10 things to do and see on the stunning Croatian Island of Vis

10 things to do and see on the stunning Croatian Island of Vis

Nikki Parkinson Travel 10 Comments

There are two reasons why I don’t want to write this blog post about the Croatian Island of Vis.

#1: It means we are leaving this stunningly and beautifully chilled part of the world.

#2: I’m not sure I want the rest of the world to know about it.

HAH. Kidding. I’ve been an over-sharer from way back and if you’ve been following along on Instagram, it’s clearly a bit late about my keeping this destination on the down low.

Our week here on Vis was the first booking we made for our 2017 European adventure that has taken us to the Amalfi Coast, Split and (next) Rome.

It was only after booking our villa here that we found out our friends had spent a month on this island in 2015 and had not wanted to leave. We totally get why.

I chose this island after much Googling about islands in Croatia. I wanted somewhere completely relaxing with beautiful beaches – Vis came up every time.

It’s just a two-hour, super cheap ferry or catamaran ride from Split (Split airport has connections to most major European cities) but it may as well be a million miles from anywhere.

If I’d travelled to the Greek Islands or southern Italy in the 1970s or 1980s, I imagine it would look a little something like Vis does now.

It’s the furthest island from the Croatian mainland – and the nearest to Italy – so its location has very much played a part in the island’s chequered history, ancient and modern.

10 things to do on the Croatian Island of Vis

10 things to do on the Croatian Island of Vis

History of Vis

Its most recent history, as a military base for the Yugoslav army, meant it was cut off from visitors from the 1950s until the independence of Croatia in 1989 – a big reason why people are still today only finding out about this island.

The island’s history dates back to the first settlers in 3000BC but in ancient times, the Illyrians, the Syracuse, Romans, Goths and Byzantines all staked their claim. The Croats first settled here in the seventh century. The Venetians took over in the 15th Century, handing the island over to Austria and then France before the English defeated a French-Italian military and occupied the island in 1811.

{Fun fact: Cricket was introduced to the island at this time and the club was re-instated in the early 2000s. Cricket clubs now tour here each year to play.}

By 1814, Vis was back in the hands of the Austrians, until 1814 when the Italians occupied it. In 1921, it belonged to the kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenians before in 1941 being occupied again by the Italians until the end of World War II. 

Pheww, that’s some history lesson for one small island. Consider yourself (slightly) schooled.

Vis today

Today Vis is home to a mix of locals and tourists (young, old and families) who come from the mainland Croatian cities, other European countries and from all around the world.

In summer, its population swells on different days as visiting yachts anchor during Yacht Week festivities. One evening we’d have the port to ourselves, the next the harbour was full. There is a fun vibrancy that comes with this coming and going.

Visitors come for the same reason we chose to come. We wanted to enjoy a slice of the Mediterranean in a place with charm, beautiful beaches, awesome local produce and a chilled vibe that seems elusive at more “known” destinations.

10 things to do and see on the stunning Croatian Island of Vis

10 things to do on the Croatian Island of Vis 10 things to do on the Croatian Island of Vis 10 things to do on the Croatian Island of Vis

10 things to do on the Croatian Island of Vis

10 things to do on the Croatian Island of Vis

1. Explore the island by car, boat, scooter or bike

There are rental places dotted all along the harbour – with similar prices. If you have a boat licence, you can hire a boat for about $200 a day. We’d hoped to do this but the windy weather conspired against us. There are also boat tours (weather permitting) to the blue and green caves that you can join.

Small cars are available to rent from about $70 a day; scooters from about $50 a day. If you’re a keen mountain biker (and the hills that wind out of the port are crazy), get on a bike. There are tourist agencies aplenty in Vis and Komiza for rentals and tours – no need to book before you arrive.

You’ll drive windy roads with spectacular coastal scenery and through glorious, green vineyards and olive groves. So, so beautiful.

Don’t want to drive yourself? Book a taxi driver who will take you to your destination and even organise the boat trip from that destination. We did this with Josko who lives behind our villas and happened to pick us up from the ferry when we arrived. You can contact him via this website.

10 things to do on the Croatian Island of Vis

2. Discover so many amazing beaches

If you’re staying in either of the main towns on the island – Kut or Komiza – there are beaches within walking distance of your accommodation.

From Kut, we walked left for about 20 minutes around past the main port to a public beach tucked behind a small peninsula with a church on the end of it (pictured below).

10 things to do on the Croatian Island of Vis

We also walked right from Kut about 30 minutes around the headland to Grandovac Beach – such a beautiful walk to do (pictured below).

