The island of Korcula stands as a perfect example of why so many people love Croatia’s beaches, sunshine, and those charming, ever-present Old Towns.
Korcula Town, where I stayed, is a mix of café bars, kitchy souvenirs, and an endearing Old Town. The town prides itself on being the birth place of Marco Polo, who lived in Korcula until he was 17, going on to become the most famous pool game of all-time.
Marco Polo…You Know…That Guy
There was actually an embarrassing moment when, as I returned to the hostel and told people about visiting the Marco Polo house, someone asked who Marco Polo was. I laughed and rolled my eyes a bit at my company’s ignorance. Duh, I thought. With a slight smile and a voice brimming with aged wisdom, I explained, “Marco Polo is the explorer who discovered America.”
There was a short pause before someone said “Um, wasn’t that Christopher Columbus?” Oh yeah, I have NO idea who Marco Polo is. And even American kindergarteners know that in 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue. This is probably why people think American are idiots. Sorry Team USA.
Korcula’s History and Design
Korcula’s old town boasts the whimsical winding, narrow streets you’ll find in Old Towns throughout Croatia, with reminders of the town’s Venetian history. The venetian mark is a lion with wings (or Lannisters on Red Bull. Little GOT joke for ya there), and if you look carefully you’ll see plenty of them.
One guide once advised me to always look up at the walls in Eastern Europe – besides finding street names, the walls are where you can find all sorts of symbols hinting at key information about a town’s history.
Korcula Town’s map readout looks like a fishbone, and Korcula residents boast of the ingenuis layout which allows cool winds from one side of the sea in, while keeping the bad voo-doo winds from the opposite side out. This is why when you walk thorugh Old Town from the main stairs, you’ll see ocean on your left, but the right side streets go at an angle.
Korcula has a stone wall surrounding Old Town which was once twice as high, but half was taken down and quarried many years ago to make more homes. They were recycling way before it was the hip “green” thing to do.
Things To Do Visiting Korcula
There’s plenty to do in Korcula besides stroll around the Old Town—go in the right season and you’ll get chance to see Moreska sword dancing, in which an ancient story of love and war is reflected in the choreographed clashing of swords. I saw the Moreska Sword Dancing and it was pretty cool. People yelling and chanting and clashing swords together is always exciting.
I spent most of my time in Korcula relaxing on the beach with my Kindle and eating gelato. Korcula has beautiful, crystal clear waters, but suffers from having mostly rocky beaches, a common issue throughout Croatia.
Dragan’s Den Hostel
The hostel owner Dragan of Dragan’s Den is a real character. And of course, everyone knows that being “a real character” is code for being mildly insane. First clue is that the man’s name is Dragan. Second is that within 60 seconds of walking in the door, he will undoubtedly ask you if you have connections in Hollywood, since he’s currently trying to get his screenplay read and book published.
Despite being most certainly a few french fries short of a happy meal, Dragan was a pretty alright guy most of the time. Having dinner my first night, he confided to me that he believes he has multiple personality disorder. NOT what you should tell your guest the first day they arrive at your hostel. But I suppose Croatians are confiding like that…
Dragan was happy to show his guests a fun time. Especially if you are a girl. Ok, but truly I had such a good time in Korcula that I extended my stay by two nights, and got to enjoy the great company of my fellow backpackers primarily consisting of English, Australians, and Irish babies (as in closer to 18 than 25).
One fun surprise was when I arrived and saw the Aussie guy I had dinner with in Dubrovnik! It was incredibly embarrassing though because I didn’t recognize him at first and it took me a while to remember his name. It’s too bad because he was super cute, but I felt so awkward and embarrassed about not recognizing him (when he clearly knew who I was) that I avoided him most of the visit.
Cliff Jumping and Snorkling
Stuffing 13 of us into a minivan, clown-car style, Dragan took us out one day to some beaches in Lumbarda, just outside of Korcula town, where we practiced cliff jumping (I only managed the small jump, which was quite non-threatening).
Snorkeling through the blue-green waters was brilliant, although there wasn’t much exciting sea life outside of small fish and sea urchins (one of which we cracked open and ate later on! Dragan tried to give me a lesson in free diving, but I failed pretty miserably.
Boogey Jungle and Inevitable Late Night Drama
That night Dragan took us out on a bar crawl, where his connections with local bar owners got us free shots and entrance to the Boogey Jungle nightclub, which we stayed at and danced until 4am.
The night ended, as all good nights do, with a bit of drama. The early morning light found me on the stairs of the night club, sitting next to one hostel girl who was throwing up noodles on the club steps while simultaneously falling asleep, and another girl to my other side with a foot oozing blood after she stepped on a piece of glass.
Dragan’s sterner alter-ego arose once we got home and the girls demanded that their friend be taken to the hospital (the one with the bleeding foot, not the sleeping-throw-up-girl). Dragan insisted we all go to sleep before he leave, which resulted in the bloody girl’s friends and Dragan chastising every person who tried to leave the 20 bed dorm room (aka the Disco Room) to brush their teeth. At one point, a guy who had been making out with a girl at the club was coming down the stairs, and Dragan turned to him and said, “Listen, I know you want that girl up there, just leave, go to the beach with her, and stop running around the place.”
The guy looked horrified and a bit insulted, saying “I just had to go to the bathroom!” I probably didn’t help the situation as I kept whispering “I think we’ve awoken the dragon.” Anyhow, it ended up being a fun night to remember.
At the time I thought bloody toe girl and company were being dramatic, but she ended up getting six stitches, so I guess it really was a bad cut! (BTW, apparently everyone gets travel insurance when they travel. Everyone except for me. Knock on wood. Even 18 year olds know to do this.)
For Island Wonders, Choose Korcula!
It was hard leaving Korcula. If you’re considering an island to stay on in the Dalmatian coast, I’d certainly recommend Korcula. While it gets a bit touristy in the summers, it’s quite tame and cheap compared to other, more popular and pricey islands like Hvar. Plenty of nature, sun, and fun!
Fun fact: Dalmatian dogs are from Dalmatia! I asked a few locals if Dalmatian dogs are from Dalmatia, but they had no clue. That’s why we have Wikipedia folks! Wikipedia is truth. While they aren’t really present in Dalmatia especially, Dalmatian dogs are believed to have once been guard dogs and companions to the nomads of Dalmatia. Cool!