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10th June, 2015

Hvar, Croatia

The anchorage off Hvar is sheltered by other islands and must be approached from the north west, so we arrived in good time to ensure that the run in for the tenders was relatively short. A ‘Thompsonite’ arrived a little later, so the bay became a little busier, with ships’ boats going backwards and forwards all day, the odd ‘Jadrolinija’ coastal ferry calling in and then all the other leisure boats came out to play as well.

Mrs R and I managed to take two spare seats on the ‘Hidden Hvar by 4WD Jeep’ tour, and our driver, Belmin, took us down tracks impossible for normal vehicles. Needless to say it wasn’t the most comfortable of rides, but we went to some fascinating little places, including the deserted village of Malo Grablje which had originally been built hidden away in a valley, protected from marauding Ottomans. The villagers had become relatively wealthy producing wine, and then after the vines had been blighted they grew lavender. A devastating fire destroyed their crops however, and the villagers had gradually moved away by the middle of the 20th century. The houses have now become somewhat derelict and overgrown, but one man, the grandson of an original family, has moved back and even opened a small restaurant. Not so easy to get to, but gaining a reputation apparently.

We continued on the rugged track until we could look down over Velo Grablje, a pretty village that also prospered with the lavender crop, but now mainly deserted except for just four men who still live there. Driving on for a refreshment break, we saw the remains of a few lavender fields, the plants now growing wildly in the poor rocky soil. We did meet one young lady who makes her living by selling her oils and crafts by the road side. Finally the Jeep took us to the highest peak of the island, St. Nicholas, 626 meters above sea level. There was a brisk cool wind up there, which after the heat of the morning was quite welcome, and the view down along the coast towards the other islands and Hvar town in the distance was stunning.

Captain Philip Rentell

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