Otok Korcula

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Otok Korcula

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Korcula Town
Peljeski Kanal
Luka Banja
ACI Korcula
Vela Luka

Otok Korcula lies outside (south) of the eastern end of Otok Hvar and at its eastern end it lies in close proximity to the long headland of Peljesac forming the southern side of the Peljeski Kanal. It is a long narrow island of 30 nautical miles (east to west) and between 1 and 5 nm from south to north with peaks rising to 568m (Klupca). Otok Korcula has a population of 16200 centred around two main coastal towns, Vela Luka at its west end and Korcula Town to the east and the inland town of Blato. Korcula is the second most populous Croatian Island after Krk and is linked to the main land by ferries, from Split to Vela Luka and from Orebic (on Peljesac) to Korcula Town.


Though legend has it that Korcula was first settled around 1200BC by Antenor, one of the Greek heros of the Trojan campaign who also famed for establishing Padua (Italy), finds of mesolithic and neolithic remains in caves such as the Vela Spila (literally the large cave) near Vela Luka show that the island was occupied (at least seasonally) as long ago as 12000BC. As with much of the Adriatic coast the next major influence seen in the archaeological record is that of the Ilyrians who were native to much of the area during the 1000 years before Christ.

The Greeks certainly established colonies on Korcula (though whether it was really Antenor who established them is not known) and knew the island as ‘Black Corfu’ because of the dark tree cover of pines that survives over much of the island to this day. After the Ilyrian wars (219BC) the island became part of the Roman Empire from where it was ruled for 800 years, expanding the agricultural exploitation of the island’s fertile soils until it fell under the control of Byzantium during the 6th Century AD.

During the early Medieval period much of the Dalmatian coast was the home to local pirates (or warlords) who ‘taxed’ international shipping, particularly from Venice. But by the 12 Century AD the Venetian Noble Pepo Zorzi forcibly captured the island incorporating it briefly in to the wider Venetian Empire. For much of the following 100 years the islanders worked on statements of their independence, culminating in the ‘Statute of Korkula’ of 1214, the second oldest of such legal document in the Slavic world. The statute established Korcula’s independence both from Venice and Ragusa (Dubrovnik) and appointed 5 ‘Captains’ to defend the island’s 5 main settlements.

Korcula’s most prominent son, Marco Polo, is held to have been born in Korcula Town in 1254 one year before the island was again reclaimed by the Venetians. Marco Polo was later said to have been captured by victorious Genoese forces, when commanding a Venetian Galley during the Battle of Korcula (1298). Whatever the truth of his origins it was during his stay in a Genoese prison following the battled that he wrote accounts of his travels particularly to the far east.

The island remained an important part of the Venetian empire well into the 18th Century when it supplanted Hvar as the most important Venetian Arsenal in the region (1776) . When the Venetian Empire was finally divided in 1797 (between France and the Hapsburg Empire) it came under Hapsburg (Austrian) control where it remained until it was invaded by Napoleonic forces in 1806. Following Napoleon's defeat in 1812 it was returned to the Austro-Hungarian empire.

Though rule passed between the Italians and the Kingdom of Yugoslavia during the first part of the 20th Century, during World War 2 it was gifted back to Italy who remained in charge until 1943 when they surrendered to the Allies. After this it was briefly held by Partisans until the Germans took control in 1944. At the end of the war it was returned to Yugoslavia, where it remained until Croatian independence in 1992.

Today Korcula’s main industry are tourism (following on 1000s of years of tradition of summer visitors) and agriculture (grapes, other fruit and olives). Fishing and fish processing is also important along with Ship Building, tthough these industries have declined in recent years both still continue at Vela Luka and ship yards can also be found at Leda on the eastern outskirts of Korcula Town.


Sailors approach Korcula from the north-west from Hvar and due west from Vis, from the south from Lastovo and east from Dubrovnik and Miljet. The island is the major junction for traffic moving along the Croatian coast from north or south, with the vast majority of it making passage through the Peljeski Kanal which funnels strong westerly winds through its narrow gap night often developing a short uncomfortable chop.

Peljeski Kanal

The Peljeski Kanal from Korcula Town at sunset

Korcula Town has become the sailing hub of this area drawing passage makers and those who are making the town a tourist stop in its own right. As such there are four harbours/marinas in the vicinity of the eastern end of the Peljeski Kanal (ACI Korcula, Lumbarda Marina, Orebic Harbour and Korcula Town Harbour) and a number of good anchorages. See the CIYC Blog for March 2012 for a discussion of the options for those wishing to stop.

Most people will make the passage along the length of the island by means of the Peljeski Kanal, a narrow stretch of water of little more than 1nm for much of its 10 nm length. This is a busy water way with restrictions on vessels over 500 tonnes, but which does see larger cruise ships particularly. Winds can be funnelled down its length particularly from the west and at its central point there are generally windsurfer and dingy sailors taking advantage of the consistent  westerlies to ply back and forth across the main channel.

Like Hvar the passage along the length of the island is deceptively long, particularly if you are heading to Vela Luka at its western end as the harbour and town are located 5nm down an inlet, which can add another hour to your day when calculating your passage time. Vela Luka itself offers some harbour wall (though this is very busy) a few buoys  and anchoring options both in the town and in the bays around the outer part of the sound. The town is busy with plenty of good options for onward travel and eating and though it is viewed by some as being more of an industrial centre than Korcula Town it is still a popular and pretty place to visit. It certainly looks like a good option for crew changeovers with its direct connection by ferry to Split. During our visit in 2010 the new extended harbour wall (along the Riva to the south of the main harbour) though completed in terms of construction and services, had not been dredged (it was no more than 0.5m deep in places) and so was not in use.

Vela Luka

Anchored in the outer rode of Vela Luka Harbour

For those who want to make the passage from east to west along the southern shore of Korcula there are a number of smaller harbours and bays with anchorages including  Grscica, Prizba, Brna, Orlandusa and Rasohatica but it is worth noting that without exception these moorings are exposed to southerly winds and many are exposed to the full range from south-west to south-east.