Travelling the network



Jelsa is a charming town located on the north side of the island of Hvar. Known for its beautiful beaches, crystal-clear waters, and rich history, Jelsa is a popular destination for tourists seeking a relaxed and peaceful vacation. One of the main attractions in Jelsa is its stunning coastline, which boasts numerous secluded coves and hidden bays. Visitors can enjoy swimming, sunbathing, or snorkeling in the calm waters of the Adriatic Sea, as well as a range of water sports activities.

Jelsa’s old town is another highlight, with its narrow streets, charming squares, and historic buildings. The town’s main square, Trg Sv. Ivana, is home to the Church of St. John, which dates back to the 15th century. Visitors can also explore the town’s museums, including the Jelsa Municipal Museum and the Fishing Museum. Foodies will love Jelsa’s culinary scene, which features a range of traditional Croatian dishes and fresh seafood caught daily by local fishermen. The town is also known for its excellent wines, including the local Plavac Mali varietal, which is grown in the nearby vineyards.

The city of Jelsa was founded in the 14th century as a ship port for the nearby village of Pitve. It grew from a little fishing and agricultural place to the shipbuilding and maritime center. In the 19th century Jelsa was at the peak of its fame, which is evident from town’s architecture. The story says that the whole place was formed around the chapel of St. John. Today, on that mythical place there is a Baroque chapel from the 17th century with octagonal plan and a charming square around it. The square was built in the period between 17th and 19th century and hasn’t changed shape since.

The most important historical event in the town of Jelsa occurred in the second half of the 16th century, during the Cyprus war. Turkish naval forces landed and invaded the island. The town of Hvar, Stari Grad and Vrbovska were destroyed and Jelsa was the only town that expressed significant resistance. To commemorate those times stands the parish church of Sts. Fabian and Sebastien that was fortified at those times. Its neo-Renaissance façade was added in the second half of the 19th century in the event of a wedding of Austrian emperor Franz Josef I and empress Elizabeth, known as Sissy. The center of social life is town square called Pjaca located just below the parish church.

It is also famous for its “Fešta vina” (Jelsa Wine Festival), a fun event that takes place every year during last week of August. Traditional Jelsa Patron saint is “Vela Gospa” (The Assumption) that is celebrated each year on August 15. A superhero called Lavanderman, an irresistible charmer with his purple outfit is one of the modern symbols and protectors of the town.

Jelsa is also an ideal base for exploring the wider island of Hvar, which is famous for its lavender fields, olive groves, and vineyards. Visitors can take a day trip to the nearby Pakleni Islands or explore the island’s many hiking trails. Overall, Jelsa is a wonderful destination for anyone seeking a relaxing and authentic Croatian experience.


The Cross-bearers’ Memorial

In 2018 a bronze memorial sculpture by celebrated academician Kuzma Kovačić was placed in Jelsa’s central Cross-Bearers’ Square in front of the parish church of Our Lady’s Assumption. Dedicated to the Cross-bearers who over some 500 years have carried their parish Cross round six settlements in the Annual ‘Za Križen’ Procession, the sculpture represents the Cross as a mast planted in our rocky island. It is as if fastened to a boat by ropes, and over the Cross is a mantle, representing the veil which is placed over the Crosses as they are carried through the night from Maundy Thursday to Good Friday. The nails which stand prominently around the Cross sculpture are symbolic not only of Jesus’ torments, but also of the sacrifices and sufferings of the many Cross-Bearers who have taken part in this long-standing tradition in a spirit of penitence combined with gratitude.

Around Jelsa:


Up on a plateau in the hills above Jelsa, at a height of 210 m above sea level, are the remains of a Late Antique fort called Galešnik, also known as the Fortress Town (Tvrđava Grad’). In the Hvar Statute of 1331, written in Latin, it was called ‘Castrum vetus, quod vocatur Galicnich’ (‘An old fort which they call Galicnich’). According to Hvar humanist, Dominican Vicko Pribojević, writing during the first half of the 16th century, the fort was still preserved in its original form at that time. For a long time the fort was considered to be Medieval, but more recent research has shown that it dates from the 6th century, in Late Antiquity, with no signs found (at least not as yet) of older layers under the existing ones. A short Late Antique inscription found near the fort lent weight to the theory that Galešnik and Gradina, by the sea on the outskirts of Jelsa, were founded at about the same time, probably during the reign of the Roman Emperor Justinian.


Once populated pastoral village of Humac was founded in 17th century and is today an amazing example of a well-preserved rural architecture. Traditional stone-houses of Humac are considered ethnographic monuments and the entire village is in the Register of Cultural Monuments. Humac is a starting point for an excursion to Grapčeva cave that reaches back to Neolithic era.

