Hip, hip, hooray for Hvar

Nick Westby gives three cheers for an out-of-the-way island off the Dalmatian coast

Just when I thought I had discovered an untapped Adriatic paradise all for myself, away from the chintz of a commercial holiday hotspot, Prince Harry goes and gets himself photographed diving into a night club pool there and Beyonce is snapped kicking back and relaxing in one of the idyllic setting’s hip beach bars.

Alas, the island of Hvar off the Dalmatian coast of Croatia is not just a hidden gem for myself, the wife and the few others who have dared to broaden their travelling horizons.

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Beautiful as it, peaceful and enticing as it has become, it is steadily, and deservedly, gaining an upmarket reputation. Hvar Town, in particular, is a delight.

Prince Harry knows it, from the pictures of him enjoying a break from duty recently. Beyonce and her husband Jay Z thought it perfect for their getaway and not too much hassle for a pregnant woman.

And I’m also reliably informed Hvar is a favourite for Eva Longoria, the Desperate Housewives actress, not that I would know.

This popularity could bring package operators that then sees the skyline dominated by high rises.

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As it is, there is one high-rise hotel, but that is tucked away on a self-contained bay. The rest of the hotels are scattered on the hillside, tiny, welcoming apartments.

Down in the town, restaurants spill out on to the square, presenting a view common with most Mediterranean resorts. The narrow backstreets wind upwards, with each corner turned revealing the next breathtaking sight.

Idyllic restaurants, rooftop eateries, inviting wine bars are shoe-horned in to unlikely spaces and traditional shops selling home made artefacts.

There are no “I Love Hvar” T-shirts here. People don’t need T-shirts when smiles betray their feelings.

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It’s almost as if the locals know their home is special and they want only those who have researched their holiday destination to earn the right to enjoy their visit.

There’s a burgeoning nightlife. When the moochers mooch off to bed, the backpackers come out, filling the side-street bars with life and entertainment. Typical of the Croatian style though, the night vibe does not stray into seediness.

Hvar is class throughout. And if the narrow back streets prove too stifling, the marina that the town is built around is like a mini St Tropez.

Everything from racing yachts to party boats, fishermen’s rigs to mini cruise liners drop anchor just a few short steps from the restaurants and nightlife.

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If an escape from the increasing bustle is required, then the promenade continues both north and south from the town along the rugged coastline.

From there, little coves to sunbathe in can be found. If not, a cafe or a bar is sure to stock refreshments and shelter from the blazing sun.

One thing to note about Hvar, and indeed the majority of Croatia, is that the beaches are shingles, pebbles and rocks.

And the sea – beautiful, clear and crisp – is a hang-out for sea urchins, so footwear is required. If not, you run the risk of having black needles stuck in your toe like this reckless swimmer suffered.

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Away from the main town, the hillsides are dotted with pine forests, vineyards, olive groves, lavender fields and fruit orchids. For discerning historians, there is much to learn about the island’s heritage during its days under Napoleonic, Austrian, Venetian and Greek rule.

Enchanting as it is, you have to work hard just to reach Hvar.

Tour operators have yet to offer an extensive range of package holidays because the island has no airport to speak of.

The best way to go is to fly from Manchester to Split, a three-hour flight. From Split airport, a 40-minute bus ride is required to the city’s port.

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And if you get a few hours to spend in Split take it. Like most big Eastern European cities, the skyline is dominated by tower blocks riddled with bullet holes and political graffiti.

But it has a charm about it particularly in the old town close to the port.

At Split port there is a short wait before boarding the two-hour ferry from the mainland.

A hydrofoil does the same journey in half the time but is not as frequent and is more expensive.

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And even when arriving at the ferry port on the island, 20 minutes on a bus still awaits before Hvar Town is reached. You have to find your own way.

But don’t let the length of journey time surprise or dissuade you. It is better to prepare yourself for a six-hour slog on land, sea and air, because without doubt, you will agree once you arrive at the beautiful, diverse, welcoming Hvar, it is well worth it.

Getting there

Jet2.com offers low fares, convenient flight times, and a 22kg baggage allowance to Split from Manchester, up to one day a week. Flights start from ££41.99 one way including taxes.

For more information please visit www.jet2.com.