Widely known as the birthplace of the world-famous traveler and writer Marco Polo, Korčula Island is a Croatian destination worth adding to your bucket list. Enjoy wandering the streets of one of the best-preserved medieval island towns on the Mediterranean, with its maze-like streets shaded by stone buildings in the fishbone patterned old town. With over 40 kilometers of roads for driving or cycling, beautiful beaches and secluded bays, there is so much to explore and do across the island. Keep reading for the ultimate guide to the Island of Korcula!
What to See and Do
Picturesque stone alleyways lined with ancient stone houses, charming quaint villages, and pebbled white beaches kissing the turquoise waters of the Adriatic Sea are only some of the things that visitors can expect to find on the stunning Island of Korcula. Our ultimate travel guide to Korcula covers all the top must-see places and best activities to try.
Stroll Down the Ancient Charming Old Town Streets of Korcula
By far the most popular place to visit in Korcula is the old town. Upon entering the main gate of this historic village, visitors walk up stone stairs through the gate into an ancient charming open-air museum. The narrow pedestrian cobblestone streets are designed in the shape of a fishbone and lined with stone Venetian-style houses. The layout of the town was planned as early as the 13th century to allow the sea breeze to refresh the streets. Strolling down the narrow streets of the old town of Korcula is like entering a fairy-tale world from another era.
Pay a Visit to the St. Mark’s Cathedral With the Abbey Treasury
You do not need a map to navigate the narrow alleys of the old town. Just take your time and explore at your own pace. You will eventually find yourself at the center of the town admiring the incredible exterior of the St Mark’s Cathedral. Dating all the way back to the 14th Century, this beautiful cathedral boasts a stunning Gothic-Renaissance architectural design. Make sure to also step inside and pay a visit to the abbey treasury as well, which is home to a remarkable collection of religious art pieces.
Visit Marco Polo’s House and the Tower
Within the old town of Korcula, visitors will also find the iconic house of Marco Polo. It is a common Croatian belief that the world-famous traveler and writer Marco Polo was born in Korcula in 1254. If you’re a history buff, you will love exploring what is believed to be his birthplace, where you get to take a peek of the inside. While the house might be relatively small, it impresses with its spectacular stone tower that offers breathtaking panoramic views of the entire island. No wonder Marco was inspired to explore what was beyond his front door!
Visit a Quaint, Charming Village
Covering a total territory of 107 square miles, the Island of Korcula is fairly small. Most of the villages can be easily reached by taxi, by car, via public transportation, and some of them can even be visited on foot.
If you are a wine lover, a stop by the small fisherman village of Lumbarda should be on your itinerary. Known for its miles of rolling vineyards and olive groves, the village is truly picturesque. Archaeological traces have been found suggesting that the ancient Greeks inhabited these areas and were producing a unique type of white wine called Grk as early as the 4th century. It has a dry yet extremely aromatic flavor, so you definitely will want to give it a try. Pošip and Plavac Mali are the other two very popular wines produced in Korcula.
One of the more secluded hidden gems on the island, often neglected by tourists, is the Vela Luka Village. The name translates to “Big Port”, and while the harbour might not be very large, it is “hugely” charming. Take a stroll down the promenade and admire the colorful boats and houses reflected in the quiet water of the bay.
Located on the southern slopes of the hill above Vela Luka, visitors can find one of the most interesting attractions in Korcula, the Vela Spila Cave. With artifacts dating back to 20,000 BC, the cave is proof of the prehistoric settlements which existed across the island. The trail up the hill will also treat you to the spectacular scenery of the little village beneath, which is picturesquely surrounded by the turquoise waters of the Adriatic Sea.
The Vela Luka region is also widely known as home to the remarkable dry-stone terraces called Meje. This unique dry-stone walling technique has been used as a way to protect the vines, olive trees, and other agricultural products. Nowadays, the art of dry-stone walling has become a significant part of the heritage of the country, hence why this area is protected by the Republic of Croatia. The largest meje can be found in Gornja Njivica. With its 4.23 meters in height, which is over 13 feet, the structure is truly spectacular to behold.
Admire the Floral Diversity of the Island
Despite the fact that the island of Korcula looks relatively rocky, more than half of its territory is heavily forested. The variety and diversity of plant and flower species on the island is absolutely remarkable! It is home to forty nine different orchid species. If you’re lucky, you might see some in bloom, but please stick to trails when hiking to avoid causing erosion and damage to the fragile vegetation and terrain.
