Croatia’s ‘Hidden’ Island get-away
There are over a thousand islands along the Coast of Croatia, in the Adriatic Sea. They range from small rocks emerging from the sea; to large resort laden islands with total mainland infrastructure! Vis Island is a modest 90 Square Km (34.85 square miles) in area and has small roads joining the towns spread around the island, with the main town of Vis (Vis is the Island, and Vis is the main town) where the ferry arrives. It is the furthest inhabited Island from mainland Croatia, and considered the ‘hidden’ island and golden gem compared to local tourist magnet Hvar Island. The journey takes just over 2 hours, and we departed at 9am from Split.
As a foot passenger, we were the first to step from the ferry onto the island and we beat the crowd to arrive at the scooter hire center. The procedure was simple. A few questions such as ‘Please show us your passport’ and ‘have you driven a scooter before?’ My university friend and me used to ride to Uni as doubles on his small scooter, so no problems there. They gave us two helmets, and we were away!
Fact – The white stone used to build the White house in the USA, came from this region!
The coastal road wound up, around and away from Vis Town. The island is known for its fruit plantations and vineyards, such as Figs, Grapes, Olive Oil (most famous!) and Blackberries (but very dry from the heat). All provide a tasty treat for the scooter-driving traveller, if one is sneaky enough! We stopped at Stoncica, which was a beautiful secluded bay with a white sand beach and white stone houses overlooking the water.
The beach was busy, but we walked along a small track to the left of the cove and found a shaded spot underneath a pine tree that made for a brilliant lunch spot. The air smelt pure. Hot and slightly salty with a scent of dry pine wood. A typical Mediterranean smell, quite unique and I loved it!
After lunch, we meandered along the coast more, to reach Rukavek. It was a rocky bay, with sharp white stones that reached into the water. All around the island, black Sea Urchins are spread over the bottom of the sea floor and here was no exception. It was so hot though, and we loved the idea of going for a swim! There were a few people in the water, and we asked them how they got in/out. There was a small path between the Urchins that had been cleared, and standing above the water looking down onto it, the clearing was obvious to see. But after we jumped in, all sight perception was changed and you could not see the safe-haven of a path leading out!
As the sacrificial anode, my girlfriend sent me to lead the way, and like a dog treading water, I anxiously weaved my way out. I tried to guide Elena through but she was not amused, and in the end I had to throw her my jandals and she put them on underwater and slowly climbed out. We didn’t plan on swimming at the start of the day, so we had no towels or dry clothes, so as we left Rukavek we drove off sitting only in our underwear, and helmets of course!
On the tourist map we had, there mentioned a local “Tito’s cave” previously the headquarters in 1944 of Josip Broz Tito, the leader of the Yugoslav Partisans – the resistance party to WWII Occupation! After this time, Tito became the Yugoslav president and he died in 1980 in Slovenia. The road to the cave was a steep uphill and our scooter struggled up the hill barely faster than walking speed. At one stage I was pushing us uphill with my legs whilst still seated, and still in underwear! I’m glad no-one was around to see that..
For future reference, the cave is not even a cave, and is about as exciting as a blunt knife. Skip this one!
On the way down the hill and with smoking brakes, we pulled into a small vineyard that had a paper sign advertising Wine for Sale. We tasted the wine straight from his barrels. He told us (using his daughter as a translator) a little about the islands history and also about his one-man wine producing operation. We brought a bottle for around 2 Euro.
The ferry back to Split left at 5pm, and it was now 4pm. We slowly drove back through the islands interior (Stopping for a few fruit spots on the way!) and returned the scooter at Vis town. We boarded the Ferry, drank the Wine and then enjoyed a rather wild night out in Split City!
Other Highlights on the Island include the Blue Cave, where the Sunlight enters around midday in the summer months, and causes the entire cave to turn a radiant blue, and the water silver. A very popular place during summer so be prepared to wait your turn on the boat! You can also take a ‘Military’ tour of the islands old Naval sites (such as submarine bunkers!), or visit the 16th Century Monastery in Vis Town.
Here is a copy of the Vis Island map that I found hard to find.