Thursday, 19 May 2022

Vela Luka in 48 Hours: Hum, Vela Spila, Martina Bok, and More

May 19, 2022 - Vela Luka, on the island of Korčula, is a popular destination in the summer for those eager to explore the Croatian islands. But even in May, there are many things to do in a short time, with great weather and fewer tourists.

If I blame myself for something in almost three years in Croatia, it is not having explored enough beyond the big cities and the most popular points of interest. The time has come to put excuses aside, the pandemic for example. It's definitely easier to point to a place on the Croatian map and venture out when something strong drives you there. In this case, I felt the need to be alone for a few days and visit a remote place that I had not visited before.

I live in Split, and perhaps the most practical would be to choose somewhere on the islands of Brač, Šolta, Hvar, or Vis. However, my desire to escape was so intense that I felt that these islands were not far enough to satisfy my desires. I saw what other destinations were reachable by sea from the port of Split, and I chose Vela Luka. Interestingly, before I moved to Croatia, Vela Luka was a destination I always browsed on YouTube with my father. For some reason, it caught our attention. Taking that into account and the distance, I didn't think twice.

There are two ways to get to Vela Luka from Split: by catamaran or by ferry. The catamaran is clearly faster, and the journey time is approximately two hours. The ferry, on the other hand, can take up to 3 hours and a half to reach Vela Luka. Something, however, made me opt for the ferry, and that is that in addition to not being in a big hurry, I felt that the size of the ferry offers you better observation points during the journey. My intention was not to sleep during the trip, but rather to take photos, record videos, and enjoy the views, so it makes sense. In case you ever ask yourself the same question, it is worth remembering that the price of the ferry and the catamaran to Vela Luka are the same: 54 kunas.

Leaving Split (First day - 10:30 am)

On a sunny and hot Monday, my ferry left the port of Split at 10:30 am as part of the Split-Vela Luka-Lastovo route. Around 11:15, the ferry crossed the passage between the islands of Brač and Šolta. Fifty minutes later, the ferry would pass in front of the town of Hvar, between the main island and the Pakleni islands. For a while, a thick mist replaced the scorching sun. Finally, at 13:20 pm, the ferry arrived at the port of Vela Luka, where the weather that greeted me was the same or even hotter than that of Split: 24 degrees.

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It's not that I travel all the time on ferries, but if the weather is good, you'll never see me inside one. Always on the deck enjoying the landscapes. (Photo: Jose Alfonso Cussianovich)

According to Jadrolinija, the Croatian national ferry company, it would arrive at 14:00 but it was a pleasant surprise to arrive half an hour earlier. It may not be much, but on a short trip that half-hour can really make a difference.

Arriving at Vela Luka (13:30 pm)

I rented a very nice family apartment close to the ferry port but managed to keep the feeling of isolation away from the center. At that time, the first thing I did was check-in, leave my things, and look for something to eat by the riva.

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Arriving at Vela Luka. (Photo: Jose Alfonso Cussianovich)

Coming from Split, or recently in Dubrovnik, I was surprised to see so little tourist movement in Vela Luka. I wonder if it was because it was Monday, but it didn't seem to go along with the tourist trends on the coast: silence, some empty restaurants, and bars. It's not something that bothers me, but the opposite. I imagine that in places like Vela Luka, perhaps not as popular as Hvar, Bol, or Korčula, this wave of tourism takes perhaps a few more weeks to manifest itself. If you are one of those who are looking to enjoy a paradisiacal place in solitude, May is your month. If, on the other hand, you want to enjoy Vela Luka at its best, you may want to wait a few weeks for June or July to arrive.

Lunch at Konoba Skalinada (15:30 pm)

The good thing about the location of my apartment was that it was very close to where the Vela Luka boardwalk basically started. That allowed me, perhaps, not to miss a great culinary opportunity along the way. I'm not going to deny that before leaving I took a look at Google Maps for some recommendations, and I was beginning to worry about the number of restaurants that weren't open yet or many that just opened after 5:00 p.m. I couldn't wait two hours for lunch. After walking for about 20 minutes, I found a restaurant that met all the initial parameters: next to the riva, good views, enough shade to protect me from the heat, and, above all, open.

