Jelsa, Croatia is a small port in the northern part of the island Hvar. Located in the center of the island and just 10 km away from Stari Grad and 30 km from the town of Hvar, Jelsa is one of the most popular destinations on the island thanks to the Grapceva Cave and various other attractions in the area.
Today, we’re going to learn more about visiting Jelsa in Croatia: things to do here (including a complete guide to Grapceva Cave, one of the main attractions), where to stay and much, much more.
Is Jelsa Worth Visiting?
Let’s answer this important question first. Yes, Jelsa is worth visiting when you are in Croatia. Thanks to its beautiful nature – olive groves, pine trees and amazing views of the azure sea, Jelsa is a perfect holiday destination.
After Hvar town (with amazing beaches too), Jelsa is the second settlement on the island in terms of population, with around 3500 residents. You can imagine that it looks a lot like a village – but one with tons of charm and serenity.
Thick pine forests, high poplars (which is quite rare on the Dalmatian islands), nice sandy beaches, vineyards and olive-groves render this small town and its surroundings a special attraction.
In the immediate vicinity of the town, there are the two highest peaks on Hvar island, St. Nikola on the west and Hum on the east – in case you’re up for some hiking and more nature sightseeing.
What Is the History Of Jelsa?
Jelsa Town was first mentioned back in 1331. According the dates from the Statute of the town of Hvar, it’s named after a tree alder, birch species that grew in the swampy nearby the town.
In the second half of the 19th century, the swamp near Jelsa was dried, and with it disappeared the alder trees that gave its name, unfortunately.
Until the middle of the 19th century, Jelsa looked a lot different than it does today: the houses looked as if emerging from the sea that infiltrated into the city, creating the swamp.
Once the entire process of draining the swamps and making the entire area around Jelsa safer, the current town was born.
And maybe to make up for the disappearance of the alder trees, the Perivoj garden was created in the central area of the town and it is one of the most beautiful gardens in Dalmatia. Check it out below:
Things to Do & See in Jelsa
Arriving in Jelsa town, visitors can witness many cultural and historical monuments and other attractions, but especially amazing beaches, beautiful sea and the nearby cave which is one of the top things to see in the area.
But here are the top things to do in Jelsa, Hvar.
1. Visit the beautiful beaches
I believe that it goes without saying that the beaches are at the top of the list of things to do when in Jelsa – as you will probably visit during the summer months.
East of of the town is a sandy cove called Mina, and on the small Glavica peninsula the public beach Soline.
Since the sixties, the islet of Zecevo has been frequented by naturists, which makes Jelsa one of the pioneers of naturist tourism on the Croatian coast.
Within a short walking distance there is a sandy beach bay known as Mina, which is ideal for small children. A nearby hotel, Hvar Jelsa with many facilities is another advantage for those in the area.
To the opposite side, you have the Vitarnja beach, a rocky beach with beautiful trees and flowers in the background and pretty shallow water.
All in all, there are many beaches nearby, but you will need a car to explore them all. It’s well worth it though!
2. Enjoy the central area
Another two important things to see in Jelsa, which are also some top Hvar island attractions, are the church of the Assumption and St John Square with its Renaissance and Baroque appearance:
The main square of Jelsa town is, as you can see in the image below, quite picturesque and charming.
Enjoy a great meal or a coffee during a hot day here, looking at the church and the old buildings.
3. Visit the Adventure Park
If you’re looking to bring some adventure into your visit to Croatia and you happen to be in Jelsa, then make sure to visit this Adventure Park!
It goes better if you are in a group, as it offers all sorts of activities like paintball, splatmaster, cageball or more traditional ones like volleyball, badminton and other sports.
A great way to explore the beautiful park and have a ton of fun!
4. Check out the Donkey statue
There are more than a few statues in Jelsa and you can’t miss them if you explore the city, but the Donkey statue is a new addition and it’s proving to be a real hit with the kids especially.
The Donkey is a symbol of Dalmatia and the statue itself is located near the sea, so you’ll surely love it (and it’s impossible to miss).
5. Enjoy the sea views and beautiful streets
Jelsa is a charming little town, offering amazingly beautiful views over the sea, as well as small, charming streets.
Take your time to explore them and enjoy the water views: these are some truly Instagram-able photo spots for you all over the town, especially the port area. Just check it out below:
Other things to see or do in Jelsa
During the summer season, you can enjoy many folklore, religious, musical and theatrical events which traditionally take place in Jelsa. I am listing them below – but make sure to double check the dates:
- Nights of Antun Dobronic – Every year (20 July – 20 August) Jelsa organizes musical, drama and folklore events called the “Nights of Antun Dobronic”. You can click to learn who is Antun Dobronic.
