UPDATED APRIL 2018. The furthest flung of the inhabited Croatian islands, Vis Island is a unique, less touristed destination. We think it is the most beautiful island in Croatia. Croatia has a whopping 79 Adriatic islands with an area greater than 1 sq.km. and Vis with an area of 90 sq.km. is the 9th largest.
It was the first of two Croatian islands visited on our Ten Weeks in Europe 2015 trip, the other being the glamorous island of Hvar. When deciding which islands to visit in Croatia, we recommend you add Vis Island to your must see list.
History of Vis
First inhabited in the 4th Century BC by Greeks from Siracusa (situated in modern day Sicily) it became a hot potato from 1420 to 1920 being tossed back and forth between Venice, Austria, France and Italy. In 1920 it was ceded to Yugoslavia by Italy under the Treaty of Rapallo. In 1944 the Yugoslavian Military took charge before it was opened up to foreign tourism in 1989.
We found the opportunity to visit an island so recently opened to foreign tourists, totally irresistible.
Things to do in Vis Croatia
Visit the Island’s unique Military Installations
It is possible to tour the abandoned installations or visit at least some of them independently. During WWII the island was used as an allied airforce base and afterward as a Yugoslavian submarine base. You can walk with ease knowing that in 2008 all remaining mines were cleared from the island!
Basically the whole island was a Military Fort, so if wars and army life intrigue you, Vis is your island. Here are some snippets to whet your appetite.
One place we did not visit that would be super interesting is General Tito’s cave.
Rt. Barjaci Coastal Gun Battery
Rt. Stupišče Gun Battery
British War Cemetery
When walking from Kut to Grandovac beach the path passes a small walled cemetery on a bluff overlooking the beach.
Rogačić Bay, Vis Island.
Evidently this submarine pen is linked to a network of tunnels. The pen is open to pleasure craft and can also be accessed from the roadway by scrambling down the hill and climbing on in from the water’s edge. There are no signs prohibiting entry and the site is not fenced. I admit that I loved being able to drive our boat into the pen. It felt very James Bond’esque but although some people do swim inside, I would find that a little creepy.
Fort George “the Third”
On the headland opposing Grandovac Beach, is a fort built by the British in 1813 and abandoned a few years later. Now reincarnated as a Lounge Bar/Restaurant/Night Club, it has a fun outdoor seating area and grand views. Our host warned us that only young people go there at night and it is very noisy! Thankfully the noise didn’t seem to filter back to Luka. To get there just follow the coast road from where the ferries arrive. Read more about Fort George Vis Croatia here.
Familiarlise yourself with the island.
Vis Island has three mountain ranges and lots of rock strewn fields. In places the rocks have been collected into piles or huge fence like structures. The main road from Vis to Komiza and to the smaller townships are paved but most of the roads to the beaches are gravel.
Vineyards line the interior roads and caper bushes with their pretty flowers grow untended in every nook and cranny.
Beaches hide at the end of rustic tracks and wines are left to mature in old military tunnels.
People are genuine, with their feet firmly planted on the land or the deck of a boat.
Rent a car to explore the island – see Hire a Convertibe below. We rented our car in Vis Town, but if you are driving around Croatia you can bring yours over from the mainland on the Ferry.
Explore Vis Town
Vis town Croatia, is on the north-eastern side of the island in the natural harbour of Viska Luka bay. Ferries from Split arrive at the Luka or port end of town.
The entrance to Vis Harbour.
Local fishing boats moor on the less built-up side of the ferry terminal while sailing and tourist boats moor on the other, closer to all the bars and action.
Blue Fish are a major part of the catch in the waters around Vis Island and cooked over olive branch coals they are delicious.
Although this is the supposed busy end of the bay, the only times the pace quickens is when the ferries arrive and depart. There is a well stocked supermarket (Konzum) close to the ferry pier, and the Riva is one long line of cafes and bars stretching all the way to Kut.
A favourite activity is watching sail boats arrive in the afternoon and the ensuing fun of watching them moor.
A leisurely stroll along the Riva from Luka, passing a few souvenir, dress and handbag shops en-route, culminates at Kut. Sailing boats have a slightly smaller area in which to moor at this end of the bay (40 as opposed to 50 in Luka). Kut, the home of one of the island’s best restaurants, Pojoda, has a sleepier persona than it’s co-joined Luka. Pojoda excels at preparing fresh seafood and on an island like Vis it has a lot of competition.
This is Kut, the sleepier end of Vis Town, although when the sailing boats arrive it buzzes.
This is the 18th Century Venetian Church of St. Cyprian’s located in the back streets of Kut.
Visit the town of Komiža
Komiža has strong ties to the ocean with a long history of fishermen folk originating here. The indirect route to Komiža from Vis town via the southern beaches could take all day, but a quick sprint via the 10 km mid-island route only takes about 15 minutes.
This fortress, today a museum, was built in 1585 to protect Komiža from Pirates, with funds partially raised by a self-imposed tax on the best fishing grounds in the area – south of the nearby island of Biševo. Until the mid-19th century, Komižan fishermen were the only open sea fishermen in the Mediterranean.
Boat tours to nearby Biševo Island and the Blue Cave leave from here and self-drive boats are available for hire from the Blue Cave Tourist Agency. Diving Vis Croatia tours can be arranged here in Komiza.
