Are the Hvar lavender fields in Croatia high on your list as well? I couldn’t wait to see the famous lavender fields so I DIY planned a trip to Hvar island during off season. That quickly turned out to be trickier than anticipated and I managed to get stranded nearly three times, so I wrote this guide to help you avoid the pitfalls and instead fall into the wonderful Hvar lavender fields at the right time. Here’s all you need to know to plan your trip to Hvar’s lavender sights.
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Table of Contents
- 1 How to See the Hvar Lavender Fields
- 2 How NOT to See Hvar Lavender – My Story
How to See the Hvar Lavender Fields
What is the best Time to See Hvar Lavender?
The Hvar lavender flowers blossoms only in early summer, during June and July. Even late May is still too early to see the full lavender in bloom, even though a few strands are already opening. If you can, wait another month to get the full fragrance and purple beauty.
In case you are more interested in lavender souvenirs – there are tons on local markets and shops, such as at the fresh market in Split – throughout the year. However, the main Hvar lavender harvest is late July. Afterwards, you can buy your special travel souvenirs, such as perfumes, soaps, scented pillows and more.
How to Get to Hvar Island
To see Hvar lavender, you need to take a ferry to the island. There are two ports that you can aim for. Ferry times and speeds vary vastly and you really need to check the schedule – especially in off times (which is basically autumn to spring). Make sure you schedule in plenty of time for getting your ticket or get it in advance to avoid queues or your ferry leaving without you.
How to Get to Hvar Lavender Fields
The main Hvar lavender fields are located around Zastrazisce, Gdinj and Bogomolje. If you have a rental car ready, your best option is to drive there. Local buses don’t go that often, so check the schedule. Alternatively, you can order a taxi to take you there. It’s affordable. Hiking lovers won’t mind a day’s hike. Pack a good map and compass to not get lost. The terrain can be quite challenging!
Where to Stay in Hvar Croatia
There are multipe options for Hvar accommodation to choose from. However, the best variety is within Stari Grad and Hvar town, as both have ports. So what type of Hvar hotel do you prefer? For the fancy resort type, try the glorious Amfora Hvar Grand Beach Resort or Pharos Hvar Hotel. I personally love staying in holiday apartments, in particular when I want to relax and explore for a few days. One such Hvar apartment with pool is Apartment Amos with Private Pool.
I stayed at the local hostel as it was close to a hiking trail that lead up to the lavender fields. The hike was rather steep as you had to get on top of the cliff but the view over the historic Hvar town was amazing for sunrise. I picked the White Rabbit and the staff were super nice, my “attic” dorm room was also nice and clean. There was lockable storing space underneath the bed, which was very handy.
Generally, Hvar hostels are very pleasant, social and nicely decorated, such as Youth Hostel Villa Marija. Nearly all Hvar hostels are in Hvar town, none in Stari Grad. Only one is located further off, on the southern shore and aptly called Cast Away – Eco Village, where you sleep in beach huts and hammocks.
What to Pack for Hvar Holidays
Hvar enjoys mild climate thanks to its Mediterranean location. Summers are warm but not too hot. Winters are somewhat warm. So for summer, get your seaside packing list ready.
What Else to See During Your Hvar Holidays
You can either visit Hvar on a day trip from Split or schedule some activities in and around the island over a couple of days. Some Hvar hotspots are hard to reach and need a guide, such as the Blue Caves. Tons of tour operators are offering trips along the harbour of Split. But if you want to be sure that you booked a good one, why not book a reviewed tour online in advance? There are tours from Hvar, Togir or Split.
Hvar island isn’t the only pretty Dalmatian island around, so why not visit Pakleni Islands as well? You can plan a 2 day kayaking tour there. Pack a bikini, towel and sunscreen for the beaches of Jelsa and Zavala and the bay of Sucuraj. Then admire the dramatic cliffs at Ivan Dolac, Sveta Nedjelja or MIlna, the “little Venice” in Vrboska.
Hvar town itself makes for a perfect outing. Local sights to explore include St Stephen’s Square and Cathedral, the Dominican Monastery, Fortica and ArsenalEpiscopal Museum, Tverdalj and Franciscan Monastery?
What to Eat on Hvar Island
You are on one of the Croatian Dalmatian islands, so you gotta try the typical Dalmatian cuisine! Don’t neglect freshly caught fish and seafood, oysters an Adriatic shrimp are highly sought after. Pair it with home-made wine. (Schedule in a 3 hour wine tasting tour across Hvar island)
Croatia might not be known for pasta like Italy is, but it serves a pretty darn good “dirty pasta”.
This is pasta sauce with beef chunks and a blend of special spices, including faint cinnamon hints. The name comes from the fact that in olden days, the noble people dined first and servents were given the dirty leftovers. On colder days, warm up with stewing peka, a dish of vegetables mixed with lamb or octopus.
History of Hvar Island
Hvar hasn’t always been famous for its epic lavender fields. The island has been inhabited even in prehistoric times, by Neolithic people and later by the Greek, whi founded Pharos (today Stari Grad), which is now the oldest European town and UNESCO World Heritage Site.
