The legend says that a long time ago, one Arabian ship, filled with all sorts of treasure, sailed along the southern coast of the island of Hvar.
The ship’s crew consisted mostly of hardened sailors who were acquainted with each Mediterranean port. With that ship, the experienced sailors went through numerous storms and battles, and were quite convinced that there was no situation at sea that could surprise them. We therefore assume that they were not expecting their journey would end along the southern coast of the island of Hvar, far away from their homeland. It was precisely there that their ship got caught in a big storm. The ship sank and almost half of its courageous crew sank with it to the sea bottom.
Those who survived found their salvation in the bays of the village of Zaraće. Maybe because the captain liked the southern side of the island of Hvar, or maybe because he thought it was their destiny, he decided that up on the hill, where it was safe and where the ruthless waves and possible attacks from the sea could not reach them, they would establish a village known today as Zaraće.
That is what the legend tells us. From a historical perspective, we do not know much about the origin of Zaraće. It seems that the village originated in the 19th century on an estate that once belonged to the Dominican Order. The village of Zaraće has always been small and on the margins of the history of larger focal points on the island.
Today, on the southern slopes of the island of Hvar, about halfway between the town of Stari Grad and the city of Hvar, a miniature picturesque village of Zaraće lies on a small hill. The village is located at a place which at first reminds us of an observation post. You first see the horizon, the mystical place where sea meets the sky, the remote islands of Vis and Korčula, and the Pakleni islands, which are situated a bit closer and appear as if they were sailing in front of the very city of Hvar. It is only then that your gaze falls upon the steep slope which leads to two bays facing away from each other. The bay facing the east is Velo Zaraće (Big Zaraće) and the one facing the west is Malo Zaraće (Small Zaraće).
The village of Zaraće has one street and a play area for boće - as bocce - traditional way of spending leisure time among men in Dalmatia, today somewhat less than in the past. Almost all of the houses are built of stone, with authentic antique lintels, fences, doors, cone tiles, roofs made of stone slabs, wells, etc. The most important monuments of Zaraće are the public well with a large dry-stone hut and a school which is located at the top of the village.
When using the word “monument” in the context of Zaraće, we are not referring to the grandiose, sparkling symbols erected in order to bear witness to great battles, but what are referring to are the modest narrators of the history of “the small people.” Both buildings have since lost their function. Today they communicate with us in a quiet and shy manner – the well through its deep notches caused by the dragging of the rope and the school through its faded slogans that evoke another time.
Its look, as if it were frozen it time, Zaraće preserved with ease. Namely, in the 20th century, around the 1920s, the maximum number of the inhabitants of Zaraće was around one hundred. At beginning of the 1970s that number came down to one person. In the 1980s and 1990s, there was not one dark-skinned, curly-haired descendant of the brave Arabs from the beginning of the story left in Zaraće. Together with the opening of the new road with a tunnel above the bay of Dubovica in the year 2000 began the renovation of the old houses located in the village and some new inhabitants started arriving.
The above-mentioned road which leads from the city of Hvar to the town of Stari Grad and the island's main ferry port passes below the village of Zaraće. Below the road is the church of St. Nicholas (Sv. Nikola) from which an asphalted, steep pathway leads to two bays. A natural dam, a long stone reef, protects the bays from the direct impact of waves arriving from the open sea. Several restaurants, coffee shops and vacation houses are located in the bay of Velo Zaraće. A small beautiful church of Our Lady of Health (Gospa od Zdravlja) is located above the bay of Malo Zaraće. Both bays have sandy and rocky beaches with crystal clear sea that offers the possibility of family splashing in the shallow water, but it also gives devoted divers an opportunity to enjoy in the beauty of underwater landscapes.
Note that if you need a doctor's office, pharmacy, bank or post office, you will have to visit the city of Hvar which is approximately 8 km away from Zaraće, or the town of Stari Grad, which is approximately 10 km away.
Even though the village of Zaraće experienced a new revelation after the opening of the road between Hvar and the town of Stari Grad, a strong feeling of human absence is present in Zaraće. The village is imbued with peace and serenity.