I travel all the time. And as I go around the world, I try to learn a little something and not just take up all the available air. – Kurt Elling. I could not craft a better beginning to introduce you to my latest lover: Korčula stole my heart last month while wandering around the island and it taught me so much that I thought I should share it with you guys. Without further ado, here are the 10 things that I learned there and the unique experiences in Korčula island you should too look for if Croatia is in your plans.
- 1. Korčula Old Town is stunning
- 2. There is no shortage of organic products on Korčula island
- 3. Slowing down at Lumbarda is highly recommended
- 4. A wine tasting session or two are in order
- 5. Smokvica’s Kumpanjija Sword Dance is a tradition worth checking out
- 6. Learning about how Pošip wine family businesses started could make your day
- 7. Korčula’s olive oil producers are creating awesomeness daily
- 8. Blato jewels are endless
- 9. Vela Luka Olive Oil producers are creative and really welcoming
- 10. Vela Luka is heaven on earth
1. Korčula Old Town is stunning
Off the mainland’s Pelješac peninsula, and no more than a 2-hour drive and 15-minute ferry ride from the busy Dubrovnik, the Croatian island of Korčula welcomes visitors looking for great landscapes and local delicacies in the Adriatic Sea.
Most of the ferries leave locals and tourists at the town of Korčula’s port. This small city is well-known for its Medieval towers and fortifying walls next to its harbor. But there is more. Set half a day aside and get ready to explore its historical streets and alleys, full of legends and stories. Once there, do not forget to check the following highlights:
- The central square. It features the Cathedral of St. Mark, begun in the 14th century. If you are feeling intrepid, go upstairs and visit the Bell’s tower. The views from there are unparalleled.
- The Museum of Marco Polo. Set in an old building, visitors will understand the life, adventures, and misadventures of one of the greatest travelers of all times.
- The Town Museum. Next, to the Cathedral of St. Mark lies this museum, key to understanding the history of the city of Korčula.
- The House of Marco Polo. As with many other historical personalities, it is unknown if this specific building was at some point home to the celebrated explorer. Still, wandering around this exhibition, one can have an idea of the measures and constructions used once to live on the island. There is also a great lookout point upstairs.
- The terraces and restaurants of the town of Korčula. Indeed where you will find most of the visitors, especially if you are visiting in Summer as the temperatures can get really high during the day. Do not leave without trying the local specialties and dishes where the wine and olive oil – as in the rest of the island – shine on its own.
2. There is no shortage of organic products on Korčula island
Next to Korčula town, there are a couple of organic food producers worth visiting:
Located in a traditional dwelling and made in masonry, Eko Skoj is a family farm with very high-quality organic products. From jams to olive oils, you won’t leave hungry.
Inside it feels very cool and the owner’s taste for decoration does not go unnoticed! A must indeed.
A young honey producer with a brand new – and colorful! – shop and lots of varieties of this liquid gold to taste. Ask him about his almonds and nuts in honey, they not only look like amber but I bet you find them delicious!
3. Slowing down at Lumbarda is highly recommended
Barely a 10-minute ride from Korčula town, the seaside town of Lumbarda is usually way less crowded. All in all, the perfect spot for anyone looking forward to spending some quiet and chilling time by the beach.
Surrounded by sandy vineyards, where the famous Grk white wine is produced, its sandy beaches such as Vela Pržina, Bilin Žal, and Tatinja are famous among visitors and locals. Check them out!
4. A wine tasting session or two are in order
And there’s no better place or time to make it happen than at Bire Winery, a 200-year-old family business in Lumbarda, around sunset. Their Grk wine is delicious!
5. Smokvica’s Kumpanjija Sword Dance is a tradition worth checking out
To commemorate its many battles, mainly against the Ottoman Turks, Smokvica guards created their own Knight’s Sword Dance, the Kumpanjija, still performed these days on special occasion.
I will need to come back to experience it as there were no shows when I visited Smokvica. However, this town located in the Smokvica valley at the foothills of Vela and Mala, and famous for its Posip wine yards and quality olive groves, has lots more to explore.
Like its stone houses, idyllic streets, a rich cultural heritage, centuries old vineyards and olive trees form a unique land that will make you fall in love for this island once again.
The town of Smokvica is one of the oldest settlements of Korčula. There you will find remains of ceramics from antiquity, wine presses dating from Ancient Greece, a Medieval church, remains of rustic villas and noble castles. This was also the place where noblemen built their farms and weekend resorts.
The church of the Blessed Virgin of Purification is located in the old part of town and dominates the place. Its square is used for many of the festivals and celebrations that take place in Smokvica all year round.
Then we have St. Michael’s, a 14th-century church purposely built on a rocky ground and highly fortified. To commemorate its many battles, mainly against the Ottoman Turks, Smokvica guards created their own Knight’s Sword Dance, the Kumpanjija, still performed these days on special occasion.
But if we had to choose the thing why Smokvica is most famous for, that would be its wine. The town is the homeland of Pošip, one of the most known white Croatian wines. That makes the city a top destination in all wine charts and as such, a monument was built to Pošip and his founder on Pincalusa.
Visit the town during the Pošip Days, at the end of July and the Traditional Brna Festival on August, 15th in Brna Bay – a seaside town just 4km away from Smokvica developed in the 19th century as the port of the town, for wine and olive oil producers to export their products.
6. Learning about how Pošip wine family businesses started could make your day
Toreta winery, in Smokvica, is a family business four generations old.
