The Fortress at Hvar, Croatia

The island of Hvar is one of Croatia’s most popular tourist magnets, attracting both yacht-owning millionaires and budget travellers. It’s easy to fall in love with the island: sit by the marina, sip a cool drink as you watch spectacular yacht after spectacular yacht dock; find a stretch of beach to sunbathe and swim in the rich blue waters. But there is another side to Hvar too – it’s rich and intriguing history.

One of my favourite stops in Hvar is the Fortress Sanjola. Not only does it open up a chapter of the island’s history to tourists, it also throws up some of the most stunning views of Hvar.

The fortress sits on a hill overlooking the Hvar marina. The current structure is built on the site of a medieval fort and dates back to the 16th century. It was commissioned after the old fort was damage in a powerful gun-powder explosion. Where the fortress once protected the locals against invading armies (the Turks), today it makes for a prominent tourist landmark.

The best way to get to the fortress is to walk up. The  trail starts from the old town right up to the fortress. The path is narrow and the climb is steep; it can prove to be a fair bit of exercise. The other option is to bike (or hire a taxi) your way up. I’d suggest walking up, if you’re up to it. The walk helps you enjoy a variety of local flora and great views.

After paying a small entrance fee, you can explore the complex at your own pace. From the old walls tacked with cannons, the collection of medieval pottery and ceramics, to ancient prison cells (the term dungeons might be more appropriate). But the highlight of a trip to the fortress is the views it throws up. Stand at the observation decks or find a comfortable seat at the fortress cafe and take in the views.

Be sure to stay past sunset. Watching the island all lit up from this vantage point is a special experience.

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