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According to legend, the tiny Croatian island of Korcula was founded by the Trojan hero Antenor, a councillor to King Priam of Troy who ruled during the events of the Trojan War.

This picturesque island, which was once completely overrun with thick, rugged pine forests, has been inhabited by waves of different settlements – from the Illyrians to the Romans – all leaving their mark. To this day, visitors can see ruins from periods dating back to around 1000 BC.

Korcula is small – it’s only between six to eight kilometres in width at some parts – and the locals fondly call it ‘Little Dubrovnik’, because of the similarities of its larger sister city’s architecture. And it is, indeed, a smaller version of Dubrovnik without the crowds.

For luxury cruisers, it’s a harmonious blend of history, culture as well as intimate and exclusive beaches. It has become an attractive destination for lines like Crystal Cruises, Ponant, Silversea and SeaDream Yacht Club, who want to give their guests a taste of something different.

One of the first things you see when cruising into Korcula is the impressive citadel of stone buildings covered with red tiles. It is set amongst the vast forest and there are plenty of smaller towns to discover on day trips further afield.

Visiting the Old Town is one of the first ports of call when visiting Korcula. There are several entrances to the grand Old Town, one in the south and one in the west. The Land Gate, which is the southern end of the city and extremely impressive, is covered by a triumphal arch built in honour of one of the city’s commanders, Leonardo Foscolo who was instrumental in the defence of Dalmatia in the 17th century.

Walk through the gate and visit St Mark’s Cathedral, a unique place of worship which was built in the 15th and 16th century. What’s slightly unsettling about this site is that there are figures of Adam and Eve which are placed on either side of the entrance.

Also in the Old Town is the Abbey Treasury which was once located in the Bishop’s Palace. It houses religious artefacts like church manuscripts, paintings, coins, potter and much more.

A fact eager cruisers might not know, is that Marco Polo spent much of his time in the Croatian resort town and there are buildings which pay homage to the famous merchant and traveller.

The Ancient Greeks also fondly gave their own name to Korcula – Korkyra Melaina, or ‘Black Corfu’ from the number of vineyards and olive groves that dot the lush island. For the wine lovers, one of the best Croatian white is produced from the grape “posip”, especially from the villages around Cara and Smokvica while the “grk” grape cultivated around Lumbarda, produces quality dry white wine.

For beach lovers, Korcula boasts sandy and pebbled beaches. Lumbarda, which is south of the village, is hidden behind agave trees and vineyards and is arguably one of the best beaches on this island. It’s fine white sandy is lovely for lazing about on a hot summer’s day.

If you’re looking for something slightly more adventurous, Zrnovo is one of the best spots for bathers. Bacva beach is a peaceful bay with a shingle beach. Its aquamarine waters are extremely enticing but be warned, it’s not for the faint of heart. It’s a steep and narrow access to the swimming spot.

Here are the ways you can cruise to Korcula:

Ponant

From Italy to Croatia, you will sail for seven nights aboard French luxury line Ponant’s Le Lyrial. Board at Venice, you will reach Montenegro by sailing through the famous Bay of Kotor, calling at Rab, Hbvar before arriving at the medieval town of Kotor with its many historical monuments. Your next port of call is Dubrovnik a UNESCO World Heritage Site with its monasteries, palaces and fountains, each more graceful than the next. Your discovery of Croatia will continue with the islands of Mljet and Korcula, each has its own distinct history. According to legend, Mljet is where Ulysses stayed for seven years spellbound by the nymph Calypso. The medieval town of Korcula’s greatest claim to fame is that it was the birthplace of Marco Polo.  Hence so many places are named after him. You can take a walking tour of Korcula. The streets are organised around its main artery like a fishbone. Visit the Bishop’s Palace and its Icon Museum which has a unique collection of Byzantine icons from the 13th to 15th century and ceremonial pieces from the 17th and 18th centuries. In Korcula old town the main attraction is St Mark’s Cathedral, built in Gothic-Renaissance style, then discover Korcula Town Museum which faces the cathedral. The museum is housed in Gabrielis palace, a three-storey building built between the 15th and 16th century and has various collections covering the history and culture of Korcula from ancient times to present day. During your walking tour you will see the monumental staircase which joins the Revelin Tower and Marco Polo House where the famous explorer is said to have been born in 1254. Le Lyrial has a 7-night itinerary called The heart of the Adriatic roundtrip from Venice departing on 29 July 2019. It calls at Rab, Hvar, Kotor, Dubrovnik, Mljet, Korcula, Piran and Venice. Visit Ponant here.