The name of the restaurant was Konoba Skalinada, a family restaurant with more than 10 years of a strong presence on the gastronomic charts of the island of Korčula. As a starter, I ordered a large, ice-cold Karlovačko to think clearly. This is a custom that you will see convenient when summer arrives. I noticed that the restaurant's menu presented an abundant and diverse offer of seafood, and with great sadness, I realized that it would have been a better decision if it had been accompanied due to the enormous number of dishes for more than one person. But that is not a demotivation and much less an obstacle, and therefore I opted for some fried squid. Something told me that any dish is better served on an island, and I was not wrong.

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Spectacular food, excellent service, and ''još jedno'' for another Karlovačko did the job. (Photo: Jose Alfonso Cussianovich)

Hiking the hill to Hum (18:00)

I walked back to my apartment to rest for an hour after the heavy lunch and the merciless sun, gather a few things, and embark on my next and last adventure of the day: climbing Hum Hill. From the Korkyra marina on the Vela Luka embankment, it can take about an hour and a half to walk up to Hum. Personally, I recommend doing it either early in the morning with a lot of energy, or in the afternoon after a good rest. I was inclined to go in the afternoon, even without the good rest, since I was curious to see the sunset. The road is suitable for hiking in the summer months, as it passes through shady forests.
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At the top, one encounters not only the Austro-Hungarian fortress of Hum but an unbeatable view of Vela Luka. (Image: Vela Luka Tourist Board)

After returning from the hike, I thought about going back to town for a beer or coffee to close the first day, but I was tired and had a lot planned for the next day. That is why I decided to close the day and sleep early.

Heading to Vela Spila (Second day - 10:30 am)

First on my itinerary for the second day was to visit the famous cave of Vela Spila, located on top of a hill behind Vela Luka's Obala 2. In Vela Luka, you will notice that unlike the vast majority of cities and towns in Croatia, the streets do not have a name, but are identified by numbers. After stopping by the nearest Studenac to buy provisions such as water, bananas, tuna and some crackers, I started the trip.

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Most of the old houses in Vela Luka were built between the 19th and 20th centuries. This one is from 1926. (Photo: Jose Alfonso Cussianovich)

I'm not going to deny that it was a bit confusing to find my way around the numbered streets, but it wasn't a problem. Vela Luka, contrary to other Dalmatian cities and towns, does not display Roman heritage and architecture so prominently in its streets and avenues. Although the human presence in the Vela Luka area can be traced back thousands of years, the town of Vela Luka began to develop only at the beginning of the 19th century. However, not having ancient stone houses or churches from centuries ago does not make it less beautiful than other similar destinations.

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Photo: Jose Alfonso Cussianovich

After correctly locating the 16th street and then a strange steep passage, I managed to find the main track that leads to Vela Spila. After five minutes of walking, you will find a signpost that begins the relatively short uphill walk to Vela Spila. The route is as valuable as the destination, and on the way to Vela Spila you will turn your head as you climb the hill, and you will notice that the view makes everything worthwhile even despite the heat.

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Tansy (Tanacetum cinerariifolium), or Buhač in Croatia. (Photo: Jose Alfonso Cussianovich)

In addition, you will find tansy, a tall and fragrant plant up to 60 cm that decorates the path to Vela Spila and that in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was cultivated in the Vela Luka area as a natural insecticide to care for crops. You'll also notice the presence of carobs, a flowering evergreen tree also known as St. John's Bread, whose sweet, brown fruit has been a part of human nutrition for up to 4,000 years.

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Vela Spila is an enormous lit cave that measures 50x30 meters, 20 meters high with an 8 meters entrance. Archaeological research over the past 50 years, now approximately 11 meters in depth from the original surface, shows its use by early humans from at least 20,000 years ago. (Photo: Jose Alfonso Cussianovich)

Getting to Vela Spila takes about 30 minutes from the center of Vela Luka, and it really is a great idea to include it as part of your itinerary on a sunny day in May or in the summer months. What better way to rest from the heat than in a cave? Even more so if the cave itself is a very important archaeological site, where remains and evidence of human presence in the Old Stone Age were discovered. The cave has only just been excavated to 7.5 meters deep, which leaves one's imagination how much more can be found about even older human habitation.

