It is one of the great jewels of Croatian tourism and the birthplace of Marco Polo. All you need to know about the island of Korcula in 2019.
In an age of over tourism where more means less, the island of Korcula is an absolute gem. Living under the shadow for years of glamorous neighbours such as Dubrovnik and Hvar, Korcula is quietly establishing itself as a destination of quality and luxury, which is slowly setting itself apart from the rest.
Korcula, of course, is the birthplace of Marco Polo. One wonders what inspired him to leave such a Paradise. Perhaps the gorgeous view of the Korcula Channel and Peljesac Peninsula beyond.
Whatever the reason, there is so much more to the island that its most famous son. Korcula is the home of the fabulous Grk wine, the island of the sword dance, and the first place in the world to abolish slavery.
Wherever you look, there are history, tradition and new discoveries to be made on this enchanting island. Let’s take a look!
Korcula is a little further from the mainland than some of its neighbours, and this has perhaps helped it keep its charm. But it would be wrong to think that getting from Dubrovnik or Split to Korcula is mission impossible, and connections are improving all the time.
There are two main points of entry – Vela Luka, which is served by daily catamaran from Split and Hvar, as well as daily car ferries, and the most common port of entry, Korcula Town. There is also a stop at Prigradica for the daily catamaran to Korcula Town from Split and Hvar. You can find an overview of the ferry and catamaran connections here.
If you are coming from Dubrovnik, you have the choice (in season) of the Krilo catamaran which also stops on Mljet, Hvar Town and Milna on Brac before arriving in Split. Here is a look at the options of arriving from Dubrovnik, as well as from Split.
Ferry times are divided into two seasons – winter (until the end of May) and summer. Here is the current schedule.
Arriving from Dubrovnik
If you are driving from Dubrovnik, head to the Peljesac Peninsula at Ston (making sure you stop for some famous Ston oysters on the way!) all the way to Orebic. There is a regular car ferry to Domance, just outside Korcula Town, as well as a direct hourly foot passenger service directly into the town. The ferry crossing takes 15 minutes, and do spend it on deck in good weather, as the views are spectacular.
Korcula was briefly connected by air to both Dubrovnik and Split with the arrival of the European Coastal Airline seaplane service in 2015, but the project stopped in 2016. Talk of an airport on the island is nothing new, but the story refuses to go away. Here is the latest update, and with a Chinese twist.
Korcula is famous for its white wines. The most prevalent of these is Posip, perhaps Dalmatia’s most popular white. But there is also Grk, which only grows in the sandy soils of Lumbarda. You can taste wine all over the island, but nothing beats a visit to the winemaker. Here are the top 5 wineries to visit on the island.
The view from the old town is divine. In the distance is Orebic on the Peljesac Peninsula and the mainland beyond, and in between are some idyllic emerald jewels of a small island, just waiting for your visit. A former stone quarry, one of the Adriatic’s top beach bars, even a lighthouse with its own butler, here is what awaits with a little islet hopping. And with the new Korcula Water Taxi service, getting there could not be easier. Take a tour.
Marco Polo house and a walking tour of the old town
The supposed home of the world’s most famous traveller is an obvious highlight of a walking tour of the old town. And while the old town may be small, don’t be deceived by its size. Any local tour guide will have you entranced for hours because there is so much history and tradition in every stone.
Sword dances, Moreska and the rest
Every Thursday night in the old town during the season, one can see the fabulous Moreksa sword dancers performing their incredible dancing. Sword dancing is a proud tradition on the island, and while Moreksa is the most famous sword dance, it is not the only one. Check out also the Kumpanija sword dance from Blato, as well as the Mostra sword dance from Zrnovo.
Vela Luka’s 30,000-year-old cave
The more time you spend on the island, the more you realise its heritage. One of the great archaeological discoveries of Croatia is just outside Vela Luka – a 30,000-year-old cave called Vela Spila, which has evidence of early human habitation.
If you are looking for island beach heaven, then you have come to the right place. The beaches on Korcula are gorgeous, and there are plenty to choose from. You can even take the steps down in front of the old town and jump in.
Many people take advantage of the islets in front of the old town, where they can escape the rest of civilisation and truly unwind. Alternatively, there are many bays where few humans can be found. We compiled a list of our top 10 beaches on the island, and you can see their location on the Google map below.
If you are starting in the old town, here are your best beach options.
