Hvar Lavender Festival 2023 Announced, Symbol of Traditional Dalmatia

Paul Bradbury

June 27, 2023 – The 15th Hvar Lavender Festival takes place next month, a story of regeneration and traditional values away from the beach and nightlife.

I didn’t wash my feet for days afterwards, they smelled that good…

Somebody asked me once which event in the Hvar calendar summed up the island the best. It was an interesting question which got me thinking. As peak season approaches, the beaches and nightlife spots fill up and gentle reminders go out to young tourists to be respectful of local laws, culture and drinking levels, there is a world away from the throbbing peak season, to a world of Hvar as it once was (and still is for many locals).

Drive 6km on the old road from Hvar Town towards Stari Grad and you will come to one of the most beautiful villages and heartwarming stories in all of Dalmatia – Velo Grablje, home to the annual Hvar Lavender Festival, which will take place for the 15th year next month from July 13-15 (you can follow the Facebook page of the organisers, Pjover, who will publish the full programme soon).

When I first visited Velo Grablje 20 years ago, it has a population of just five, including a guy called Sinai, who was born in the Egyptian desert of the same name in the camp of El Shatt, where 28,000 Dalmatian civilians were evacuated to in 1944. It was a far cry from the glory days of Velo Grablje, which was once the capital of production in all Dalmatia for that most aromatic of plants:


Hvar lavender fields as they once were.

Some young locals with ties to the village decided to try and revive the heritage and fortunes of the village, and so the Association Pjover was born. They started to revive the lavender tradition, fix some of the dry stone walling, and invite visitors to take part. Back in about 2008, from memory, the signature event of the Velo Grablje calendar was announced – the first-ever Hvar Lavender Festival.

It was a great success, and over the coming years, that success bred more success. More investment from locals with ruined ancestral properties in the village started to transform it slightly. It was a pleasure to be at the opening night of the first restaurant in the village, Zbondini, some 8 years ago. You can check out the Hvar TV report below.

There was even a winter pub which attracted many from Hvar Town in the off-season. EU funds were successfully procured to upgrade things, and then the most incredible statistic – the population increased from 5 to 14, including the first small child to live in the village for many, many years. A wonderful village with incredible positive energy, and now very much on the gourmet and adventure tourism trail – Zbondini gives a fantastic cooking class of the traditional way of life using herbs and ingredients picked in the local fields.

The core event remains the Hvar Lavender Festival, which was always one of my favourite events when I lived on the island, as far away from the coastal party as you could imagine. So what happens at a lavender festival, and why did my feet smell so good?

It is a great few days where the focus is on lavender and heritage, as well as education and workshops. Those interested in helping in restoring the village and learning about the skillful art of dry stone walling (now an intangible UNESCO heritage) can take part in an organised restoration. There are wonderful rakija delicacies to try (lavender ice cream was a new one for me), as well as concerts and exhibitions on the rich lavender history. But most of all, it is a chance to soak up the atmosphere of truly traditional Hvar and sample life as it was for the average Dalmatian.

And one of the highlights without doubt is observing and taking part in the actual lavender oil-producing process. Bundles of freshly cut lavender are tossed into a large steel vat, and then visitors can take part in the process by holding onto a rope from above, jumping into the vat barefoot and then jumping up and down to compress the lavender branches below. It is one of the most aromatic things I have ever done – delightful.

I became hooked on lavender and now take part in the annual lavender harvest of my friend, Jadran Lazic – check out how a harvest looks like in this video.

The Hvar Lavender Festival is just one of many cultural events taking place on Hvar next month. Hvar Town has a rich tradition of culture (home to the oldest public theatre in Europe), and the Hvar Summer Festival is now in its 62nd year. You can download the programme here.

Other events to look out for in July include one of the largest and most spectacular vocal ensembles in the world, Perpetuum Jazzile, which will perform on July 7 in Veneranda, starting at 9 p.m.

Beatles and Rolling Stones fans should head to Pjaca on July 17 for Offrock, The Beatles v The Rolling Stones, while guitar lovers have a treat in store at the end of the month.

Vlatko Stefanovski is one of the greatest guitar virtuosos in this part of Europe, who skilfully combines ethno-jazz, rock, jazz-fusion and blues with his guitar technique. V3 Trio is his youngest section to date, which, along with him, consists of Ivan Kukić on bass and Jan Stefanovski on drums. It is all happening on July 31 at Veneranda.

Hvar Town really is the destination that has it all. Balancing the differing tourist interests is never easy, but a little respect of local customs, laws and other people goes a long way.

Now, time to book my lavender foot massage for 2023.


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