Korčula island, Croatia
Exploring Korčula Old Town Jewels
Off the mainland’s Pelješac peninsula, and barely a 2-hour drive and 15-minute ferry ride from the overcrowded and touristy Dubrovnik, the Croatian island of Korčula welcomes visitors looking for gorgeous landscapes and better food 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 Middle Ages towers and walls fortifying its harbor. But there is a lot more. Set half a day aside and get ready to explore its historical streets and alleys, full of legends and stories. And do not forget to check the following highlights.
No visit to the town of Korčula would be complete without visiting:
- 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 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 Town Museum. Next, to the Cathedral of St. Mark lies this museum, key to understanding the history of the city of Korčula.
- The terraces and restaurants of the town of Korcula. 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. You have been warned!
Visiting Organic Producers Near Korcula City
Not far from the city of Korčula, it is possible to visit some organic food producers. In part, key figures of the great success enjoyed by products and food produced on the island, they are people who usually treat all visitors as friends and make them feel at home quickly.
As we mentioned before, due to its quality and flavors, some of the most recognized products of Korcula are wines and olive oil. In fact, the latter is huge and nowadays the basis of many other products. And as we will see later too, from the extra virgin olive oils themselves to soaps, teas, famous desserts, various ointments and other surprising things, there is no end to the imagination of the Croatians when it comes to creating things with the wonderful olive oil as the main ingredient. And as most of the island produce it, you will never be far from experiencing happiness through olive oil! (yes, such a thing does exist!).
Here are two recommended spots you should visit before continuing your trip around Korcula:
A family farm with high-quality organic products. From jams to olive oils, you won’t leave hungry. Plus, should you needed any other incentives before deciding to visit it, it is located in a traditional dwelling. Made in masonry, inside it feels very cool and the owner’s taste for decoration does not go unnoticed! In this Instagram times, we live in, I could not think I could not think of a better background for your countryside snaps. Definitely a must.
A 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 as amber but I bet you find them delicious! Thank me later.
Savoring Life At Lumbarda
Let me ask you something before getting started: Can you picture a place where even the locals can’t get over the fact that the best things to enjoy there are its unbelievable beaches… and its white cool wine?
Well, wonder no more. That place does exist and has a name. Welcome to Lumbarda!
After visiting the city of Korcula, and barely 7 km away, now we have moved a bit far from the usual touristy path. Lumbarda is usually less crowded than the old town of Korcula – aka. Little Dubrovnik – and I would indeed recommend this place to anyone looking forward to chilling 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.
But there is more. Not only sandy beaches but white pebble beaches to explore, you can even swim near the marina where all the yachts and fishing boats are docked!. And once there, after cooling off – it gets really hot in Summer – and following the local’s advice, just enjoy a glass of cold Grk white wine like the locals do. As the famous Confucious quote says: ‘Wherever you go, go with all your heart’.
Right after that, you will be able to see life differently, without stress or unnecessary worries. And sooner than you might realize you could either get a tan, a bit tipsy (just kidding there) or simply ready to continue exploring the wonderful Korcula island.
I mean, just check it for yourself. Can you see those transparent waters? Their turquoise could not be more appealing on a hot Summer day.
Remember, do not forget to unwind in Lumbarda while touring around Korcula. Sometimes a pause is needed to go on enjoying your long awaited holidays!
Wine Tasting At Bire Agro Tourism
There is a non-written rule about wines in Korcula. As the island has a long tradition of winemaking and its inhabitants have been engaged in this activity since Greek times – 4th century BC – visitors should skip buying wine in other than the many wine cellars that can be found everywhere in Korcula.
The island is famous for its white wines Grk is made in Lumbarda, while Posip and Rukatac are made in the central part of the island (Cara and Smokvica). Finally, Plavac Mali is the most spread of the red grapes.
Therefore the wines of Korcula are celebrated for their exquisite character and complexity, for its accentuated aromas and also their high alcohol content. And are distinguished for their fine acidity, unusual among southern wines, which makes them a pleasure to drink.
Bire Winery, a 200-year-old family business in Lumbarda is the perfect example. Set a couple of hours aside and get ready for a wine tasting session you won’t forget easily.
We had a chance of savoring the following wines:
Grk Lumbarda 2016
Grk is a native grape variety cultivated on the sandy soils of Lumbarda on the island of Korčula where it grows – and ripens – at its best.
