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Vis Yacht Charter

The rocky island of Vis is a lost-in-time kind of place, best known on the superyacht circuit for its ethereal Blue Cave. Yet the cave is far from all there is to see on sleepy, enchanting Vis, which was cut off from the world for many years while being used as a military base, and even now retains its air of mystery.

On Vis, rugged cliffs hide glowing sea caves and dazzling blue-green coves, as well as an abandoned, haunting submarine pen you can swim into. The landscape is littered with old military installations among the sun-bleached rocks and lavender bushes, and army tunnels snake beneath a surface cloaked in ancient vineyards.

Beach in Vis, Croatia

Along the coast, pine trees and palm trees create a stunning Mediterranean landscape, and an archipelago of tiny islets beckons from the shore. In the medieval waterfront towns, Venetian stone towers and terracotta roofs contrast vividly with blue sea, and fishermen haul lobster out of the pots for the local restaurants.

Church on the Croatian island of Vis

Our last featured destination in our Bespoke Croatia Yachting Series was glamorous, buzzy Hvar, and Vis serves as its perfect opposite, where you can relax into the peace and quiet of this authentic Croatian island.

It’s quite possible this splendid island is the antidote to modern life. Here’s our Croatia Yachting Guide so you can enjoy Vis to its fullest.

Ancient Greek Colony to WWII Military Base, via Napoleon : A Potted History of Vis

Vis is remote from the mainland and strategically important, with a rich history of invasion stretching back to the Greeks in the 4th century BC, and being passed between almost every major European empire since—Romans and Byzantines, Venetians and English, French and the Hapsburgs. The British would defeat Napoleon in the waters off Vis, earlier still, the Illyrian pirates would be chased away from Vis by the Romans in the first Illyrian War. In this way, Vis varies little from the other Dalmatian islands—all mere pawns in the game of thrones that great powers never tire of playing.

You see traces still of these warring empires on Vis—in the ruined British Fort George, now a lounge bar and open-air nightclub, and in the early Venetian stone buildings in seaside towns. But above all, the more recent military history is the one that has left the most interesting mark on Vis’ physical landscape, and perhaps on its character too.

Yachts on Vis Island in Croatia

WWII leader General Tito based his military headquarters in a cave on Vis during WWII, in his resistance fight against the Nazis, aided by British troops after 1943. After the war ended, Yugoslavia used Vis as its army base, shutting off the island to the world and creating a vast network of tunnels, submarine pens and caves to protect from the nuclear attack they thought was coming.

Always geographically isolated and now cut off from the world entirely, life stood still for the islanders until Yugoslavia started falling apart in 1989. Yet with the upcoming Balkan war, it was a long while before foreigners came back to Croatia, and when they did, it was more often to glamorous Hvar than to this remote island with its glowing blue cave and quiet vineyards. Even now, there’s a sense of Vis being outside time.

If you care about military history, Vis will tickle all your fancies. If you don’t care a jot, the submarine pens and military installations still lend a splendid atmosphere to your cruising experience.

Boats on the island of Vis, Croatia

What to do on a Vis Yacht Charter
Float through the Blue Cave

The Blue Cave is Vis’ most famous landmark, and justifiably so, for the water glows an almost electric, neon blue when the sun illuminates the cave just before midday. Take the yacht’s tender into the cave to experience one of nature’s finest pyrotechnic shows- a son et lumiere of radiant blue light and the rhythmic lapping of water at the cave walls.

Blue cave in Vis, Croatia

Unfortunately, the other sound you’ll hear will probably be the voices of tourists: because the time of day the light appears is so limited, you won’t be seeing this one alone.)

Drop anchor off some of Europe’s Best Beaches

When it comes to Vis’ beaches, there seems to be a simple rule: the ones starting with ‘S’ are best. Stoncica and Srebena are both excellent, but it is Stiniva that takes the breath away. Once an immense sea cave, the roof has collapsed millennia ago, leaving a small arc of beach beneath towering cliffs, which are open to the sea by only a narrow passage. Accessible only by a vertiginous goat path, this is the perfect beach to approach by boat, to spend a happy day swimming in the crystalline waters and ordering a drink from the picturesque stone cottage beach bar. In 2016, Stinivia was voted Europe’s best beach, it is not terribly difficult to see why.

Stiniva beach in Vis, Croatia

Dive the Flying Fortress Plane

In the clear waters off Vis, on 3 November 1944, an American Boeing B-17 bomber ditched in the Adriatic after coming under heavy German artillery fire. Today, the bomber lies almost perfectly intact on the seabed at 73m, its Browning machine guns and propellers still in place, giant grouper hiding in the shadows of a wing. For advanced wreck divers, this is a magnificent dive, considered one of the best-preserved airplane wrecks in the Mediterranean.

The Rustic, the Fine and the Quirky : Sample the Culinary Pleasures of Vis

We heard a saying recently: ‘For bars go to Hvar, for fish, come to Vis’. It’s justified too—due to their specialist Falkusa fishing boats, the people of Vis were some of the Mediterranean’s first open-sea fishermen, and seafood has ensured the locals’ survival for millennia in this rocky, arid land.

Waterfront restaurant in Vis, Croatia

What does this mean for you on charter on Vis? Even the most rustic konobas (traditional taverns) will have lobster grilling on their open fires, as well as other fishy delicacies- fleshy octopus, or blue fish grilled over grapevine cuttings. Whatever’s on offer, you’re in for a treat.

