Korcula, located in southern Dalmatia, is one of the largest and most beautiful islands in Croatia. It is nearly 50 kilometers in length.
If you’re not the first time in Croatia, you must have already understood that each place you visit here has something special and unique to offer to its guests. Korcula is not an exception. The island is known for its delicious wines, traditional dances with swords, gorgeous coastline. The citizens of Korcula also claim that their home is the birthplace of the legendary traveler, Marco Polo.
Korcula town is the main settlement on the island and is often called “a miniature Dubrovnik”. It is no wonder that people see obvious resemblances in both towns, such as both located on a peninsula-like land; they’re fully fortified with massive walls and towers; the church tower which rises high above the canvas of terracotta roofs, and what’s more important, both towns are very well preserved and surrounded by gorgeous pine trees. Although here in Korcula the greenery is of much darker hue for what the ancient Greeks, ex-inhabitants of the island, used to call Korcula - ‘Kerkyra Melania”, meaning “Black Corfu”.
The fortified old town of Korcula is very compact. You can explore it in just few hours. In order to better orient yourself there and not to get lost in what seems to be the maze, just keep in mind that streets of Korcula town form a simple fish-bone pattern. Such plan was created to reduce the strength of strong winter winds inside the town.
Those who like architecture will be pleased in Korcula town. There are several must-see places. And one of the most beautiful is the 15-century St. Mark’s Cathedral built by local and Italian artisans from the original limestone of Korcula island. A beautiful example of a Gothic-Renaissance style is located in the heart of the town on a tiny piazza. Inside the attire is very beautiful. It is complemented with numerous paintings of famous artists and even a ground piano. If you favor climbing the cathedrals’ bell tower, you’ll be rewarded with a stunning all-round panorama view at the island, and the mainland as well which is there just across the channel.
Across the cathedral stands the Gabrielis Palace which hosts the Town Museum.
Saint Nicholas Church and the Dominican convent are located west of Korcula town, along beautiful seaside promenade. It is nice to have a walk nearby and maybe see nuns dressed in blue-colored robes taking care of the beautiful lush garden which belongs to the monastery.
Marco Polo is a true local superstar. There are gift shops with various souvenirs dedicated to his life and his journeys, a museum of Parco Polo, numerous restaurants and café using the name of their possible country fellowman to promote local dishes, and the house where the legendary explorer found an inspiration and love for travelling the world. At least that is what’s written on a nameplate hanging on the house wall.
If the house, which more reminds ruins, is open for visitors, it’s possible to climb the tower and have a beautiful view from there. However, the most stunning place for observing the area still remains the bell tower of St. Mark’s Cathedral.
Korcula town is very artistic. There are plenty of galleries hidden in the maze of streets. It is no wonder Korčulani are very creative. It doesn’t take much to be inspired when living in such harmony of nature and architecture beauty.
Just outside of the old town and its alleys of limestone buildings the area is generously dotted with villas and houses, each having a beautiful garden and land where residents grow vegetables, fruits, berries. Everything literally drowns in the hue of green, and the air is so clean and fresh that you seem to have hard time breathing it in full chest.
Be sure that locals will not let you starve in Korcula town. Many families run medieval-style restaurants with delicious Dalmatian cuisine and also offer some other European yum-yum cooked either from their own products or those locally-sourced. You can choose to taste the gourmet specialties in konoba (traditional Croatian restaurant) or go for another option.
Next to the small harbor and the bus station there’s one of Korcula town’s most vibrant spots to eat. It is fish and chips street café with quite modern and urban mood, always full of Korčulani and tourists. Under the sky there are five to seven tables standing, and not more. In about 8 minutes as promised by the owner you get a huge portion of delicious food. Yes, it is not always healthy to eat fast food, but you’re on holiday, plus be sure that the ingredients are fresh and local. So why not to spoil yourself once in a while?!
Local pastry’s star is Cukarin. It is a traditional cookie of a strange shape. It’s almond flavor with a taste of sweet lemon or orange is a true gourmet regale to be tasted here. Many foreigners become captivated by the taste of Cukarin and then dream of finding it in the pastries outside of Croatia.
If you’d like to get some fresh fruits and vegetables, stop by Korcula Town Gate. There you’ll find a local circled market where Korčulani farmers sell their eco-products.
A walk along the waterfront and massive town’s walls would finalize your journey around the town and become a quite charming promenade as you get to see catamarans, ferries and yachts cruising the channel between the island and the mainland which is just within a stone throw.
After you’re done exploring the capital town of the island, you have a wide variety of what to do next while at Korcula. You can either go on a wine tasting trip or cruise around the island to Pupnatska Luka – a lovely peddle beach with crystal-clear turquoise and aquamarine water, recommended by local people.
As for wines produced on Korcula, there two grape breeds – grk (meaning “bitter” in English) and pošip, from which they make white wine, as many agree - one of the best in Croatia. As for grk, an interesting fact is that this grape grows almost exclusively only here and can’t be found anywhere else. In addition, it has only female flowers, so in order to make wine magic to happen and to be pollinated, it needs another grape. This is why probably grk wine has this nice and interesting taste.
Korcula’s charm is a combination of what’s left from previous invaders - Greeks, Romans, Ottomans, Venetians, Austrians. Each of them left footprints in the history, culture, art, and of course cuisine of the island, making this place incredible to explore for the future generations.
The underwater world of Korcula coastline is rich with variety of spots for some exciting diving. Among things to be explored are ship wrecks, sea sponges, all kind of little and colorful fishes, and corals, especially those hard ones of a red color. At the island you can buy a jewelry made of coral in local craftsmen shops.
Throughout the summer tourists may become witnesses to one of the most interesting folk traditions of Korcula island. It is the sword dance Moreška performed only by male dancers. Each of man holds two swords while performing a mock battle dance making it all look like a dramatic dialogue between dancers. This is at least a four-century old tradition which gathers attention of Korčulani and travelers every year. And don’t think that it’s a comic-like performance played only for tourists. It is quite real and you can even see the sparks coming from swords during the performance.
As for best sunset spots on the island, it’s hard to choose. Make sure find a spot somewhere in north-western part of the island. With a yacht it won’t be hard to do so. If you stay in Korcula town, then a waterfront café or a restaurant, for example, at Lesic-Dimitri Palace, you’ll see how sun peacefully hides over the mountain horizon coloring the sky and the sea into peachy-pink hues.
In the evening you can stop by Massimo’s, located just on top of centuries-old town’s tower. This cocktail bar has an amazing view both at Korcula town and the surrounding waters as well. But keep in mind, in order to get there, you’ll need to climb a ladder. If not in the mood of doing so, evening-time Korcula town has plenty of other places to offer whether to enjoy local wines or a refreshing cocktail while listening to live music.
It is true that Korcula can be referred to as Dalmatia’s most relaxing getaways. Here, life flows unhurriedly and peacefully. Yet, being one of the most popular islands in the area means that this Adriatic gem gets quite busy in high season months. However, Korcula has plenty of beautiful coves to find shelter in for your gorgeous luxury yacht from where you can see local crumbling limestone villages, infinite olive groves and wineries.