13 Things I Learned about the Island of Korcula in 2018
September 22, 2018 – Korcula was named the champion of Croatian tourism by Vecernji List’s Tourism Patrol earlier this year. It is an island where which has a lot more to offer than initially meets the eye, as I have discovered over several visits this year.
It is just over a year since I accepted an invitation for lunch at Lesic Dimitri, the boutique five-star hotel in Korcula Town, which has been credited – rightly – with lifting the standards and vision of hospitality on the island. Having lived on Hvar for 13 years, I had never taken that much interest in Korcula, and I was more than impressed at what I had been missing. You can read that article – Exquisite Korcula – Blueprint for Quality Croatian Tourism as It Should Be. One excellent lunch led to a closer look at the island, and earlier this year, TCN started its latest destination, Total Korcula (you can follow on Facebook), which meant a few more visits to this rather lovely island.
I soon realised that there was a lot I did not know… Here are 13 things I now know about Korcula that I didn’t this time last year. And I am sure there are a lot more things to discover…
1. Not one Michelin-recommended restaurant, but two!
I don’t think that there are many people who would dispute that Lesic Dimitri was the place to head to for the finest dining on Korcula, and it was no surprise to find LD recommended in the Michelin guide, but it was something of a surprise to find a second recommendation from Michelin, in a village called Pupnat. I decided to check out Konoba Mate to see what all the fuss was about. An agro-tourism restaurant with simple food from local products – there are hundreds of such places all over Croatia. What made Konoba Mate so special? The answer did not take long in coming.
2. The Grannies of Korcula have made it the sweet island.
Living on Hvar, I knew all about the cakes and pastries prepared by families using recipes handed down by grandmothers, but Korcula takes this to a new level. No less than 30 recipes in this excellent book by Sweet Korcula – it has been a popular series on Total Korcula. And the good news for visitors is you don’t have to make the cakes yourself – there are several truly excellent cake shops with fine selections to choose from, including Cukarin and Skatula.
3. The biggest village in former Yugoslavia, with quite an emigration story
In the centre of the island lies Blato, whose stone buildings really impressed me, once I had got over the tree-lined entrance. It is a lovely little place, and I learned that it had been the largest village in all former Yugoslavia. It is also a place which suffered a lot from emigration – a community which suffered heavy losses, but one where the emigration bond is very strong, and there are numerous Australian Croats whose roots are from Blato who have returned to live. You can learn more about the Blato emigration story here.
(Photo Romulic and Stojcic)
4. Move over Moreska, there is more than one sword dance
The most famous Korculan sword dance is Moreska, and you can see it performed each Thursday in season at 21:00 in Korcula Town, but it is not the only sword dance on the island, and I learned about Mostra from Zrnova, and Kumpanija from Blato, Vela Luka and other settlements on the island. Learn more here.
5. A house from Tito for a British 007 prototype
The most famous Brit in these part is indeed Sir Fitzroy Maclean, Churchill’s man for the region during World War II, and a man whose close relationship with Tito altered the course of the war. Maclean was an inspiration for some spy character, along with Dusko Popov down in Dubrovnik, and it was a pleasure to meet his son over a drink at Lesic Dimitri this summer, for Britain’s 007 prototype was given a house on Korcula by Tito – read the incredible story here.
6. The magic of refreshing Maestral wind
Every visit to Korcula would inevitably include at least one glass of wine (actually never just one) on the delightful terrace of Lesic Dimitri – with views like this, it was little wonder that the place was so popular, and that was before the food. But even in peak season, it offered another attraction – there was always a refreshing gentle breeze which kept the oppressiveness of the peak season heat at bay. It was only this year that I realised the reason why – one of the great secrets of peak season Korculan tourism.
7. More amazing discoveries in Lumbarda
Some 2018 discoveries were new not just to me but to the whole world, such as this sensational find of part of the Psephisma, one of the most important monuments of Korcula’s ancient Greek history, dating back some 2,300 years.
