A Special 150 Year Anniversary Approaches
Did you know that Hvar used to be known as the Austrian Madeira, or that its first major tourist attraction in the modern era was not the beaches, or the nightlife, but its climate?
And did you also know that because of its fabled temperate climate, Hvar is known as the birthplace of organised tourism in all Europe?
That's right. In addition to having the most UNESCO heritage of any island in the world, being the sunniest island in Europe AND having the first public theatre in Europe, Croatia's premier island also gave the continent organised tourism.
It all dates back to 1868 and the founding of the Hvar Health Society, an initiative to connect Hvar's wonderful climate to the aristocracy of the Austro-Hungarian empire who were suffering from various health disorders, and in need of recuperation in a more welcoming climate that Vienna or Budapest. And so, located where today you will find Hotel Palace just off the Hvar Town riva, organised tourism in Europe began.
And for those of you good at maths, you will already have realised that next year will see the 150th anniversary of that historic event, a chance for Hvar to raise its profile for its natural wonders and focus attention away from the beaches and nightclubs on other aspects which make the island so special.
These days of course, winter tourism on Hvar is something of a distant memory, but there is no reason why it has to be so, especially as connections have improved considerably since that inaugural day almost 149 years ago. Hvar is still the sunniest island in Europe (a French study last year put the island once again number one), it is still the relatively undeveloped paradise it once was, with a permanent population of 10,500 for an island almost 100km long. And it still has all the natural goodness of 150 years ago. This is the island which has its own lavender festival, whose therapeutic oils are used for a number of ailments, whose olive oils and wines are prized around the globe, and whose diversity of herbs and plant life ensure tourists who embark on guided herbal walking tours are fascinated.
Take a little time away from the crowds to explore the fields of inland Hvar, and explore the breathtaking views and inhale its fragances uner trademark blue skies.
While there is no organised health tourism these days (a huge opportunity now that the Ministry of Tourism has announced a 400 million euro budget for this sector), individuals continue to be drawn to Hvar, in the hope that its climate and lifestyle can help with breathing difficulties and other ailments. There have been several success stories.
So the next time you come to Hvar, why not take a few hours out of your beach and party schedule, and go in search of the peace and natural energy that this gorgeous island has in abundance? 2018 will see 150 years of organised tourism on Hvar - 150 years of sharing the natural and healthy treasures of the Austrian Madeira with its visitors. Treasures which are waiting for you to discover.
*Author - Paul Bradbury
*Photo Credit - Rafael Janic Photography