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Closed to the world until 1991, Vis is for many Dalmatia’s most charming island. Military history, a fascinating cricket story and much more. Discover Vis!

The perfect island – welcome to Vis!

Komiza on Vis island from above / Imbehind

What’s the perfect relationship between an island and the mainland? Far enough to deter the masses, and yet near enough to get to. It’s a difficult conundrum to juggle.

The Dalmatian island of Vis has been juggling many things over the centuries. Closed to the world until 1991, it has emerged as one of the most enticing and authentic islands in Europe.

Reassuringly hard to get to for those looking for lazier options, and yet well worth the effort for those in the know. If you are prepared to go that extra mile to reach paradise, you’ve found the right page!

How to get to Vis

The only way to get to Vis is by boat. Although the island has an airstrip which was crucial to the Allied war effort during World War II, old-fashioned boat travel is the way to go in the 21st century.

There are two daily ferries (travel time 2 hours 20) and one catamaran (90 mins). The catamaran route includes Hvar Town and Milna on Brac. For more information on times, visit the Jadrolinija website.

Once you arrive on the island, there is a regular bus service between the island’s only two towns – Komiza and Vis Town.

Komiža – of brothels and lobster

Komiza,/ Minestrone

There are few more idyllic places in Dalmatia than the second town on the island, Komiža.

It is a true stone paradise. And, it has the relaxed feel of a location at the far end of an already remote island. As with most communities in Dalmatia, the population today is not what it once was.

Komiža was once a huge fishing community. In fact, in its glory days, it had no less than 7 fish factories. Also, one century ago, it apparently had the first brothel on a Dalmatian island. And not just one, but two. Take a tour of this slice of Dalmatian heaven in the video below.

In many such former fishing villages, tourism has swept in to replace the lost economy. However, that’s not the full story here. In fact, people in the town still make more from fishing than from tourism. Authentic Dalmatia. As it always was.

Learn more from the official Komiža tourist board website.

Grad Komiza

Vis Town, the capital of a sleepy island

Vis Tourist Board

Known as Vis Town today, the main settlement on the island is also one of the oldest in Croatia. In fact, some even say it’s the oldest. Issa dates back to the 4th century BC.

Due to its favourable location, Vis has always attracted outside interest. From the Greeks and Romans to the Venetians, French, Austrians, British and Italians, power here has changed hands many times.

The result is a fascinating history. And it’s yours to explore. Sun-drenched stone buildings, churches, fortresses and spectacular views of the Adriatic. Learn more from the local tourist board.

Closed until 1991 – the military history

The island’s grass airfield played a vital role during World War II. In fact, it was a forward base for the Allies. Also, it served as an emergency stop for Allied aircraft in trouble. Learn more in the video below.

Allied graveyards here are visited each year by servicemen and British officials, paying tribute to sacrifices made 75 years ago on a distant island.

However, British military interest in Vis pre-dates World War II. Indeed, the island was an important British stronghold during the Napoleonic Wars. During this time, the British built impressive fortresses, which exist to this day.

And this Napoleonic era also provided the basis for one of the island’s most strange claims to fame. It is the birthplace of cricket in Europe outside the UK. Yes, really.

However, the island’s most recent military chapter had nothing to do with the British. Tito thought it would make an excellent strategic base. Subsequently, he built a hidden submarine base, military tunnels and hiding places for rocket launchers. Actually, these were never really used as anything other than a deterrent. But, they make for excellent tours today.

The island was a closed military location until 1991. Coupled with its remoteness, this undoubtedly helped preserve the island’s authenticity from mass tourism.

The birthplace of cricket in Europe

A remnant of the Brits, cricket is still enthusiastically played on Vis. Indeed, the island holds regular matches, including an international sixes tournament.

Sir William Hoste probably didn’t intend this back in 1809 when he started playing cricket here to counter the boredom. What happened next was truly incredible. Learn more about the oldest cricket club outside England.

The oldest regatta in the world

Vis Regatta / Tourist Board of Vis

Vis island has the oldest regatta in Europe, if not the world. It dates all the way back to 1593, as explained by Croatia.org:

The earliest known description of a sporting event in Croatia is from the 16th century. It referred to the 1593 regatta here between seventy-four (yes, 74) wooden fishing boats. Known as falkuša, these boats sailed from Komiža harbour to the islet of Palagruža.  

Dry Stone Walling in Dragodid

Dragodid / Dragodid.org

Away from the towns, inland Vis too has its charms. Especially in the small village of Dragodid. Indeed, the place is now part of a European restoration project.

