Authentic Dalmatian Tourism: Eco-Ethno Villages

Velo Grablje on Hvar, home of the annual lavender festival in June

Dalmatia is rightfully famous for its stunning coast, plethora of islands and fantastic beaches, but the region has a lot more to offer to the visitor interested in exploring more of the local traditions and culture.

With its picturesque stone villages and close affinity with the land, Dalmatia has some fascinating and truly unique customs and heritage, which local authorities are now trying to promote as an integral part of the regional tourism offer.

At the heart of this strategy is the rise of the eco-ethno village, where locals and tourists alike can appreciate the beauty of the past through the preservation and promotion of some of Dalmatia’s hidden treasures.

The development of the eco-ethno villages concept is an important one for rural tourism in Croatia, and there are several important components at its core: the preservation of nature, architectural heritage, promotion of traditional Croatian products, the return of inhabitants to abandoned villages, the revival of traditional crafts and goods, the renovation of traditional Dalmatian stone houses, schools and churches.

The abandoned shepherd’s village of Humac in central Hvar

The most developed villages for this type of tourism currently are on the island of Hvar, with the abandoned shepherd’s village of Humac, 6km east of Jelsa, being the most striking example aesthetically. In terms of what has been happening in the almost abandoned village of Velo Grablje, however, progress has been impressive.

Once the centre of lavender production for all Dalmatia, the pretty village lies just a few kilometres from the glitz of Hvar Town, but it is a world away. Nowadays, there is a full-time population of just five people in Velo Grablje, a shadow of its glory years.

The younger generation from the village decided to do something to address the decline, and they formed an association (Udruga) called Pjover, with the stated aims of reviving the traditions and heritage of the village, with the lavender theme at its heart.

In a very short space of time, the transformation of the village has been impressive. This June will see the fifth Lavender Festival in the village, Croatia’s most aromatic event and one which is attracting increasing international attention. Apart from celebrating the lavender itself (including a demonstration of the distilling process), there are many related events to village regeneration, such as dry stone walling and traditional methods for baking bread.

Such festivals and visits to authentic places are becoming increasingly popular with locals and tourists alike – unique events and locations in an increasingly globalised world.

The importance of eco-ethno village tourism was underlined at last year’s GAST trade fair in Split, where there was a headline presentation on the subject, including a presentation from Central Dalmatia Tourism Board director Joško Stella, and this video presentation by Otok Hvar on the projects in Velo Grablje.

The full list of places involved in the eco-ethno village project is below:

1. Općina Baška VodaTopići

2. Općina Baška Voda

3. Grad Hvar

4. Grad Hvar
Malo Grablje

5. Grad Hvar
Velo Grablje

6. Grad Hvar

7. Općina Jelsa

8. Grad Komiža

9. Grad Omiš
Tugare Ume

10. Grad Omiš
Čažin Dolac

11. Općina Postira

12. Općina Proložac
Gornji Proložac Podi

13. Grad Solin

14. Općina Šolta

15. Grad Trilj
Podi Grab Bugar.

16. Grad Trilj Gornje Voštane i Grubišići

17. Grad Vrgorac

18. Grad Vrgorac
Veliki Godinj

19. Općina Zmijavci

20. Općina Bol

21. Općina Podstrana
Gornja Podstrana

22. Grad Split
Lolić i Mijanovići

23. Općina Podstrana
Stara Podstrana

24. Općina Lećevica
Brdaci (Zec)

25. Općina Lećevica

26. Općina Lećevica

27. Općina Prgomet

28. Općina Lokvičići

29. Općina Dugi Rat

30. Općina Dugi Rat

31. Grad Stari Grad
Mala Rudina
32. Općina Brela
Bekavci Kričak

33. Grad Trogir
Rušinovići (Drvenik Veliki)

34. Grad Trogir
Drvenik Veli (Kačine)