Korcula Island, Croatia
Korcula Island is home to the little walled town, also called the “mini Dubrovnik”. This place is nothing short of charming and has the natural beauty that is iconic across all of Croatia. If clear waters and breathtaking mountain views are what you are looking for, Korcula would not disappoint.
This Dalmatian island is among the tourist favorites because it is full of history and the waters are so clear yet so blue that you can’t help but want to jump in!
Enjoy views of the dramatic cliffy peninsula wherever you go and walk along its picturesque alleyways where you will be greeted by fragrant flowers in spring, vines year-round, and coral shops.
Some say that visiting Korcula is almost like walking into a fairytale book.
Aside from the views and its rich history, what makes Korcula Island so attractive to visitors is that there are so many incredible things to do.
Just a week or less in this tiny island would pack up a ton of precious memories that you would cherish for a lifetime. The architecture is amazing and the food is just out of this world.
The Story of Korcula Island, Croatia
Like most Croatian islands, the Greeks gave Korcula its name when they first settled there. The original name was Korkyra Melaina which means black corfu. It is pronounced Kor-chu-la and is one of the greenest islands in the Adriatic.
Its story is not far from the other parts of the Dalmatian archipelago. Its first inhabitants were the Illyrian tribes and they were farmers and fishermen. When the Greeks arrived, Korcula became a Greek colony though they did not integrate their culture with the tribes’.
The entire island has an area of about 279 square kilometers long and 7.8 kilometers wide. You will find it just off the coast of the old Dalmatia. It is the most populous Croatian island that is not connected by bridge to the mainland. The locals are mostly ethnic Croats but just like many parts of Croatia, you will find lots of tourists exploring the area.
The Venetians arrived in the island at around the 10th century and they ruled up to the 14th century. If you would like to explore this part of the island’s history, you should take some time to check out the museum where you will find a historical document called the “Statute of the town and the island of Korcula” which dates back to 1214.
You will learn much about the island’s cultural and economic history going up to the 16th century. Between the 13th and the 15th century is when most of the important historical buildings in Korcula were constructed and you can still see some of them today.
Looking at these buildings, you will see just how big a mark the Venetians left in this little town in Croatia.
The people lived with constant danger from the Ottoman advance and they took part in several battles but they were able to mobilize a defense even after the Venetians abandoned them. They managed to repel the invaders and preserve their livelihood.
The town suffered an economic decline during the struggles of the Mediterranean trade and soon became part of the Australian empire. They went through the rule of several other nations but in 1991, Croatia became an independent state and the Korculans started to rebuild their land and develop their tourism industry.
By the 1960’s, the island was among the top destinations in Croatia.
Korcula Island, Croatia – Things to do & Attractions
The island of Korcula is rich in art and culture and as in other tourist spots in Croatia, it is known for its breathtakingly beautiful nature. You will not run out of secluded beaches and bays but there are so much more!
Korcula Old Town
As mentioned, Korcula is also known as the mini Dubrovnik because of its old walled town. Walk along its vine covered stone streets and take in its wonderful shapes and smells.
You will notice that the streets to the east of the town are mostly curved and those to the right are more straight which makes the town look a bit like a fishbone. This design is intentional because during the winter, the town experiences very strong winds coming from the east and north.
The old locals took note of this and intentionally curved the streets to the east in order to divert the winds’ direction so that they don’t go straight to the center of the town. The streets to the west remained straight in order to let the gentler breeze through during the summer. From this, you can already appreciate the genius in the town’s innovation.
Museums of Korcula island
You can visit some museums in the center of the old town where you will see plenty of historical artifacts and learn more about the island’s history. Although, you can actually consider the whole town a museum of its own.
The Korcula Town Museum is located on the main square. It is inside the elegant Gabrielis Palace right in front of the St. Mark’s Cathedral. It is best to plan a day trip in the area to see the historical buildings and all the museums that you are interested in seeing.
The museum has a large collection of displays that will tell you of Korcula’s rich story. You will also see the old peoples’ works including their arts and crafts.
There is also the Bishop’s Treasury of Korcula which is also on the same square. They have a smaller collection but they are just as amazing. Here, you will see some beautiful paintings as well as sacral art. Make sure you check out Leonardo Da Vinci’s sketch of a soldier wearing a dance costume that is relevant to the town.