Visit isolated Bays and Beaches
Most of the accessible bays and beaches are on the southern coast of Vis.
The cute pebble beach of Grandovac lies outside the entrance to Vis Harbour. The bay provides some out-of-harbour protection for boats. In season the beach boasts a casual open-air bar and an all-season foot path to Kut. To the left in the above photo, is a pleasant walk beneath the tall trees of the Lućica peninsula with opportunities to sit and contemplate the good life.
The sharply indented bay of Mala Travna has large rocks sloping to the water on one side, rough karst-like rocks on the other and a small pebble beach inbetween. The water here is cool (fresh water springs), deep and with a stronger current than other bays. On the far left of frame is Senko’s restaurant Konobo Senko, offering an alternative slow dining experience.
Think of swimming between courses, eating whatever masterpiece Senko creates and washing it down with home-made wine while overlooking the bay. It sounds delightful and it is, but if you’re watching your budget, I’d suggest sharing some starter plates and a bottle of wine instead of the full fledged extravaganza. The view and atmosphere are the same!
We first spied Srebrna (Silver in English) from our hire boat and earmarked it for a return visit. This beach was my favourite although I’m still puzzled about the final icon on this sign. What could it mean?
The beach got it’s name because the round stones on the beach are said to shine like silver in the moonlight. Pine trees line the back of the beach providing a welcome respite from the sun in mid-summer. A make-shift bar was being erected during our visit – gearing up for the summer months.
Rubber soled swimming shoes are useful for walking on the pebble beaches and protect from sea urchin spines also. We each purchased a pair along the waterfront at Vis Luka.
The combination of Stončica’s feet in the sand kind of restaurant and those brilliant blues, drew us to this bay. Before we even arrived, I knew we would love it here. I first read about the restaurant on A Taste of Travel Blog’s Where to Eat on Vis.
When the road finishes, park the car and follow a rough gravel walking track to the beach. Alternately moor your boat out the front. The water at this family orientated beach is quite shallow (see the pale blue water in the first photo). While relaxing at the beach we made a reservation for dinner in the restaurant the next night. House specialties are fish and lamb grilled over coals in the open oven, with vegies originating in the extensive vegetable garden out back. The atmosphere and dress are both casual and the prices reasonable.
As the sun lowers in the sky the restaurant fires up these gorgeous lanterns. More atmosphere…
Stiniva Beach is best approached by boat. It has a hidden entrance opening to an intimate fan shaped bay with beach bar. The view from the road above is spectacular to say the least. I had a wardrobe malfunction when I jumped off our hire boat in this bay which left my bathers hanging by a shred of elastic (for which I and the other beach-goers were eternally thankful).
It is a picture postcard kind of place, somewhat tarnished by rubbish in the water the day we were there. A lot of people swim outside of the inner bay in the deeper blue water, but that could be hazardous with all the boat activity.
Hire a Convertible
If you haven’t driven a convertible around an island, then do so on Vis. We’ve never before had such fun driving.
Eat Vis Speciality Foods
Vis Pogača (Vis Pie) is a tangy tasty Calzone like pastry, stuffed with anchovies, onion, tomato and possibly capers. Traditionally the Vis (town) version did not use tomatoes and the Komiža version did. We tasted two versions – both in Vis town and they both packed a punch of flavour. Highly recommended.
The first (Fish Pie) is from the Luka Bakery. This one from Karijola Pizzeria mid-way between Luka and Kut
Lamb is another island speciality and you will find it sizzling on the open grill at Konobo Stončica, at Stončica Beach.
Peka, a Croatian speciality is a mix of meat and vegetables cooked in a dish under an iron lid in the fire. Lamb is cooked like this on Vis Island as is Octopus and other seafood. If intending to eat Peka it is a good idea to ring the restaurant ahead of time as it does take a while to cook.
Seafood is a speciality on Vis Island. It is fresh and widely available in restaurants everywhere.
Where to stay on Vis Island
There are not a lot of hotels on Vis Island and we do love staying in small family run places, so we chose to stay with Airbnb Vis Croatia. I suggest booking well ahead of time in order to secure the place of your dreams. There are only 35 Airbnb options on the Island.
We stayed in Luka, the port end of Vis Town, but we have friends who prefer Kut, the quieter end of town. In either case nowhere in Vis Town is overly noisy.
Komiza is a beautiful town which we preferred to visit rather than stay in. It is the closest town to the Blue Cave on nearby Bisevo Island and is a good place to hire boats from. It is however much smaller than Vis Town.
Vis Island Map
Through the text some words are coloured red. These places of interest are marked by Blue Flags on the map below. To see the flags just enlarge the map, then click on the flags for information.
How to get to Vis Island
Jadrolinija Ferry from Split – takes cars. Duration 2 hours.
Krilo Ferry – fast passenger service from Split. Duration 1 hour 25 mins.
On Tuesday’s Krilo Jet offers a Vis/Hvar/Split service. This means that as a passenger leaving Vis you need not return to Split in order to get to Hvar. As long as you leave on a Tuesday of course.
While Vis and Hvar Islands are close together distance wise, Vis has it’s own unique flavour.
Croatia Island Hopping either in a tour or solo are available from mainland Split. Tours usually stop at Vis Island, Hvar Island and Brac Island.