FROM PELJEŠAC TO KORČULA
This next step of Dalmatia Bike Tour takes us to the Island of Korčula (pronounced Cor-chew-la). Cycling here in winter is a real treat, for it is blessed with balmy weather and plenty of sunshine all year round.
It is not by accident that we bring you to Korčula – our expert bike tour leaders are familiar with many quiet country lanes and scenic off-road routes that make this island an ideal destination for road cycling. Although at present there are no dedicated cycling routes, the whole island has excellent facilities for cycling, with many small tracks leading into the countryside, meandering among vineyards and olive groves before they hit the coastline, where your fine pedalling work is to be rewarded with equally fine views.
Arriving from the Pelješac peninsula, we cross the 1.2km wide Pelješac Channel to one of the greenest, lushest and historically the most important islands of Central Dalmatia. And here it is – the remarkable sight of fortified Korčula Old Town when approached from the sea.
From here, Korčula appears painstakingly arranged by a particularly fastidious Lego engineer – not one piece is out of place, nor does it obstruct the view of other buildings or the citadel. It is a perfectly harmonious cluster of terracotta roofs, sand-coloured stone buildings and Mediterranean flora, all surrounded by the 14th century fortified walls built to protect the rich shores against invading marauders. A petite version of the grand dame of the Adriatic, it is often referred to as the “miniature Dubrovnik”.
The town’s hilly relief will keep your muscles working when you’re off your bike on this winter cycling training camp; all streets but one direct you via numerous stone-carved steps towards the heart of the Old Town and its gothic palaces huddled around St. Mark’s Cathedral on the main square Piazzeta.
Many sacral and historic treasures are kept at the Bishop’s Palace and the Town Museum but, for those with a keen eye, Korčula’s gems are strewn everywhere around its medieval narrow streets, with pretty pillars and secluded patios baying for your attention as you make your way among the many bars and cafes.
Curiously, Korčula Town also hides among its many squares the English Piazzeta, a small semi-circular paved terrace with stone benches and pillars that is located on the eastern side of town, a short walk from the Old Town near Banje Beach. Built in the 19th century by Admiral Peter Lowen during the brief British rule, in its present incarnation it is a lovely bar and café terrace – perfect for relaxing those tired muscles with an al fresco cocktail (or two).
By the time you and your bike leave for Hvar, you will have heard the assertion that the explorer Marco Polo comes from this very island at least fifty seven times. Whether this is true or not, this quote from The Sunday Times review neatly puts it in perspective:
“Locals claim that Marco Polo came from their island. It’s clearly rubbish. If the explorer had been born on Korčula, he would never have left.”