Plavac Mali 2013
One of the most important grape varieties grown in Dalmatia, a region in southern Croatia. It is native to the middle and south of Dalmatia, where is also called Pagadebit Crni. Its parents are the Crljenak Kaštelanski and Dobričić varieties, both also native to Dalmatia. The vine is a medium to a very dense tree which produces a regular and stable yield.
Bire Rose 2016
Cheese, tomatoes, smoked ham, shrimps and anchovies with olive oil were served as well. All in all, we almost had dinner there! However, given the perfect spot for sunset that the nearby hills are, we went on a photography mission right before the sun left us.
This agritourism is open for individual visits from Monday to Saturday in Summer (10-12 / 16-18). Highly recommended!
Located in the Smokvica valley at the foothills of Vela and Mala, and famous for its Posip wine yards and quality olive groves, this quiet town is not far from the gorgeous Korcula coast either.
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.
Smokvica is one of the oldest settlements of Korcula. 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 fams 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 purposedly 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 Posip, 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 Posip and his founder on Pincalusa.
Visit the town during the Posip 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.
Uncovering The Secrets Of Posip Wine
On top of enjoying Smokvica beautiful nature, visiting its cultural and historical sites, exploring some of the many walking and cycling paths and attending some of its Summer festivals, the visitor cannot leave this Korcula town without properly tasting its high-quality wine in some of the local wineries and restaurants along with some food specialties.
Therefore, make sure to visit one of Smokvica wine cellars in which you will enjoy the best wines, experience the tradition of winemaking and viticulture and the island way of life.
We visited Toreta winery. A family business at least four generations, it is just below the main street that leads through Smokvica. There you will find a display of wine-pressing equipment used in the old days, and a selection of wines to taste and buy. Pošip is Toreta’s main one, although Rukatac is very good too.
At Toreta, we were welcomed by Martina Banicevic. Her great grandfather, Luka, emigrated to the US and worked as a blacksmith in the mines of Arizona first and then the vineyards of California. That’s where he found more advanced techniques and machines to cultivate the grapes. Enlightened, he returned to Korcula and started this family business.
Today, the Toreta winery produces around 40000 bottles in 4 hectares, mostly Posip.
- Posip 2016 – White wine kept in steel.
- Toreta 2015 – White Posip kept for 1 year in oak barrels. Complex and smoother.
- Plavac 2015 – Light red wine, 13º
- Posip Principesa 2016 – Semi sweet – more natural sugar, 11º.
- Sweet wine – More alcohol and more sugar for this dessert wine, made of dry grapes after the harvest.
Although wine is their main product, Toreta also produces Masli Novo, a tasty olive oil we had a chance of tasting along with some anchovies, tomatoes and cheese. Can’t stress enough how delicious it all was.
Masters of Blato
Once you are done walking the Linden Avenue, visiting the parish church and the Sanctuary of Marija Petkovic and learning about Korcula traditions at the town ethnic museum; it is time to get close and personal with some other unique things that make Blato special.
As a proud Korcula town, the olive oil produced in this land is nothing short of miraculous and tasty. Here’re two businesses you should check that, out of olive oil among other ingredients, make their unique products:
Lumbllija is a sweet bread with tons of aromatic spices. Traditionally made only for the All Saints festivity in Blato, Smokvica, Cara and Vela Luka, today it can be enjoyed all year round.
The story of its genesis is tied to a love story of a Blato girl and a French soldier when Napoleon’s army occupied the island. Its name, lumblija, comes from French ‘n’oublie pas’ (do not forget me) as these were the words the soldier said when leaving the girl and gifting her this cake. That’s why lumblija is mostly baked when we remember our loved ones.
Lumblija represents a strong connection between the French and Croatian cultures, and it is also an authentic food experience. It relates the story of traditional life on the island, brings together plants and nature in a unique product and finally, narrates a historical moment worth being remembered.
Restaurant Zlinje, in Blato, is a great place to learn more about how it is made. There you can attend one of its cooking shows and try to make lumbrija yourself.
Olive oil cosmetics
Blato 1902 produces wine, olive oil, sweets, liquors and more recently cosmetics. If you visit their workshop located in the outskirts of Blato, you’ll be able to learn how olive oil based cosmetics, lip balms, and soaps are made out of olive oil and at the end of the workshop, you can take them home with you! What’s not to love?
Wandering Around The Highlights Of Blato
This inland town is one of the oldest settlements on the island of Korcula. Located in the centre of the Western part of Korcula, its location kept the town of Blato safe from pirate attacks.
As it also happened in other parts of the island as Smokvica, Kumpanjija, once exclusive from the army, with time became a part of folklore and an appealing knight’s sword dance which is still performed weekly during Summer in front of Blato’s main church.
