Hvar, the Croatian Island Which Has it All: 17 - Festivals

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by Paul Bradbury,

February 5, 2018 – Continuing our look at 2018 European Best Destinations nominee, the island of Hvar, meet the diversity of festivals and events on Croatia’s premier island.

From one of the top music festivals in Europe to Vogue’s top boutique festival in 2017 – and with plenty of lavender and edible dormouse inbetween – the island of Hvar has a rich diversity of events and festivals to entertain its visitors.

An island strong in tradition, nature and modern tourism needs, this is an island where there is something happening for all manner of tourists. An overview of the highlights of the Hvar event and festival calendar, in rough chronological order – there is a LOT to celebrate.

Days of Olive Oil of the island of Hvar (February, Jelsa)

Hvar’s Mediterranean diet has been inscribed as intangible UNESCO heritage, and its olive oil is the basis of most of the cuisine in island homes and restaurants. Hvar olive oil is excellent,  and most families have their own olive groves and produce their own oil. October is a great time to visit to see the locals, fresh from a busy tourism season, relaxing with family on the annual olive harvest. Now in its third year, Days of Olive Oil of the island of Hvar brings together the olive oil producers of the island in Jelsa to find out who is the best of the year. It is a fun and educational event, and all are welcome.

Za Krizen (Holy Week, Jelsa, Pitve, Vrisnik, Svirce, Vrbanj, Vrboska)

Not so much as a festival as a 500-year tradition also recognised by UNESCO, the annual 6 processions at 22:00 on Maundy Thursday in Jelsa, Pitve, Vrisnik, Svirce, Vrbanj and Vrboska are one of the most important events to locals in the Hvar calendar. A barefoot cross bearer leads his acolytes and pilgrims on a 22km procession through the night to the other five villages, returning to the place of origin around 07:00. It is a deeply spiritual event and the highlight of the Easter festivities – a truly wonderful time to visit the island.

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St Prosper (May 10, Hvar Town)

Before the season got longer, the Feast of St Prosper on May 10 was known as the unofficial start of the tourism season in Hvar Town. It is a great day to visit, one of the highlights being a gourmet competition open to the public of the main Hvar restaurants. This year is a particularly good time to visit, as the island will be celebrating 150 years of organised tourism in Europe on May 15, and there will be a range of events from May 10-15.

Hvar Summer Festival (Hvar Town, May to October)

Hvar is a very cultural island – here you can find the oldest public theatre in Europe, for example – and Hvar Town had had a rich cultural summer programme for over half a century. The Hvar Summer Festival attracts tops names from the world of classical music, and there are daily events in exquisite locations, such as the Franciscan Monastery. Listen to local boy, Dario Belic, above, to get a flavour.

Lavender Festival (June, Velo Grablje)

It has been calles Croatia’s most aromatic festival, and it is certainly one which has captured the imagination. Once the centre of lavender production in all Dalmatia, the village was reduced to just five permanent inhabitants until recently. A local association, Pjover, has focused on reviving the traditions of the village, and with considerable success. The village population today is up to 14, a restaurant and a winter bar have opened, and its main event is the annual lavender festival.

Bogdanusa Evening and Hvar Wine Association Tastings (Svirce, June and Multiple Locations, May-Oct)

Hvar has a fantastic wine culture, dating back some 2,400 years, an it is one which is being effectively promoted by the Hvar Wine Association, which was founded in 2010. Hvar’s winemakers hold regular festivals throughour the summer, including a special celebration of its most popular white variety, Bogdanusa, in June. Check what is happening during your visit to catch a Hvar wine tasting where you are.

Humac Eco-Ethno Festival (July, Humac)

Far from the nightclubs of Hvar Town lies one of the island’s most charismatic places, the abandoned shepherd’s village of Humac, some 6km east of Jelsa. It is regarded as the premier eco-ethno village in Dalmatia, and it received its own festival a few years ago, a delightful two-day event celebrating several aspects of Hvar tradition.

Ultra Europe Beach (July, Hvar Town)

Hvar Town has developed something of a reputation as a party town in recent years. Justified or not, Hvar Town plays its part in the biggest music festival on the Croatian coast each year, the annual Ultra Europe Festival. While the majority of the action takes place over three days at the Poljud Stadium in Split, a ‘VIP’ Ultra Europe Beach Party takes place in the pools of Hotel Amfora after the main Split event.

Tam Tam Festival (Sucuraj, August)

Meanwhile, over in Sucuraj, Hvar’s most eastern town holds its own annual musical event, the Tam Tam Festival, in the first week of August.

Escape (Basina, August)

For an altogether more relaxed festival, and one which was named as Europe’s best boutique festival by Vogue UK, connect with the Escape Community, who take over a tiny bay between Jelsa and Stari Grad each summer, for an altogether more zen festival.

Puhijada Edible Dormouse Festival (Dol, August)

Hvar cuisine is excellent, as previously mentioned, but it does have some quirky aspects to it. If you have never eaten a dormouse, Dol is the place to be in August for the annual Puhijada, or Edible Dormouse Festival (actually very tasty)

Faros Marathon (Stari Grad, August)

Hvar has a long sporting tradition, and it is an excellent adventure playground, offering fine sailing, kayaking, climbing, hiking and cycling. It also attracts some of the world’s top swimmers, including Olympic Gold Medal winners each August, for the annual Faros Marathon, a 16km open sea swim from Stari Grad harbour to the top of Kabal Peninsula, and back.

Jelsa Wine Festival (Jelsa, August)

Sometimes called the biggest wine festival on the Adriatic, Festa Vina takes place on the last weekend in August and is an icon of the Hvar tourism calendar, which until recently had very little to do with wine. Donkey races, tug of war, climbing the rope for the prsut, and many other fun activities for all the family, it is the biggest party of the year in Jelsa. In recent years, attempts have been made to bring the wine theme more prominently into the equation (Jelsa is the main wine centre of the island after all), and with considerable success. A fun, fun weekend.

Days in the Bay(September, Stari Grad)

Another recent addition to the Hvar tourism calendar, Dani u Vali (Days in the Bay) is quickly growing into one of Hvar’s most interesting festivals. A celebration of wine, food, song and the long sailing tradition, never has the picturesque harbour of Stari Grad looked more attractive than during the fireworks with a harbour full of more than 100 traditional boats.

There are three days left to vote for the 2018 European Best Destination – cast your vote for Hvar here.

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