The southern-Dalmatian Island Korčula is one of the longest Adriatic islands. Its natural beauties and fascinating history make it one of the top island destinations in the Mediterranean.
“I am not the same, having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.”
– Mary Anne Radmacher
Once you approach the island, you will see its dense forests. Dense black pine forests impacted the name of the island given to it by the Greeks. They've added the word Melaina, which means dark and black, to the island's name, Korkyra.
The traces of the mystic past of the island can nowadays be seen in the small towns, narrow streets, forts, and traditions. Korčula is the island of Marco Polo, of sword dances Moreška and Kumpanija, unique and traditional sweets, one of the oldest cypresses In Europe, wine, olive oil, and much, much more. Let us guide you through the highlights of the island of Korčula.
The 1st written mention of the town of Korčula was in the 10th century by the Byzantine emperor and historian Constantine VII Porphyrogenites, who wrote of Korčula as a "walled city ."No ruins of the Romanesque architecture from that time were found, but the ruins show us there was a town on the same site in the 13th century which was renewed in the 15th century. Today, the city of Korčula has about 3000 inhabitants and is the island's administrative center. The inhabitants nowadays mostly live in the newer parts of the town. However, the historical center is still the core of everyday life. The main street in the center resembles a lot to a fishbone as it divides the town neatly into eastern and western halves.
One of the greatest travelers of all time – Marco Polo – is believed to be born in Korčula. His family house is still preserved and waiting for all the visitors who cherish his works and the fact he has most likely brought ice cream to Europe from his travels in China. As his family house is located in the historical center of the town, we suggest a nice walk and exploring everything the city has to offer.
Other towns and settlements of the island are Vela Luka, Lumbarda, Prigradica, Blato, Smokvica, and Čara.
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
― Marcel Proust
ST. MARK’S CATHEDRAL IN KORČULA
The St. Mark's Cathedral was built in the Gothic-Renaissance style. The building was completed in the 15th century, and the local masters and artisans of stone masonry made it. The Cathedral's façade is decorated with reliefs, statues, and fluted roses. The portal – main door – is framed by the statues of Adam and Eve and lion figures. Inside the Cathedral, there are two beautiful Tintoretto paintings.
KORČULA TOWN WALLS
Thanks to its strategic position in the southern Adriatic, the old town was surrounded by walls and towers from its beginnings. The walls were built in the 13th and 14th centuries to protect the town's citizens from attacks from the mainland and the sea. As all the threats to the town's safety and its inhabitants diminished from the beginning of the 18th century, people started to neglect the town walls and towers. There were 8 towers in total, but only four are still left. Unfortunately, they have lost their primary appearance due to many modifications.
This Palace is an outstanding example of Renaissance architecture dating from the 16th century. The 3-story Palace with a basement and an attic is located on St. Mark's square and is currently home hosting the Korčula town museum. The museum collection shows many artifacts regarding Korčula’s history from ancient times to today, emphasizing traditional crafts such as, e.g., stonemasonry and shipbuilding – two activities of crucial importance to Korčula.
The Great Revelin is a guardian of the old town from the 13th century. It is located at the southern entrance, and today, a stone staircase leads to the Tower itself. During the summer months, local musicians gather in front and greet the tourists with their songs. The interior of the Tower is used as an exhibition space where you can find out more about the Moreška knight game.
MARCO POLO HOUSE
There are different theories about the birthplace of Marco Polo. Some say it is Venice, others say it is the Šibenik region, and some say it is the town of Korčula. Different theories about his birthplace do not impact the importance of the man who made the epic journey along the Silk Road and met Kublai Khan. The house situated in the town of Korčula is often shown to tourists as his birthplace was built in the 17th century and is said to be built on his former home. Regardless of the uncertainty about the motherland, visiting the supposed birth house of the man who may have introduced ice cream to Europe brings a special charm to your vacation.
The small coastal village of Lumbarda is situated on the island's east coast. It is considered to be the oldest settlement on the island. The village is located around the picturesque bay. It is known for many things, but 2 stand out: the production of "Grk" white wine and sandy beaches. The wine "Grk" is produced from a grape of the same name that is not grown anywhere else in Croatia. You can find wineries all over the village.