But there are many other things that make Blato special.
A long linden tree avenue.
Featuring one hundred and seventeen linden trees – that were planted in 1911 – along the main road is one kilometer long and the longest linden tree avenue in Europe. Only the uber famous Unter den Linden avenue in Berlin is longer than this one.
Sanctuary of Blessed Marija Petkovic of the Crucified Jesus.
Marija Petkovic, born in a wealthy Blato family dedicated her life to the poor, sick and abandoned. Early in the 20th century she founded the Franciscan Congregation of the Daughters of Mercy, the only original one in Croatia, and today the sanctuary showcases a very enlighten exhibit about her life and work for a better world. It is also a pilgrimage spot, where people leave pictures of their beloved ones on the altar hoping lots of good comes their way. A young nun showed the grounds to us and answered all my thousand questions. Such a pleasure to have met you, Juliana, and thanks so much for letting us into your home.
Church of All Saints
Blato’s parish church origins are unknown (some documents say 10th century, others 14th century). What’s clear it is everyone should stop a few minutes and visit the church, its bell tower and the loggia.
Etno Kuca Barilo (Ethno House Barilo)
A tourist attraction and house museum where one can feel the history and spirit of the past and get close to artifacts and tools used by our ancestors. From kitchenware to clothing, furniture and trees; her owner Vesela Proeva has preserved its authenticity for today’s generations to enjoy.
Highlights of Vela Luka
If we were to name one of the most popular destinations among tourists in Korcula, that would be Vela Luka. Its beautiful location at the end of a well protected, deep bay framed by awesome hills, colored with red tile roofs and endless olive groves make Vela Luka a place where every visitor of Korcula stops for a while.
Due to its position, on the west side of the island, it is also a safe anchorage and nautical harbor. In the middle of the bay, there is the island of Osjak, while the stunning island of Proizd is situated at the very entrance.
Here are two spots you should not miss on your Vela Luka explorations:
Vela Spila cave
On top of a Vela Luka hill and at the end of the Blue Path, this magnificent cave is around twenty thousand years old. The walk towards the cave is also great with lots of places to rest and spectacular views of those red tiled roofs, the bay and the sea in the distance.
Inside, the cave is around fifteen square meters and thus far it only has been explored partly. Also, due to its terrific acoustic properties, sometimes Vela Spila is used as a concert hall. I honestly cannot wait to go back to Vela Spila cave and attend a gig there. It must be an unforgettable experience!
An islet located at the entrance of Vela Luka bay, it is well known for its awesome beaches and clear turquoise waters. A taxi boat from Vela Luka takes barely 30 min and will leave you in Perna Bay. From there, you can adventure on your own to one of the many beautiful bays. Do not forget your sun protection and also enough water to drink, as the island is practically virgin and you will not have many chances of buying anything else than a drink or two – when the bar is open in Summer – there. You have been warned!
Vela Luka Olive oil producers
We could not finish this Korcula exploration without coming back to one of the things that make this island so amazing: its great olive oil!
One of the most important and oldest fats used in cooking and a main ingredient of the world famous Mediterranean diet, it is also used in cosmetics, medicine, and many other products as we have already discussed. With wine making, olive oil production in Korcula has a very long tradition and presents extremely important economic activity as for many families, the olive oil means existence, so the care involved in its production guarantees the extremely high quality of the final product.
At the Westernmost part of Korcula, in Vela Luka, you will be able to visit a few businesses around the olive oil. Here are our favorites:
A family business, Marita and Jerolim Petkovic produce lots of varieties of olive oil, with different flavors, most of them very surprising and tasty!
Ethnographic Museum Zlokec
Filled with traditional machines and tools used to produce olive oil, it is also possible to attend an olive oil tasting workshop there.
Who would have thought you can make tea out of olive oil? The people at Fanito solved the equation and nowadays its tea is the only one known made out of the leaves of the tree. Maria and Fanito will be happy to show you around.
Agrotourism and restaurant Milletic
Where you will be able to enjoy ‘a capela’ singing if you are lucky as the owner and friends gather there around a table and perform ancient songs sometimes.
Try their octopus salad, salty fish, and fried fish with olive oil as starters and as main, we suggest you their smoked dry fish with potatoes.
Hope you enjoy the island of Korcula as much as I did. From its unique food, welcoming people and endless stunning landscapes and sights, it should not be difficult!
Note: This article is part of the 2017 Crossing Routes – Blogging Europe/Well Olive Project
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