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Keep in mind that the entrance fee to Vela Spila costs 15 kunas. (Photo: Jose Alfonso Cussianovich)

Hike to Martina Bok (12:30 pm)

After visiting Vela Spila, it sounds a bit strange not to choose a beach as the next stop on the itinerary. Vela Luka is well known for its countless beaches and coves along the west coast of the island of Korčula. I could have chosen any of the closest to the town, but to make the most of my short stay in Vela Luka, I set my sights on Martina Bok, a beach that is almost 7 kilometers from the center of Vela Luka and to get there a walk of approximately one hour and 45 minutes is needed.

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(Photo: Jose Alfonso Cussianovich)

I will anticipate the facts to confirm that it is worth going on foot. Yes, I could have rented a bike or hitched a ride, but I don't know if I could have enjoyed those unique moments alone and pauses to appreciate everything I saw along the way. As well as being a great exercise for one, seeing so many olive trees, vineyards, fields, small old stone houses, and more is priceless. The heat was there, but a cool breeze accompanied me all the way to Martina Bok.

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A water reservoir I found on the way to Martina Bok. (Photo: Jose Alfonso Cussianovich)

After an hour and a half of walking, I arrived at the entrance to the beach and it seems to have been naturally prepared to leave one speechless. After crossing a forest of pine and cypress trees, you come across Martina Bok, a beach characterized by its peculiar rock formation, its celestine waters, and the views towards the small island of Šćedro and the island of Hvar. Unbelievably, only one couple was on the beach and they were already coming back. A beach like this and only for me! It wouldn't have bothered me if there were more people, but I remembered that the reason for my trip was to be alone and clear my head, and it seemed that the gods were reading my mind.

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Martina Bok. (Photo: Jose Alfonso Cussianovich)

It will not be the ideal beach to lie down and sunbathe, due to the shapes of the rocks, but with the heat and after the long walk that brought me to Martina Bok, I spent more time in the water than out. What pleased me the most was confirming for myself that the temperature of the water is already more than suitable for a dip.

Back in Vela Luka (16:30 pm)

At approximately 15:40 I started the way back to Vela Luka. This time I must admit that I regretted not having any means of transportation to return to town, but I had already assimilated going on foot again. The only thing that worried me was getting too tired to not take advantage of my last night in Vela Luka, but once again it seems that the stars aligned in my favor. 

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This was my route from Vela Luka to Martina Bok. Beautiful hike, but renting a bike isn't a bad idea!

After walking for half an hour, I heard a car that was going in my direction pull up behind me. I turned around and a lady asked me, "Vela Luka?" With a relieved and almost suffering voice, I replied, "Yes, please." I got on and thanked her for the ride, and I couldn't hide how happy I was to save myself so much time to get back. Her name was Aloisia, a Croatian-German who lives in Hamburg, but every year she returns to Vela Luka, where she grew up, to take refuge in paradise.

The kind-hearted lady dropped me off at the very center of Vela Luka. My plan for the rest of my stay will be simple: go back to the apartment, take a shower, rest a bit, and go back to town for ice cream and watch the sun go down. So it was.

Ice Cream at Diana Gelato (19:00 pm)

On my previous walks, when looking for a place to have lunch on the first day, or when looking for the way to Vela Spila, an ice cream stand with many customers on both days had already caught my attention: Diana Gelato. I mean, again one place ticked all the boxes: location, availability, menu, everything. Once I was sitting there, with a spectacular stracciatella ice cream in my hand and watching the sun disappear, I could say that my brief journey to Vela Luka had concluded satisfactorily.

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Image: Diana Gelato

The next day I was at 6:05 am in the port of Vela Luka to board the ferry that left 10 minutes later. Definitely, a precious hour to navigate the waters of the Adriatic, and even more so with my head in the right place knowing that I was able to make the most of my time in Vela Luka.

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Visiting the islet of Proizd is a must if you go to Vela Luka. (Photo: Jose Alfonso Cussianovich)

Definitely, no destination can be covered in its entirety in just two days, and many activities could not be carried out for reasons beyond my control. For example, there is no trip to Vela Luka without a boat ride to the small and nearby islet of Proizd, famous for its spectacular beaches. Unfortunately, boat services to Proizd are not in service yet. Surely in the coming weeks, as we move further into summer, they will begin to set sail for that islet.

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Photo: Jose Alfonso Cussianovich

This was my itinerary, but I'm sure you can be even more creative than me!

