Hvar is by no means an unknown gem on Croatia’s – nor Europe’s – tourist radar.Now favoured by the stars and partygoers alike, gone are the days when the island was a well-kept secret amongst Eastern Europeans in the know, and intrepid backpackers from further afield.These days, this island that speckles the sparkling Adriatic waters has instead gained notoriety as a hedonistic playground for those who flock to the old town in the hopes of enjoying the thumping beats and cocktails of Croatia’s tourist-proclaimed ‘party isle’.And yet for those – like us – who seek a slice of authentic Dalmatian life, a seemingly undiscovered island is still waiting to be explored. A place far removed from the shining superyachts that bob in the harbour and the clink of champagne glasses ringing out from bars.The Hvar we found during our 5 weeks on the island was like stepping inside the frame of a faded polaroid from the 70s; all red rooftops and white-washed walls of local, family-owned Konobas, and pebble beaches and teal waters of the Adriatic. All framed, of course, by stubby cactus, swaying palms, and the colourful beach umbrellas used to fend off the sun’s heat on long, languid summer afternoons. It’s the kind of place where old men still gather in the afternoons to drink beer and argue politics, and a vintage Lada was just as likely to sputter along the road next to us as a flashy car with its music blaring. Where small sandstone towns, amongst the oldest in Europe, still exist with a quiet, relaxed charm, flanked by lavender fields and vines full with wine grapes. The kind of place where that morning’s catch was served for lunch with lashings of local olive oil and lemon and washed down with a Karlovačko or glass of white. Where a short stroll from a busy main beach transported us to hidden pine-covered coves, and the sweet smell of wild jasmine and olive trees always seemed to hang in the air.It was exactly the kind of place that had us reaching for our cameras at every turn; in an attempt to bottle the essence of this little island we fell in love with, to carry with us forever.This is what we saw.
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