Grapčeva špilja Cave

Excavated over the first half of the 20th century, Grapčeva špilja is one of the best preserved Neolithic cave dwellings around the Mediterranean. Containing dramatic stalactites and stalagmites, it looks pretty much as it would have done some 3,000 years ago when it was inhabited – the oldest human remains found here date back to 4,000BC. Walking distance from the deserted hamlet of Humac, the cave is only open to visitors who book a guided tour, best organised from the nearest main town of Jelsa.


Pitve is one of the oldest settlements on Hvar. Pitve is situated at the entrance to a gorge called Vratnik. The oldest part of the village, Gornje or Stare Pitve (Upper or Old Pitve), was protected within the natural defences provided by the canyon, and has survived from Illyrian times. The newer part, Donje or Nove Pitve (Lower or New Pitve), was founded by refugees from Bosnia in the 15th century, when it was named Ostrvica (‘Little Island’). On a height between the two villages is St. James’ Church, which dates to the 19th century. By the road between the two parts of the village is a large imposing stone building, which was once the village school, and is now a museum.

Viticulture museum

The viticulture museum is located in Pitve. The museum is located in the former building of the elementary school, which ended its operation in 1965, and is a separate collection that belongs to the Museum of the Municipality of Jelsa.Viticulture and winemaking have been a significant part of the identity of the inhabitants of the island of Hvar since the time of the Greek colonization of the island in the 4th century BC. The winegrowing collection contains traditional tools for tilling the land, working in the vineyard and the tavern, equipment for the production and storage of wine, as well as an inventory of traditional cuisine, but also modern audio-visual aids that evoke the times on the island of Hvar from the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century.

 The Kaštilac Fort, Glavice Peninsula

The Kaštilac Fort, situated on the highest point of the Glavice peninsula is one of Hvar’s many hidden attractions. It has been on the list of Cultural Assets of the Republic of Croatia since 2012. It was built in the 16th century, round about the same time as the fortified churches of Ss. Fabian and Sebastian in Jelsa (Now called the Church of St. Mary’s Assumption) and the Church of St. Mary of Mercy in Vrboska. The stone walls of the fort are about 50 cm thick, and stand at about five metres in height. The diameter of the structure is four metres. It served as a watchtower, and its location offers a perfect vantage point, looking north out over the sea to and Brač, and over to the mainland. For the modern visitor, the panoramic views are a true delight.

 The theatre in Hvar Town dates back to Shakespeare’s day. Built in 1612, this unique public space is housed within The Arsenal, so named after the weaponry that once operated here. While the Venetian-style building remains, overlooking Hvar Town harbour, the theatre space, with its gorgeous frescoes and baroque loggias, last staged regular performances well over a decade ago. Intricate, time-consuming restoration works have long been ongoing. While the public may not enter, the can admire the building from outside.

Hvar’s main port of Stari Grad is also the oldest town in Croatia. Here the Greeks settled from 384BC, naming the community around this safe harbour Pharos. Finds from the time – coins, remnants of ceramics and stonework – are displayed in the Stari Grad Museum, set in the neo-Renaissance Bianchini Palace, built in 1896 by the four sons of a prominent local ship owner. Discoveries from a Roman shipwreck are ranged around an adjoining room.


Veneration of the cross has a long tradition on Hvar and the „Za Križen“ processions are linked to the Hvar Uprising and the miraculous event which took place back in 1510. The Hvar Uprising was a people’s rebellion led by one Matij Ivanić against the nobility in an attempt to give ordinary people a share in the power of the Hvar Commune. The rebellion spread across the whole island and lasted for four years. In the 16th century the commoners and the socially and politically priviliged nobility were the two main social classes on the island.

The ‘Za križen’ procession tradition on Hvar has been taking place annually for more than 500 years. This invaluable tradition has been included in the Representative List of the Intangible Heritage of Humanity since 2009. From as far back as the Middle Ages the church confraternities took care of the people’s religious devotions, and they have continued to play a key part in organizing the ‘Za križen’ Procession up to the present day. The tradition is linked into Holy Week as part of the Passion. On good Friday evening after liturgical rituals inside the parish churches, the holy Eucharist is carried in ceremonial procession under a baldaquin around the parishes across the wole of Hvar Island.

