Vis, is sometimes referred to as Croatia’s ‘fortress island’, which doesn’t make it sound too appealing but there’s a lot more to the place than that. Vis is the furthest inhabited island from the Croatian mainland and occupies am important strategic position in the Adriatic sea. It isn’t the easiest to get to – the only daily connection is the 2 hour car ferry to Split but there are high-speed ferries to Hvar on some days of the week too. One thing’s for sure, it’s well worth the journey.
The Greeks were here
A bronze bust of the Greek goddess Artemis from 300BC was discovered on the island. The Greek settlement here was called Issa and it was located in the same place as Vis town.
And the Romans
Under the period of Roman rule the settlement was added to with a spa and theater being built on the Prirovo peninsula opposite the town. A Franciscan monastery was built on the site of the theater but Roman ruins can be found on the grounds. Divers will find signs of a Roman port beneath the water around the peninsula. Archeologists are slowly working on the ruins of the baths.
And the British
After a storied naval battle the British seized the island from Napoleonic forces in 1811 and built Fort St George, which stands watch over Vis town to this day. Besides building the fortress, the commander established a cricket club to while away the time. They didn’t stay long, departing in 1815 after vanquishing Napoleon. They were back again in the form of the RAF during WWII when the one flat piece of ground on the island, in its interior, served as a makeshift airbase.
Tito spent time here in WWII
As the leader of the Yugoslav Partisan resistance to the Nazis and their puppet state regime in Croatia, Tito stayed on the island in 1944 and one of the major tourist attractions nowadays is Tito’s cave.
You can hide a submarine inside the island
After taking over as ruler of Yugoslavia at the end of WWII, Tito didn’t forget about Vis, in fact it became a military island. Travel was restricted and the only way you could go to Vis was if you lived there or were in the military. Besides many fortified gun placements the island also has a submarine tunnel. The tunnel is open to the public but bear in mind you’ll be scrambling down a hillside very much at your own risk to get to it. Take our Top Secret Military Tour to see this and various other military installations dotted around the island.
There are hardly any hotels
Because of its status as a military island, tourism is relatively undeveloped on the island and due to regulations about new buildings it’s not about to get any new hotels built. There are just three hotels in Vis town and only one good enough for our guests. All the other accommodation in Vis is in b&bs, apartments and villas.
There’s more than one colorful cave
You might have heard of the Vis Blue Cave which is actually located on the islet Bisevo just off the Komiza side of the island. There’s another cave worth visiting than just the famous one and basing yourself on Vis instead of Hvar means you have the possibility to visit both on a day trip around the island, rather than one from Split or Hvar that focuses on the Blue Cave. The Green Cave is larger than the blue one and is much less frequently visited. You can also swim into the Green Cave, as opposed to only being able to visit the Blue Cave in a small boat.
It’s Popular with honeymooners
It must be the relaxed pace, the lack of mainstream tourism and almost no day-trippers on the island. Or maybe it’s the unspoilt countryside, beautiful coastline with plenty of places to get away from it all.
The wine’s awesome
The Greeks declared the grapes grown on Vis the finest in the region and there is a strong winemaking legacy on the island. The two varieties grown on the island, Plavac Mali, a forefather of modern Zinfandel and Vugava, possibly an ancestor of modern Viognier which was first cultivated on Vis by the Greek colonists over 2 millennia ago. The food’s mighty fine too with much of the produce on the island being organic. If you get a chance go to Konoba Magic, out in the countryside! Some of those military facilities, particularly tunnels near Vis town, are now being put to good use as cellars by wineries.
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Charlie is head of marketing at JayWay Travel. A long-term Prague resident, his interests are cooking, eating out, cycling, skiing and of course, travel.