Come November, Hvar feels removed from the rest of the world, almost forgotten. The sun still shines more than half of the month on average, but the crowds have fled. The few sidewalk cafes that still remain open in the off-season are populated by locals; in two days exploring Hvar Town I came across one family of fellow visitors. Most doors are closed, the market stalls sit idle and the streets - it would seem - we had all to ourselves.
A short hike up to the Španjola Fortress rewarded me with my favorite views of Croatia yet, with no one but the few of us exploring its walls (and unexciting prison). The Turkish fleet destroyed Hvar Town in 1571; the people fled to the fortress for refuge, and as a result, most survived.
An imposing cannon in the Španjola Fortress keeps watch over the Pakleni Islands and the town's harbor; a reminder that Hvar's history, as well as Croatia's, has been far from idyllic and beautiful in the past.
Hvar's architecture is mostly in the distinct Dalmatian style, but evidence of its eclectic history is everywhere, especially the influence from Venice. Over the years Hvar has belonged to the Greeks, Venetians, Hungarians, Austrians, Italians and even the French.
Hvar Harbor, to me, was much more inviting than Split's - though I hear this changes with the arrival of massive yachts come early summer. Never any tacky cruise ships here due to shallow water, and for now the turquoise waters hold only local fishing boats and out-of-commission taxis biding their time til the tourists return.
Hvar in the off-season offers a unique glimpse at Croatia that is well worth the visit. Though ferry schedules are less-frequent and a few businesses and attractions may be closed, accommodation is more affordable and the mazes of winding streets aren't packed with thousands of other tourists. Locals are relaxed and unhurried; these are their few months of normalcy before the summer crowds are back again.