Five Things Not to Miss in Jelsa This Summer
So you are thinking of visiting Jelsa, for the day or the entire stay. What are the highlights and what are the things that should not be missed? Plenty!
It is a great little town, built around a picturesque harbour, with heritage dating back to the Ancient Greeks, an excellent gastronomic offer, beaches galore and a very chilled Dalmatian cafe culture. Many who come are stunned that such a non-commercial piece of Paradise has not been overrun by mass tourism.
There is a lot to see and do in Jelsa, and the full range of activities will be included in the guidebook, but I thought it might be interesting for some to highlight five of the best things about my adopted home town, from a tourist perspective.
1. Wine Tasting with Andro Tomić
When I first wrote about the fabulous Romanesque Tomić wine tasting rooms, complete with optional togas, I got an email from an American who was outraged that he had been in Jelsa for a week and asked "how the hell did I miss this place?" Get a feeling of the ambiance from this excellent report of an evening with Andro Tomić filmed by Hvar TV. Visit the Tomić website for more.
2. Sunday Morning on the Pjaca and 50 Years of Ice Cream
The main square in Jelsa is the centre of all activity and simply one of the greatest places of Earth. Supremely child-friendly, it was made for relaxing, and exhausted parents can enjoy a coffee in peace, safe in the knowledge that their children are free to run around in safety. Many international friendships are made between children during the season, and the square possesses a friendly and welcoming aspect which has been lost elsewhere in Europe.
The best time to visit in my opinion is Sunday morning, as the locals come out of church with the bells pealing in their Sunday best. The cafes are full with idle chatter, the children are mingling with each other, and Cafe Splendid's infamous cakes and pastries do a roaring trade.
This year celebrates 50 years of ice cream in Jelsa, and there are several excellent ice cream parlours in the town, which is known for having the best ice cream on the island. The best of the lot is the superbly positioned Eis Caffe (red building on the corner), with views to the square and also through the palm trees to the mainland.
3. Beaches, Beaches, Beaches
Jelsa has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to beaches, including some with sandy bases. Popular family beaches include Mina, Grebišće and Zenčišće leaving town to the east (check out the very cool Čorni Petar bar if heading this way), while many swear by the options in Vitarnja on the way to Vrboska, with its later evening sun. Head a little further along the Vrboska road and pick from several stunning coves that tend to be less busy.
4. Jelsa Wine Festival - August 25
It is hard to describe the Jelsa Wine Festival, which will take place this year on August 25, because there are so many different aspects to it apart from the wine, but it is the party of the year for the town, and has a little bit of everything. From donkey races and climbing the rope for the prize ham (see video), to wonderful street food, live music and street artists. The whole town joins in and it is one of the most popular events of the summer on Hvar. There are plenty of other festivals and cultural events (August 15 is Municipal Day and a great party, for example), but 'Fešta vina' wins it for me.
5. Old Town Jelsa from across the Water - Mojito and Me and Mrs Jones
There are some fantastic restaurants in the old town of Jelsa - Pelago, Turan, Nono, Murvica to name but four - and Villa Verde is a great place to chill with its leafy garden and superb staff, but there is something about a waterfront location, especially one with such a great view across the harbour to the old town.
Two relatively new businesses are leading the way in offering a quality food and drink experience with excellent service and a great product. Mojito has an impressive range of cocktails to get you in the mood, as well as great tunes and soft furnishings - perfect to catch some late afternoon sun over a drink, or some of the nightlife action later on, while round the corner Me and Mrs Jones is attracting diners away from more fashionable Hvar Town, and was one of only four Hvar restaurants to make the top 40 best restaurants in Dalmatia in 2011, chosen by a panel of experts at Dalmacija Wine Expo in Makarska.
There is much, much more to write about Jelsa, but those would be my top five for this summer, as we have already passed one of the most interesting cultural events in Dalmatian, but put it in your diary for next year - the 500 year-old, UNESCO-protected Easter Procession. Learn more about it here, or watch one of the six processions arriving in Jelsa this year.