Limestone crags within eyesight of the ocean tend to influence where my husband and I go on vacation. First Thailand, then Greece, and now Croatia. While they all have limestone and water in common, that’s about it. They all have their beautiful cultures that make them unique.
When we settled on traveling to Croatia, I found it difficult to find the specific information I was looking for on climbing on the island of Hvar, so I’m going to do my best to fill in some of the gaps for anyone who might be considering a visit—which I would highly recommend!
First, you should know that we spent five days in Hvar and two days in Paklenica National Park. That’s obviously not enough time to be an expert in either area, but I can provide basic information that should be helpful when planning.
Paklenica vs. Hvar
Don’t make me choose. I enjoyed the actual climbing in Paklenica so much, but you really can’t beat spending time exploring a beautiful island with limestone just above the sea. The island has so much potential for route development, while Paklenica is already established as a climbing destination.
How to get to Hvar
We flew from Venice, Italy to Split, Croatia, but that’s because we wanted to visit Italy also. Our friends flew straight into Split.
We know Split and Hvar are popular destinations, but arriving in Split was a little overwhelming. Tourists and cruise ships galore! We spent about 24 hours in Split, which was just enough.
Starting in Split
- Our favorite place to eat (we ate here twice!) was Fife. This place is busy, it’s not a secret that it’s a popular place to eat, but it was worth it. The food is good and affordable. Service was friendly enough—they are busy dealing with tourists from all across the world—so my expectations for friendliness and service weren’t high.
- Favorite ice-cream—recommended by an employee at Fife: Luka Ice Cream.
- Purchase your climbing guidebook in Split. The guidebook covers Hvar, Split, and surrounding areas and has climbing gear, which doesn’t look to be available (currently) on the island of Hvar.
- Hike the short but steep (and slippery, don’t wear flip flops!) Mosor trail above the city and catch sunrise.
- From Split, we joined our friends for a ferry ride to Stari Grad on the island of Hvar. We brought a car that we rented from the Split airport onto the ferry. I would highly recommend a car rather than a scooter. It’s a big island, worth exploring as much of it as possible, and scooters aren’t ideal for that.
- You should actually consider paying the extra insurance to drive your rental car on the ferry. We didn’t have issues, but it’s a tight squeeze and the cars get packed in.
Where to stay on Hvar
- We spent five days on the island, staying in the little town of Vbroska, at an awesome Airbnb. I loved Vbroska and would stay there again. It’s quiet, smaller, and seems to have better beaches than Jelsa, Stari Grad and Hvar. For a beautiful Airbnb for five nights it was only about $30 a night/per person.
- If you go solely to climb or would prefer not to drive the best option for lodging would be at Cliffbase (hostel living) or nearby in Sveta Nedjelja. We spent our first day climbing at the popular Cliffbase crag. It was really too hot that day to climb, so we alternated between climbing and swimming in the gorgeous water just below the crag.
- Another option might be to stay at this adorable house in Humac—an old abandoned wine making village that we toured on a rainy day. While on the tour we were admiring the house and how great the sunset views from it were, when our tour guide said it was his home that he rented out. You would definitely need a car if you were staying here, there is just one beautiful (but maybe pricey) restaurant, that I am sad we never made it to, within walking distance.
- Lastly, there are places to camp on the island, so if you’re cruising around in a camper van or just need a spot for a tent, that’s also an option.
Rest days on the Island of Hvar
- We decided to go on a tour of the Grapceve Cave on a rainy rest day, without knowing that we’d also get a tour of the old wine-making village of Humac. The cave is an easy hike (for a climber) and its history dates back to the Neolithic period. The village is beautiful. We also enjoyed seeing how lavender oils were made and purchasing some directly from the location.
- While I’m glad we didn’t actually stay in Hvar, it’s such a pretty city to explore! We spent one morning killing time while it rained wandering the streets and walking up to the castle that sits above the town. While we joked about going clubbing one night, we never made our way to Hvar for that, but it was clear there were a lot of people that had.
- Wine tasting everywhere! We never officially did this, but it looked like fun. I say officially, because one thing I really loved about the island was that every wine we ordered with dinner was usually from a local winery. We really liked the red wine from the local winery in Vbroska called Pinjata. We tried multiple times to stop by the cute little winery, but it was never open.
- Besides Cliffbase, my favorite beach was Veliki Pokrvenik. Honestly, all along the coast there are beach options to explore. We ended at this beach, while looking for a shady crag, which did exist, but not really in the moderate climbing range. After melting in the sun on a few easy pitches, we spent most of our day on the beach and swimming, until shade covered the crag we were eyeing. (Notice a trend here?) The views from this crag are beautiful, but this is probably the sharpest rock I’ve ever climbed on. It could use a little more traffic, and if you see blood, it’s probably ours.
- Watch out for sea urchins in the water, or as someone from Croatia said “sea hedgehogs,” which is of course what we called them the rest of the trip.
Favorite Hvar crags
- Cliffbase or Suplja Stina: Most of the crags are named after the closest town. The location of this crag is exactly what you hoped climbing on an island would be like. There are easy, moderate, and difficult climbs here. The guidebook says there are 19 5a-5c+ and 75 6a-6c+.
- Milna: Located just outside of the town of Hvar. After a rainy morning exploring Hvar, we spent an afternoon at this crag. The climbs had interesting features and there’s plenty of options from moderate to difficult many climbs range between 6a-6c+.
Driving from Split to Paklenica National Park
Or rest day activities from Paklenica, if you have transportation. I’m so glad we made this drive and took the time to stop that Krka NP and Zadar!
- From Split, we drove to Krka National Park. We got there right as the park opened, and it quickly got crowded. This is a beautiful park, and I’m glad we visited, but it was so busy.
- From Krka NP, we went to Zadar, the oldest city in Croatia—which was totally worth a visit. You can feel the history around you. And while the old city was amazing, I can’t deny that one of my most favorite things was the sea organ.
- In Paklencia we stayed in Starigrad, not to be confused with Stari Grad on Hvar. It’s a little town right on the water, and also where Paklenica NP is located. Stairgrad appears to be a popular destination for Germans, and I think they’re on to something.
Paklenica National Park beta
- We purchased a guidebook for Paklenica in the visitor center outside of the park (in town).
- Get to the park early to get parking or ride your bike in.
- The park offers climbing rentals and guided options, though I don’t know the details on either.
- Sport routes line the wall in the entrance (Klanci) when you enter the canyon ranging from easy to difficult. This is where we climbed the entire time.
- Klanci is a popular destination for families because the crag has so many easy climbs and is a short approach and only about a 10-15 minute walk.
- Most of the families empty out by noon when the sun starts hitting the wall, which is where most of the easy to moderate climbs are.
- There is shade that can be found all day, but those routes seem to be more in the moderate to difficult range.
- We were there early September and it was busy, but not at all impossible to find climbs.
- The park has a little tourist stand and a cafe with a cool little exhibit highlighting their mountain rescue team and climbing. There are also bathrooms.
- There is plenty of long multi-pitch (mostly mixed) routes. We had five people and no trad gear, so we didn’t try any of these, but they look awesome and the views would be incredible.
- Bring a 70m rope for both destinations, just to be safe.