When the ancient Greeks settled on the island of Korcula, they were so struck by its dense, dark forests that they called it Korkyra Melaina – Black Korčula. Now it's famed for its white wine (the crispest, coolest kind made from its endemic posip grape) but those enchanting woodlands still exist, and the island – the second most populous in the Adriatic region – is a mix of quiet hamlets and vineyards tangled up in the woods, and fishing villages dotted along the winding coast. If you're choosing which of Croatia's illustrious islands to visit, you won't find one quite as magical as this one - here are ten reasons why you should go to Korcula:
- Korčula town centre is delightful: a web of narrow alleys and buildings with crenelated walls, all drenched in history and centering on the soaring, majestic St Mark's Cathedral.
- Superb beaches (including some genuinely sandy ones) are to be found at the nearby village of Lumbarda, and in the secluded coves of the south coast.
- Luxurious places to stay have cropped up over recent years - tourists with modern-day demands are at last catered for at the Lešić-Dimitri Palace Korčula, a five-star luxury retreat with a spa and restaurant to match. But there's plenty of excellent, no-frills accommodation for travellers on a budget, too.
- There's all kinds of wonderful music and culture to fill your evenings with - since starting in 2012, the Korkya Baroque Music Festival has been drawing in musicians from around the globe, and delighting crowds with its celebratory atmosphere. And if you're after something a little more edgy, cactch a show of the Moreska sword dance. Deeply rooted in the island's heritage, the dance is fierce, magnificent, and probably unlike anything you've seen before.
- The beautifully-situated port of Vela Luka is the gateway to the island, and it bustles with ferry and fishing boat arrivals every day. After the main town centre, it's Korcula's main urban hub, but its main draw is its West-facing setting: watch the sun set from here, and you'll be elated for days.
- The food is wonderful - you'll have a host of top-quality restaurants to choose from, each of them serving up hearty feasts of local delicacies. Fresh seafood and grilled meat make most menus, but make sure to try the Žrnovski Makaruni - a delicious traditional handmade pasta.
- And the wine is famously good - go on a vineyard or wine tasting tour, or simply enjoy the locally produced whites and reds in the classy line-up of local bars.
- It's lush, verdant, and covered in stunning trees - evergreen holm oak, prickly maquis, and occassional dark-green spears of cypress - making it the perfect place for a revitalising walk.
- And when you're done exploring inland, you can venture out to sea. You can explore the nearby archipelago and reach the islets of Badija and Vrnik Islet by kayak, or snorkel: the water is clear here, and the local sealife is bursting with colour.
- You might even sea a dolphin. They swim off Korcula's shores - head out on a boat expedition at the right time, and you might be lucky enough to catch them in action.