Spend a Day at the Beach
If you are visiting Korcula during the hot summer days, you should definitely plan at least a day exploring the beautiful beaches across the island. I’ve listed a few of the best to get you started.
As the largest sandy beach in Korcula, Vela Pržina is one of the best spots to spend an entire day sunbathing, swimming, playing beach volleyball, or building sand castles with your children. Visitors can find the beach in the village of Lumbarda, which can be easily reached by bus or car. You will find a number of coastal beach cafes and bars to sip on delicious coffees or cocktails.
Also situated in Lumbrada, Tatinja Bay is another popular sandy beach worth visiting. As the bay is extremely quiet and shallow, this is a fantastic spot for a family day at the beach. Keep in mind that you will not be able to find shade on this beach and rental beach umbrellas are not available. You will, however, find some great restaurants serving delicious Dalmatian dishes nearby this beach.
Lenga Brandana is located just a short walk from Lumbarda’s city center. As a more natural, rugged area, you can expect to find real seclusion and solitude here. It is more of a rock than sand beach, so it is not a preferred location among tourists, which means it is a great option if you would like to skip the crowds. In between the rocks, you can find natural swimming holes ideal for snorkeling as well.
With 40 kilometers of roads, the island of Korcula begs to be explored by land. Choose between bringing your own car or renting a scooter and head for the open road.
Water activities enthusiasts, on the other hand, have the option to rent a boat and take short trips to the nearby islands. The Island of Ošjak (the “Island of Love”), Peoizd Island and Martina Bok. All these places are hidden, off-the-beaten-path gems perfect for swimming.
There are also a number of different kayak rental options. You can either join a guided tour or rent a kayak or canoe for the day and find your own way around the archipelago.
As you are strolling down the narrow cobblestone streets of Korcula, you will definitely be tempted by the small local coral shops selling jewelry. It is important to know that Croatian coral comes from some of the deepest parts of the Adriatic. As a result, Croatians are carefully preserving their beautiful colorful coral reefs and protecting them for future generations. Even so, you can find stunning sustainable jewelry pieces created from local coral, which are a great souvenir choice to remind you of the Island of Korcula long after you have gone back home.
Where to Stay
As you are preparing to head out on your own Korcula trip, you might be wondering where to stay. There are an abundance of accommodation options from luxurious hotels to budget-friendly villas. Most tourists opt for staying in the old town, which is situated at the center of the island for ease of traveling out to the various sites and villages.
The Lesic Dimitri Palace, for example, is a 5-star luxurious spa hotel, which will impress you with its 18th century room designs. Another excellent choice are the apartments of the Kanavelic Place. It’s not just the excellent location, but also the modern and clean interior which make this old town guest house a perfect accommodation option.
We stayed at a studio apartment just outside of town with sea access and a boat launch. This made our boat trips much easier and virtually hassle-free. We went snorkeling and swimming almost every day thanks to the easy water access, so I definitely recommend the Studio Apartments More if you are looking for a lovely stay a bit outside of Korcula town.
Where to Eat
The Island of Korčula boasts authentic, delicious local cuisine. We found a lot of fantastic restaurants to explore, such as:
- – Wine Bar Bokar – this charming little wine bar offers a variety of Croatian wines with delicious meat and cheese platters. The portions were much bigger than we expected, so don’t order too many! It is a great choice for a romantic dinner or even lunch to take for a day trip across Korcula.
- Gera Zrnovo was one of our favorite spots on the island. From a tasty Mediterranean seafood platter to a mouth-watering European barbecue meal, the choices seem endless. Each meal is prepared with locally-sourced ingredients and is made from scratch in-house, which guarantees a real treat for your taste buds!
- Wine and Tapas Bar Lole is among the top-rated restaurants on the Island of Korcula. Each bite is an explosion of flavors. The atmosphere is extremely relaxed and laid-back, yet the food is extraordinary! Definitely worth stopping by.
- Silk is one of the most popular Asian-inspired spots in Korcula. For us it was so-so and I personally would not recommend it.
Make sure to bring water shoes. The vast majority of beaches are covered in pebbles and stones, which means you will need to protect your feet.
Try the famous Grk wine.
Get to the old town gates before 8 am to get pictures because it’s crowded all day long.
Make sure to use the Ultimate Travel Guide to the Island of Korcula to help you start planning your own holiday! Subscribe for more Croatian travel posts. Have a lovely day.