We have a suggestion to add to your bucket list, a visit to the stunning island of Korčula in Croatia. Described to us as a ‘mini-Dubrovnik’, Korčula has all the hallmarks of a fortified medieval city, with historic stone walls and soaring towers, it is more like a Game of Thrones movie set than real life.
The town also has a 15th century Cathedral, ancient squares, narrow streets and laneways which today provide sanctuary to small, cosy restaurants and quaint shops, appealing to those with a curiosity for exquisite jewellery, unique souvenirs and fine food.
Korčula trades off the notion that the Venetian explorer Marco Polo was born in the town. Although the facts to support this are sketchy, it makes for a good story. We bought the story, and the tickets to see his house. A climb up a few steep stairs and back down again and it was all over.
We faired much better with our very steep, narrow climb to the top of the town’s prominent church bell tower which gave us 360 degree uninterrupted views of Korčula and its panoramic waterways, plus we had the best vantage point to peer down on Marco’s house and its adjoining courtyard. Perhaps it was a tower like this which inspired him to sail away and discover distant lands?
The island of Korčula is not only about the old town, it is also a favourite with cyclists and hikers but what we most enjoyed was the amazing clear water of the inviting beaches. When Croatians talk about the beach they mean anywhere you can access the water for swimming and that is almost every part of the island’s shoreline.
The southern part has more sandy beaches whereas the northern part has flatter, shallower beaches with pebbles. Lumbarda’s sandy beaches, six kilometres from Korčula, are a favourite for many tourists and very family friendly.
We loved Banje Beach right in Korčula town about 150 metres in length with small, smooth round pebbles. The vivid blue water was sparkling, clean and refreshing. We swam out towards a background of stark, treeless mountains.
The nearby islands and the ancient Venetian town, with its prominent red roofs, gave us a sense of being captured in a Croatian landscape painting. The beach is just a short walk from the old town. To get there we had to pass our favourite crêperie which required compulsory daily visits after the beach for a frappé and citron crêpes, a timely reward for our exhausting day soaking up the Dalmatian sunshine.
On one of our days out we made a scenic expedition past Banje Beach around the well trodden foreshore and unpacked our picnic of Croatian delicacies right beside the water’s edge. After lunch we lazed on the gleaming rocks, swam in the warm turquoise water and watched a parade of watercraft slip quietly by. It’s easy to lose yourself in Korčula.
Nude swimming and sunbathing are not the done thing on the main town beaches but further away, around the numerous small coves and on the neighbouring islands, the more daring are busy improving their all-over tans. There are water taxis to the various islands for about 50 kuna ($8US) return. The most adventurous can explore two of the popular naturist beaches like Vaja beach north of Korčula and Przina Beach near Lumbarda village.
We had outstanding accommodation at Castello Rezidence a newly renovated, three hundred year old, three bedroom apartment with spectacular views overlooking the marina and the old town. We made use of the modern kitchen and nearby markets and dined at home some nights, feasting on freshly caught seafood and an array of delicious Dalmatian produce.
However, in the old town there was an endless choice of eating options to suit every taste and budget. We found lunchtime was best to take advantage of them. We perched ourselves at a shaded table in front of one of the many restaurants situated atop the castle ramparts, with dramatic views of the breathtaking sapphire sea below and bathed in the salty freshness of the Adriatic breeze while sipping on a crisp Chardonnay.
For those seeking a more prestigious level of accommodation we recommend Hotel Korcula. Its grand foyer, colonial style restaurant and bar, unsurpassed sea views and historic location make it a luxury choice and guest reviews verify its consistent excellence. Our celebration lunch on the verandah overlooking the bay, dotted with tiny fishing boats, was a truly memorable affair with friendly, efficient service and delicious menu options.
Korčula, once little known, now takes pride of place as one of the gems of the Adriatic for its ancient beauty, fine food and wine and as a haven for leisure and relaxation. Little wonder that over the past 10 years tourism has blossomed and with it Korčula’s reputation as a ‘must visit’ Croatian island.