10 things to do on the Croatian Island of Vis

 

On a boat, you’ll be able to pull into each cove, anchor and swim. Driving, you’ll park at the end of a track and then wander down to said coves. Most beaches are stone beaches but Vis is also home to a few white-sand beaches (Milna and Stoncica  – pictured below) that are kid-friendly because they have a large shallow area, before dropping off to the deep.

10 things to do on the Croatian Island of Vis

10 things to do on the Croatian Island of Vis

Our favourites were Srebrna (in Rukavac – pictured below) and the iconic Stiniva Beach (voted Europe’s best beach 2016).

10 things to do on the Croatian Island of Vis

Getting to Stiniva is easiest by boat but the high winds put paid to that for us on the day we wanted to hire a boat. We took the challenging alternative of a 20-minute descent and climb via a very steep (loose) rocky track. And we were seriously stoked we made the effort. The high winds meant that there were fewer boats in the narrow cove and we left early enough to not have to share the water with hundreds of others.

The reward was the most magical swim through crystal-clear water with massive limestone cliffs rising out of the water either side of us. From the water, you can’t see the carpark at the top but you get a very good understanding of just how far you’ve come.

10 things to do on the Croatian Island of Vis | Stiniva Beach

10 things to do on the Croatian Island of Vis | Stiniva Beach

10 things to do on the Croatian Island of Vis | Stiniva Beach

10 things to do on the Croatian Island of Vis | Stiniva Beach

10 things to do on the Croatian Island of Vis | Stiniva Beach

For enjoying most rocky beaches you’ll also need to invest in a pair of reef shoes and perhaps a beach mat. All the shops here stock them. The shoes protect your feet from accidentally stepping on a sea urchin; the mat protects our bottom. The lack of sand – once you got around these two things – I found quite pleasing, particularly when washing post-beach.

A word of warning (or a tip if that’s your thing): if you see the sign FKK, it’s a naturalist beach and there are plenty of them on Vis. 

3. Visit Komiza           

There are two main towns on Vis – Vis and Komiza. Both are harbours, with Vis the bigger of the centres and where the ferry and catamaran from the mainland dock. Stone buildings line the waterfront of both centres and Komiza feels like a smaller sister to Vis, with bucket loads of charm and a busy-ness that comes from it being a stepping off point for boat tours to the caves and Stiniva.

Enjoy a lunch or dinner by the water and wander the narrow streets, shopping for souvenirs.

10 things to do on the Croatian Island of Vis

10 things to do on the Croatian Island of Vis

4. Visit the caves

The weather did not cooperate for us during our stay to do a visit to the Blue Cave (insert very sad face) but we did get out to the Green Cave on our final day. What a magical afternoon that was. We dined by a lagoon on a small island off the Coast – Budikovac Island – and also got to see Stiniva Beach from the sea. 

10 things to do and see on the stunning Croatian Island of Vis 10 things to do and see on the stunning Croatian Island of Vis 10 things to do and see on the stunning Croatian Island of Vis 10 things to do and see on the stunning Croatian Island of Vis

5. Watch the sunset from Fort George (or Kut)

We are lucky to enjoy a sunset view from our balcony but find yourself any position in Kut (the old town of Vis) and you’ll see a stunning light and colour show. Want next level? Head up to Fort George for a sundowner drink.

10 things to do on the Croatian Island of Vis

6. Go to the open-air cinema

A $6 ticket gets you a seat a Vis’ open-air cinema, right on the waterfront. The sun doesn’t go down until about 8.40pm in summer so it’s a late start for non-Europeans. Worth the effort though. Quite surreal watching the latest Transformers movie in this setting.

10 things to do on the Croatian Island of Vis

7. Eat very well 

Boy, oh boy, have we once again eaten VERY well. The seafood, the fresh produce, the local pastries (the boys, sadly not me) … it’s all been SO good. We’ve self-catered at our villa for breakfast and some lunches, picking up daily supplies from the supermarket, fruit shop and bakery a five-minute walk away. I’ve been obsessed with the fresh figs. OBSESSED.

10 things to do on the Croatian Island of Vis 10 things to do on the Croatian Island of Vis

A word for fellow gluten-challenged eaters, the concept of gluten-free bread, pasta and pizza has not reached Vis (or Split for that matter). The upside is you will feel sanctimonious; eating mostly seafood, meat and salad/veggies/fruit but the bakery displays of pastries may make you weep. I did.

