One of the beautiful things about travelling through Croatia is how easy it is to step off the tourist trail and immerse yourself in an unspoilt island paradise.
The country has over a thousand islands to choose from — and one of them is lovely Vis. From the moment I disembark from the ferry after a two and a half hour sun-drenched cruise from Split across the Adriatic Ocean, I know I have stumbled on a small piece of paradise. Vis is a gem that easily surpasses the easy-to-access, often overcrowded party islands of Hvar and Brac.
Here are some tips for top things to do in Vis.
Vis is Croatia’s farthest inhabited island from the Dalmatian Coast. I am fascinated by its history, which dates back to the 4th century. But more so by its relatively new status as a tourist destination. In 1944 the Yugoslavian Army declared Vis a military zone, shutting it down to tourism. Its shores reopened in 1989. A myriad of abandoned stone clad buildings are a testament of its former life.
The beauty of the architecture extends well beyond decrepit buildings and military bases. Summer blooms to life as beautiful purple bougainvillea drapes down the sides of buildings and you get lost down the uneven cobblestoned laneways. Tourists and locals walk, scooter and cycle around this island that spans across an area of nearly ninety square kilometres.
During the summer months the locals eagerly await the ferry, touting basic but comfortable accommodation. I’m told Vis is a ghost town during the winter months. I lug my bag up numerous paths of stone steps. Puffed and out of breath I finally make it to my tiny balcony. This time it’s the view that leaves me breathless, spanning out across the turquoise ocean.
The island is well known for its caves, diving sites and military bases. But for those looking for an easy getaway, preferring to idle the day away swimming and lazing in the sun or eating some of the finest fresh seafood, you can do that too.
I combine my time between walking, and cycling. I explore and discover small hidden pebbled beaches. The water is warm and crystal clear, but I find it hard to navigate safely around the rocks and for this reason I miss the softness of sand.
Another path takes us alongside lush plantations, a shipwreck and more little hidden inlets tempting us to stop for a quick dip. As we head up the hill there is a sharp turn that leads to a fork in the road. After some deliberation we head right. In the middle of nowhere, but probably only ten minutes up the path, we hear the distinct sound of music.
Intrigued, we head to what looks like an old abandoned building with a multi-million dollar panoramic view that stretches across town, nearby smaller islands and out to the horizon. We have stumbled upon Fort George — or as locals call it — Fortica. The British built it during the Napoleonic Wars in 1812, following a notable naval victory.
Today the site has been transformed into the ultimate party venue. I am treated to live music from a pianist as a barbeque sizzles. It seems there is nothing much we can do but sit back, relax and enjoy — and try not to think about the ride back to town.
Do you have any tips for top things to do in Vis? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
Additional images: Bigstock
Vanessa O’Hanlon is an Australian television news presenter with the Nine Network and an avid traveller. Her travels began with a flight to Egypt, a visit to the pyramids and a camel ride, and she knew there was no turning back. Since then, Vanessa’s backpack has seen a thing or two — from exploring relatively untouched Bhutan to braving the cold on the peaks of Mount Kilimanjaro.