The hotel scene on the island has come a long way in recent years. The arrival of the first 5-star hotel, the boutique Lesic Dimitri Palace not only gave a top luxury option, but also prompted many other businesses to raise their game.
The result is that there has been a general shift in quality, and hotels on the island are more in the 4-star category these days. The opening of Port 9 resort close to the ferry has been another good addition.
If you are looking for something really nice AND a beach just seconds from your bed, do check out Tara’s Lodge in Zrnovska Banja, one of the great chill zones of the Adriatic.
The quality of private accommodation has improved immeasurably on the island in recent years. You do not need my help to find websites such as Booking.com or AirBnB, but if you are looking for a great private accommodation option which will give you the best sleep of the year, I cannot recommend Korcula Hill highly enough. And you can find out why.
The island has good roads, and getting around is not really a problem. Be careful of the only traffic light on the island on the road to Blato. It certainly caught me by surprise after so many years on Hvar, where there are no traffic lights.
There is a reasonably good bus network, and cars and scooters are available for hire. Taxis are always in plentiful supply, and if you need a private transfer, please contact us at [email protected] Subject Transfer. You can find more information about getting around the island, including bus timetables.
A really great addition to the island is the new, private water taxi service. This runs a seasonal scheduled service from the old town to Lumbarda and back every hour, stopping on the islets of Vrnik and Badija, as well as other destinations by private transfer. The experience is something like this.
It was a pleasure to have lunch at Lesic Dimitri with owner Michael and Financial Times foodie writer Bill Knott in the summer. Watching Bill’s first impressions was very refreshing (“this is an island for grown-ups”), as was his write up of his first lunch and discovery of Grk.
Lesic Dimitri is one of two island restaurants which made the 2018 Michelin Guide. The other is the delightfully rustic Konoba Mate in Pupnat, a short drive from the old town.
Pasta lovers (a Korculan specialty) should head to Filippi, and if you are looking for a hearty feed surrounded by nature, Konoba Maha near Zrnovo is well worth a try. For the most entertaining hosts on the island, nothing beats the outstanding Dalmatian Tapas experience with Ante and Matko at Marendin in the old town. For an overview of the wine and dine scene, check out Punkufer’s report. And if you are looking to spice up your Dalmatian diet, Silk offers Asian food prepared by Malaysian chefs.
If you have a sweet tooth, this is the island for you. Check out our series on the island’s delicious recipes, handed down by Korculan grandmothers, then taste them in the flesh in the legendary Cukarin, or Skatula on the way to Lumbarda.
And let’s not forget the wine. The Grk of Bire in Lumbarda leads the way, but there are plenty of Posip treats as well. Here are the top 5 wineries to visit.
While many are content to laze at the beach and enjoy the fine wines and food of the island, there is a lot more to do for the active visitor. Sailing, sea kayaking, hiking, cycling and climbing are just some of the activities on offer from Korcula Outdoor, an excellent local agency with a great portfolio for those looking to keep in shape.
Check out also the extensive offer from Secret Korcula.
With so much to see and do on the island, there is enough to entertain all but the most restless of souls. But it is also true that there are many fantastic things to see in the immediate vicinity. Popular destinations include Dubrovnik, Split, Hvar (which can be reached in an hour by daily catamaran), the Peljesac Peninsula, with its famous Plavac Mali vineyards and Ston oysters, Mljet island, Mostar and Medjugorje.
First place in the world to abolish slavery.
The Statute of Korcula was first drafted in 1214 and contains a set of laws governing a broad spectrum of life; from health & safety and trade rights to the responsibilities and duties expected of its citizens. One of the most fascinating decrees was the abolishment of slavery, making Korcula the first place in the world to prohibit this act and indeed some 200 years before the Dubrovnik Republic passed a similar law.
Half New Year.
In 2001 someone on Korcula came up with the decision to celebrate Half New Year! Since then, every 30 June sees Korcula Town turn into an open-air carnival with locals and tourists donning fancy dress, joining in the masked parade before dancing, eating and drinking the night away into the early hours of the following day. Live music rings out across the town and fireworks herald the start of the new half year at midnight. For a relatively sleepy island, the town really knows how to party and many of the costumes you’ll see look like something off a movie set.
The island of 10 European water polo champions.