The Icon Museum can be found in the All Saint’s Church and it features a permanent display of icons and it is open all year round. Marco Polo’s house has also been turned into a museum and it is definitely worth a visit. The famous explorer’s lodging offers magnificent views of the archipelago. It is now owned by the town’s authority and is set for reconstruction in the near future.
These are just some of the many museums you will find in Korcula Island. There are definitely more but you should try to visit at least one of those mentioned above.
Churches in Korcula Town
Historical buildings are one of the must-see structures in Croatia, like in many parts of Europe. The churches are part of the town’s rich history and there is much to be seen inside them even if you are nonreligious.
St. Mark’s Cathedral in the center of the old town and is one of the most typical examples of Dalmatian church architecture. It took about three centuries to finish and several styles are apparent on the structure. You will see some Gothic influences as well as Romanesque and Baroque styles.
If you visit the cathedral, make sure that you take a look at the bell tower with its sandy yellow stone. You may have to request special permission to climb the tower. Go inside and you will see the magnificent canopy resting on 4 columns above the altar built by the 15th century stonemason, Andrijic. Underneath the altar is the sarcophagus of St. Theodore who is said to be the protector of the island.
The Korcula Cathedral Treasury is also worth visiting. Inside, you will find a collection of priestly clothing, church silver as well as an exciting collection of religious art. Its finest item is the altarpiece created by the 15th century Dalmatian painter, Blaz Jurjev.
The painting depicts the radiant Madonna among the saints. Go around and take a look at the small alabaster panels which depict the Kiss of Judas and the Flagellation of Christ.
The Icon Gallery is one of the most famous art galleries in Korcula Island. You will find it along a narrow alley and it has a passageway that leads to the 14th Century Church of All Saints. This gallery contains religious images, most of which originated from Crete but ended up in the island when the Christian forces left their treasures in the Aegean islands.
In the old town, you will see plenty of historical structures such as the old town gates and the medieval town walls.
Korcula Town Walls
Korcula is in a very strategic spot in the Adriatic and so, its inhabitants made sure to build high walls and towers around it. To this day, Korcula’s old town is still surrounded by 14th century thick stone walls.
Towers can be found in between these walls and they were all built in medieval times. The walls and towers were built for the purpose of defense against enemies who may pass by and decide to attack them.
You will still find these large walls when you walk around the old town but they are more times breathtaking when you look at them from the sea so it is also worth sailing on the waters to view the town at a fair distance.
These walls were also built to protect the townsfolk from the sea.
Both the walls and the towers are constantly being improved for their historical value.
You can enter the old town in one of two medieval city gates. One is located on the sea side on the western port of Korcula and one is on the side of the mainland near the downtown’s main square.
The Kopnena Vrata which means “land gate” is the name of the town gate to the south or the mainland side. It is located within the Veliki Revelin Tower and it offers lovely views as you go inside the walled town.
The sea gate, on the other hand, is called the Morska Vrata and is also known as the Porta Maris. When you come in from here, you will pass by a double stone stairway with an intricate balustrade and see a small fountain on your way.
Because the island is protected by defensive walls, it is only natural that you will find plenty of fortresses or towers along and within the walls as well. There are at least 8 fortresses in the island and you can still see them today when you visit Korcula. There is the Zakerjan Tower which is also called the Berim Tower. It stands on the north of the town and was built between 1481 and 1483.
It is shaped like a half cylinder and features distinctive patterns on the top. The Kanavelic Tower is on the north west, also named Bokar or Barbarigo. The rest of the towers are named the Sea Gate Tower for its location near the seaside gate, the Small Governor’s Tower and the Large Governor’s Tower.
There is also the Revelin Tower and the Tower of All Saints. If you go out of the town, you will find the Forteca or Fort Wellington.
As you might expect in a walled town with fortresses, you will find palaces still standing today in Korcula. When you walk around this walled town, you will see 8 renaissance palaces as you pass by the streets and the town’s squares.
The Arneri Palace goes all the way from the western gate to the Trg Svetog Marka. This is the main square of the town. You will notice that the palace was designed with Venetian Gothic architecture and that it is intricately ornamented. It dates back to the late 16th to the early 17th century. You must walk around its courtyard especially in the summer and take some time to admire its windows and walls. It is one of the most beautiful buildings in the town.
Garbrielis Palace was also built in the 16th century and it is right on St. Mark’s Square. Inside this building is where you will find the Korcula Town Museum. Though the palace looks really old, you can still see how it might have looked during its time.