10 things to do on the Croatian Island of Vis

Below are some of the restaurants we’ve tried and can highly recommend. Look for the word Konobo (means restaurant in coastal areas) and you pretty much can’t go wrong. There are options for all budgets. Even dining at the top restaurants will not set you back more than about $60 per person for two-three courses and drinks.

Karijola Pizzeria: When you travel half way around the world and make contact with a friend from home who happens to be related to the owner of the best pizzeria in Croatia, that’s what we call a win. This is one very popular dining spot and for good reason. The pizza – made traditional Italian-style – is VERY good. And for those of us, who can’t indulge in gluten, do yourself a favour and order the anchovy salad. Oh, and do try the Hugo cocktail (I’ll be making this at home in summer – prosecco, elderflower cordial, soda, mint and lime).

10 things to do on the Croatian Island of Vis

10 things to do on the Croatian Island of Vis

10 things to do on the Croatian Island of Vis

Pojoda: So many people recommended this Kut restaurant to us. Located in a courtyard filled with orange trees not far from the waterfront, its charm is in its attentive service and seriously good food. I had the scampi; Mr SY the traditional fish and potato in wine sauce. Go just before dusk to get the effect of day to night and the gorgeous illumination in the trees.

10 things to do on the Croatian Island of Vis 10 things to do on the Croatian Island of Vis

Magic: Another that came highly recommended and seriously SO good. You need to book ahead for seat here – particularly one outside overlooking the vineyard. This is a vineyard producing exceptionally good organic wine and it’s served up with organic local produce. There isn’t a menu as such – you can pre-order the peka (see below) – or they will tell you what’s available. I do love this lack of decision making this but you need to be open to new tastes and experiences. We love our mixed starter platter for just that.

10 things to do on the Croatian Island of Vis 10 things to do on the Croatian Island of Vis

Konoba Stoncica: On many of the beaches, you’ll find a konoba. Some will be quite basic offering drinks and snacks for beach goers; others will be restaurants that people come to specifically for the food. Konoba Stoncica is one of those. We arrived expecting to just walk in. HAH. Maybe at 3.30pm, we were told. So we swam and waited. Talk about create a demand. The wait was worth it. Our octopus salad, marinated anchovies and fish pasta were incredible. If you are booking ahead, book the peka! (see below)

10 things to do on the Croatian Island of Vis

Stara Teza: Our son spotted this one on the first night and I’ll admit that I wasn’t too keen. The menu seemed to be offering EVERYTHING and back home that’s a warning sign but we agreed to go and boy, oh boy, was I proven wrong. The food was incredible. I had my best black risotto of the trip – with slow cooked octopus – and the courtyard was buzzing with lots of other happy diners.

10 things to do on the Croatian Island of Vis

Boccadoro: We stumbled across this courtyard restaurant in Kut on our first night. I loved the setting and the look of the menu (not just the cocktail menu) so we booked for our final night in Vis. What a way to end our stay. Such an amazing setting and a menu that was Croatian at its heart with influences from other cuisines. The owner/chef introduced himself to all tables and apologised for the clothes he was wearing. He had been cooking peka!

10 things to do and see on the stunning Croatian Island of Vis 10 things to do and see on the stunning Croatian Island of Vis

Konoba BudikovacWe visited this restaurant via boat from Rukavac. This is a no-menu situation, where for about $75 you are served up the starters and main meal of the day. It’s definitely not on the cheap end of the Vis dining spectrum but it is an amazing location in this blue lagoon and the food was incredible.

10 things to do and see on the stunning Croatian Island of Vis 10 things to do and see on the stunning Croatian Island of Vis

8. Eat a meal cooked Peka style

This Croatian style of cooking and resulting meal is not for those who love to rock up to a restaurant without any forward planning. It’s a slow-cooked meat, vegetable and herb meal cooked in a pot in the embers of a wood-fired oven. Typically it’s lamb, octopus, veal or chicken. It’s well worth ordering ahead if you’re planning on going to a restaurant that specialises in it. We loved our lamb peka at Magic. My mouth just watered again at the thought of it. {Have a read of my friend, BabyMac’s Peka encounter in Croatia – they made their own – next level}

10 things to do on the Croatian Island of Vis

9. Drink local wines and beer

I was warned that there is not much sparkling wine or Champagne to be had here on Vis. You’ll see it on some menus but the price is not pretty. Do not fret for me because Vis is home to some of the best red, white and rose wines you’ll ever taste – trust me, I’ve not had a bad one yet. And I’ve not paid more than $20 for a bottle in a restaurant – most much less. And no more than about $10 for bottles bought to enjoy on the balcony of our apartment. My favourites have been from the Magic vineyard (see above for when we dined there). Mr SY has also been working his way through the local beers, including a craft beer made here on the island – Prvo Visko Pivo. We met one of the brewers, who is also the harbour master at Komiza. A former head of a Norwegian brewery is also part of the consortium behind this drop that delivers a whopping 6% alcohol. It gets 4 stars on the Mr SY extremely unofficial beer rating.