For more on travel in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 23 June 2020

Marina Korkyra: Vela Luka Port Finally on Nautical Tourism Map

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Darko Bicak writes on the 22nd of June, 2020, it's a well-known fact that Croatia is a nautical superpower, and the country is even a global leader by many standards when it comes to charters. Nevertheless, investments in new nautical facilities, primarily marinas, are relatively rare and mostly modest in their nature. That's why the project of Marina Korkyra, which recently came to life in Vela Luka on Korčula, is interesting.

Marina Korkyra is a huge investment of 42 million kuna made by a company called Ovalis nova, owned by the entrepreneurial family Šegon, which built a hotel of the same name in Vela Luka back in 2011 - Hotel Korkyra.

According to Ivo Šegon, the director of the aforementioned marina, after several decades of efforts, a new marina was built and opened in Vela Luka. Thus, Vela Luka can finally be presented as a new port of Croatian nautical tourism.

"Since the 80's, the project of the Port of Nautical Tourism has been waiting to come to life and bring some long-awaited changes to Vela Luka's tourism, as well as the future development of the place as a whole. Although the project took a little longer than we planned, during 2018 and 2019, construction work was carried out, and this year the marina was opened - we received the necessary permit back in mid-May,'' says Šegon.

Marina Korkyra boasts 132 berths, as well as a bar and restaurant overlooking the entire bay of Vela Luka. The marina is made as an island with two modern pavilions that are connected to the coast by bridges, which, according to the director, puts a special "stamp" on the recognisable visual appearance of the marina.

In the first pavilion there is a reception, souvenir shop and toilets, and in the second there is a bar and restaurant which are both open to boaters, as well as to all guests of Vela Luka and of course to the locals. The restaurant, says Šegon, offers dishes based on a combination of traditional and modern recipes, and most of the ingredients are procured from local suppliers.

The designers of Marina Korkyra, Maja Kuzmanović, an architect, and Mladen Vučković, a maritime designer, pointed out that at this moment in time, only the first phase of the marina has been completed, a large breakwater which works to protect the entire marina from adverse weather conditions and the elements, which also provides mooring for boats and promenades for tourists.

They add that this is a unique example of a marina that has pavilions on a large pier rather than on the shore, thus opening up additional space for users. The specificity of Vela Luka and its beautiful 9.5 kilometre-long-bay makes it a naturally safe place for boaters on the Croatian Adriatic.

As they are quite far from most Croatian airports in Vela Luka, as well as the main international roads, Marina Korkyra is currently filling its capacities with transit guests, the director notes.

"We have more and more inquiries from foreign guests who want to transfer their ships to a permanent berth here and we're happy about that,'' Ivo Šegon said.

For more, follow our travel page.

Friday, 23 August 2019

Konoba Gulin in Vela Luka: Where Good Food Meets UNESCO Protection

Honestly, when the plans were made for my little group to go to Konoba Gulin, a restaurant near Vela Luka, for a dinner, I knew almost nothing about the place. But, after the first visit, I am sure there will be many happy returns.

The first thing you should know about Konoba Gulin is that it's owned and managed by a real character: Tonči Miletić. He will take your phone calls to make a reservation (a word of advice, the kind you really should take: make a reservation, if you're planning on eating there during the high-season; we witnessed him turning more than a dozen people down, who came without reservations, so don't make that mistake in August), he will call you on the day of your arrival in the morning to tell you what's on the menu that day, and he will welcome you to his restaurant like you're a part of his family.

And then his friends will come, and the group will start singing, and even if you're not the biggest fan of klapa a cappella music (just like I for one am not), sitting just above Vela Luka, on a terrace with the view of the sea, in the olive groves on an August evening, you will have to admit that their song is just perfect for the setting.

So, as I said, I had no idea who he is, who the group is, so I asked, and it turns out it's not just any group of Tonči's friends, it's the quite well-known Klapa Ošjak from Vela Luka, who have recently celebrated their 40th anniversary, and who gained national attention last year when they sang during Oliver Dragojević's farewell from Split, upon his arrival in Vela Luka, and at his funeral. Tonči from the restaurant is the first tenor, and in addition to listening to him and his friends sing, if you get a chance, you should look at him sing: he's smiling the entire time while he's singing, and that's amazing to see!

He says about himself that he's one of the rare people around who's involved with three separate UNESCO protected heritages: the klapa song, the olive trees in Croatia and the dry stone walling. 

