Lavender on Hvar Island

21 Jun 2024
This distinctive purple-flowered shrub has long been considered a Hvar trademark, and sweet-smelling bags of the stuff are still one of the island's most representative souvenirs. And it's an incredibly useful household herb, freshening up stuffy interiors and driving away insects from clothes drawers and wardrobes.

Lavender production on the island began after the WW II due to a big number of fires and the easy transition to a simpler way of earning through the hospitality and hotel industry. Herbs such as rosemary and imortelle had been harvested by the locals already; stills for the extraction of rosemary oil were a common feature of Hvar's villages and could easily be turned over to lavender oil production instead.
Wild lavander on Hvar island, Croatia
Primarily grown on the steep slopes of the island's interior rather than on the agricultural plain around Stari Grad, the lavender crop cloaked the central ridge in a palette of grey-blue hues, its dramatic effect on the landscape evidenced in thousands of postcards, brochures and calendars, proving a godsend in terms of tourist promotion. Lavender production went into decline after 1990, firstly because there were few tourists to sell it to, and secondly because cheap imports from other continents were undercutting lavender production all over Mediterranean Europe.

And lavender cultivation is not for the faint-hearted: the annual harvest involves back-breaking early-morning toil, with sprigs plucked at dawn to prevent the fragrant oils from evaporating in the early summer heat. However lavender still survives as a boutique crop, cultivated by local families keen to maintain one of the island's most characterful - and colourful - traditions. The village of Velo Grablje, up in the hills above Hvar Town, is historically the centre of lavender production, and is the main venue for the lavender festival that takes place every July.


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