fun and gorgeous, although not quite as historic as the island’s two largest towns.

If you thought that Stari Grad, which just means “Old Town” in Croatian, was another word for Hvar Town, you would not be the first to make that mistake. In fact, Hvar Town does have a historic core, which is sometimes called the old town or old city. But the two are completely different places with very different atmospheres. These days, Hvar Town is the larger city and bigger tourism magnet, with a world-famous party scene. Stari Grad is, as the name suggests, much older, dating back at least 2,400 years. It is more for quaint charm and understated luxury.

Beach: South Side or Eastern Bays

Being on an island, you are literally surrounded by superb beaches, but for that woke-up-in-paradise feeling, we suggest lodging in: Gromin Dolac, Ivan Dolac, Jagodna, Sveta Nedjelja, Zaraće, or Zavala.


Mountain: Brusje, Selca, or Inland Villages

Before the end of the last Ice Age, Hvar and the other Dalmatian islands were mountain peaks, part of the Dinaric Alps that line the coast of the mainland. You can still feel the island’s mountainous DNA in its rocky terrain, rugged biodiversity, and pure air.

For peak alpine vibes, try Brusje or Selca kod Starog Grada. Selca kod Starog Grada sits like an eagle’s nest above Stari Grad Bay. And Brusje occupies a somewhat similar position above Hvar.

Between Stari Grad and Jelsa, there is a series of extremely charming little villages nestled into the northern side of the island’s ridge. These are: Dol, Svirče, Vrbanj, and Vrisnik. Life in these villages is all about the agricultural fields and vineyards below. You will appreciate the shade in the summer heat and you can’t go wrong in any of these hillside hamlets.

Rural: Inland East

There is another string of villages between Jelsa and Sućuraj. These places – each with one or several attractive stone churches and the requisite bocce court – have a very unique character. They don’t have main grid electricity, mains water, postal service, or other municipal services, but hundreds of people live in them year-round, just as their grandfathers and grandmothers did. Family and field are the centre around which life revolves. If you’d like to dip a toe into a simpler time, take a look at Bogomolje, Gdinj, Poljica, Selca kod Bogomolja, or Zastražišće. Don’t worry – the holiday rentals all have solar power and other modern comforts!

While you are on this side of the island, take the opportunity to sample some superb olive oil in a glorious setting at Radojković in Bogomolje, which serves an orange-infused blend over a vanilla ice cream in a surprisingly perfect combination of flavours. And swing by Grgo Lučić in Zastražišće, which produces some of the purest essential oils on the island, using their own press and traditional methods.

Your Favourite Activities

What gives you energy? Do you love being active outdoors or staying out all night dancing? Would you prefer to while hours away over a long meal or get lost in the past, exploring local history? Maybe you are most at home in nature, feeling the peace of a leisurely hike or day at the beach?

Sport: Vrboska

Any of the seaside towns will offer plenty of opportunities to get in the water, but Vrboska is perhaps a surprise star for sport. A lovely little village, Vrboska consists of a canal lined by stone houses and an intriguing fortress church. In spite of its diminutive size, it has a dive centre, an excellent marina for sailboats, and a windsurfing / kitesurfing school, as well as kayak, SUP, and canoe rentals. There are also tennis courts, volleyball, an elaborate water park, and even ping pong tables nearby.

Going Out: Hvar Town

If you love nightlife, your choice will clearly be Hvar Town. Hvar sits on the sea and has terrific museums and cultural offerings, as well as wonderful restaurants, but these can be experienced as an afternoon visit and are not in themselves a compelling reason to stay in Hvar Town. If you are planning a big night out, however, you don’t want to end it scrambling for a taxi. Stroll home instead and wake up the next day to sunbathe with other recovering revellers.


Food and Wine: Stari Grad

There are so many brilliant restaurants and wineries dotted throughout the island, but a gourmand’s home base has to be Stari Grad. It has Maslina, recently added to the Michelin Guide; Villa Apolon, which was the first Michelin restaurant on the island; and Kod Barba Luke, impossible to beat for locally caught fish. Za Pod Zub has a curated wine selection and the best ice cream on the island by leaps and bounds, plus other picnic essentials. Melting Spot serves up an international selection of craft coffee drinks alongside yummy pastries and sunny conviviality. Relax in the most charming cobblestone alley, enjoying delicious Mediterranean cuisine at Antika. Nook has vegans and vegetarians covered. And the list goes on. You are also located right next to Stari Grad Plain, the UNESCO-protected epicentre of Hvar’s wine-making and agriculture for at least two millennia.

