Nestled in between two of the highest mountains on Hvar Island, you will find the sleepy, old fishing town of Jelsa. Once a hive of activity for the fishing industry this little town that sits on a beautiful bay is an idyllic and quiet escape from Hvar centre. But Jelsa is not without an interesting historical past as the endless monuments and churches dotted around the town tell the story of what this place once was. Our guide will talk you through the highlights of the town and what you should look out for if you decide to take a day trip.
The town itself is filled to the brim with small and large wineries and as you walk down nearly every narrow, cobbled street you will uncover a new (often family-run) winery. First up we have Bastijana Vina Tomic, a winery that has been producing wines within the Tomic family for years. A wine-tasting experience here will provide you with insights into the origins of some of the island’s very own grapes, carefully chosen food pairings (expect cheeses, meats and even anchovies!) within an authentic, cosy wine cellar setting. We recommend ringing ahead and booking the wine tasting and afterwards maybe even buying some bottles for yourself letting you take home a little part of Hvar Island and its landscape for yourself. You’ll find Bastijana Vina Tomic in the centre of town just towards the Mina Bay.
Dubokovic is a second well-renowned winery within the town of Jelsa with the owner himself taking the time during the wine tastings to tell you in detail about the wine making process. Learn about the differences in wines produced each season and their selection of olive oils available (look out for the chilli flavoured olive oil) all whilst the owner’s carefully selected music playlist plays in the background. It’s a unique wine tasting experience that again should be booked in advanced. You will find the stripped-back wine cellar setting just a 5 minute walk away from Jelsa centre.
Like much of the rest of Hvar island, Jelsa has a rich military history which reveals itself through numerous ancient ruins, churches and statues dotted around the town. Firstly, you should check out the Civitas Vetus Ielsae (The Ancient City of Jelsa) where you’ll find an exceptionally well preserved protective wall, an ancient cemetery and a church dating back to 1605. There are many other ancient and quaint churches dotted around the town so be sure to check out some of them whether you explore St Mary’s Church or the Church of St. Roko.
As you wander through Jelsa’s gorgeous public park named Perivoj, filled with poplars and palm trees, look out for sculptures and statues of some significant Croatian figures including the composer Antun Dobronic and one of the greatest Croatian captains Nikola Dubokovic.
If you need a break from all the sight-seeing and something a bit more active to do, then Jelsa is a great spot to try out scuba diving. Black Pearl Scuba Diving has a variety of courses aimed at both beginners and near experts allowing you to get a taste of the sport or feed an already-existing addiction of exploring the ocean. The crystal clear waters around Jelsa are the ideal destination to spend the day looking out for some unique under-the-sea wildlife. There’s also plenty of walking tours that focus on taking in the natural beauty that Jelsa and its surrounding areas have to offer. Check out Natural Hvar Tours and choose a tour which suits you and uncover the best bits of the area with the help of a friendly local.
A stop in Jelsa can’t be completed without a visit to one of its beautiful sandy beaches. First up is Grebisce, which we actually featured in our top 5 beaches article here, a sandy paradise where you can opt to hide out in the shade of the surrounding pine forests, paddle in the blue waters or hire out a stand-up paddle board– perfect for both sun-worshippers and adrenaline-junkies. Mina Beach is our second recommendation; it’s also sandy and only a 5 minute walk from the main square – ideal if you’re pressed for time on a day trip out. The bay is surrounded by green fields and forests and so feels like a countryside escape compared to the glamourous restaurant-filled bays of Hvar town centre.
For a dose of local Dalmatian cuisine head to the restaurant Murvica where you’ll find a mix of fresh seafood, meats and vegetables all cooked in oils and sauces local to the area. After having an ‘a la carte’ meal in their stone-built yet luxurious restaurant take home some of their organic olive oils, wines, home-made jams or even some lavender oil to remember the unique offerings of the area.If you’re just after a couple of cocktails or some beers, head to Villa Verda where you’ll find their stunning terrace covered by palm trees and filled with exotic plants – a Croatian style beer garden. If you’re lucky, there may be one of their live music or DJ nights on during your trip; Jelsa is big on Jazz so look out for some awesome live performances from local and international bands. Another great option for wine tasting and finger food options is to check newly opened wine bar “Artichoke”. Check out more details here.
If you’re lucky enough to get your timings right and arrive in Jelsa at the end of August, you might find yourself amongst the Festa Vina in the town centre; a celebration of the diverse variety of local wines but also other speciality drinks such as the sweet, grape-based spirit named ‘grappa’. Amongst all these (and for those of us driving home!) there will be tons of samples of local gastronomic specialities to munch on. As well as all this there’ll be traditional Croatian music and other local performance groups; you can check out the schedule here.
Getting the bus to Jelsa from Hvar town is relatively simple, but the timetable is not that regular and so hiring your own transport is the best way to enjoy as much time as possible in the town and to not be worrying about catching the last bus or buying tickets! You can choose either a car or a scooter and take a more picturesque tour through Hvar Island than you would via bus! Ask us at reception for more information on hiring out your own transport.
WRITTEN BY: Faye Hudson
BOKO d.o.o. za ugostiteljstvo i turizam
Lucije Rudan 7, Hvar 21450
Trgovački Sud u Splitu, MBS: 060327248,
član uprave: Ivan Boko,
upisani temeljni kapital uplaćen u cijelosti: 20 000,00HRK
Račun otvoren u Privredna Banka Zagreb d.d.
IBAN: HR 16 2340 0091 1107 1541 6