Traveller’s Tale: Top Things to Do in Vis, Croatia inner banner

Traveller’s Tale: Top Things to Do in Vis, Croatia

If the island setting in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is your idea of paradise, plan a visit to Vis in Croatia; the hit film sequel was filmed here in 2017. Regular contributor Vanessa O'Hanlon counted her travel blessings, having washed up on these idyllic shores.
Top things to do in Vis
Top things to do in Vis

One of the best things about travelling through Croatia is just how easy it is to escape the tourist crowds on the mainland and immerse yourself in the beauty of an unspoilt island.

The country has over a thousand to choose from — and one of them is lovely Vis. The moment I disembark from the ferry after a two-and-a-half-hour trip across the Adriatic Sea from Split, I know I’ve stumbled across something truly special.

Vis is the farthest inhabited island from the Dalmatian Coast. I’m fascinated by its ancient history (which dates back to the 4th century) and relatively new status as a tourist destination. In 1944, the then Yugoslavian Army declared the island a militarised zone and closed it to visitors. It only reopened in 1989, and various abandoned military sites are testament of its former life.

Croatia Tours and Experiences

Croatia Tours, Activities & Attractions

The island spans an area of just 90 square kilometres and is best explored by bike or moped. The rustic architecture is one of its most appealing features. Swathes of purple bougainvillea drape down the sides of characterful buildings, and cobblestoned laneways meander through small villages and settlements.

I’m told that Vis is a ghost town in the winter months, but during summer local residents eagerly await the arrival of visitors by ferry — touting basic, but comfortable accommodation. Having pre-booked a guesthouse, I lug my bag up numerous stone steps to get there. Puffed and out of breath, I finally make it into my room and out onto a tiny balcony. This time it’s the view that leaves me breathless — a vast, shimmering expanse of turquoise-coloured ocean.

Top things to do in Vis
Top things to do in Vis: Stiniva Bay. Image: Bigstock

Vis is famous for its caves, diving sites, and abandoned military bases, and offers plenty to keep active holidaymakers on the go. However, those who prefer to idle the day away swimming and sun worshipping are also well catered for.

I spend my time walking and cycling, and discover myriad pebbled beaches tucked beneath dramatic cliffs. The water is warm and crystal clear, but I find it tricky to walk on the pebbles and navigate my way safely around the rocky outcrops. There is something to be said for the softness of a sandy beach.

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One particular trip on the bike takes me past lush farms and secluded inlets. Heading up a hill, my companion and I come to a fork in the road. After some deliberation we turn right, and soon hear music in the distance.

Top things to do in Vis
Top things to do in Vis: Fort George

Intrigued, we cycle up to what looks like an abandoned stone compound. We have stumbled upon Fort George — or as it’s known locally — Fortica. The British constructed this defensive edifice during the Napoleonic Wars in the early 1800s. Today it’s been repurposed as an events and party venue, and has a panoramic view across Vis town and the surrounding coastline. We settle in to enjoy the live music from a keyboardist and smoky flavours of a BBQ lunch.

The afternoon ebbs away, and all too soon it’s time to tackle the long ride home. The sound of music from the fort slowly fades, before dispersing altogether on the sea breeze.

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Additional images: Bigstock

Vanessa O'Hanlon

About the writer

Vanessa O’Hanlon is an Australian television news and weather presenter, 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.



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