History: Humac

History buffs are spoiled for choice on Hvar, but if you love exploring the past, you might want to take a closer look at Humac. With a breathtaking view over the sea and Mosor mountains, Humac is an ethno-village, meaning that it has been carefully preserved in its pre-industrial state. At night, the village’s excellent konoba is lit almost exclusively by candles, a humbling reminder of how dark night really was for most of civilization. The environment around Humac is so pristine that it has actually been designated a Dark Sky Preserve, the first in southern Europe. Clear nights offer a brilliant view of the Milky Way and the constellations that shaped so much of the human worldview throughout history.

Humac is also the departure point for trips to Grapčeva Špilja, or Grapčeva Cave, home to artefacts stretching back to 5,000 B.C., including the oldest depiction of a boat ever found in Europe. In addition to some of the earliest treasures of a people known as “Hvar Culture” who lived throughout Dalmatia, there is also evidence of trade with other tribes stretching all the way to Slovenia. While the term “caveman” conjures a certain image, these islanders left behind elegant ceramics with smooth curves and polished surfaces. From Grapčeva, it is possible to see as far as Italy on clear days.



Nature: Gdinj

Few corners of Hvar lack for beauty, but consider Gdinj if flora, fauna, and unspoiled nature speak to you. Gdinj is a beautifully rustic village on the eastern side of the island. It sits above no less than ten of the most stunning and tranquil bays on Hvar: Smrska, Kožija, Veprinova, Rapak, Tvrdni Dolac, Torac, Lučica, Skozanje, Jedra, and Srhov Dolac – Gdinjske Vale. Few guidebooks mention these pristine beaches and even in the height of summer, their crystal clear waters are never crowded. For the intrepid, there is a beautiful walking path down to the bays. Explore this map and follow the red bullseyes!

Near Gdinj, there is also an excellent botanical garden, recently developed by the enterprising scions of an old local family. Called Fiori Fora, the garden showcases the island’s native plants and their culinary, medicinal, and economic use. In this sun-struck, arid environment, all plants have been raised through traditional methods, including an astounding dry stone wall construction that the Fiori Fora team has erected to protect plants from harsh winds and marauding boar. The team hosts stargazing workshops, as well as guided tours, and offers chicly packaged and ultra-organic herbs and cosmetics for sale.

Who Are You Travelling With?

Travelling companions, or the lack thereof, are a huge factor in choosing a great destination. For solo adventurers, the right location and home base can make a getaway that much more special. Diverse activities and convenient amenities can make all the difference for parents travelling with children. Couples will be looking for privacy, special dinner spots, luxurious digs. Friend groups may be looking for something spacious and accessible for comings and goings. Here are our ideas for different group types.

Solo: Pitve

We adore Pitve. It is one of the oldest towns on the island, established to watch over the settlements and fields below from its incredible vantage point. Shaded by the rim of the island’s ridgeline, Pitve stays much greener than the rest of Hvar and enjoys a breath of cool mountain air, even in the peak of summer. This historic town is perfectly preserved. There is no new construction here, just beautifully restored stone houses in a setting that would suit a Mediterranean fairy tale.

This is a place for meaningful solitude and restorative quiet. Start the day with a meditative hike. Swing by one of Pitve's fabulous little konobas for lunch. Zip down the valley to the beach for a mid-afternoon dip in the sea, and then end the day in whatever manner you choose. After all, you have given yourself the ultimate luxury of a solo vacation!



Families with Children: Jelsa

Jelsa is a dream for families with kids. A seaside town with a dazzling view across sea and mountains, Jelsa is home to a lot of families and has tons of activities for children.

Little ones will love the adorable Mini Disco, a dance party just for them, held on Sunday and Wednesday evenings all summer long in the park. There is also the “Little Town of Jolha” (dialect for Jelsa) Children’s Creativity Festival with weekly performances from local children. Don't miss the Dance of the Sails in June, where festively lit historic sailboats take over the harbour. The Kino Mediterran runs kid-friendly, English-language films on its outdoor screen throughout the summer months.