Komiza beach on Vis island, Croatia

For lobster, there’s no place better than Konoba Jastozera at Komizina, a fantastic lobster pothouse which sits high over the water, with white cloth tables sitting on sections of decking suspended above the lobster pots. This restaurant is popular with yacht guests, who can actually float into the building via tender, before ascending the stairs to their table. What an entrance!

Other exceptional seafood restaurants include Pojoda in Kut, where you can dine on the terrace among the orange trees, while for fine dining by the moonlit sea, Konoba Bako in Komiza is simply stunning.

Yet it’s not all about seafood on Vis—you simply must try lamb or beef cooked ‘under the peka’, whereby the meat is slow-cooked for hours in a pan with a domed lid which rests in the coals. You’ll also see this done with fish or octopus. To try this cooking style at its absolute best, visit Konoba Roki’s, just outside Vis Town.

Grilled fish and lobster in Croatia

For those who like dining experiences with a difference, Restoran Senko at Mala Travna calls your name. Your host is chef and owner Karuza, who treats his guests to an interactive meal complete with lessons on local ingredients and history—washed down with copious amounts of local wine and grappa. It’s not high gastronomy by any means, but it is wildly memorable.

If you’re not in the mood for a rustic konoba, fine dining, or a culinary show, our last recommendation would be the Boccadorro restaurant at Hotel San Giorgio in Vis Town, where dinner may be taken in a charming garden courtyard with orange and lemon trees, or in a ruin dotted with palms and figs.

Kayak through the Green Cave

Less well known than the Blue Cave, Vis’ Green Cave (no prizes for originality of naming on Vis) is also quite wonderful, with emerald light flooding through the dripping cavern. Great to visit on the yacht’s kayak.

Drink in the Atmosphere : Wine Tasting in a Military Tunnel

Vis is well known for two ancient grape varieties, the white Vugava and red Plavac Mali. The island’s interior is swathed in vines, and any scooter ride or drive across the island will soon reveal the signs of local wineries, inviting you in to sample their wines and farm produce. These homely agrotourisme/winery experiences are to be highly recommended for travellers seeking authenticity, but if it’s wine of assured quality you’re looking for, it’s hard to go past the wine-tastings by Antonio Lipanovic, Vis’ finest winemaker. Even better, his tasting room is set up in one of the military tunnels, creating an atmosphere quite unlike your traditional winery. Where once General Tito and the British sat planning for a German invasion, you’re sipping wine on holiday. Lipanovic only shows his wines by appointment, so ask your yacht’s captain to organise a VIP wine tasting experience for you.

A Garden Party in a Ruined Fort

An enterprising owner has taken the old British fort by the sea and turned it into a garden lounge and nightclub called the Sunset Bar & Club. Fort George has a bar set in the garden, with green vines trailing from arbours and wine barrels set amongst the rustic wooden lounges. There’s bands and DJs throughout the summer—and while it’s no Hvar beach club (at least not yet) it’s a fun place to party by the water.

Bar at Fort George, Vis, Croatia

Haunting Abandoned Places : Tender or swim into a submarine pen

There’s a haunting feeling to any abandoned place, and Vis’ submarine pen at Parija Bay is a stunning example of the legacy of the nuclear threat during the Cold War years. Looking at this quiet, pretty island from the sea, it would be hard to believe that in the white-bleached cliffs in the corner of a quiet bay, Yugoslavia hid its nuclear submarines. Take the tender, kayak—or even swim if you dare— as you float into the vast cave, looking up at the vaulted ceiling far above and imagining a sinister vessel of war surfacing into its berth. Not an experience to forget in a hurry.

A Tale of 3 Towns : Take a long walk along the Riva from Luka to Kut

Once, there was two towns on the Luka Vis Bay: Luka and Kut, but these villages have merged into one, and now fall under the heading of Vis Town. You can stroll the Riva right along between the three ‘towns’, taking in the pale stone buildings, wandering the narrow laneways, and shopping in the boutiques and galleries. You’ll want to end up in Kut, where the Venetian nobles used to build their mansions, and where no cars are permitted in the high season, giving a lovely timeless air to the town.

Enjoy the Contrasts of Komiza

The little fishing village of Komiza sits on a deep bay in the shadow of Hum Mountain, which rises up 600m above the sea. It’s a pretty little place of pebbled beaches, stone buildings and narrow laneways, and fishermen have lived here since at least the 12th century.

Komiza village is quiet in the daytime – but when night falls, the waterfront bars really kick off, with the most famous of them all being the rustic, table-dancing mayhem at Bejbi.

Vis island, Croatia

For all its peace and simplicity, Vis is rising. Conde Nast put the island on its ‘hot’ list in 2015, and you can see the headwinds of change starting to blow, with more hotels and restaurants opening up year by year. Whether you can’t wait for the first 5 star spa or would love it to stay the same forever, one thing is sure: Vis’ mystery is definitely one worth discovering.

To organise your Croatia yacht charter including Vis, contact Bespoke Yacht Charter. And stay tuned for the next destination of our Croatia Yachting Series: the mountainous island of Brac!

This article was written by Jo Morgan – Jo is a freelance writer for yachts and travel, offering targeted feature articles, content marketing, blogs and press releases for the yachting and travel industries.

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