The new French Riviera
Croatia – I’m sure you’ve all heard of it. A place that is being hailed the new French Riviera, due to the natural beauty of this Baltic country and its popularity among foreigners. It really does have it all; beaches, lush forest and park land, and a distinct culture which is still not widely known outside of Eastern Europe. Unlike Greece, the terrain of Croatia is green and fertile, so the backdrop at the beach is generally a lot more picturesque. Since the explosion of ‘Game of Thrones’ onto our television/computer screens, the old city of Dubrovnik has generated a huge influx of tourists. With the end of the war, Croatia has now become one of the most popular spots for travellers young and old, completing a European summer holiday. While areas frequented by tourists will set you back cost wise on par with other major European cities, due to the lower value of currency, it is still possible to travel around Croatia on a budget. One place this is possible, is the beautiful Island of Korcula, a 1 hour and 30 minute ferry ride from Dubrovnik.
The Island of Korcula
When I first arrived in Korcula, I was taken aback by the small number of people waiting at the end of the ferry terminal for me offering tours, transfers and the like. It was so small in comparison to the harbours of Dubrovnik and Hvar, I wasn’t sure if I was still in the same country! This is exactly what I was after – a spot in beautiful Croatia that wasn’t flooded with tourists, while still able to cater to a non-Croatian national with only English and Italian under her belt. I made my way into the centre of the town, to be greeted by a massive medieval fortified gate up a set of steps. For an aspiring history buff like me, I was in awe! Legend has it, that Korcula is actually the birth place of Marco Polo. The alleged house where he was born, sits in Korcula town, and is able to be entered with a small fee. I didn’t actually go inside – I was told by the locals that it was pretty boring. I made my way through the little medieval cobbled streets until I found my hostel. Hostel Caenazzo is a family owned hostel with a pizza restaurant out the front. Great for those on a budget, as the dorm rooms were actually the cleanest I have ever stayed in! Air conditioned as well, guests get a discount at the delicious restaurant! For all you budget travellers out there, this is the place!
Where to take a dip
After arriving at the hostel, I asked one of the staff the best place to go for a swim. Having been in Dubrovnik that day, I was keen to experience more of that beautiful crystal clear Adriatic sea. To my surprise, literally anywhere around the old town is nice to jump in! Literally at the edge of the city walls you can find ladders to get you down into the water. This was my favourite place in all of Croatia for swimming due to the fact there was so much space to myself and freedom to choose where to go. Unlike other places I’ve ventured to e.g Sicily, the water is clean and free from rubbish. I will never forget my happiness as I floated carefree in that sparking water, whilst looking out into green, fertile mountain ranges. I spent what felt like minutes there, although by the time I got out of the water it had actually been over an hour! For me, the second best part of this little medieval town, is the cobbled tiny streets. It’s so easy to get lost, and at no time as a single female traveller did I feel unsafe. The locals are so friendly and always say hello as you wonder by. The majority of the lanes are filled with little bars and old apartments. One side of the town is lined with restaurants and sits right out over the water, with mountain ranges on the other side.
After day one of exploring the town, I decided on the second day to lay by the ocean near the old town. Generally I am not someone who can sit still for too long, but I actually remember lying by the ocean for about four hours! The tranquil beauty of the clear water glistening under the sun, with the old town in the background, is one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. My three days on this beautiful island mainly involved me lazing around absorbing the sights, eating pizza and talking to the stray cats. One thing you will love about Croatia (if you like cats) is the abundance of stray kittens! They also seem to love being petted by strangers (Note – this probably isn’t a good idea if you don’t want a disease. They were just too cute for me to resist).
Some advice before going…
In hindsight, I wish I had hired a bike to sightsee – although in summer time it may not be the best option as Korcula tends to be in the low to mid 30’s (degrees celcius) during the day. Catching a bus is a good economical option if you want to visit other beaches on the island. Beware though, when I went out to see Lumbarda on the third day, the bus driver didn’t speak English, and I missed my stop and had to walk in the hot sun for awhile! Try and ask in advance to get some clarification.As much as I love to jump from destination to destination, when I got on that ferry to bid farewell to the island I felt like a part of me had changed. Never in my life have I been touched by the natural beauty of somewhere like this before.
How to get here
Ferry service from Dubrovnik or Hvar with the company Krilo. You can buy advance tickets online or at the ticket booths at the ferry terminals. Paid around 15 Australian dollars from Dubrovnik to Korcula. You can easily continue on to Hvar as the same company services the line making it easy to travel up the coast of Croatia cheaply.
Where to stay
Hostel Caenazzo, the cleanest hostel I stayed in throughout Europe!
Where to eat
The hostel restaurant does great pizza, or there is plenty of restaurants along the town edge along the sea, which are a bit more expensive for the view.
Bus, the station is right near the town. Or bike hire around the beautiful island.
Croatian Kuna. 1 AUD works out to be 5.28HRK (at the time of writing). Remember this if travelling around as Euro’s aren’t really accepted.