At a glance
Lying serenely off the shores of southern Dalmatia like stationary versions of the super-yachts that cruise these waters, the islands of Hvar, Korčula and Vis offer a heady combination of rustic Mediterranean charm and upscale cosmopolitan chic.
Their undulating coastlines are dotted with delightful beaches, some rated amongst the best in Europe, and stage set-like Medieval towns that cling to wave-washed peninsulas. Inland are hills redolent with pine-resin and herbs, swathes of vineyards, olive groves and citrus orchards, adding local flavour to a cuisine that stirs in the best of Italian and Slav tastes.
Hvar is the most fashionable of the trio, the Adriatic playground of the rich and famous. Celebrities and royalty descend from gleaming vessels onto the catwalk-like marina, to pose against the bougainvillea-festooned Renaissance facades and sip cocktails in the VIP sections of beachfront clubs before vanishing again in a purr of MTU engines and a froth of wake.
A little further south, Korčula has shaken off its package holiday mantle to reveal a peaceful, niche destination. Beyond its spectacular mini-Dubrovnik capital, piled onto a peninsula in a kaleidoscope of pastel stone, visitors will find a land of dark pine forests (the Greeks called it ‘Black Corfu’ ), fine wines and fairly discreet Marco Polo memorabilia – yes, local lore has it that this island is the explorer’s birthplace.
Further flung Vis is the least-known of these islands, site of a naval base from the 1940s until 1989. A seemingly impenetrable chunk of rock rising from the sea, you half expect to it to conceal a Dr No-style lair with underground torture chambers (and indeed there is a slightly spooky submarine pen tunneled out of the hillside). But mainly you’ll discover idyllic coves, fabulous food, unique local products and an unexplored hinterland.