Jelsa town is a small picturesque settlement situated in a bay on the north side of the island of Hvar.
In the immediate vicinity of the tow are the two highest peaks on the island, St. Nikola on the west and Hum on the east.
After Hvar town, Jelsa is a second settlement on the island of Hvar in terms of population, with about 3500 residents.
It’s only 30 km from Hvar town, 10 km from Stari Grad and 30 km from Sucuraj the easternmost settlement.
The town is built around a wide natural inlet that attracts holiday visitors and visiting yachts.
On the both sides of the harbor there are wooded coves ideal for relaxation and swimming.
The ancient city name is (Civitas Vetus Ielsae). Jelsa is mentioned for the first time in 1331. It is named after the alder trees (jalša or Joha in Croatian).
It’s a kind of birch species that grew in the swamp near the Jelsa harbor.
In the second half of the nineteenth century the swamp was dried, and alder trees disappeared.
Getting to Jelsa
From Split there isn’t any car ferry connection directly to Jelsa. If you are traveling by car than you should take a car ferry from Split to Stari Grad. From there you have only 14 km to Jelsa following the road to Sucuraj.
From Split to Jelsa in 13 minutes for € 19,50
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From Split port’s Obala Lazareta all foot passengers can take a fast catamaran to one of the islands. To reach Jelsa you should take fast ferry Split – Bol (Brac island) – Jelsa. See the schedule table on this page.
Make sure to go over our Split ferry port guide to see where Obala Lazarete is.
Book ferry tickets online
Jelsa town – What to See and Do?
Arriving in Jelsa town visitors can witness many cultural and historical monuments. Two of them are the most important, the church of the Assumption and St John Square with its Renaissance and Baroque appearance.
The square is the central place of numerous venues.
If you come in August you can enjoy many folklore events held in Jelsa:
- Nights of Antun Dobronic – Every year (20 July – 20 August) Jelsa organizes musical, drama and folklore events called the “Nights of Antun Dobronic”. Find out why is Antun Dobronic?
- Municipality Day – The Municipality of Jelsa has chosen the Assumption of the Virgin Mary (August 15) to celebrate Municipality Day by holding a ceremonial session and a banquet as well as evening entertainment and fireworks.
- Wine festival in Jelsa – Every year during the last weekend in August a traditional Wine fair is organized in Jelsa. The best wines from Hvar are on display as well as a variety of local gastronomic specialties.
“Following the Cross” Procession during Holy Week
It’s a unique procession in the world that draws pilgrims and tourists who follow the barefoot cross bearer 22 km through the night on Monday/Thursday (Holy Thursday). This Cross Procession is on the UNESCO World Intangible Cultural Heritage List.
Following the Cross Procession 2015
Easter is one of the most important times of year in the Jelsa calendar – Date: April 2, 2015 from 22:00 – 07:00
For five centuries the people of Hvar in a special way celebrate Easter taking part in procession of ‘Following The Cross.
This is a unique rite of special devotion and expression of religious and cultural identity of the inhabitants of Hvar island.
Many worshipers from all over the Island, as well as guests visiting the Island take part in the Procession, carrying candles and rosaries.
Some of the local people along with numerous guests wait for the Procession to arrive from neighboring villages so that they may join in and sing and pray on the way to the church.
Processions are moving on Holy Thursday from six parochial churches of Jelsa, Vrisnik, Svirce, Vrbanj and Vrboska at 22:00 and before dawn on Good Friday on the way back.
It is worth noting that all participants at the same time walk in a clockwise direction, so that during several hours of the procession the crosses never meet.
While visiting Jelsa town, take a day excursion to Grapceva Cave (Grapčeva špilja). This cave is the cradle of Hvar’s culture and civilization.
The cave is one of the prehistoric findings dating back to the New Stone Age (Neolithic Period) 5000 – 4000 years BC and one of the oldest discoveries in the Adriatic and the Mediterranean area.
It is situated 239 m above sea level and was the religious place of a Neolithic Islander. The cave consists of a small hall (13,5 x 5 m) and a larger one (22 x 23 m) surrounded by hallways and chambers.
Jelsa Town nightlife and party venues
For those looking for night entertainments I inevitably suggest “Tarantella” bar and “Taboo” lounge bar (known for its large selection of local spirits – Rakije).
Don’t miss also “Villa Verde” and enjoying cocktails or nearby “Dgigibaoo” club. When you get tired on your way back home, stop at a bakery on the waterfront, which has become a ritual in the summer period.
Jelsa town beaches
The town is built around a wide natural inlet that attracts holiday visitors and visiting yachts. On the both sides of the harbor there are wooded coves ideal for relaxation and swimming.
East of of the town is a sand cove called Mina ideal for small children, and on the small Glavica peninsula the public beach Soline.
Since the sixties the islet of Zecevo has been frequented by nudists, which makes Jelsa one of the pioneers of nudist tourism on the Croatian coast.
Zecevo – island with a naturist beach, it is open during the summer season and can be reached by boat from Jelsa.
Grebisce bay and beach is located 1500 m from the center of Jelsa and is the the most popular beach for all Jelsa visitors. There is also a camp with two sandy beaches.