Korčula

Korčula was the perfect antidote to yet another week of gluttony and back-to-back sightseeing in Ireland. A 2ish hour ferry ride from the port town of Dubrovnik in Croatia, Korčula is one of the quieter islands in Croatia’s Dalmatian coast. The old town resembled a mini Dubrovnik with white stone houses crowded together in the ancient city walls, their bright coral red tops standing out against the picturesque green mountains beyond.

Once inside the walls, the town could be a bit overwhelming at first. It was, like most beaches in Europe, packed full of tourists off of the ferry boats and private yachts. Happily, the apartment we rented through a local travel agency was a short 10 minute walk outside the city’s walls – close enough for easy grocery shopping, but far enough from the all-night partying in town.

With our primary goal for our 5 days being relaxation, we spent most days sleeping in, grilling on our terrace, and wandering down to the local beaches. The Agean Sea, our first foray into Mediterranean waters, did not disappoint. The clear acqua blue waters were perfect for cooling off in the hot sun, and the abundant cicadas made for spa-like background noise. Despite lots of lounge time, we did still manage to fit in a bit of exploring, taking a wine tour in the nearby town of Lombarda our first day and kayaking around the archipelago on our final day. While I’m sure we could have spent a few more days napping on the beach, and maybe checking out the nearby islands, we’re excited to move on to Montenegro!

The Agean Sea

Stay

We rented our apartment through Korčula Explorers, a husband and wife travel agency duo who moved to the island from the UK 5 years ago. They were fantastic, and though we noticed the prices ended up being slightly more than the posted list in the apartment, the cost was still very reasonable given everything else we could find online. Being right in the middle of high season we were not going to try our luck by arriving without something booked in advance! The apartment itself was basic, but sufficient, with a private covered terrace where we could escape the rain and thunderstorms while still enjoying the view.

Do / See

Beach time, of course. The beaches themselves were on the small side and quite rocky (standard for this area), but we were always able to find a place to put our towels down – a win for any beach in Europe during August.

Wine. Our other incentive for choosing Korčula, besides the slightly less touristy vibe, was its wine. The island has a high concentration of vineyards, including one grape, Grk, which can’t be found grown or bottled, anywhere else. Finding little information on the fabled vineyards prior to arriving, we went ahead and booked a tour through Korčula Explorers. This turned out to be a fantastic way to experience both the local wine and culture – along with the worst hangover in a long, long time.

Our tour group

Our group of 8 set out from Korčula town via taxi to the wine-producing region of Lombarda late afternoon. In spite of the late time of day, it was still pretty warm as we started our walk through the vineyards and olive groves on the outskirts of town. I was surprised to learn that most of the wine and olive oil produced on the island never reaches the general public, and is either kept for personal consumption or shared with friends and family. Only 7 producers on the island sell their wine to local stores and restaurants.

Vineyards and Olive groves

This was hugely different from the other wine regions we’ve been to where wine tourism and sales – both domestically and internationally – greatly shaped the culture and industry. Here, when we arrived at the unpretentious tasting rooms of two wineries, we were greeted by the winemaking families who happily served us their wares. The quality of the wine varied greatly with some surprises – like an amber-colored rosé – that come from a community largely un-impacted by developments in other regions and just beginning to experiment with different styles of wine. However, what may have been lacking in finesse was more than made up for in authenticity and genuine hospitality. This was by far one of the most fun wine experiences we’ve had thanks to our awesome tour guide (thanks, Rachael!) and generous hosts.

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The archipelago. After the last few months of exploring the Scandinavian and Balkan regions, archipelagos may be my new favorite thing. There is something exciting about a place sprinkled with so many little islands that you feel like it just might be possible to find something yet uncharted. Unfortunately, my kayaking skills have not quite caught up with my adventurous daydreams, and an hour of paddling brought us just across the channel to the nearest couple islands. Still, we were able to find a fairly secluded patch of shoreline to lounge on for the afternoon, far from the crowds of the main beaches.

Korcula archipelago

The nearest island also holds a beach bar, 14th century monastery, and even some wildlife, in the form of a small deer that seemed to be rather unconcerned with its role in a constant stream of selfies. Other islands are much less developed, and stronger kayakers might even be able to make it out to Lombarda via the water. Make sure to keep an eye on the wind though – by the time we were heading back we were faced with both strong currents and an intense head-wind. It was the most intense workout I’ve had in months!

Eat / Drink

Korčula town is full of restaurants aimed at vacationers. We did manage to find a couple budget-friendly spots, including a pizza shop in the old town, and a small restaurant a couple kilometers out of town, near the campground. Aside from that we opted to make our own meals, grilling out on our terrace whenever the weather allowed. Travelling for so long without our own kitchen has really made us appreciate home-cooked food!

On the drinks front – I don’t actually think it’s possible to stand at any point in town without being able to see at least 3 bars and/or wine shops. While we refrained from indulging, aside from one hangover-inducing night out with our tour group after the wine tasting, there are definitely enough options for any taste.

Wine storage at the first vineyard.
Wine storage at the first vineyard.

In terms of its wine, we both had our preferences. I thought the much-lauded Grk paired really well with local dishes of anchovies, tomatoes, and tuna. It’s favors were difficult to place, with some comparing it to an un-oaked Chardonnay, while others likened it to Greek whites. Kyle’s favorite of the night was a cherry-flavored liquor that we brought home with us, and will likely be the makings of an epic desert.

Tips

If you can make it during shoulder season (May – June and September) you’ll be rewarded with lower prices and less crowded beaches. Like in most of Europe, these few months seem to be the sweet spot between overwhelming amounts of vacationers and the time when virtually everything closes down for the winter.

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Current Location: Ulcinj, Montenegro

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