Journey Back in Time: Take the Hvar Old Road from Stari Grad

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September 19, 2020 – It is one of the most beautiful road journeys in Croatia, and one with little traffic these days. Have you taken the Hvar old road from Stari Grad?

Connectivity on the island of Hvar changed a lot in 2001, the year before I arrived on Croatia’s Premier Island. The opening of a tunnel and new fast road between Stari Grad and Havr Town meant that journey times were cut to just 20 minutes, and there was no longer any need to go over the top of the island.

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(Photo credit Prosper Maricic)

The new road was certainly an upgrade on the previous path – a great 1971 photo of the slow journey to Milna along the same route. 

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(Photo credit Andy Leedham)

Because of the quick connection between the two major settlements on the island, the Hvar old road – which hitherto had been the only transport artery – lost its popularity overnight and has been largely forgotten ever since. Indeed, it took me a while to take the left turn at Stari Grad, direction Selca and Brusje. 

But when I finally did, I found one of the most beautiful and most tranquil parts of the island. Right from the turn off the main road and slow ascent, the views were astonishing – the northern view to Brac and the mainland over Hvar’s Kabal Peninsula above Stari Grad.

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And there was quite a climb. The road has become popular with cyclists and is now also home to the annual Hvar Half Marathon, surely one of the most beautiful runs in Croatia. 


After just a few minutes, the first village came into view – Selca. Back in 2003, when I started a real estate business on the island, the village was all but abandoned, with a permanent population of just five people. It was wildly popular with foreigners, eager to buy and renovate some Adriatic stone in a pretty village just five minutes from the ferry. I sold five properties in the village, all of which got renovated to a high standard.


The village also comes with something which the Hvar old road specialises in – a spectacular view. 

Shortly after Selca, there is an unpaved path to the left with a sharp turn. Take it and it will lead you to the very peak of Paradise – a 360 degree view of the island and the Adriatic from the top of Hvar. Highly recommended for sunrise and sunset. A normal car can drive most of the way, with the last 300m recommended to walk 

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Continue on, however, and you will come to the recently renovated restaurant, Vidikovac Levanda, which is blessed with rather a nice option for its guests – sea view to the south towards Vis with your meal, or sea view to the north. Both are outstanding, as is the food. 

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Perhaps the most unusual sight on the Hvar old road is the abundance of dry stone walls, which appear like a giant patchwork in the fields and hills around. Dry stone walling has now been inscribed as intangible UNESCO heritage, the 6th UNESCO heritage Hvar has (more than any other island in the world). It is very skilled work. I used to joke with clients that winters were very slow on Hvar, and these were the result on an annual best dry stone wall competition. The reason, of course, is that the stones were sorted from the land for agricultural purposes. 

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Come in June and July and you will see another unusual sight. Cars abandoned at the side of the road, their passengers wandering into the nearby fields for selfies with nature. For this is lavender season, one of the things for which Hvar is famous. The picturesque and aromatic lavender bushes are too gorgeous to resist. 

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And if you cannot make the festival, park the car and enjoy the south-side view. Perhaps above the village of Velo Grablje, which was once the centre of lavender production in all Dalmatia. It too had a population of just view 15 years ago, a number that has now swelled to at least 14, as well as a new restaurant, winter pub and… lavender festival at the end of June. 


There may not be too many cars on the Hvar old road, but there are other travellers to look out for. Timeless Dalmatia is perhaps best symbolised by one of its most beloved icons – the donkey. 

Donkeys are a lot less common that there were in Dalmatia, but there are still plenty around, and the biggest concentration of donkeys on Hvar is in the second and last village on the Hvar old road. 

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(Entrance to Brusje)


Brusje is 6 km from Hvar Town, offering fabulous sea views, this time back to the north. My father-in-law is from the village, and he often recalls the 6 km walk to school through the fields, and the 6 km home again. A different world. The island has strong intellectual credentials. It is apparently home to the first library on a Dalmatian island, as well as a large number of its residents going on to be doctors and working in other distinguished professions. 



(Photo credit Visit Hvar)

Looking for a beach away from the crowds? The beaches in the Brusje bays are fantastic and relatively undiscovered. Get to know them here

As the road twists and turns with wonderful views of the Adriatic, there is one more turn which is highly recommended if you have the time – a left just before Hvar Town to climb to the Napoljun fortress high above the famous town. 


For there is perhaps the best bench view in all Croatia. 

And once you have admired the view, now find out about all the incredible things you are looking at in this video explanation below.

A word of warning to cautious drivers. There are plenty of very windy parts of the road, and barriers are not in place at all junctions where the land drops next to the road, so take it slow. I just can’t imagine how this road functioned before the opening of the new road in 2001, especially in peak season. The impatient German Mercedes driver behind the Italian caravan, that kind of thing. And when two caravans approached in different directions… 


(Photo credit Hvar Adventure)

The Hvar old road has become much more popular for sport in recent years, in particular for cycling (the photo above is from the new road – I couldn’t find one of cycling on the old road, but the view are equally breathtaking. Leading cycling team Bahrain McLaren have been coming to Hvar for three years now for their winter training and testing their skills on this gorgeous road. 

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(Photo credit Hvar Half Marathon)

As previously mentioned, the road is also home to the Hvar Half Marathon, a 21 km race from the centre of Stari Grad to the finish on the main square in Hvar Town.

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It is surely one of the most beautiful races in Europe. 

Want to experience the route, without running out of breath? Sit back and relax and take in the Hvar old road in its entirety. 

At least once a year when visiting Hvar, I always come back on the old road. A chance to appreciate the magnificent beauty and nature of this island on a road largely untouched for decades.

Take the new road and arrive in 20 minutes if you must, but why not instead take a whole afternoon?

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