Vis, Croatia – Travel Review
By Angie Aspinall
The island of Vis has many things to commend it to UK holidaymakers. It is picturesque and welcoming, and offers fine food, great locally produced wine and many leisure activities. It combines Venetian-style architecture with the laid back feel of a typical Greek island. And almost everyone there speaks fluent English.
Vis is a gem of an island. Since World War II it has been a military base and was only demilitarised in the early 1990s. Whilst remnants of this military past are still visible on the island, it could be said that its past has been its saviour. Its historic landmarks and Venetian architecture is unspoilt. The island has not experienced the rapid tourism developments of other Mediterranean islands, this makes it stand out as a charming and authentic holiday destination.
There are just two towns on the tiny island, Vis town, on the North Eastern coast and Komiza on the West. Both are picturesque. Vis is the home of the ferry port and the larger of the two with more shops and restaurants. Komiza is smaller, offering safe berths for yachts in its pretty harbour and a number of scuba diving opportunities.
“Safety is their top priority”
The climate of Vis, like other Croatia islands, makes it an attractive holiday destination from April right through to November. Mild weather in spring and autumn make it perfect for people who prefer to travel out of season. The expansion in the number of flights from the UK to nearby Split make it an affordable destination with easy access.
There’s a regular ferry service from Split to Vis costing just a few Kuna. Once a day, there’s a hydrofoil which cuts the journey time from two hours to just under an hour and a half.
So, what does a holiday on the island have to offer? Wearactive is an activity holiday company on Vis. They offer the discerning traveller ‘relaxingly active’ holidays. These include sea kayaking, yoga, cycling and walking combining with opportunities for relaxation and daily afternoon tea with delicious homemade cake.
Their base is in Rukavac, a few minutes’ walk from the local harbour where guests can try their hand at a spot of sea kayaking. Hosts, Craig and Xania Wear can cater for any skill level, from absolute novice to experienced, young and old alike. Yorkshireman Craig and his wife, Xania who is from Pembrokeshire, are former PE teachers. Therefore, they are highly experienced at working with children. You can rest assured that safety is their top priority.
In the summer, Wearactive is understandably popular with English families who enjoy spending time together outdoors and doing much more than just sunbathing. In addition to kayaking, guests can also go cycling and enjoy the best sights of the island. As Vis is only 90 sq km, it is possible for visitors to see much of the island in a week’s holiday, especially by kayak and bike.
“Visit remote coves and paddle into caves”
In spring and autumn, the base is enjoyed by adults, couples, singles or groups of friends. The activities and communal meals lend themselves to people wishing to meet others whilst also staying active. Many guests choose to socialise with others on the ‘days off’ and develop some good friendships.
Of the holidays, Craig says: “Guests can Kayak in the crystal clear waters of the Adriatic, explore the island’s coastline, visit remote coves and paddle into caves. They can bike on single track paths through donkey trails and limestone terracing or take the road cycling amongst the vineyards and olive groves. For the early morning enthusiasts, there’s always the chance for a walk to the beach to take part in a morning yoga session or jump in the sea for a quick swim before breakfast. We have no predetermined itinerary. We propose activities daily to meet our guests’ preferences. By keeping our group sizes to a maximum of eight, we can maintain a personal holiday experience.”
Xania adds: “Our aim is to share the beauty of Vis island by paddle, peddle and foot. We enjoy making the most out of each day and the challenge of organising different adventures for our guests. But it’s not all about activities! We want guests to relax too. Our guests are welcome to chill out in our home and on our roof terrace. Afternoons are generally spent in a deck chair on the balcony plotting the next day’s adventure or snorkelling in the bay. Our neighbours all enjoy an afternoon siesta and it’s a habit that most guests quickly adapt to.”
“Eat a meal prepared with locally grown produce”
And what a home they have! Xania and Craig live in a beautifully renovated stone house with a stunning communal living/dining space which they share with guests. All around the property are lovely artistic touches and potted herbs. They give an indication of the owners’ attention to detail and love of fresh food.
Guests can eat a meal prepared by Xania with locally grown produce and enjoy a glass of island wine. Plus, every afternoon, there’s always one of her delicious home-made cakes awaiting you after your siesta.
On the nights guests don’t eat together. Overlooking the quiet harbour in Rukavak there’s a charming Konoba (taverna) called Teraca (which means ‘terrace’). The friendly owner, Jelena will serve you delicious food and chat about any topic under the sun. Her impressive command of languages is matched only by her culinary skills.
“Small island gem”
As well as the Italian influence of pizza, like other Croatian islands, many of the local dishes centre on fresh fish. Sometimes the fish is simply grilled and served with a locally grown salad but one of the more interesting fish dishes on Vis is Koket (Gurnard) cooked in a peka. A peka is a metal cooking pot with an almost bell-shaped lid, called a cripnja.
The art of peka, dates back to the Bronze Age and is a method of ‘indirect roasting’ achieved by covering the peka with the embers of a fire made from either oak or wood from the vineyard. At Roki’s Konoba in Rukavac, the menu includes vegetarian peka, lamb and potato peka and the Koket cooked with rice. There is sometimes also octopus peka on offer.
There are some great restaurants in both Komiza and Vis town, so it’s also worth making time to visit both. In fact, a week isn’t really long enough to enjoy the very best of what this small island gem has to offer.
For more information on Wearactive, visit: wearactive.com
Featured image: Richard Aspinall
Photos by Richard and Angie Aspinall
All photos © Aspinall Ink