Certain beaches on the island are known to be “family beaches,” where children and their antics are welcome (and party-loving adults and their antics are not). Soline is a favourite. It has an impressive water playground that children will go wild for and a shady, wind-sheltered location that everyone will appreciate. Another winner, Grebišće, has a uniquely shallow, sandy shape that stretches out for several hundred metres in between olive groves. It’s a perfect environment for those still getting used to the water or learning to swim. Both beaches are popular with other families, which can be fun for little socialites, but never crowded. Both are also serviced by cabanas with fresh food and a full range of drinks.

Children and parents will love Jelsa Gelateria, which has a mouthwatering selection of cakes and pastries inside, and Gamulin Chocolate, a specialty chocolatier that incorporates local ingredients into bars and truffles. Most importantly, Jelsa has good grocery stores. In fact, it has two large, brand new supermarkets just outside the town’s entrance, as well as three smaller but reliable grocery stores in town, as well as a fishmonger, butcher, and a daily farmer’s market.

Finally, Jelsa is less than five minutes from an emergency room, which is itself a twenty minute helicopter ride from Split. If the need for stitches or any other medical care should arise, you’re in good hands.

Couples: Velo Grablje

We recommend Velo Grablje for a unique and deeply memorable romantic getaway. Velo Grablje was at the centre of European lavender production in the twentieth century, and the landscape that developed around the plant’s cultivation is like nothing you’ve ever seen. Hvar’s terrain is seriously rocky, so previous generations had to pluck out stones one by one from the clay soil, which then they heaped around each fertile pocket to protect their plants from the island’s bracing winds. Surrounding Velo Grablje, this knitted pattern of stone and lavender stretches up and down vertiginous hillsides as far as the eye can see.

At the centre of this almost sculptural landscape sits Velo Grablje, perhaps the most beautiful hamlet on island Hvar. It is completely preserved – no concrete to be found here – with a handful of painstakingly restored homes and konobas. Aside from the charming Lavender Festival, which takes place in high summer, life in Velo Grablje is quiet, but it is only a short drive or taxi ride to Hvar Town.

Velo Grablje is one of the loftiest villages on the island, sitting almost on top of the ridgeline, overlooking the shimmering Adriatic. The sunsets are incredible. An ancient flagstone path winds down between canyon walls to Malo Grablje, an abandoned sister village. There is an incredibly special konoba in Malo Grablje with just eight tables, called Stori Komen. It is the only working building in this lost little village. Just a few minutes further on foot, and you are at the sea, facing south over endless blue waters.

Velo Grablje

Abandoned ethnovillage, Malo Grablje

Friends: Milna

For college reunions, wedding parties, and other group trips, we recommend Milna, because it’s directly on the beach, but very accessible to the rest of the island.

With groups of friends, people are likely to split off and do their own thing throughout the trip. Milna makes that easy because it is right off the best road in the island, connecting Hvar Town and Stari Grad. In just a few minutes, you can be in either city for a meal, spa day, a tour, or whatever suits your fancy. Unlike most of the island’s beach spots, there are no hairy roads or mind-bending parking configurations to overcome. In fact, there’s also a very nice walking trail connecting Milna and Hvar, so you can hoof it one or both ways, stopping for a swim or snack at one of the handful of gorgeous beaches in between.

Milna is purely a beach town. Accommodations are more spacious than what you’re likely to find at a reasonable price in Hvar Town and dining options are equally laidback. Common spaces and a decent kitchen can be the start of really special evenings with friends, and add up to significant savings if you are cooking a few group meals at home.

Milna is also a stone’s throw from some of the island’s coolest beaches. In addition to Pašćuka and Zaraće next door, the coves and cabanas of Pakleni Islands are a short boat ride away – a great group outing. Likewise, our favourite swimming and diving spot, Red Rocks, is just around the corner. Its dramatic limestone cliffs are the perfect framing for the Adriatic’s turquoise waters, and when you work up an appetite, just continue over to the stunning Restaurant Bilo Idro, or another one of the south side’s first rate konobas.

Velo Grablje

Milna Bay

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