For the second part of our European trip, we decided to make Split, Croatia our home base for a few days and travel each day to nearby destinations whether an island or a national wander. The two island towns we had on our ‘to see’ wish list were Hvar and Korčula. Hvar Island, because of its known luxurious and resort town lure and Korčula, because of its rich history, compactness and narrow streets surrounded by old city walls and crystal clear water.
Dalmacija's Trendiest Spot - Hvar, Croatia
We rose and shined bright and early, picked up some pastries at one of the many bakeries in town and headed for the ferry. Needless to say, we were excited to visit and experience one of Croatia’s premier party towns. As our ferry docked, the town of Hvar seemed to be still waking up but the sun was already beating down on us confirming Hvar’s reputation as one of the sunniest islands with 2,800 hours of sunshine each year. The island is known as the premier spot for the European elite and this was visible by the surrounding hotels and yachts.
We decided to live in the lap of luxury even if for a moment by sitting down for coffee a top of luxurious rooftop of Adriana Hvar Hotel and Spa. One fact about the Balkans is to NEVER expect to have your coffee on the go. The rooftop provided prime views of the island as we set back and relaxed to the sound of electronica.
Once we were fueled up and ready to go, we decided to make the climb to the top of Fortica (see below). We reached the hilltops covered in sweat (as evident in our photos below) but were mystified by one of the best views around. The rest of the afternoon we spent walking around the island and basking in the hot sun at two different beach spots, which were already packed with visitors.
As our time in Hvar approached to a close, we decided to go back to a local winery we saw on our climb to Fortica. The wine shop was a literal hole in the wall with low ceilings and dark ambiance. We enjoyed a few glasses of wine at an incredible cheap cost as we set outside and people watched. We learned from a conversation with a local as we sat on a stoop drinking our wine, that the island in recent years has been transformed from what was once an elite resort destination spot to a party town for young mischievous European rascals. As we made our way back to the ferry, the town was now fully alive with tourist crowds. And right as I was about to dismiss the remarks previously made by the local, a young tourists smashed a can of beer on the sidewalk. Well, a street party does sound nice…perhaps, next time!
Fortress a top Hvar Town
Perched high above the town is a medieval castle, its walls protectively shielding the city below. This magnificent structure occupies the site of an ancient Illyrian settlement dating from before 500 B.C. The views looking down over Hvar and the Pakleni Islands are some of the best we've seen and were so worth the sweaty and hot trek through old-town's narrow streets. Once you get passed the stairs (and there is a bazillion of them) you are welcomed by a gently sloping meandering trail lined with trees serving as shades and magnificent medicinal gardens.
A Day in the Sun in Korčula
Following our visit to the resort destination Hvar, we decided to make another ferry day trip to a different island we hadn't heard so much about. The island town of Korčula is the quieter and sleepier step child to the party hopping Hvar, much like St. Paul is to Minneapolis, Minnesota.
We took the leisurely one-hour ferry ride for an easy going afternoon and a day in the sun in the Adriatic Sea. The upside to Korčula is that you can basically roam this sleepy yet extremely sunny island free of mass tourists and take a dip in the turquoise water beneath its city walls.
We of course climbed the fortress tower of Korčula to take in the panoramic views. Afterwards, we treated ourselves to coffee and dessert before taking a dip in the water. Our fun in the sun was short lived after Jason stepped on a sea urchin (which we didn't know at the time thanks to no internet - where is google when you need it) and I found myself roaming the island trying to find an apoteka (pharmacy - look for the green cross sign) thinking this was it for the trip. After seeing my panicked face, the pharmacist whose partner also recently fell victim to one reassured me that it was nothing serious and sent me on my way with a tube of black ointment and a pair of tweezers. The black ointment was enough to ruin all of our towels. The big takeaway for Jason, I mean everyone is to definitely invest in swimming sandals, no matter how dorky they look before taking a dip in the Adriatic! It also explained why we saw so many people with bandaged hands and feet. I wore my sandals, so was spared of having to pick tiny needles out of my toes.
Another well disputed fact regarding this tiny island, is that Marco Polo, the world famous traveller himself was born somewhere among these charming walls. The Italians claim this to be false, so it is yet to be confirmed whether this is true. Regardless, Korčula residents are capitalizing on this claim. You can tour Marco Polo's alleged childhood home or purchase a souvenir to mark his birthplace location.