CULTURAL CENTER VELA LUKA
The cultural center is next to the parish church in the center of Vela Luka. It consists of a museum, a gallery, and a library that show the cultural and historical richness and diversity of the town Vela Luka. The museum hosts a few permanent collections as the archeological collection, the international collection of drawings, sculptures, and graphics that were gifted, and last but not least, the collection of ship models carved in wood. The international collection was established thanks to the donations of domestic and foreign artists to the municipality of Vela Luka after the town got hit by a tidal wave in the summer of 1978.
THE ISLAND OF WINE
Croatia has over 40 000 winemakers, and Korčula, the island of fine wine, has its share. The island is best known for its white wines, but if you’re a red wine enthusiast, do not worry. The winemakers of Korčula made sure there was something delicious for you as well. The island is covered in vineyards, so you can find Pošip, Rukatac, Grk, and Plavac Mali here. Lumbarda village is famous for the native grape variety Grk, which grows well on the area's sandy soil. Whichever direction you choose, you will not be wrong. Just as the inland is covered in vineyards, it is also covered in wineries waiting on all the wine enthusiasts or those yet to become.
CYCLING ACROSS THE ISLAND
The essential ingredients for a cycling adventure are pleasant, enjoyable weather and intriguing scenery. Luckily, the island of Korčula offers both, regardless of whether you're a cycling enthusiast or just searching for a new activity during your vacation. Bike rentals are available in several locations on the island. You can either start exploring on your own or join some guided bike tours. Cycling routes of the island are a network of roads, side roads, gravels, and trails, so it is crucial to remember that other traffic participants use this network, workers in fields, hikers, and similar.
HIKING ON KORČULA
Along the Korčula island, there are different walking and hiking routes suitable for all fitness levels. The island's scenery is quite diverse, so there are routes to accommodate any taste and wishes. You can combine hiking with the beach, visit wineries, discover the island's cultural and historical heritage, and much more. Some routes are suitable even for children. Make sure to bring the necessary equipment and choose the right time for this activity.
There's no better way to discover an island than from the sea. Here on Korčula island, there are so many water activities one can indulge in. Windsurfing, kayaking, or SUP are waiting for you. Several windsurfing schools offer lessons, including equipment designed for beginners. Kayak and SUP are great ways to access Korčulas’ hidden bays, coves, and beaches. Local agencies offer both rentals and guided tours.
EAT LIKE A LOCAL
When finding yourself on such a diverse island as Korčula, you can be sure the gastronomic offer is as diverse as the island itself. Local producers will enchant you with their wines, olive oils, jams, brandies, desserts, pasta, and other traditional recipes. Many different influences came to Korčula from the sea, so it is not surprising that local cuisine is abundant in fish dishes. The most popular one is “Popara" – a fish stew. Not far away from the town of Korčula is the small village Žrnovo. The village is home to a unique island specialty, a particular variety of handmade pasta called "Žrnovski makarun" typically served with meat sauce. Among all the desserts prepared on the island, we'll mention one with an unusual ingredient. "Korčulanski klašuni” are very aromatic stuffed biscuits thanks to their perfect ingredients: orange and lemon zest, cinnamon, rose liqueur, walnuts, almonds, fig, and orange jams. Still, the particular element that makes them unique is ammonia. Don't worry – the sales and usage of ammonia are highly controlled, and these delicious biscuits are perfectly safe to consume.
VISIT THE ABANDONED STONE VILLAGES OF VELA LUKA
When we think of an island, our first associations are sea, sun, beach, relaxation, and joy, but living on an island was sometimes hard for its inhabitants throughout history. Less than 50 years ago, there were still inhabitants in the villages above Vela Luka. Still, different life situations have forced the inhabitants to move out, especially lack of work. With nobody to take care of the villages, most stone houses were torn down by the ravages of time. The only days when the towns seem alive are the days of the olive harvest. Visit the place where time has stopped. Take the opportunity to enjoy the sounds of nature and spectacular panoramic views.
SWORD DANCE MOREŠKA IN KORČULA TOWN
Korčula’s traditional sword dance reached Korčula in the 16th century, even though it was common throughout the Mediterranean in the 12th and 13th centuries. The dance originated in Spain and was associated with the Moor – Christian conflict, but nowadays can be found only on Korčula island. The dance theme is a confrontation between the Black King who kidnaps a girl named Bula, and the White King whose job is to win her back. The Moreška dance was traditionally performed on July 29th. Still, during the high season, it is conducted twice a week in the evening hours, usually Mondays and Thursdays.