During the Middle Ages, Hvar became a strategically and nauticalyl important port for the Venetians. Sadly, in the 16h century, Hvar island was raided by pirates and Ottomans and then became part of the Austrian Empire under Napoleon’s rule.
Last century, the island’s exports exploded as more wine, lavender and rosemary were well sought after. However, since a nasty blight hit the island, the fields hae never been the same again. Many are growing wild. This way, you will have an entirely differente experience than in the carefully maintained lavender fields in the Normandy.
How NOT to See Hvar Lavender – My Story
Visiting the Hvar Lavender Fields in Offseason
Getting to Hvar was an adventure in itself. It was still shoulder season at the beginning of May and that meant that tourists were not considered too much when it came to ferry schedules. It showed because the faster ferry left at 7:40 in the morning and returned 12 hours later. I didn’t want to spend a whole day on the island. The alternative ferry, which takes two hours, had five trips each way per day but they didn’t match up with my bus schedule.
So I decided to take the evening ferry to Hvar, spend the night in Hvar town and then hike early in the morning to Stari Grad. I knew the lavender fields were not spread out all over the island like in the old days. I had to get to Busje and the nearby mountain villages of Malo Grablje and Velo Grablje for that. With my maps.me app at hand, I marked the hiking trails that would lead me to my goal. Research goes a long way. This trip has definitely reiterated that with vehemence.
Rural Idyll in the Middle of Nowhere
At 6am, I rolled out of bed, slipped on my dress and shoes, brushed my teeth and was out the door. I had to march up the hill and summoned my sleeping energy reserves by nibbling on my chocolate cookies for breakfast. (Get your hands on the coconut Domaćica ones. They’re so good!) I huffed and puffed myself up 200 metres onto the hill, then retraced my steps to find the connecting hiking trails and walked up again. It was tough for this unfit lazy bum.
Once I was up though, the hike to the Hvar lavender became much easier, the slopes gentle and the view spectacular. Olive trees were dotted all over the landscape, standing between stacks of grey slates. Bright red poppies and yellow flowers lined the gravel paths, peeking out of high strands of grass. It was idyllic. And I was all by myself. This is exactly what I needed after the crowded streets of Split and Krka National Park.
Finally Spotting Lavender Fields on Hvar
I tremendously enjoyed the views but the lavender fields were still nowhere to be found. Only at a crossroads on the way to Brusje did I find a rogue patch hidden behind an old stone wall. The lavender blossoms were only half open, not yet in full bloom. They start exploding over the summer, which is why the annual lavender festivals of Hvar are held at the end of June.
Cautiously I stepped between them. That is what I had seen in the photos so that is what I did. I sniffed the air. Thyme. That’s all I could smell. The intense fragrance didn’t yet perfume the air. Still, the aroma of the wild herbs lingered and it is what I will associate with the quiet island of Hvar. Not satisfied, I continued my walk but was stopped by two olive farmers.
Quick Change of Plans and Dead Ends
“Where are you going?” I explained my bold plans. They weren’t well received. “You really shouldn’t do that. It’s too hard. You’ll get lost. The roads are very up- and downhill.” They were seriously concerned for my safety. It was really sweet. I showed them the map but me not being 100% sure and knowledgeable of the island didn’t convince them to let me through. I had to promise them to make a detour to Brusje.
So that way I went, looking for the bus stop because I wouldn’t want to hike next to the roads (and I would probably miss my ferry thanks to this detour). Just in case, I had downloaded the bus schedules for Hvar and Stari Grad to my phone and there was supposed to be one in half an hour. But then there was no bus stop to be found anywhere in the deserted village. This didn’t look good.
Hitchiking across Hvar Island
But alas, a man just left his house to walk his dog and granddaughter. He was slowly approaching a car. Noooo, stay! He didn’t have good news for me. “There is only one bus. It leaves at 12:12. Buses don’t stop here. You see, there are no people around. No one takes the bus, so they change the schedule.” Brilliant. Sometimes having the answers isn’t fulfilling at all. My ferry was due at 11:30.
I lamented a bit and he suggested more walking. By now, the walking might not help. I needed to run and than in the tiny ditches next to the road along mountain edges. He took pity on me and stopped his friends who were driving by. One car took it upon themselves to drive me all the way to the ferry even though they had no plans of going there any time soon. I couldn’t believe the kindness of the people on Hvar!
Since I was well ahead of schedule thanks to my unexpected hitchhike, I had time to kill. No longer in the mountains among Hvar lavender, I decided to stroll along the shores. I really couldn’t have picked a better spot or day. The sunshine was brilliant, bringing out the azure blue shades that caressed the white sands. The colours were exploding. It was as if real life saturation had been cranked up.
The old town of Stari Grad looked very picturesque in the distance. The walk between ferry and town was just half an hour, but I was just too darn comfortable to walk any further. I had done my due today and it was chilling time. I unpacked my lunch and feasted my tummy on food and my eyes on the view. After a casual stroll back to the ferry, I enjoyed some more views over the islands along the cruise and called it a day. There’s always a way to turn a potentially disastrous travel day into something great.