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Hvar, Croatia

Hvar, Croatia

An original Greek island that shows Santorini how it's done.

 Brash yachts cluttering the ancient harbor of Hvar Town reinforce the popular belief that this sailing mecca, an hour hydrofoil from Croatia?s second city, Split, is another millionaire?s playground. Don?t let appearances fool you.

Yes, Prince Harry made tabloid headlines because of his (fully clothed) dip in the pool of the Veneranda nightclub, and Beyoncé did reveal her baby bump at the Hula-Hula Beach Club. But beyond this splendid isle?s see-and-be-seen capital is a land of pristine coves and mountain villages where locals grow their own grapes, olives, and figs -- and intrepid travelers get to sample them.

Take the road away from the island?s western tip to discover the abandoned village of Malo Grablje, a majestic collection of tumbledown stone buildings against a dramatic karst cliff background. Once a thriving community, the town is now uninhabited except for Stori Komin, among the most authentic restaurants in Dalmatia. No Coca-Cola here, just ice-cold bottles of Croatian beer, local cheese and olives, and succulent lamb. Choose between the cosy interior, complete with traditional Dalmatian trinkets, or take in the breathtaking view from the spacious terrace.

Alternatively, head a mile to the coast to Milna, as the village?s inhabitants did en masse in the 1960s (taking their dead with them for reburial), with its wide pebble beaches, a wider selection of fish restaurants on the water?s edge, and spectacular sunsets overlooking the island of Vis. The real star of this island, though, is 20 minutes east to Stari Grad, the ancient Greek capital (when the island was known as Pharos, circa 384 B.C.), a gorgeous clutter of alleyways and squares opening onto a long harbor that, at night, becomes a promenade for locals and tourists alike, shopping for jars of island honey, dried figs, and lavender oil.

Its longstanding history of naturist beaches notwithstanding -- England?s Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson even took a clothes-free dip off the island of Rab in 1936 -- Croatia is not known for its sexual tolerance, yet 2006 marked the island?s own Gay Pride parade, and the swanky Riva, Hvar Yacht Harbour Hotel(from $182), gets props for gay-friendliness. Gay tourists head to the clothing-optional island of Jerolim, a short boat ride from Hvar Town, where jutting rocks create terrific natural ledges on which bathers stretch out to catch the summer?s rays.

>BEST BEACH Jerolim -- but walk right after the ferry landing, away from the heterosexuals, past the abandoned ping-pong tables, to the island?s westernmost shore.

  

  

  

  

  

  
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