KUMPANIJA SWORD DANCE IN VELA LUKA
Kumpanija is another traditional dance of the island performed exclusively by men. Drums and bagpipes accompany this dance. The dancers dressed in vibrant costumes follow their lieder performing different combinations, ending with a sword duel. This beautiful tradition resulted in a memory of the organized national army which defended the island from various invaders and dangers. During the high season, the dance is performed once a week.
HALF NEW YEAR’S EVE CELEBRATION IN KORČULA
This quite unusual and unique tradition began in 2001 under the organization of the Carnival cub of Korčula. Every year on June 30th, the streets of Korčula turn into a giant dancefloor. The event begins with a masquerade pageant parade around the town attracting tourists and locals. The celebration continues later on at one of the Korčula’s squares, followed by a concert, party, and, just as it was on January the 1st – fireworks at midnight.
MAKARUNADA IN ŽRNOVO
Remember the pasta we mentioned already? You can refresh your memory here (riječ here neka bude hyperlink na Eat like a local). Traditional pasta Makarun originates from Žrnovo municipality. Žrnovski makaruni association, dedicated to preserving the traditional recipe and production, hosts this event annually in August. The association members spend days preparing this pasta, which is usually accompanied by a rich and thick beef stew. Suppose you prefer dishes with no meat, no worries. The diligent members of the association prepare a super flavorful tomato sauce.
KORKYRA BAROQUE FESTIVAL
The Korkyra baroque festival was founded in 2012 with the primary goal of presenting the performances of early music by the finest Croatian and international artists. The outstanding combination of remarkable performers, magical music, splendid sceneries of Korčula, and the most beautiful venues are the ingredients that make this festival one of the most successful in Croatia. It is held every year in September.
OPEN-AIR CINEMA IN KORČULA
Korčula has its own open-space cinema situated on the edge of the Old town walls. Besides showing films, the space is also used to host events such as stand-up shows, concerts, and similar events.
BEACH VELA PRŽINA
Sandy beaches are a true rarity on the Croatian coast, but if you’re looking for one, Korčula is the right island. The beach Vela Pržina is situated in Lumbarda. This long beach is surrounded by vineyards which create a unique ambiance. The sea is very shallow, making it a perfect choice when traveling with children. Refreshments can be found in a couple of beach bars and a restaurant. The volleyball court is also there if you'd like to boost your beach day with extra activities.
Pebbly beach Bačva is situated east of Pupnat and is one of the most popular beaches on the island. The crystally clear sea surrounded by pine trees is genuinely appealing for a swim on a hot summer day. Behind the beach is a restaurant with a beautiful terrace overlooking the beach and the sea where you can enjoy grilled fish.
The true gem of the island, beach Žitna, is located on the island's southern side. The beach lies in the long and narrow bay and is surrounded by pine forests. Even though Žitna is a pebbly beach, once you enter the sea, your feet will touch the finest sand. The beach is accessible by car, but we recommend you take a nice 10 min long walk from the nearby settlement Zavalatica to the beach and enjoy the stunning nature. As the beach doesn't provide much natural shade, bring sunscreen with you.
BEACH MARTINA BOK
Martina Bok is a gorgeous pebbly/rocky beach situated 7 km away from Vela Luka. Even though the coast is rugged, and you might need swimming shoes, we recommend this little piece of paradise. Once you pass the footpath and reach the beach, you'll be amazed by all the possible shades of blue, peace, and tranquility – an excellent spot for relaxation away from the noises. You can enjoy the views of Hvar Island in the distance from this beach.
BEACH PUPNATSKA LUKA
As you’ve learned by now, Korčula is an island abundant with natural beauties, so make sure to visit one of the other gems of Korčula – beach Pupnatska luka. It is located on the island's southern coast, approximately 15 km from the town of Korčula. Dense pine forests and Mediterranean vegetation surround this pebbly beach. Refreshments can be found in a small restaurant and the incredibly cozy beach bar. This beach has even been recognized by "The Guardian" as one of the most beautiful beaches in Europe.
The pebbly beach Prižba is situated in the settlement Prižba on the island's southern side. If you're searching for a beach with many additions to enrich your beach day, this is the one. Here you can rent recreational and sports equipment, rent a boat, or, if you're up to it, a volleyball court. Besides that, refreshments are available.