10 things to do and see on the stunning Croatian Island of Vis

10 things to do and see on the stunning Croatian Island of Vis

10 things to do on the Croatian Island of Vis

10. Get nautical

If you love stripes, then you’ve come to the right place to shop. Vis takes nautical next level with every store offering up captain’s hats, striped tops and anything and everything with an anchor motif. Stores are small and offer an eclectic mix of goods – very much geared to the yachting and beach crowd.

10 things to do and see on the stunning Croatian Island of Vis

Where to stay

When I was researching for somewhere to stay, I used the principle discussed in this post of looking for somewhere in or near to the old town. On Vis, the old town is Kut in the town of Vis or the old town of Komiza. We settled on Kut as there was a greater choice of accommodation on offer. Then it was a case of narrowing it down even further. Because we were staying here for a week, two bedrooms were a must and a view was preferable. A pool would be a big bonus.

That’s when we found Apartments Villa Linne. It ticked all those boxes and more. For considerably less than a week at the beach in peak season in Australia, we’ve had the perfect home away from home – somewhere we could just hang if the weather wasn’t on our side or we just felt like having a “do nothing” day.

10 things to do on the Croatian Island of Vis | Villa Linne 10 things to do on the Croatian Island of Vis | Villa Linne

Our apartment is in a complex of four, owned and operated by a Croatian/Swedish extended family, who we’ve gotten to know during our stay as they’re holidaying here too. We look out over the water and to the old town from both the top and bottom balconies. I’ve loved sitting on the top balcony, catching the breeze as I tippity tapped out this blog post. The apartment is modern, extremely well appointed, with a full kitchen and two bathrooms. We love having the pool to cool off late in the afternoon after being out all day. It’s not fenced though so something to consider if travelling with small children.

We are also just a few minutes’ walk from restaurants and shops but far enough away from any harbour-side noise that might come from the crowds during Yacht Week visits.

If you’re looking instead at a hotel stay in Kut, check out Hotel San Giorgio.

Vis, you’ve stolen a big chunk of our travel heart. We’ll be back for sure.

So tell me, have you visited a Croatian island? Been to Vis? If not, add it to your travel wishlist. STAT.

PS. For more information about the island, visit the local tourism website.


What to pack

Travelling to this area in the warmer months? Check out this post and get my tips on how pack for any destination from my e-book, Confessions of a Reformed Over Packer.

Confessions of a Reformed Over-Packer e-book.

$12.99

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Nikki Parkinson from Styling You’s latest e-book, Confessions of a Reformed Over-Packer (How to Plan For Your Next Escape), has you sorted on the dreaded “what to pack” question for your next trip.


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  • Melinda

    Nikki, we’ve just come back from a wonderful holiday in Split and Vis and I have to thank you for the inspiration! We only booked if after reading your post. We followed so many of your recommendations – although we didn’t get to visit as many restaurants as I would have liked, because toddler. It was one of the best holidays we’ve ever been on! What a find!

  • Petra

    Wow. What a fabulous place and gorgeous photos. Vis has certainly had an identity crisis over the years tho’ – hard to get your head around from down this part of the world! Thanks so much for sharing Nikki and I hope you are feeling much less jet-lagged now 🙂

  • Loved reading this. The photos are stunning! And you’ve definitely opened my eyes to a place I’d love to travel to. Glad to read you had an amazing time. How blue is that water?!

  • Mahina Hathaway

    Konoba Magic is one of out favourites too! Did you get a chance to visit the garden bar Frutarija? Another one of our favourite Vis spots. We watched Stari Teza being finished last year and were rapt when we finnaly got to have dinner there. We are always on the hunt for new recommendations for our guests so will keep this blog post handy as it seems we like the same kinds of things! Thanks so much!

  • Lisa Mckenzie

    Omg Nikki Croatia is now on my bucket list…so beautiful!

  • merilyn

    it all looks fabulous thankyou for sharing nikki!
    i’m glad you’re enjoying your trip, with lovely fresh seafood and produce!
    keep enjoying guys!
    much love m:)X

  • Croatia’s already on my bucket list in general, but I’ll have to add Vis as one of the destinations to head to! Looks absolutely gorgeous. These travel posts of yours are giving me wanderlust big time!