Korcula was named one of the 50 most beautiful islands in the world in 2005, and with its thick pine interior and picturesque coast, it is easy to see why. But Korcula barely qualifies as an island. Only 1270 meters of water separate the island from an elongated peninsula connected to the mainland and with only a short ferry ride a traveler can drive back to the main expressway.
Despite its proximity to the mainland, the town of Korcula has maintained an independent feel. Perhaps it’s the self-sufficiency of the island that allowed it to outlast sieges through the ages, perhaps it’s the spirit of the townspeople, who take great pride in their village, or perhaps it’s the giant stone walls encircling the town and shielding it from the outside world. Yeah, I think it’s the giant medieval walls.
The dense, compact feel of Korcula has led some to compare it to Manhattan, but if Manhattan had the climate of Korcula, it would be, as it claims, the “greatest city in the world.”
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Korcula enjoys the hot and dry summers that made Italy the most visited country in the world, but the town never gets overheated. Seasonal winds keep the locals cool and sunny days give the tourists the tan they traveled for.
Korcula claims Italian adventurer and explorer Marco Polo was born on a hill overlooking the town in 1254, when the island and much of the northern region of Croatia was ruled by Venice. There is little corroborating evidence, but for 5 kuna, you can climb the tower that was erected on the spot where he supposedly lived and look out on the same view as the man who inspired one of the most popular swimming pool games of all time.
If you’re looking for adventure that doesn’t come with a risk of scurvy, however, there are water taxis during the summer months that will take budding Marco Polos around the island for some exploration of their own.
Korcula has been a tourist destination for thousands of years, when the Greeks set up their own colony on the island and lived away from and without influence on the native Illyrians. Several centuries later, however, the expansion of the Roman Empire claimed Korcula and Augustus Caesar killed off almost all of the native people.
Although conquered and resettled several more times in its history, today, the city is made up of Croats and at 16,000 people, Korcula has the second largest population of any island in Croatia.