How Vis, Croatia Captured My Heart
After a life-changing sailing trip on the Adriatic coast one year ago, I knew I had to return to this captivating country. What attracts me to Croatia is not just the delectable food, the fascinating history, the laid-back culture, the crystal clear waters, or the people. It’s about the way Croatia makes me feel. And for that very reason, I was extremely eager to get back to one of my favourite countries in the entire world! For my next trip there, I decided to visit the island of Vis.
While doing research on which Croatian island I should visit next, I remembered a place called Vis that a local had mentioned. After google search upon google search, I didn’t seem to find much information about it besides some basic demographic statistics. Well, how is that going to help me with my decision? But then I stumbled across something very interesting. Tourists were not allowed on the island of Vis prior to 1989, as Vis was the site for the military base for the Yugoslav National Army! I also learned that Vis is the farthest island from the Croatian mainland and the least developed, resulting in even less tourism. That’s all I needed to hear, I was sold!!
After a pleasant 3 hour ferry ride, I had arrived on the island. I noticed a quiet port town displaying traditional old stone buildings, quant narrow streets, and best of all, no tourists! YES. I knew in the first minute that I had made the right decision. I was quickly greeted by my apartment host who picked me up and escorted me to the guest house I would be staying in. After 10-15 minutes of navigating through windy roads, we had arrived. I had hoped for something secluded, but little did I know I would be staying in the middle of nowhere!
I shortly found out that the wifi only worked at the top of the driveway, and that the closest store/ restaurant/attraction was not even within walking distance. My first reaction was, how would I function for 2 days without wifi and without transportation? But then I remembered, wasn’t this what I came here for?
Getting Around the Island
After settling in, the host invited me up to the main house for some delightful fresh fruits, cheese, and salami. She then offered to let me use one of her bikes to explore the island, to which I happily agree. On the top of my agenda was visiting Stiniva Cove. As a captivating picture can often be the sole motivation for my decision to visit a destination, it is safe to say that a picture of Stiniva Cove single-handedly lured me to the island. The only thing standing in my way of seeing it was a mountain bike and 4 kilometres. When asking how to get there, I was given the seemingly typical foreigner response: “go right out of the driveway and when your see a church, turn left, then after 500 meters, turn right”, and so on. So without a map in hand, I was on my way! This should be fun.
A little weary of the fact that I’m a little directionally challenged to say the least, I must admit I was a little hesitant. And by hesitant I mean scared to death I would never make it back to that secluded guest house! As I slowly strolled my bike out of the driveway, the sound of gravel echoing beneath my wheels faintly reminded me of my childhood bike riding through the woods. Suddenly, I started to feel a little at ease. After 30 minutes of traversing steep hills and windy roads, the wooded area finally opened up into never-ending immaculately harvested vineyards. Had I died and gone to wine heaven? This is paradise! My legs were sore and shaking, and my bottom was numb from all the riding, but for a few moments, I didn’t feel a thing, except for the warm, blazing sun reflecting off my body. All I could think of was the taste of crisp white wine on the tip of my tongue. But that would have to wait!
After the intense 4 kilometer bike ride, I finally ended up at the top of Stiniva Cove. I heard it was a tough hike, but I wasn’t expecting it to be that rugged! I inched my way down, sliding on the slippery rocks and shifting pebbles. A grueling 40 minutes later, I finally made it to the bottom, drenched in sweat and parched from the heat. My eyes enlarged as I witnessed one of the most beautiful and angelic things I had ever seen. I was standing inside a partially enclosed crescent-shaped cove, with the deep blue sparkling Adriatic Sea peaking though an opening. Forget what I said before, this is paradise! Behind me I was surprised to see a little hut where a local was serving cold drinks. I sat for a bit and drank some pear cider, as I resumed to chat with the local for some time. I then proceeded to bask in the sun and lowered myself into the shallow water.
I thought to myself, how is somewhere so perfect and etherial so empty? Then I remembered, I’m on Vis, the raw, authentic, underdeveloped island. And then it all made sense! Vis is a slice of heaven!It is here where I really came to appreciate the lesser-known, unique places, with a true sense of the local culture. Vis left an impact on me. I sat there in the serenity and quietness, and just let myself soak in my surroundings.
Komiža is a small fishing town on the west coast of Vis island, framed by the Hum Mountain in the backdrop, some 600 meters high. Historically, the fishing industry was developed in Komiža in the 16th century, and this is the site of the first fish cannery on the Mediterranean.
From afar, this town looked a bit ritzy, giving off a French Riviera type vibe with all the beautiful boats lining the port. However, from the minute I stepped foot onto the marina, I fell in love with this place! There was something just so charming and genuine about this town. Beautiful stone buildings, narrow alleys, alfresco cafes, and orange rooftops is what caught my eye. It was so old and ancient, yet so alive. And as if for the first time, I witnessed the Croatian people in their natural habitat going about their everyday lives. I learned a lot about their culture. I learned that they are very simple people, and don’t require much to be happy.
In the late evening, I was fortunate enough to watch the Croatian soccer team in the World Cup with a bunch of locals. That in and of itself is a whole new experience! The passion that they have about this sport, and about their country, was incredible to watch, and the energy was quite contagious!
Final Thoughts on Vis
Vis embodies everything I love about Croatia, and so much more. It’s quiet and quaint, it’s genuine and authentic, it’s isolated and peaceful, it’s simple yet extraordinary, it’s filled with jaw-dropping nature, and it’s absolutely gorgeous!
There is something about Croatia that will always have a hold on me. Croatia is a special place. It leaves an impression on you that is everlasting. And for that, I am always destined to return.
- Make sure to visit Stiniva Cove by car or bike and hike down from the top (the boat tours only take you inside the little cove from the sea just briefly and you will not get the spectacular view from the top).
- Dress appropriately for the hike, the rocks can be slippery (no sandals please!).
- Don’t miss a visit to the Blue Caves at nearby Biševo (which unfortunately I didn’t have time for and am still kicking myself for missing).
- Eat Seafood! This is the birthplace of the fishing industry after all, they must be doing something right!
- Talk to the locals, they’re always there to help and give good insider tips!
- Take a ride through the countryside and marvel at the wineries. And stop at one or two if you’re feeling keen.
- Bring cash, as most places do not accept credit cards.
* A special thanks to Total Croatia for publishing my article on their awesome website!
Have you been to Vis island and had a similar experience? Do you have any other tips to share? I would love to hear them!