Jelsa is a predominantly Catholic town, and Holy Week and Easter are important religious holidays that are celebrated with great reverence and tradition. The week leading up to Easter Sunday, known as Holy Week, is a time of reflection and prayer, with various religious services and processions taking place throughout the town. On Palm Sunday, Jelsa’s faithful gather in the town square to receive blessed palm leaves, which are then taken to the local church for a special blessing. On Holy Thursday, a solemn Mass is held to commemorate the Last Supper and the washing of the feet by Jesus Christ. After the Mass, the Blessed Sacrament is taken in a procession through the town, with the faithful following behind in prayer and reflection. Good Friday is a day of fasting and penance, with a procession taking place in the evening to commemorate the Passion of Christ. The procession begins at the church and winds its way through the town, with participants carrying crosses and statues of the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ. Easter Sunday is the culmination of Holy Week, and is celebrated with great joy and festivity. The day begins with a sunrise Mass at the church, followed by a festive Easter breakfast with family and friends. Traditionally, Easter eggs are boiled and dyed in bright colors, and are exchanged as gifts between loved ones. Throughout the day, families gather for a traditional Easter lunch, which typically includes traditionally prepared codfish, roasted meat and other festive delicacies. In addition to the religious celebrations, Jelsa also hosts several cultural events during Holy Week and Easter. These include concerts, art exhibits, and traditional folk dances, which showcase the town’s rich cultural heritage.

The all-night ‘Za križen’ Procession is a unique tradition which takes place every year during the night from Maundy Thursday to Good Friday, linking the settlements of Jelsa, Pitve, Vrisnik, Svirče, Vrbanj and Vrboska on Hvar Island In the course of its extended history the Procession has defied wars, illnesses and pestilence, preserved by the faith and strength of the people of Hvar. The continuity of this tradition is testament to the bond between  this island’s inhabitants with their family, cultural and religious inheritance, as well as to their deep hopes for the times to come. The ‘Za križen’ Procession is highly picturesque, with the lay brothers of the confraternities in their robes carrying lanterns and torches under the moonlight as they make their way along the winding paths from village to village to each parish stop.

The ‘Za Križen’ is like a ‘living film’, in which six island settlements form an unbroken chain of prayer, piety and vows through the all-night pilgrimage. When it takes place, a special energy permeates the whole island. The Cross-Bearer from each parish is the central figure: each one of the six will have made a personal vow before taking up and carrying the holy cross, just as his forebears did before him over the centuries. All the six crosses go round the central area of Hvar Island in a heart-shaped route, spreading love, peace and blessings over each settlement and the island itself

The Holy Sacrament is accompanied by the members of the local confraternity in their robes with their Cross-Bearer. This is a rich symbolic tradion representing the Passion, enhanced by the sonorous Passion chants, especially the haunting „Puče moj“ („Oh my people“).

The processions are visually impressive, and the haunting singing which accompanies them completes a profound spiritual experience for participants and obsververs who join in having prepared themselves in a pious frame of mind. Each settlement has its own version of the chants which are sung during their „Za križen“ processions. Prayers are usually sung by the people following the cross along the route, while the leaders around each Cross-Bearer sing supplications in ancient harmonies. In the all-night Procession, for each stop there are different chants when approaching and leaving the churches. Inside the churches the central focus is the singing of the „Gospin Plač“. („Our Lady’s Lament). This is divided into three parts, the first and last sung by two lead tenors, with the response in between by three or four. The tradition of „Our Lady’s Lament“, in the original Latin the „Stabat Mater“, is said to date back to the end of the 13th and beginning of the 14th centuries, based  on a poetic text by Jacopone da Todi ( 1233-1306). In the Hvar veraion only a few words  at  a time are sung in each part of the lament: they are drawn out into a prolonged stream, with a pause for breath between the lines. The singers coordinate to create an almost palpable vibration during the chant, which gives the effect of a female wailing over the top of their deep male voices. The correct breathing technique is essential to producing the phenomenom. Traditionally, sons of the singers learn the technique from puberty, as soon as their voices break, so that later on they can be chosen for the honour of singing this essential part of the procession rituals. All the most important chants during the Holly week events are sung by males producing sonorous and resonant harmonies. In the Theophoric processions, a key part is the singing of „Puče moj“ („Oh my people“). The „Muke Gospodina“ („Passion of Christ“) is sung several times during the week: in the churches members of the choir take on the parts of the various people involved in the unfolding of the events. Everyone is of course welcome to take part in any of the processions, to share in the profound spiritual experience.

Although the all-night procession has been popularized because of its uniqueness, it is not to be treated as a tourist spectacle. Visitors can choose which processing to join, of all those on the island. Those wanting to take part in the all-night central Procession need to decide which od the six settlements to start from: you can walk the whole way, or just part. Another option is to remain in one of the churches to see the successive visiting processions and appreciate the variations in their music.