I’m a complete sucker for beautiful medieval old towns, but this was only half the main reason I made the trip over from Dubrovnik.
The other reason is wine.
There’s a particular indigenous variety of grape called grk which is only grown on Korčula. Fascinatingly, it’s one of the few varieties that produces female flowers only and needs to be planted near to other varieties (usually plavac mali here) for pollination.
Like most Croatian islands, Korčula is long and thin. You can arrive at either end – if you catch a ferry from Split you’ll arrive at Vela Luka on the northern tip. If you ferry over from Dubrovnik, as I did then you’ll disembark at Korčula town. It’s known for resembling a miniature Dubrovnik.
Croatia’s islands are an intensely relaxing experience after the hubbub of Dubrovnik, and Korčula is no exception. Korčula Town gets its fair share of daytrippers who come over from resorts along the Dalmatian coast, but the rest of the island is sleepy and carpeting in dense black pine and vines.
As soon as you step foot off the ferry in Korčula Town – and after you’ve admired the beauty of the walled town with its elegant 17th-century staircase – you’ll notice signs saying ‘welcome to Croatia’s wine island’ and ‘wine tours available’. I feel like this fabulous notion is not marketed enough outside the island.
A wine island = heaven!
But Korčula is actually more famous for two things that have nothing to do with wine: the moreška – the island’s traditional sword dance – and for possibly, maybe, being the birthplace of Marco Polo.
I mistakenly assumed that moreška would be a tatty tourist diversion, but actually it’s pretty cool and definitely worth buying a ticket to watch the evening performance. The music is great and it has total Game of Thrones vibes. If you don’t want to shell out for a ticket there are often a few demos around town during the day.
However, you can skip the Marco Polo museum which a bit tacky (unless you like that kind of thing).
The aforementioned bridge is the way into the fortified old town which is currently on the tentative list for UNESCO World Heritage listing for its Venetian defences. The staircase leads to the Revelin Tower, the 15th-century entrance.
The other main landmarks are the main square, which is called Pjaceta, and its church Sveti Marko.
You can walk a circuit of the old town in around 25 minutes. A notable feature is the steep and narrow side streets leading down to the sea, these draw the cool breezes up from the seafront.
My favourite feature is the tree-lined promenade running along the outskirts of the old town where it meets the sea. It’s the priciest location for a coffee or seafood meal but I could never tire of the views.
Watching the morning light unveil over Korčula Town is something not to be missed if you can rouse yourself early enough.
CYCLING THE VINEYARDS
I prefer two wheels to four, so on my first full day I hired a bike with a new friend from the hostel and we cycled to Lumbarda, the main winemaking village on the island.
Cycling to the vineyards is one of the popular things to do on the island, so the rental agencies will give you a map and help you out with opening times). It’s a leisurely 1-hour cycle, but do allow some extra time for finding the vineyards.
There are usually a few vineyards open which have a few wines available by the glass with local charcuterie plates and olives also available. There’s just enough time for a nap at Vela Przina beach before tackling the (uphill) cycle back to Korčula Town.
As well as grk, you’ll also find rukatac and posip (whites) and plavac (red). For more info on Croatian wines check out the excellent Wine Folly guide.
This is the easiest cycle route from Korčula Town, but there are plenty more routes available if you’ve got longer. I recommend checking out local bloggers and tour guides Korčula Explorer who run food and wine-based tours (next time, guys).
KORCULA FOR FOODIES
Foodie travellers and gourmets will love Korčula.
During the high season, there’s an abundance of amazing day trips that you can take in the area – both around the island and over to the mainland. Tours that take in vineyards, konobas, tasting slow-cooked peka and local produce.
Korčula is opposite the Pelješac Peninsula, one of Croatia’s gastronomic heartlands. Even if you don’t find a tour to join, it’s easy to nip over on the ferry for more vineyards and wine bars. If you have the time, it’s possible to reach nearby Ston which is famous for its incredible oysters.
Unfortunately for me, I arrived right at the end of the season (mid-September) so most of the excursions had finished running for the year.
The other difficulty I had as a solo traveller in Croatia was mealtimes – the most exciting seafood dishes on the menu are often for two to share, and expensive at that. Croatia is the perfect country for couples, haha! But I still ate stuffed grilled squid washed down with a glass of grk every day so overall I was a happy bunny.
The best of the many gelatos I had was a chocolate one from Slastičarna Kiwi (pictured above).
Budget foodies keep an eye out for marenda, the name given to a mid-afternoon meal with local produce – check out Skver.
The most scenic place to grab a drink is definitely in Massimo’s Cocktail Bar, which is at the top of one of the towers in the old walls. It’s not the easiest to get up there though, involving a scramble up some steep ladders, so not suited to those with mobility issues. And it’s a little bit of a busy tourist trap. But it’s worth the climb for its views over rooftops (pictured below).
I stayed at the Hostel Korčula – it’s not located in the old town but is only a 5-minute walk tops, and is right by the port, a small beach and several gelaterias.
It’s decked out in a surf-style decor, the beds are pretty comfortable, and the owners very friendly. Compared to overpriced Dubrovnik hostels, it’s incredible value. But it’s worth noting that there aren’t really any communal areas for socialising and there’s no breakfast included (though there’s also a supermarket nearby and market stalls just outside the town walls).
The ferry from Dubrovnik to Korčula leaves from the port (Graz) – see Croatia Ferries for timetables.
I chose to take the bus back to Dubrovnik, rather than the ferry, just for the change of scenery – and I’m glad I did. It turned out to be one of my favourite moments in Croatia.
The bus leaves unfathomably early and but this meant a sunrise ferry journey to Orebić and an atmospheric misty drive over the peninsula with a few coffee stops along the way. The perfect end to a delicious trip.
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Image credits: All images © The Mediterranean Traveller