Although Dubrovnik is often described as the “pearl of the Adriatic”, a short boat ride away is the beautiful island of Korcula; don’t miss the opportunity to visit. If time is limited during your stay on the Croatian coast, a day trip to Korcula is possible; though why not take an extended stay on the island to explore a walled town, rolling hills and secluded coves?
A medieval town
The island’s principal town, also called Korcula, resembles Dubrovnik in miniature, with its fine architecture, historic buildings and network of narrow streets to explore. Built during the fourteenth century for defensive purposes, Korcula town is surrounded by walls and towers. Entry is via the Veliki Revelin Tower gate; you will notice the Venetian coat of arms, which is a reminder that the island was controlled by Venice until the eighteenth century. Although it is no longer here, a drawbridge originally was positioned at the entrance, but this was replaced with imposing stone steps. Climb the tower for a view across the old town. To the west of this gate is the remaining stretch of the city walls, which lead to Tower of the West Sea Gate – the first glimpse of the city when approached by sea – bearing the inscription that the city was established by the Greeks after the fall of Troy.
Stand in St Mark’s Square and you can’t help but notice the impressive cathedral of the same name, which is undoubtedly the town’s finest piece of architecture. Built in the fifteenth century from local limestone in the Gothic-Renaissance style, above the doorway sit a range of sculptures including a mermaid and elephant. The bell tower is topped with a dome decorated in elaborate carvings. Inside visitors can enjoy a range of sculptures and paintings including works by Tintoretto, Andrijić and Meštrović. Standing beside the cathedral is the fourteenth century Abbey Palace, which houses the Abbey Treasury of St Mark; inside the hall you will find a collection of Dalmatian paintings, as well as antiques and aged documents.
Another popular attraction with visitors is Marco Polo’s House, situated just behind the cathedral. Korcula is said to have been this famous traveller’s birth place and it is possible to climb the tower of his supposed house; a museum is also soon planned for the site.
If visiting the town between June and September, don’t miss the chance to see the Moreška sword dance; performed here since the fifteenth century it is one of the island’s oldest traditions. Although originally a Spanish custom, this dance is now performed nowhere else. The dance tells the story of two kings fighting for the love of a princess, which involves a lively sword fight performed to music.
Coast and countryside
Those who travel to the Mediterranean for its coastline and scenery will be equally pleased by what Korcula has to offer; its climate is also similar to what you would expect to find in the Mediterranean. Korcula is one of Croatia’s largest islands and to see what the rest of the island holds, the best way to do so is to hire a car. Driving around the island you will appreciate its natural beauty, with a drive along its southern coast being especially picturesque; it is no wonder that it is considered to be Croatia’s most attractive island. However, you don’t have to go far from its main town to find a number of deserted beaches, ideal for sunbathing; swimming in the warm inviting water of the Adriatic is also poplar. If you prefer to take a more active approach to taking in the scenery, Korcula Island offers many opportunities for walking.
Start with the short walk up the Cypress tree lined Glavica Svetog Atuna Hill, providing splendid views across Korcula town and beyond. Nearby is also the village of Zrnovo, which boats numerous rock formations in unusual shapes and intriguing caves in its vicinity, adding interest to a walk. For a more strenuous walk climb one of the islands highest peaks, though standing less than 600m Klupca and Kom are within many people’s abilities. While walking you will notice that the island is rich in vegetation; over 60% of land is covered by forest. Mediterranean trees and plants are found in abundance here, including vines, wild olives and herbs. As well as the natural vegetation you will see vineyards, from which some of Croatia’s best wines are produced. While visiting Korcula you may also spot some of its native animals including jackal, wild boar, mongoose and hare, as well as many species of bird.
During your time on Korcula sample the local cuisine; a range of cafés and restaurants can be found in the island’s towns, offering home cooked regional foods. The food eaten on the island is very similar to that served in the Mediterranean. Dishes based on fish and game is popular, seasoned with native herbs and served with vegetables grown on the island; homemade olive oil is used in the preparation of meals. However, local cheese is also a delicacy and lamb and kid are eaten on special occasions. Almonds are popular in both savoury and sweet dishes; you can try traditional cakes filled with these known as cukarni.
Korcula provides the chance to immerse yourself in its history, beautiful scenery and culture; visitors never leave disappointed. Don’t let the opportunity to visit this Croatian gem pass you by.