Five days in Croatia: day two

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There's a whiff of freshly ground coffee, the Adriatic's gleaming under the waking sun and I'm sorry to be leaving Split as the ferry pulls away. It beats the hell out of Dover - instead of a backdrop of crates and dismal buildings you're looking at a Roman palace and palm-fringed harbour.

At 11am, the sun painting the water a deep jade, we dock at Hvar town. Red-roofed Venetian villas huddle around the marbled wharf and the neo-classical township climbs up the hill to Hvar's stunning Spanjol Fortress.

The first thing that strikes me on disembarking is the scent of lavender hanging heavy in the air. Hvar is famous for the stuff. If you visit in July and August the island billows in an ocean of mauve. Lavender and rosemary finds its way into everything: aromatic oils, fragrant beanbags, homeopathic remedies. Little stalls line the quayside selling bottle upon bottle of the stuff, jostling for place with stalls hawking turquoise necklaces and silver bracelets.

Between gawping at Renaissance spires, I notice a flotilla of super yachts - one ebony-black number is so colossal it looks as if it needs its own private wharf. On deck sits a scowling man picking distractedly at the head of a lobster. He reminds me of Ivan the Terrible.

I walk across the marble piazza to my elegant digs. The Palace Hotel was once the home of a 16th-century duke. You almost expect to find Graham Greene sitting in the shadows. My room looks on to the harbour, the pine clad Pakleni Islands and water that makes me double-take. I've seen the turquoise of the Caribbean and the navy of the Aegean, but this water's different. Jacques Cousteau declared it to be the clearest he'd ever seen. Imagine the sapphire hues of a peacock's tail and that might bring you close. But more of that tomorrow - I'm off to lose myself for a few hours at the ultimate lizard lounge, Carpe Diem.

Catch up with Day one, in which Richard falls for the Roman town of Split, then kayak out to the Pakleni islands on Day three.

Now grab yourself a copy of our Croatia guide and cook up your own five days (or 10 days. Or 50...).