After three days in Split, we made our way to Korčula Old Town, we rode the 9:30am Kapetan ferry. We purchased tickets from the ticket office on the pier the afternoon prior to departure, though they do have online ticket sales. It is about a 2-hour transit with a brief stop to let passengers on/off at the island of Brač and again at the island of Hvar before reaching the island of Korčula. Hvar is probably the most popular of these islands, though its raucous reputation drove us to the quainter destination of Korčula.
Upon arrival in Korčula’s old town port, we made our way to the Airbnb we previously arranged. We absolutely loved this accommodation and wish we had stayed an extra day just to lounge around the apartment and swim at the private beach. The apartment is one of three small studios in the same building which share two large terraces and a private beach with lounge chairs, tables, etc. An older British couple who was also visiting at this time said they were staying at this apartment for the duration of their two-week holiday, this spot truly is a vacation in itself.
After checking in and swimming for a bit, we wandered into the old town. The old town is surrounded by a protective wall with narrow alleys of, now, shops and restaurants. Similar to Diocletian’s Palace, it does not accommodate cars and has beautiful architecture, with more Greek and Venetian influence. We went straight to Aterina, a restaurant recommended to us in a city guide from the folks at Korcula Exlorer. We tried a local beer and rosé while we shared the smaller size of the sampler plate (which is not very small) plus the aubergine rolls which were unforgettable – baked eggplant rolled around goat cheese and covered in homemade red sauce (we’ve already tried to recreate this dish at home). This was a great first meal on the island; of note, Korčula is certainly pricier than Split, though much more affordable than most of Europe.
Korčula is known for a wine region called Lumbarda where Grk grapes are the star of the show, this is pretty much the only place that they are grown. Grk is a very dry, white varietal which produces a distinct, aromatic, acidic wine. Interestingly enough, Grk plants produce only female flowers and require cultivation near other, male varietals to produce fruit. Plavac mali, translating to “small blue,” is the red grape grown in Lumbarda as the male counterpart, so some red wine is also produced in this region, though the more famous area for the plavac mali grape is on the Peljasac peninsula (more to come about that in our Dubrovnik post). We rented bikes and went on a self-guided tour from Korčula old town to Lumbarda stopping at different points of interest on our way to the vineyards, the route was provided to us through Korčula Explorer and we would highly recommend checking them out. Pay very close attention to the opening times of the wineries as they seem somewhat random, opening for an hour or two, closing for a bit then reopening for another hour or two. In addition to the odd hours of operation, we were visiting on the day of grape harvest for a couple of vineyards, so this altered their schedule even more. Also of note, the road to Lumbarda does not always provide a separate bike lane, there are times when you must operate in the same lanes with motor vehicles, so I would highly recommend getting a helmet with the bike rental (admittedly we did not, which was foolish).
We arrived to Lumbarda around noon having spent a leisurely morning on the balcony of our apartment in the Old Town before renting bikes. We weren’t able to get into any wineries at this time due to their operating hours and harvest schedules, so we started off at Feral restaurant on Beach Tatinja. We shared a mixed grilled seafood plate and it was incredible, just simply seasoned and grilled fresh from the sea – squid, prawns, scallops and fish. We also shared our first bottle of Grk wine and really enjoyed it! Neither of us are huge white wine drinkers but this refreshingly dry variety hit the spot on a hot afternoon. Feral has tables right on the beach, so after being mesmerized by the crystal water throughout our meal, we decided to go for a swim to cool off before continuing up to the wineries. The water in the Adriatic is so extremely salty that you float perfectly on top of the surface without even trying, truly relaxing! After we dried off, we biked up to Popic winery where we did a tasting of their Grk, rosé, Plavac red and liqueur. In addition to the great views, this multi-generation, family owned vineyard and winery embodies all of the authenticity we seek to experience on our travels; they work hard, take pride in their products and seem to genuinely enjoy their lifestyle – their contentment and dedication is inspiring. We also visited Bire winery whose wines we saw throughout our stay in Croatia, on restaurant menus and in shops, as they have a bit larger operation. This is another family run business with a great atmosphere, though not quite the same charm as Popic where we saw 3-4 generations at work/play. The wines and small bites were a delight and worth the visit!
After our Lumbarda bike day, we went back to Korcula Old Town, if you take the stairway down the cliffside on the north side of the old town, there is a public beach for swimming and an extended pier with a ferry terminal. We grabbed a couple of to-go cocktails and went down on the pier for sunset before snagging a table on the cliffside for some wood fired pizza at Tesoro; this was one of our few departures from seafood on the trip and it was well worth it. There are a couple of other, well-reviewed restaurants along this stretch outside the old town walls that we did not have a chance to try – Filippi, Silk. We did dine at Radiona on the harbor one night where we had good service and good food, octopus confit and amberjack steak.
Having arrived around noon Tuesday and departed via ferry for Dubrovnik at 10am Thursday, we did not have as much time as we would’ve liked on Korčula – we’d intended to take a later departing ferry, but this was the only option available when we went to the ticket office the night before departure. We could have easily enjoyed another day or even two with the accommodation we’d selected!