What is Through the Tunnel?
The south side of Hvar contains some of the most stunning scenery in Dalmatia, but many tourists do not make it that far, as the main resort towns of Hvar Town, Stari Grad, Jelsa and Vrboska are located elsewhere. Things are not helped by the less than ideal access through the Pitve Tunnel (unless you are looking to experience one of the great undiscovered film sets in Europe). Opened in 1963, the tunnel is a little rustic to say the least, but the treasures it opens up are pearls indeed.
So what is through the tunnel?
If it is sun and beach you are looking for, then the south side is for you. Coming down the winding road from the tunnel, there is a simple choice - left or right.
The road snakes down to one of the most popular resorts on Hvar - Zavala, which is known for its beaches and excellent clean water. There are a couple of restaurants, a small historic area higher up, and lots of apartments on the slopes down to the sea, offering majestic views of the Adriatic and the island of Šćedro.
Šćedro is an island where time seems to have literally stood still for decades, and one can organise a water taxi from Zavala. There is a delightful tourism scene in two northern bays, but if you are looking for hi-tech luxury here, then you are in the wrong place. There is no mains electricity or running water, but as a retreat from the pressures of the modern world, it is unbeatable.
Driving through Zavala, an unfinished orange church on the left is next to a rougher road, which is even less travelled. Drive some 3km to reach the hidden gem that is Gromin Dolac, a random collection of stone buildings in an all but deserted village.
You are entering wine country! And visitors cannot but be impressed at the steep sloping vineyards rising to the top of the island, which are known as among the best Plavac Mali vineyards in the world. Look out for the Ivan Dolac Barrique from PZ Svirče, the first certified Plavac Mali in Croatia ever, and winner of a gold medal at Biofach Mundus Vini two years in a row.
Or head down to the beach. Ivan Dolac is perhaps Hvar's most popular beach destination, and it is extremely family friendly. Or continue for a little more privacy and hire a villa in the much small Bojanić Bad.
As you drive, look up at those vineyards and the authentic stone village of Jagodna will come into view high up the slopes. It is accessible by Jeep and is worth a visit to admire an unspoilt Dalmatian village and the incredible views it holds, as well as leaving you to wonder at how much effort it took to build a village so far up.
Continue along and Sveta Nedjelja comes into view. Famous for the island's best-known winemaker, Zlatan Otok, the popular resort also has the best rock climbing on Hvar, a marina and an incredible church in a cave high above the village. And wine, wine, wine.
There are some quality properties for rent on the south side, some of which are very exclusive. Our favorite property on the south side is Astraeus - http://villashvar.com/en/collection/villa-astraeus - have a look, but be cautious; addiction to beauty is guaranteed.
*Author - Paul Bradbury
*Photo Credit - Rafael Janic Photography