There we were welcomed by Martina Banicevic. She told us that her great grandfather, Luka, emigrated to the US and worked as a blacksmith in the mines of Arizona first and the vineyards of California. In the latter, he got familiar with the techniques and machines used to cultivate the grapes there. Soon after, he returned to Korcula and started this family business. Talk about early travel adopters!
Nowadays at this winery, you can learn more about the wine-pressing equipment that the wine producers used in the past and of course, taste some great wines as Pošip and Rukatac.
7. Korčula’s olive oil producers are creating awesomeness daily
As in many other Korčula towns, the olive oil producers of Blato are innovating on a daily basis. Here are two great examples made with olive oil:
I cannot stress enough how tasty this sweet was!
A sweet bread made of olive oil and lots of aromatic spices, it was once made only for the All Saints festivities across Korčula.
Gladly, today we can enjoy it all year round.
Its name, lumblija, comes from French ‘n’oublie pas’ (do not forget me) as these were the words a Napoleon French soldier said when leaving a Blato girl he was in love with and gifting her this cake. That’s why lumblija is mostly baked when we remember our loved ones.
If you love cooking, head to Restaurant Zlinje in Blato and book a cooking show. I cannot guarantee you will be given the recipe to take home but at least you will have lots of fun baking lumbrija yourself!
Olive oil cosmetics
The company Blato 1902 produces wine, olive oil, sweets, liquors and also cosmetics. You can also attend a workshop to make your own oil based cosmetics, lip balms, and soaps!
8. Blato jewels are endless
Blato is located in the center of Korcula’s Western part, a spot that kept the oldest settlements of the island safe from pirate attacks.
Here are some of the highlights you cannot miss in Blato:
A long linden tree avenue
With 117 linden trees – planted in 1911 – it is 1km long and the second longest in Europe after Berlin’s Unter den Linden.
Sanctuary of Blessed Marija Petkovic of the Crucified Jesus
Born in a wealthy Blato family, Marija Petkovic dedicated her life to the sick, poor and abandoned. Early in the 20th century, she founded the Franciscan Congregation of the Daughters of Mercy, the only original one in Croatia. Today, it showcases a great exhibition about her life and work.
The Sanctuary is also a pilgrimage destination, and many believers leave offerings such as pictures of their beloved ones on its main altar.
When I visited, Juliana – a young nun based there – showed us around. Thanks so much!
Church of All Saints
Along with the bell tower and loggia, this parish church is located in the main square.
Ethno House Barilo
Aka. Etno Kuca Barilo. It is a house museum where Vesela Proeva – the owner – will be happy to walk you through some of its rooms to get a feel of the island’s past and traditions.
9. Vela Luka Olive Oil producers are creative and really welcoming
Olive oil is one of the oldest fats used in cooking and also a well-known ingredient part of the Mediterranean diet. But there’s a lot more to it. Olive oil is also used in medicine, cosmetics, and many other products as we discussed before. Along with wine making, the olive oil production in Korčula has a long tradition and is key for many families. That explains the care involved in its production, which in the end guarantees an extremely high quality of the final product.
The visitor will be able to experience how important is the olive oil in the island’s economy and how happy the families working in this field are when tourists inquire about their products.
Take for instance these four family businesses around the olive oil production in Vela Luka:
Jerolim and Marita Petkovic produce lots of varieties of olive oil, with surprising and tasty flavors.
Olive Mill and Ethnographic Museum Zlokic
Filled with traditional machines and tools used to produce olive oil, it is possible to attend an olive oil tasting workshop there too.
Who would have thought you can make tea out of the olive tree? The people at Fanito are making it happen out of the leaves of the olive tree. Find Maria, she will be happy to show you around and let you taste it!
Agritourism and restaurant Gulin
On top of their signature dishes – ask for their smoked dry fish with potatoes, octopus salad and fried fish with olive oil – in this unique agritourism you could enjoy ‘a capela’ singing if you are lucky, as the owner Tonci Miletic and friends gather there around a table to sing sometimes.
10. Vela Luka is heaven on earth
Pictured above are three highlights of Vela Luka, a very touristy town on the Westernmost part of Korčula island:
Vela Luka Bay
A safe anchorage and nautical harbor dotted with lots of yachts to explore the surrounding islands. In its middle, we find the island of Osjak, while at the very entrance it is the awesome Proizd.
An islet famous for its stunning beaches and really clear turquoise waters. Going there will take you barely 30 minutes on one of the taxi boats that leave tourists at Perna Bay.
From there, you are free to explore Proizd on your own. There are a number of bays you should check. If you are a bit lucky and avoid the peak hours, you could have them for yourself!
Last but not least, make sure to bring enough water and sunscreen as there’s only a small shop where drinks are sold but you could find it closed.
Vela Spila Cave
At the end of the Blue Path and on top of Vela Luka hill, this impressive cavern is known to be around twenty thousand years old. Used as a concert hall sometimes, it was indeed home for our ancestors.
The path leading to the cave is also spectacular featuring great views of Vela Luka Bay from above.
There you go, 10 unique experiences in Korčula island that should be on your list. What did I forget? Let me know in the comments below!
Disclaimer: I was invited to take part on the Well-O-Live project by Destination Makers, a member of the Consortium of the WellOlive ‘Wellness and Wellbeing Experience across the Routes of the Olive Tree” project supported by the European Commission COSME programme and hosted by DUNEA Agency.
Here’s a cool video the talented Denis Strickner put together after the trip. Check it out!