It’s a popular sport across Croatia but perhaps no more so than on Korcula. The people of Korcula started playing water-polo in 1926 when students seeing it as a popular new game brought it back to the island. Before any swimming pools were built people would play off various beaches – today there are indoor and outdoor venues. In 1979 Croatia won the European Cup; 10 members of the team were from Korcula, which is rightly celebrated as a great achievement for the island. One of the biggest events in Korcula Town each year is the Water-polo Championship. Teams compete from the small areas of the town. It’s a huge social event where the majority of the townspeople print their area logo on t-shirts. These they wear with pride in support of their team.
An old town designed in the shape of a herringbone.
If you take a bird’s eye view of Korcula Old Town you will see that the alignment of the streets resembles the pattern of herringbone or the bones of a fish. A central street runs through the centre and then leading off to the east and west are smaller streets. The streets to the east are curved to block the cold winds from blowing in and the streets to the west are straight. This allows the refreshing maestral breeze to create natural air conditioning throughout the town. All the streets have stairs, except for one which is locally known as the “Street of Thinkers”.
Just when you thought they had found all the old things, along came the 100-million-year-old teeth.
For more interesting things to know about the island, here are TCN’s 25.
If you are looking to party the night away, perhaps you should find another island, such as Pag or Hvar. For Korcula is not a party island, although the nightlife is very cool.
It is more centred on gourmet and culture, however, rather than partying until dawn. There is one nightclub, Boogie Jungle, which is located a couple of kilometres from the old town.
The old town does, however, have one of the coolest cocktail bars on the coast. Located in a half-turret with divine views at sunset and any other time of the day, Massimo oozes charm. It is well worth popping in for a sunset drink, and do enjoy the cosy and historic interior on the first floor.
There is plenty going on throughout the year, and that includes festivals.
Some of the festivals not to miss include the Korkyra Baroque Festival, the Marco Polo Festival, the International Film Festival Marco Polo, the Korkyra Jazz Festival, and the Black Island, White Wines Festival.
By far the most popular destination on the island, Korcula Town is often described as a mini-Dubrovnik. In fact, it is much better than that because it does not suffer the crowds. And it has also managed to maintain its authenticity and promote the very best island products and traditions.
The old town is very small and compact, and it takes only a few minutes to walk around it all. But that would be to miss out the essence of a destination, which has so many stories in each carefully laden stone.
The catamaran and car ferry access point to western Korcula, as well as home to some of the island’s best beaches and incredible Vela Spila cave, Vela Luka came into international focus in the summer of 2018, as it welcomed home its most famous sun for the last time.
The death of beloved singer Oliver Dragojevic touched the hearts of millions, and it was soon announced after his burial in his hometown that there would be a new Oliver museum in his honour.
The home of Grk and gorgeous sandy beaches, Lumbarda is a short drive south from the old town of Korcula, but it is worth it.
While most tourists stick to the main coastal resorts, there is plenty to see and enjoy inland in the centre of the island. This is wine and cycling country, to name but two activities.
Blato used to be the largest village in all former Yugoslavia. The quality of the stonework is exceptional for an inland island village. It is a spectacular place, and also one with strong ties to Australia. For it was there that one of the biggest diaspora movements in Croatia took place from Blato.
So what is between Orebic and Korcula Town? Some rather cool islands.
Moro Beach, Stupe – taking cocktail beach life to a new level, the Moro Beach Club on Stupe opened a couple of summers ago, complete with swing in the sea. Excellent service and plenty of privacy, as well as a luxury selection of food and drink. From an uninhabited rocky islet to one of the more exclusive places to chill on the Adriatic.
Vrnik Art Club – I really, REALLY liked this when I visited a few weeks ago. The small islet of Vrnik is famous for its stone quarries, and you can still see evidence of the tracks and trolleys which transported the stone from the quarries in the middle of Vrnik to the coast.
There are several houses on Vrnik, but a great addition this year has been the renovation of the old school. Restaurant on the ground floor, fully (and very authentically) restored schoolroom and art gallery on the first floor, and two luxury apartments to rent on top. There have been a number of exhibitions there this summer. A really nice addition to Korcula’s tourism offer.
Badija has long been attractive – partly as a sports camp, but also for its beautiful monastery. A great place to laze the day away.
Sestrice – one stone building, one tiny island. Now available for luxury rent, complete with butler.
And how to reach all these treasures? Check out the fabulous Korcula water taxi service, which launched in 2018.
Catch the very latest from the island on Total Korcula, on our dedicated island portal.