8. A May bank holiday foodie festival to die for – Korculanske Pjatance
I have been to so many food festivals via TCN over the last few years that it now takes something a little extra to make things stand out. The Korculanske Pjatance Spring Food and Wine Festival over the May Bank Holiday was such an occasion, a superbly organised and varied programme of workshops, tastings and great meals by several participating restaurants. Our four-day stay was exceptional (thank you Tara’s Lodge!), and the tone for the evening was set by a star-studded opening night – a 5-course Lesic special celebrating 20 years of the Bire winery, famous of course for its outstanding Grk wines. One of the great wows of the year.
9. The islets in front of Korcula are coming to life
The small islets in front of Korcula Town on the way to Orebic have always been such as mystery to me, and I had not expected to find much there. I had heard about the luxury Moro Beach Club on Stupe, but the opening of the Vrnik Arts Club in the superbly renovated old schoolhouse on Vrnik was a total surprise, and I learned a lot more of the history of Badija as well. The launch of an excellent new scheduled transfer service, the Korcula Water Taxi, provided much-needed logistical support. Learn more about the rise and rise of the islets in front of Korcula Town.
10. Dalmatian tapas par excellence, and how to build an island fruit and veg business
After years of being served prsut and cheese, sometimes with an olive or three, as the traditional Dalmatian starter, Dalmatian restaurateurs are finally getting a little more creative, and a new (and fun) concept is emerging called Dalmatian tapas. Nowhere does it quite as well as Ante and Matko at Marendin, one of my top discoveries of 2018. I doubt you will find any restaurateurs in Croatia with a less serious attitude to life, but don’t let that attitude fool you into thinking they are no experts in their field. The level of passion and knowledge of their dishes and wines was exceptional, and I joked that perhaps they knew every vegetable by name. It turned out not to be such a joke, as Ante – Korcula’s fruit and vegetable salesman for 17 years along with his wife – took me on an early morning vegetable delivery tour of his restaurant clients. His cousin produces much of the island’s vegetable needs on a 15-hectare plot near Vela Luka. Fabulous.
11. An island with as many types of indigenous almonds as the rest of former Yugoslavia
Among the most useless pieces of information I learned this summer – from Team Marendin – is that former Yugoslavia had four types of indigenous almond, two of which come from Korcula. And I bet not many people know that.
12. The birthplace and final resting place of Croatia’s most-loved singer
Vela Luka became the national centre for an outpouring of sorrow in late July, with the passing of perhaps Croatia’s best-loved singer ever, Oliver Dragojevic. The send-off to its musical hero was more than spectacular, with a catamaran from Split to Luka escorted by numerous boats and tributes from other islands along the route. Coming so soon after the World Cup success, it prompted my most read article of the year, In Life and in Death, Croatians are World Champions at Celebration. Oliver was buried in his hometown of Vela Luka, and I only learned of his roots at this time.
13. Where to find the best night’s sleep of the year
I was fortunate enough to be able to stay in some fabulous places all over Croatia this year, and two of the highlights were to be found on Korcula. Tara’s Lodge I had met last year, but I returned for May’s food festival with my family, and checking out hotel accommodation with two young ladies who just wanted to swim all day brought home one truth about Tara’s Lodge – there can be few places on the Adriatic which offers such luxury accommodation in such a relaxed atmosphere, which is right on the beach. Eat, Sleep, Beach, Repeat was the Tara’s Lodge motto, one of which was fully embraced by my daughters. A truly fabulous place to stay, as you can read here.
Tara’s Lodge is located in the centre of Zrnovska Banja, a bay to the north of Korcula Town, which has a big future in my opinion. I also had a chance to visit the Korcula Hill project, which is located at the beginning of the bay, an absolutely stunning development which is slowly being transformed into a fully-fledged resort, with a great beach and ever-increasing facilities. As you can see from the video of my apartment above, the accommodation is both spacious and luxury, with some outstanding views. The highlight for me was something else, however, the best sleep of the year. I can’t remember the last time I was able to switch off the phone, close the doors and shutters, and then find myself in total silence and complete darkness. I awoke 13 hours later a new man. Take a tour of the Korcula Hill experience here.
Korcula – an island of beauty, heritage, culture, gastronomy, beaches and something new to learn with every visit.