Dragodid has only a few houses. You’ll find them in the northwest part of the island, about fifty minutes’ walk from Komiža. There is no electricity or running water in Dragodid.

The village was founded at the beginning of the 19 century. But, like many such villages, by the second half of the 20 century, everyone had emigrated. Nevertheless, it’s still occasionally inhabited. In fact, some vineyards are still cultivated by descendants of the village’s founders, the Suić family. Moreover, rosemary is still seasonally harvested in the hills nearby. From time to time, hikers visit for lunch, bowling. Sometimes they catch sight of rare Eleonora’s Falcon (Falco eleonorae).

Since 2002, construction workshops have been held in the village in an effort to preserve it for posterity. Indeed, it’s essential work for drawing people all the way up here. Learn more here.

Top 5 tours

For such a small island, there are a surprising number of things to do on Vis. Of course, you can just kick back and relax, enjoy the beautiful beaches, the peace, the calm. But, there are some fun tours for those wanting to find out more.

Military

Arguably the most fascinating tour to take is the military one. Visit tunnels carved into the hills under instruction from Tito. Indeed, this is one of only 3 submarine bases on the Croatian coast.

Maritime
Falkusa / marin ostojic

The island’s sailing heritage boasts its very own boat – the beautiful wooden falkusa. Learn more about its proud heritage. In fact, when you’re on the island, step back in time and book a sailing tour on one.

Gourmet

If you are a foodie, you have come to the right island. The local Dalmatian food and wine are excellent. The gastro tours will allow you to taste the very best and introduce local specialties.

Active
Canoeing and kayaking are just one way to get active on island vis

Explore hidden coves and isolated beaches by kayk. Drift further out to sea on a sailboat and get a grand vista of the island. Hike inland or face the inclines in an organised climb.

The Blue Cave of Biševo
The blue Cave at Bisevo island near Vis

If you’ve come this far, it’s worth going a little further. The Blue Cave is one of Dalmatia’s top attractions. Until relatively recently, there were tours only from Vis and Hvar. But the secret is out. indeed, many tourists now come to see it on day trips from Split or even further. It’s special. Worth the journey. However, booking a tour from Vis gets you the best local knowledge.

Beaches on Vis

dronepicr / Stiniva Beach on Vis island

Vis’s idyllic beach of Stiniva was voted the best in Europe back in 2016. Actually, it was once only known by locals. Moreover, it was their hidden gem, away from the tourists. But, the secret got out. You can imagine what happened next…

Fortunately, there are plenty of other amazing beaches on the island. Here are our top 5.

Accommodation on Vis

View of the harbour and some of the accommodation in Komiža / Komiža Tourist Board

If you are looking for large hotel resorts, you’re coming to the wrong place. Accommodation on Vis is more limited than on other islands. The rustic, unspoilt charm is very much a major part of the experience here. While neighbouring Hvar has over 30,000 beds, there are just 3,000 tourist beds on Vis.

Nowadays, there are a limited number of boutique hotels. But, the bulk of the offer is in private accommodation. Because of the limited supply, you should book early where possible.

Food and wine – indigenous pies and grapes

Vineyards used for making wine on Vis / Nikola Škorić

Croatia has some 130 indigenous grape varieties, many of which are to be found on its islands. Some islands produce grapes only on that island, and Vis is no exception. The indigenous grape variety of Vis is a white called Vugava. Learn more about it here.

As well as its own grape variety, Vis has its very own signature dish, which is called Viška pogaca, or Vis pie. Given the island’s fishing heritage, it is perhaps not surprising that there is a sardine or two involved. Learn more about Vis pie.

From closed island to Hollywood blockbuster – Mamma Mia 2

What a sharp turnaround! Only 25 years after this island had been totally off-limits, Hollywood came calling. A string of Tinsel town A-listers descended on the island in September 2017 to film Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again.

Filming took place in Vis Town and Komiža. Also, on the beaches of Stiniva and Barjoska. You can check out the official movie trailer above. And here is how Vis found itself in the international media as a result of the filming.

An even more remote island – Blue Cave on Biševo

Inside the Blue Cave on Bisevo island, Croatia / dronepicr

This attraction on the far side of the island is one of the top things to do in Dalmatia.

Sitting just 5km from Komiža, the Blue Cave on Biševo is a wondrous natural anomaly. Brilliant colours contrast sharply against the sun-drenched stone. Unforgettable. See for yourself in the video above. Here’s what you need to know about visiting the Blue Cave.

Looking to learn more about the gorgeous island of Vis? As part of the TCN series, here are 25 things to know.