There is more to the island of Korčula than the walled city of Korčula Town. In the less than 50km (30 miles) between the picturesque walled city at the eastern end of the island and the port town of Vela Luka at the other end, you’ll find vineyards and wineries, hills and hiking trails, and quiet towns like Lumbarda, Smokvica, and Blato, with out-of-the way beaches along the coastal areas between.
The island of Korčula is a popular day trip from Dubrovnik or Orebič on the Pelješac Peninsula. Medieval Korčula Town is the focus of most tourist activity on the island as well as its main transportation hub. Once you climb the 19th-century Grand Staircase, with its 15th-century Revelin Tower, and walk through the 14th-century Land Gate, Korčula Town will captivate your imagination and take you back through the centuries.
Behind the medieval defensive walls, the Old Town is packed with aristocratic palazzo, built from limestone cut from the island’s quarries. Today, these structures accommodate restaurants, museums, and family homes. Steep, dark, narrow streets branch off from the enclave’s major north-south thoroughfare (Korčulaskog Statuta) in a pattern that resembles a fish skeleton. The street grid creates the illusion of a central boulevard with a lot of short side streets radiating from it. You can spend hours walking up and down these narrow offshoots and never know exactly where you are in relation to the walled town’s exit. Tourists are also drawn by the city’s claim that it is the birthplace of legendary explorer Marco Polo. Tip: The approach to Korčula Town on the morning ferry from Orebić makes one of the best vacation pictures ever.
The island of Korčula itself, which is just a little over a mile from the mainland across the Pelješac Channel, was once covered with so many pine trees that the sight led the Greeks who settled there around 400 b.c. to dub the island “Kerkyra Malaina” (Black Corfu). As with many of the islands in the southern Adriatic, there is evidence that Korčula was the site of Neolithic settlements. It also experienced much of the same historic string of takeovers and changes of fortune as the rest of Dalmatia’s coastal settlements, including long stretches of Venetian rule (the longest being 1420–1797).
Tourists also travel to Korčula to see the traditional Moreška Sword Dance, an annual spectacle that recalls a battle between Christians and “infidels” that was fought over a beautiful maiden. In addition, the island is the source of excellent olive oil and wine, most notably white wines (Pošip, Grk) produced from grapes grown on the island’s interior.