Hvar off the coast of Split

It took a month, but we finally made it to a Dalmatian island. The weather was finally tolerable – not quite "beach weather" but sunny enough to spend a day exploring Hvar.

The two big islands right off the coast of Split are Brač and Hvar, Brač being the closer one of the two. Dozens of ferries run between Split and any of the islands every day during high season, but since it wasn't quite that time of the year yet, our options were more limited. Anecdotal suggestions all recommended Hvar's cultural heritage over Brač's pristine beaches, so we bought early morning tickets and set off on a 2 hour ride to the island.

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THE OLD TOWN

Our ferry dropped us off near Stari Grad, and a shuttle took us into town. It is a small town with the same Dalmatian aesthetic we were used to. Old stone walls, Spanish tile roofs, the occasional church, all with a view of the bright blue sea. It's like Split, but more quiet, save for the couple groups that were touring the town. We spent some time wandering around, collecting bits of history and soaking up the warm sun in unexpected floral enclaves.

Stari Grad is the oldest city in Croatia, dating back to ancient Greek times. There are still remnants of walls from that era in the plains surrounding the town.

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After asking a local for suggestions, we decided to make the hike up to the cross on a mountain overlooking the city. The hike isn't long, though the heat made it feel longer. The rocky trail was not fun in sandals (I could feel every single rock). But the local was right - the view is well worth it! Warm pastels of the city juxtaposed against the deep green forest and cerulean blue waters = picturesque af. From those heights, we could even see the ferry!

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Then it was time for a bumpy ride to the other side of the island. Hvar Town is the real attraction of the island. We took a taxi van and were there in about 30 minutes.

THE SOUTH SIDE

While Stari Grad felt like a part town, Hvar was like a historic resort town. To put it in a very ineloquent way, it felt more "islandy." To some extent, this was an intangible feeling. Probably a mixture of the active marina full of sail boats, the cafés and restaurants lining the main square and the tourists tanning outside waterfront hotels. But on another hand, it's quite literally more "islandy." The Pakleni islands, a group of 20 small islands right off the coast of Hvar, are technically a part of the town.

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After grabbing snacks to-go from the Konzum near the bus area, we walked past the market (dolac) to the main square. It's like a compact version of Split. The main square, church, riva and port were all together. But we didn't linger, instead we started making our way up the merciless stairs. I mean, streets. Well, here they are the same thing. Tucked in the grid of stair-streets were apartments, restaurants and shops. I made a mental note to pack lightly or find an apartment close to the bottom if I ever return for a longer visit.

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We were making our way up to the main attraction: the Tvrđava Fortica. Built by the Venetians in the 16th century, the fortress survived through many regimes as a military base. Today, of course, the only shots fired from up there are from cameras. Not only is there an aerial view of the town, but also the blobs of islands beyond.

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Eventually, we tore ourselves away from that view and headed back down in search of a beach.

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We followed the coast, passing many enviable private beaches before finding an open one with lounge chairs right next to the water. Laying there under the sun, listening to faint beats of music and the calm water – this was the Croatia I will dream of.

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