There is the Bishop’s Palace which houses the Bishop’s Treasury Museum, the Caenazzo Palace also on the main square, and the Governor’s Palace located on the smaller square. If you walk to the inside streets, you will also see the Ismaelli Palace and the Lesic Dimitri Palace.
Monasteries and Churches
Korcula is also home to a number of monasteries that have been constructed in the island from centuries ago.
The Sveti Nikola Church and Monastery can be found at the very end of a beautiful sea promenade. You can plan a trip to the seaside and walk on the path till you reach the old building. The beach views and the sight of the old structures will be magnificent at sunset.
You may also want to visit the Dominican Convent which has been there a little later, since 1905 and the Franciscan Monastery which requires a little trip down the islet of Badija.
The churches you will find in the town include the St. Mark’s Cathedral which has been mentioned several times for its proximity to the many other historical sites. Other churches worth mentioning are the St. Michael’s Church and St. Peter’s Church.
Walking along the streets of a beautiful old town such as Korcula, you will not run out of monuments to see along the way which includes pillars, columns, and arches.
The Loggia is a small building in the town’s western harbor and you can see it right after you enter the sea gate, walking into the town’s walls. It is right under the town’s main walls so it is difficult to miss.
They said it was intended for people walking by so that they can sit and rest when it was first built in 1548. It also serves as a shelter for the townsfolk who are outside during bad weather.
Pillars are visible in almost all corners of the streets of the old town. Just pass by the squares and the gates and you can immediately notice them.
Korcula features a port which has become a place of interest for tourists and locals alike. The Port of Korcula is also the terminal for Korcula Cruises.
It is right in the center of the town and it is walking distance away from the main attractions and historical buildings of Korcula. If you would like to take a cruise, this is where you will be headed to start your journey. There are small and larger cruise lines for you to choose from.
Beaches on Korcula Island
You cannot leave any city or town that you visit within Croatia without exploring its beautiful beaches. The waters of Korcula Island are just what you would expect of a Croatian vacation spot. Relax on the sands whether you prefer to do it at sunrise or sunset, the views will be absolutely magnificent no matter what.
Down the coast of the island, you will find a small beach which is a great place to swim. You can rent stand-up paddle boards or simply take a leisurely swim. The beach is suitable for families and is safe for kids.
If you are looking for a summer holiday getaway, Korcula Island is definitely a great contender among many other Croatian destinations.
In fact, there are about 50 beaches in the island. This includes the sandy beach of Vela Przina in Lumbarda. If you prefer a more pebbly beach, you can go to the Pupnatska Luka. These are all popular beaches in the island but there are lesser known ones that also offer a spectacularly relaxing experience.
What’s great about the beaches in Korcula is that they are mostly secluded. You will definitely enjoy your time with your loved ones, especially if you are there with your significant other.
They are suitable for all types of travelers whether you are traveling with a group of friends or your family including children.
Things to Do in Korcula Island
Visiting the sights mentioned above will already make your travel to Korcula Island memorable. But there are plenty of other things to do which will interest all types of people from exciting sports activities to laid back ones.
Since the island is just a fair distance away from the Peljesac Peninsula, there is a good wind blowing between the mainland and the walled town’s sea gates. The wind funnels into a little air tunnel in that area. It is a perfect spot for wind sports so those who love surfing will have an incredibly great time here.
One of the most unique attractions in Korcula will show you much of their culture and it involves dancing. The Moreksa Dance is a traditional sword dance which is choreographed and the dancers always wear their traditional Croatian clothing.
It was originally intended to reenact the wars that their people went through from the 1400’s to the 1600’s. Watching this traditional dance is a great way to learn about the town’s history from the time of the Venetians and onwards.
Getting to Korcula Island, Croatia
Though it’s a small island with secluded beaches, getting to Korcula is easy because it is well connected to the mainland though not by bridge. Options to get to the island include flying and sailing in ferries.
The nearest airport to Korcula is the Dubrovnik Airport so if you’re flying to Dubrovnik, including Korcula in your itinerary is a logical option. Split Airport is also conveniently close. From Split, you can take one of the Catamaran ferries via Hvar or from Split to Lastovo island.
Best Time to Visit Korcula
There are plenty of activities in Korcula Island that would satisfy different people at different times of the year. It is beautiful all year round but if you are there for surfing and relaxing on the beach, summer is definitely the best time.
If you are more interested in walking around and seeing its scenic historic sights, spring is more likely the better option so you can witness the flowers and appreciate the vine covered walls without the scorching heat of the sun.