Crystal Cruises

Crystal Cruises has a seven-night cruise aboard Crystal Esprit called the Yachting Harbours of Croatia from Venice to Dubrovnik departing on July 14 and calling at Rovinj, Sibenik, Trogir, Vis, Hvar, Korcula and Dubrovnik. At Korcula, Crystal offers a complimentary excursion to a family-run Barilo ethnographic museum. The museum is run by the Barilo family where you can experience local homelife and taste homemade liquors, brandies, dried figs and candied orange peels called arancini, all prepared from traditional recipes. You will visit a family-owned Zlokic olive oil mill in Vela Luka, a town located on the western side of the island and experience how the family manage the olive groves and manufacture olive oil. You then travel to a charming restaurant, Ranch Maha, located in the hills which is run by the Marelic family and have lunch of local delicacies. Visit Crystal Cruises here.

SeaDream Yacht Club

SeaDream Yacht Club has an 11-night cruise aboard the 112-passenger SeaDream I departing Rome on Aug 31 to Venice with stops at Capri, Positano, Taormina, Kotor, Dubrovnik, Mljet, Korcula, Hvar, Rovinj and Venice. At Korcula, one of the most popular excursion is the island buggy safari exploring its hidden gems in a two-seater buggy convertible. You will visit olive groves, vineyards, go for a swim or snorkel at a sandy beach and feast on a seasonal fruit platter with Dalmatian prosciutto and goat cheese. The fun-filled excursion lasts 4.5 hours and sells out fast, so book early. Visit SeaDream here.

Silversea

Silversea’s Silver Shadow has a luxury 11-night cruise from Venice to Rome departing on Sept 22, 2019 calling at Opatija, Zadar, Korcula, Kotor, Brindisi, Valletta, Palermo, Capri and Civitavecchia, Rome. At Korcula, considered one of the most beautiful islands in the Southern Adriatic Sea, the line offers 11 excursions from a cooking class at a family-run restaurant, wine tasting at historic Korcula to a full-day private tour of the island in a chauffeur driven car. The cooking class begins with a stroll in a Mediterranean garden where you will pick herbs, then prepare homemade focaccia, fish carpaccio, a traditional fish stew called Popara and learn how to bake grilled pears with a curd and sage cream. The food is paired with local wines. For serious wine lovers, there is a half-day vineyard outing that will please your pallet. Take a motor boat ride to the seaside town of Orebic where your wine adventure begins. The Peljesac peninsula produces the best wines in Croatia. Here you will visit three cellars including Grgich Winery, Matusko Winery and Bartulovic Winery. At the third winery you will end your visit with a light lunch of local specialties, wine and music with local singers belting out Dalmatian songs. Visit Silversea here.

Regent Seven Seas

Regent Seven Seas Voyager has an amazing 10-night luxury itinerary from Athens (Piraeus) to Venice departing on June 4, 2020 with stops at Mykonos, Santorini, Gythion, Corfu, Bari, Kotor, Dubrovnik, Korcula and Venice. The line is still confirming its shore excursions but based on previous offerings, there are free excursions which include a walking tour of the old town of Korcula or a Riviera cruise to the eastern tip of the Korcula Island which stops at several small villages including Orebic, famous for its wines and Lumbarda home to Hotel Borik, once the summer palace of a noble family. Visit Regent Seven Seas here.