So, old road or new?
There are two main roads from Stari Grad to Hvar Town, but which one to take, and what is there to see on the way? Both offer spectacular scenery and fantastic sea views, but what are the differences between the two?
With the opening of the tunnel in 2000, the new road to Hvar is definitely the quickest, taking about 20 minutes between the two towns. Coming through the tunnel, the first bay that one sees to the left is the magical Dubovica, one of the iconic beaches of Dalmatia, with its most prominent stone house jutting out into the water. This is a popular beach, and parking is on the main road, so prepare to slow down as you pass.
There are very few buildings on view on the new road, but the small hamlet of Zaraće can be seen on the right soon afterwards, although the real treasure of Zaraće is at the bottom of the rough road descending to the sea - another stunning beach option, with some great dining options thrown in.
The Pakleni Islands slowly come into view, starting with the pretty lighthouse island of Pokonji Dol, and there are two more treats awaiting before the descent into Hvar Town. The fishing village of Milna is one of the most popular destinations outside Hvar Town, with its combination of family beaches and excellent fish restaurants, while on the other side of the road, the abandoned village of Malo Grablje is one of the island's most authentic and atmospheric villages.
By contrast, the old road, which is also the route for the annual Hvar Half Marathon, begins with a sharp climb - tough for the marathon runners, but rewarded with views over the Kabal Peninsula above Stari Grad. The quality of the road is considerably worse, and for people with a fear of heights, it can be a little hairy, but there is no denying its beauty.
As the drive takes about 40 minutes, the old road is almost deserted these days, in contrast to life before the tunnel, when it must have been a frustrating and congested experience in peak season. The old road is a journey through hidden Dalmatia, a tale of pretty but depopulated villages (Selca, Brusje, Velo Grablje), striking patchwork hillsides of dry stone walls, fields of lavender and olive groves. A road where time has stood still.
Along the road is Konoba Vidikovac, the only restaurant on the island whose tables offer you the choice of a northern or southern sea view, Sea views are a constant theme along the road, initially facing north, then south, then north again, before a winding road takes you into Hvar Town. There are some great swimming options as you close in on Hvar Town, in the shape of the Brusje bays.
So, old road or new? The choice is yours.
If you are in a hurry, then it has to be the new road, but if you have time, why not try them both, in opposing directions, and get more of a feeling for the magic of this beautiful island...
*Author - Paul Bradbury
*Photo Credit - Romulić & Stojčić multimedia studio