- Municipality Day – The Municipality of Jelsa has chosen the Assumption of the Virgin Mary (August 15) to celebrate Municipality Day by holding a ceremonial session and a banquet as well as evening entertainment and fireworks. Great moment to be there!
- Wine festival in Jelsa – Every year during the last weekend in August a traditional Wine fair is organized in Jelsa. The best wines from Hvar are on display as well as a variety of local gastronomic specialties.
On of the most interesting things to see in Jelsa (actually, close to it) is this interesting cave, the cradle of Hvar island culture and civilization.
The cave is one of the prehistoric findings dating back to the New Stone Age (Neolithic Period) 5000 – 4000 years BC and one of the oldest discoveries in the Adriatic and the Mediterraneans.
It is situated 239 meters above the sea level and was the cult place of a Neolithic islander.
The cave consists of a small hall (13,5 x 5 m) and a larger one (22 x 23 m) surrounded by hallways and chambers.
It is really beautiful and impressive, just make sure not to miss it when you’re on the island.
Procession during Holy Week Following the Cross
Another important attraction in the town is this unique procession in the world that draws pilgrims and tourists who follow the barefoot cross bearer 22 km through the night on Monday/Thursday (Holy Thursday). This Cross Procession is on the UNESCO World Intangible Cultural Heritage List.
Processions are moving on Holy Thursday from six parochial churches of Jelsa, Vrisnik, Svirce, Vrbanj and Vrboska at 22:00 and before dawn on Good Friday on the way back.
For five centuries, the people of Hvar have been celebrating Easter taking part in this unique rite of special devotion and expression of religious and cultural identity.
Nightlife and Party Venues
One of the most common reasons why many visitors choose to come to Jelsa town, except for the beautiful sandy beaches and friendly locals, is a rich choice of entertainment options that can be found here .
The very center of Jelsa is along the riva (seafront) promenade. This is also the center of all parties and entertainment in Jelsa. Nightlife here is really amazing for those who have the energy to enjoy it.
An unavoidable part of of nightlife in Jelsa are certainly the Tarantella bar and the Taboo lounge bar (known for its large selection of local spirits – particularly schnapps – rakija in Croatian).
Don’ miss also the Villa Verde to enjoy some fancy cocktails, and take a trip to the generic-named Mojito bar. It’s a great location and a great bar, for those looking for a wide choice of drinks and all night partying.
In Jelsa town and the surrounding areas, there are many activities you can take during your stay in this part of the island.
There are many hiking and mountain trails suitable for hikers to some important sights like:
- Humac, once a shepherds’ settlement, is located 7 km east from Jelsa town, 350 m above sea level and offers a bird’s eye view of the valleys and the west side of the Island, providing a view of the Island of Brac and the coastline of Makarska.
- There are two towers situated on a mountain plateau south of Jelsa: the Greek-Illyrian Tower Tor from the 4th century BC and the medieval town fortress Galesnik.
- For hiking and biking fans you can take a 10 km trail from Jelsa to Stari Grad, visiting UNESCO Stari Grad plain.
- Free Climbing – The climbing area is situated in a little cove called Vela Stiniva, with no more than a dozen houses and a nice beach. The cove is in the direction of Sucuraj (the easternmost town on the island of Hvar).
About 15km away from Jelsa town, you will reach a hill village named Zastrazisce. In the village, turn left at the sign for ‘Vela Stiniva’ and just follow the road to the sea.
There are about 80 marked routes on the rocks on both sides of the cove for free-climbers to enjoy.
How to Get to Jelsa
If you are driving, Jelsa town can be reached by car ferry from the Stari Grad port. From there you have to proceed to Jelsa (10 km). Check all information on how to get to Hvar island as you will find out how to get to Jelsa too.
The other way to get to Jelsa is a fast catamaran line from Split to Jelsa (via Bol town on Brac island). This is only a passengers line, operating by Jadrolinija, only during the high season. Having a car when on the island is more adviseable though.
The third and fastest way to reach Jelsa is taking a seaplane from the Split port or Split airport. It’s just a 13 minutes ride and usually very cheap!
This would be everything you need to know about the charming Jelsa Town in Croatia and the surrounding areas.
Although this is a place that many miss when visiting Hvar, you probably know now that it’s a place that shouldn’t be missed. I hope you enjoy your time there!