UPDATED APRIL 2018. The furthest flung of the inhabited Croatian islands, Vis Island is a unique, less touristed destination and possibly the most beautiful island in Croatia! This is a big call because 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, the other being the glamorous island of Hvar. When deciding which islands to visit in Croatia, we recommend adding the Isle of Vis to your list.
What You Will Find in This Post
History of Vis Island
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.
When considering where to stay in Croatia, we found the opportunity to visit an island so recently opened to foreign tourists, totally irresistible.
Things to do in Vis Croatia
Visit 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.
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.
Discover what makes Vis one of the best islands in Croatia.
Mountains and Tito’s Caves
Vis Island Croatia 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. Mt. Hum at 587 metres is the highest point, with a road to the summit, the small stone Chapel of the Holy Spirit and views of the entire island.
There are marked mountain trails leading from Podšpilje, Vis and Komiža to the Chapel.
Tito’s caves are a 15 minute walk from where the road ends on Mount Hum. During WWII in 1944 partisan leaders hid for months in these caves. They can also be visited on a Military Tour.
Vineyards, Capers and Hib Cake
Vineyards line the interior roads and caper bushes with their pretty flowers grow untended in every nook and cranny. Lipanovic Winery has wines left to mature in old military tunnels. Their yellow wines come from Vugava (or Bugava), the indigenous white grape of Vis and their red’s from Plavac Mali Barrique.
Hib Cake is a traditional energy bar made from figs, aromatic herbs, almonds, homemade brandy, rosemary and fennel. It is ground up, made into small cake shapes and dried in the sun to form an extremely dense and strongly flavoured slab. I personally think it is an acquired taste, or best eaten in tiny pieces. It is traditionally made for Christmas.
The best beaches in Vis tend hide at the end of rustic tracks and their water is without exception a delicious clear blue. See Beach Time Vis Style below.
Down to earth Locals
People are genuine, with their feet firmly planted on the land or the deck of a boat. Home made wine and olive oil are normal in Vis homes and we experienced these and home made candied citrus peel at our Airbnb. Even in Luka (the port area of Vis Town) our Airbnb grew their own vegetables. Huge zucchini, tomatoes, herbs and lemons grow beautifully on the island.
How to see the Island
See Rent a car Vis Croatia below. We rented a yellow convertible 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 in 17th Century Venetian built 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.
Kut, the sleepier end of Vis Town, although when the sailing boats arrive it buzzes.
The 18th Century Venetian Church of St. Cyprian’s located in the back streets of Kut.
Visit the town of Komiža
Get your fill of Mamma Mia charms on the waterfront at Komiža. Delightfully laid back Komiža became Taverna central for the duration of filming of Mamma Mia II. Several big dance numbers were filmed on the waterfront with the recreated Greek resort of Kalokairi in the background. That was in early Autumn 2017.
Komiza may never be the same again.
Houses on Vis are made from white stone from the island of Brac.
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.
Beach Time Vis Style
One of the top things to do in Vis Croatia is investigating the many 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.
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…
Voted the Best Beach in Europe 2016.
Stiniva Beach is best approached by boat. It has a hidden entrance opening to an intimate (read tiny) 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.
Rent A Car Vis Croatia
Even Better – Rent a Convertible
If you haven’t driven a convertible around an island, it’s time to do it now. We’ve never before had such fun driving.
Restaurants in Vis Croatia and their 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.
Second 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.
Rokis Family Winery and Tavern
Peka, is a Croatian speciality mix of meat and vegetables cooked in a dish under an iron lid in the fire. Lamb and Octopus Peka two Vis Island specialties. 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.
Rokis is set in a small village called Plisko Polje, 7km away from the town of Vis. During WWII it was the site of an allied forces airport. Read more about it here.
Jastožera and Konobo Bako restaurants in Komiza
It is no surprise that Seafood is a speciality on Vis Island. It is fresh and widely available, but Jastožera and Konobo Bako two restaurant neighbours at Komiza specialise in Lobster. They were too pricey for our pockets, especially as we had just rented a boat for the day, but if you want to splurge you know where to go!
Located atmospherically by the sea they specialise in serving fresh as they come lobsters, cooked on an open grill.
Konobo Senko at Mala Travna
Senko’s restaurant Konobo Senko, perched on the edge of a rock at Mala Travna beach, offers an alternative slow dining experience. Senko writes the price of the meal on a pebble made smooth in the surf below. The most unique way we have received a bill!
Think of swimming between courses, eating whatever masterpiece Senko creates and washing it down with home-made wine 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!
Where to stay in Vis Croatia
There are not many hotels on Vis Island and we do love staying in small family run places, so we chose to stay in a Vis apartment through Airbnb. I suggest booking well ahead of time in order to secure the place of your dreams. An Airbnb search for Vis Island for one week in June 2019 produced these results.
If you are a first time Airbnb user and book through the link in our sidebar you will receive an excellent price reduction.
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 fishing town on the other side of the island and a great village to visit or stay. It is even more intimate than Vis town and is the closest town to the Blue Cave on nearby Bisevo Island. It is a good place to rent a boat in Vis Croatia.
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
Ferry from Split to Vis Island
Jadrolinija Ferry from Split – takes cars and passengers. Duration 2 hours. You will be happy to know that ferries in Croatia operate to time.
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.
Things to know before you go.
Vis versus Hvar Islands
While Vis and Hvar Islands are close together distance wise, Vis has it’s own unique flavour. Hvar is a gorgeous upmarket party island while Vis is a down to earth, natural island with beautiful beaches and unique experiences.
Croatia Island Hopping from Split
If you only have one day to explore the islands near Split Croatia, I’ve found just the tour for you. It leaves from Split and visits the blue cave on Bisevo Island. You will swim at Stiniva Beach on Vis (see above) entering from the ocean – the best way to arrive at Stiniva. You will visit the green lagoon (Vis Island) where you can swim or jump from the cliffs and relax at Pakleni Islands near Hvar Island as well as visiting Hvar. Wow!