So Hvar, so goodA group of ITCM readers was invited to sample the delights of the Adriatic island of Hvar by Suncani Hvar Hotels. Sydney Paulden reports
The ITCM Fam Trip group spent three days and two nights on the island of Hvar. During that time we were able to see the main international-standard hotels and visit most parts of the island’s mountainous hinterland. On the return flight we all agreed that we had not seen a single place, however tiny, during our whole time there that was not truly picturesque.There was literally no blot on the landscape.
We saw ruins, as centuries earlier marauding invaders used to find Hvar a convenient place to forage and the islanders had been obliged to secrete their villages in the nooks and crannies of the hills away from the coast. These have now been vacated and we came across their empty houses as we travelled in 4-wheel-drive Jeeps to reach some of the areas that are still being farmed.
The countryside is dramatic and memorable and enterprising farmers are adding a touch of tourism to the growing of the staple crops of olives and lavender. Groups can stop at their holdings, pick olives and enjoy superb barbecued meals in the open air.
Hvar proudly boasts that it is the sunniest island of the Adriatic, with an average of 325 sunny days a year.
Hvar was only 45 minutes away from Split in the streamlined yacht, one of Suncani Hvar Hotels’ own fleet, that sped us across waters as still as a millpond. We all used a whole trip’s quota of photography in that very short time, beguiled by the white foam of the boat’s wake, the huge ball of orange that was the setting sun and the buildings on the Hvar quayside that seemed like a Hollywood miniaturisation of Venice.
The island of Hvar has one town, called Hvar. The town is virtually traffic-free, but it might be pertinent to point out that one of our group was overcoming the disability caused by an accident a year previously and she was able to choose either to walk or to ride in a golf buggy. Suncani Hvar Hotels has a fleet of these battery-driven vehicles in various configurations for different purposes, such as transferring loads of baggage from hotel to quayside. Everyone in the group commented on the beautiful quietness of the visit, where often the only sound was that of the seagulls.
Hvar has been occupied by wave after wave of nations over the centuries, by, for example, the French, the Turks and so on. For a long period, however, it was part of the Venetian empire and there are many buildings from that time that have retained their stone beauty. There are elegant churches and clock towers and a surprisingly large stone-flagged town square that one MICE buyer was considering as the venue for a televised novelty sports programme. Hvar has Europe’s oldest theatre that is now being restored and that will be shortly available for use as a venue.
Two of the three international-standard hotels that we inspected have been created from listed buildings. They are the Adriana where we stayed and the Riva. They are both right on the waterfront in the centre of town, about 150 yards apart.
The Amfora has over 300 rooms and extensive conference facilities. The main memory of its function rooms is of the glorious views out to sea from their huge windows. Riva is a quaint building that has been designed as a hotel in a funky style. Huge, but tasteful, drawings of muscular nudes, male and female, decorate the walls. It is aimed at a younger set of guests. Riva is a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World.
The rooms are necessarily small because of the constraints of the listed building, but they are well equipped. The hotel has a reputation for excellent cuisine and its terrace cafe is a place where it is pure joy to sit and watch the people and the boats go by.
The Adriana, our base, has a colourful but refined style. Its rooms are equipped with state-of-the-art amenities for comfort and for business and its excellent cuisine can still be savoured in our memory.
We were hosted to dinner soon after our arrival by Miro, the General Manager‘, who hails from Croatia but who has spent 15 years in management in some of the world’s best hotels.
‘Probably the best sea bass dish we have ever tasted’ was the consensus of people who have dined at many of London’s top eateries.
Adriana is a member of The Leading Small Hotels of the World and has a Leading Spa. It literally leads you up the garden path, as good use has been made of all the small niches and plateaux in the cliffs above the hotel. You admire the sizeable indoor pool and outdoor sundeck, then climb up steps and come across a Jacuzzi built into the cliffside, then you climb further and there are small white marquees open to views over the Adriatic where guests can enjoy spa treatments and massage.
It is little wonder that every one of the guests on the Fam Trip has written to say it was possibly the best site inspection they have ever been on and that they are looking forward to being able to book groups there.
Croatia’s southern Adriatic coast of Dalmatia has long been a tourist destination favoured by the British. The two main focal points are Split and Dubrovnik and Croatian Airlines flies to both, with services from Heathrow and Gatwick. The flights take less than two and a half hours and there is just one hour differential, as for Western Europe.
ITCM guest was refused entry into the country!
No one wants to come up against a big problem when taking a group on a foreign visit. However, when one does arise, it is a good test of the ability of the ground handlers and the hosts to take action and put things right.
Eight of us flew Croatian Airlines from Heathrow to Split in Dalmatia and seven of us glided through the brief formalities to enter the country.
The rest of us were greeted warmly by Renata of Globtour Event, our Croatian DMC, who was horrified to receive one less guest than she expected.
It was now 5pm local time on Saturday. Who could imagine that anything could be done before Monday – by which time our Belarusian companion would be back in the UK.
However, Globtour and our hosts Suncani Hvar Hotels got down to it immediately and worked intensively in the background. Whilst our schedule went smoothly as planned, with not a ripple on the surface of our programme nor on the pond-like Adriatic Sea that we crossed to the island of Hvar, there were phone calls, emails, faxes and text messages from Hvar to Zagreb, to Split and back again several times. Somehow someone with authority was located in the Ministry of the Interior who could communicate with a senior police official at Split Airport. It was decreed that the detained visitor was a guest on a mission of commercial significance to the tourism industry and a special visa could be issued on the spot.
The result was that later that evening our Belarusian companion was able to land in Hvar and there she was at breakfast with us in the Adriana Hotel the next morning – with a big smile on her face.
The moral of the story is that Europe is going through complex changes as countries join the EU and it takes time for all the laws and regulations to fall into place, but - a big BUT – it helps to work with hotel groups and ground handlers who have considerable clout in their country.
Split can be an excursion
On our third day we travelled back to Split by the large catamaran public ferry from Hvar. It took about an hour. We were able to spend
It is no problem to use Hvar as the destination for an event, with Split and the Palace of Diocletian as an added highlight in the programme.