One of the several very nice developments in recent years on Hvar has been the rise in tourism in its inland villages. Located away from the coast (and ironically, the original settlements as locals wanted to avoid the attention of pirates), Hvar’s inland villages lost out to the appeal of coastal towns and those gorgeous beaches for many years.
Things are changing slowly, however, and tourism inland has never been busier. Several high-quality restaurants are bringing diners in from the coast, and activity tourism is showing visitors the heritage and traditions of this magnificent island which are lost to those who stick to the beach.
And if you are looking for a hike and chance to explore the nature, history and traditions of Hvar, as well as some quite incredible views and food (the Hvar Mediterranean Diet was inscribed as UNESCO intangible heritage back in 2013), there is no better place to start than with the And Adventure Hike the Lost Villages of Hvar tour. It takes it two of the most magical villages in all Dalmatia.
With collection from Hvar Town, the tour starts in the village of Velo Grablje, one of the most fascinating stories of any village in Dalmatia. A hundred years ago, it was the centre of lavender production for all Dalmatia, but with emigration and forest fires, the population dropped to just five a decade ago. The village was all but forgotten and abandoned until a group of young enthusiasts with family connections to the village decided to do something about it.
They formed the NGO Pjover and set about celebrating the ancient traditions of the lavender village, as well as repairing some of the dry stone walls and buildings. The main event, the annual Lavender Festival in late June has already celebrated its tenth year and is surely the most aromatic festival in all Croatia. EU money has arrived, an (excellent) restaurant has opened called Zbondini, and there is even a fantastic pub in winter, which is VERY popular with the locals from Hvar Town, so much so that buses are laid on at the weekends to transport people. The population has grown from 5 to 14 the last time I checked, but may be more now, and there is a child living in the village for the first time in many years.
All this is great news for those hiking, a chance to experience this rebirth close up, as well as hiking ancient trails and learning more about the various herbs and plant life along the way. Come in June or early July and you will see the fabled lavender in full bloom. If it a spectacular sight.
The route continues downhill to the mysterious village of Malo Grablje, a village full of legends and history, but no inhabitants. During my time in real estate, it was the only village where there was nothing for sale, despite the fact that the whole village had been abandoned in the 1960s, when the entire village moved to the coast in Milna. They even dug up the graves of the ancestors and reburied them in Milna. You can still see the open graves in the small Malo Grablje cemetery.
One of the curious legends of Malo Grablje surroundings the rather un-Croatian surname which every property owner has – Tudor. This is where Juventus legend, Igor Tudor, was born. But the legend says that the name originates from a bastard son of Henry VIII, who was shipwrecked just off nearby Milna. He met a pretty local girl washing clothes in the sea, they fell in love and founded a small village inland. Fact or fiction? That is for you to decide, but just one more piece in this love exploration of the Hvar countryside.
There may be nobody living in the village, but there is one outstanding traditional Dalmatian restaurant, one of the most highly rated on the island. The perfect stop for lunch and a closer examination of the natural goodness of this UNESCO Mediterranean Diet.
After lunch, a walk through the Milna tunnel towards the coast.
Few words are needed for this – the popular and gorgeous seaside village of Milna. We recommend you linger a while, go for a swim and build up an appetite for dinner, for the fish served at Milna is among the best on the island. And if you look closely enough, there may be some British royal resemblance in the faces of some of the restaurant owners…
Alternatively, you can hike back to Hvar Town along another ancient trail. A fabulous day out seeing some of the finest natural Hvar beauty. To learn more about this and other hikes in Dalmatia, check out the And Adventure website.
Want to learn more about the island of Hvar? Check out the Total Croatia Hvar in a Page.