Dream trip to Jelsa on Hvar Island – World Meanderings (n°81)
By Annick Dournes & Frédéric de Poligny
Havr is one of the 1,244 islands of Croatia. They are spread like confetti on the Adriatic Sea, a part of the Mediterranean Sea that stretches between the Italian eastern coast and the Balkans. Among all these islands Hvar is said to be the sunniest one and is a popular travel destination since the end of the 19th century. Let’s dream of our hopefully coming summer holidays!
Why go to Hvar?
Thanks to a strong will to avoid mass tourism Hvar escaped the galloping urbanization that disfigures so many landscapes on the Mediterranean seashore and you will find there wide pine forests, vineyards, lavender and rosemary fields, quiet little coves and clear blue sea. Since Beyonce and Jay Z came there on vacations a few years ago Hvar Town is known worldwide as a festive and jet set destination. They even called their first daughter Blue Ivy after the name of a local tree!
But most of the other villages and ports of Hvar retain all their original charms. Although there are no sandy beaches on the island the coast is nevertheless beautiful and enchanting. All around the island you will find creeks, coves and inlets with rocky and small gravel beaches surrounded by pine trees where you will most of the time be on your own. So even if your hotel offers many water sports don’t hesitate to hire a bike and go on the coastal road to discover these secluded pieces of heaven.
Mediterranean diet with a Croatian touch
On Hvar food is not only delicious it also is a perfect and healthy example of the Mediterranean diet. Slow food, local produce, fishes and seafood of the day… You will soon discover that Dalmatian gastronomy exists and everything needed to prepare this tasty cuisine comes from the island, from appetizer to dessert.
Local restaurants are called konobas (taverns) and you will find them in many of the lovely ports of the island. Located on the northern coast of the island, Jelsa (it’s pronounced yelsa) is a small fishing port hidden at the end of a narrow and deep cove that is now part of the protected ecological area of Hvar. Walking through the narrow streets of Jelsa lined with big stone houses you will easily spot these konobas and their tempting terraces shaded by olive or fig trees or cool and rustic dinning room.
Close to the harbour and overlooked by St Ivan church you will find “Pelago”, where Ivo and Marija warmly welcome their guests. They serve simple but refined food such as monkfish carpaccio, Hvar Grevada a local dish made with braised spicy fish, wonderful pizzas cooked in a traditional wood oven, black risotto, marinated anchovies or even a “Fis papribas” a spicy fish soup. The wine list offers organic red and white wines from Hvar and you can also taste a glass of Prosek, a local sparkling wine made by Ivo’s family. Simple and very good food for a very affordable price!
At konoba “Nono” you can have a more “gastronomic” meal. It also is a family business and is set in an old house at the top end of a winding street that goes up Jelsa’s hills. Try the langoustine omelette, the sepia ink gnocchi or the braised octopus and have one of the homemade cakes… Vegetables and fruits grow in their garden and they make their own olive oil, a guarantee of quality and freshness.
Set in a quiet area of Jelsa “Murvica” proposes typical Dalmatian dishes such as the “pasticada”, a stew made with beef marinated for 12 hours and then cooked for 3 hours. They also make vegetarian cuisine with organic produce from their garden and serve their own wines and olive oils. Everything is homemade including bread. There also is a small shop where you can buy their produce.
“Turan” also is a family driven restaurant and one of the very best on the island. In the shade of kiwi, lemon and orange trees the terrace of “Turan” awaits you for a dinner of inventive cuisine: octopus tartar steak, brochettes made with figs wrapped in raw ham and barbecued, saffron langoustines…
Jelsa’s flora provides a wide range of flowers and bees find perfect conditions to make scented honey. Before leaving Jelsa pay a visit to the local beekeeper, Juraj Rubin. He makes clear and delicate rosemary honey, sweet aromatic lavender honey, bitter arbutus honey or creamy heather honey. In his farm you will also be able to buy his olive oils, wines, Prosek, figs, almonds, olives… A few samples of Jelsa’s riches to bring back home. The local tourism office is located on the harbour and they will be glad to show you the way to these different places.
To go to Hvar you can take a direct flight from London Gatwick to Split in mainland Croatia (it’s a 2 hours and 20 minutes flight). Once in Split get on board one of the daily ferries that will take you to Jelsa in less than two hours.
For more information: www.visit-croatia.co.uk
Text © Annick Dournes
Photos © Frederic de Poligny