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And, yes, he can make dry stone walls! The entire restaurant is made of the traditional dry stone, and it is an impressive feat, to be able to do something like that. When I talked to him, I told him that if I were able to sing like he does, I wouldn't do anything else in my life, but the same goes for the dry stone walls, as they're so, so impressive you just want him to do as many meters of them as possible. 

Then there's the food. Like I already mentioned, when you come to Konoba Gulin, it's either going to be fresh, or you're not having it. We wanted to have some tuna steaks, he said that he would try to get some, but then called to tell us that there's no tuna today, but that he got a perfectly fresh swordfish, and would we care to have some of that? Well, of course we would, and yes, if you're wondering, it was perfect. As fresh as it gets, and prepared expertly on their grill by Tonči's son, who refused to get out of my perfect shot, because he needs to deal with the fish for the other customers (of course he was right and I was wrong: get your photos later, lady, once everyone has eaten!) 

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The view from the terrace is, like I mentioned already, amazing, perfectly positioned to experience the most beautiful sunset, and that's just one of the wonderful things you will get to enjoy while at Konoba Gulin.

If you're anywhere near Vela Luka, make yourself a favour and go to Konoba Gulin for one of those truly astonishing, authentic experiences of Dalmatia. Just make a reservation before you do!

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

VIDEOS: Oliver Dragojević Honored Around Croatia

The legendary Oliver Dragojević was honored around Croatia with concerts and song on July 29th, one year after his passing. 

An intimate concert was held in Oliver’s beloved Vela Luka, accompanied by an orchestra performed by his friends and colleagues - Gibonni, Zorica Kondža, Tedi Spalato, Dupini, Antonio Serrano, Klapa Ošjak, Alan Bjelinski, Ante Gelo and Nikša Bratoš, reports Jutarnji List on July 29, 2019. 

Oliver’s celebration in Vela Luka was attended by members of his family, as well as several hundred lucky fans who succeeded in snagging tickets for the instantly sold-out event. 

The atmosphere was glorious, and the emotions reached a peak that could only be reached at one of the singer’s famous concerts. The intimate spectacle was attended by about 450 lucky guests who were given a CD at the entrance.

The citizens of Split also honored Oliver by gathering at the central Pjaca for the first anniversary of the singer's passing.

Like last year, they paid tribute to the music giant by singing his songs for a full two hours, with a sizeable spontaneous Split choir led by members of Marjanke.

The young Zadar singer Jure Brkljača also decided to pay his respects to Oliver by doing a rendition of 'Ajde zbogom'. Brkljača said Oliver had been his role model from a young age.

“We will miss him forever, but his music will live forever. He is the one and only,” Jure said. 

Another young Croatian singer, Dino Petrić, paid tribute to the singer by singing 'Galeb i Ja'.

American TV producer Ashley Colburn and her singing partner from the hit TV show 'Singing with the Stars', Bojan Ambrošić, also remembered Oliver as a 'true inspiration'.

The famed and favorite Split musician forever closed his eyes in the early morning hours of July 29, 2018, following a tough battle with lung cancer discovered in August 2017. Oliver Dragojević left behind his wife Vesna, sons Dino, Davor and Damir, and five grandchildren, as well as numerous bereaved colleagues and fans. The day of his death was proclaimed a national day of mourning, and for his final farewell in Split on July 31,  2018, tens of thousands of people paid their respects in a spectacle that will be remembered and recounted for many years to come.

To read more about lifestyle in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page

Friday, 22 March 2019

Vela Luka: Construction of Passenger Terminal and Fishing Port in 2019

As Morski writes on the 21st of March, 2019, a session of the Municipal Council of Vela Luka on the island of Korčula was attended by the county's deputy prefect Joško Cebalo, who expressed the wider county's support for all of the innovative projects currently being prepared and implemented by the municipality, which are aided by EU funds.

''This time especially, I'd like to emphasise sincere congratulations to all of the employees of Vela Luka's home for the elderly for the municipal award that will be given to them today,'' Joško Cebalo stated, adding that the project of energy renovation for the home, which is worth more than four million kuna, will soon begin.

Port infrastructure is still seen as a top priority for Vela Luka. Deputy Prefect Cebalo stressed the fact that this issue really is a matter over which the county's administration is continuing to take care and that one of its main priorities is the continued renewal and further construction of Vela Luka's highly important port infrastructure.

According to him, the county is currently preparing as many as eight projects worth over 500 million kuna in total, and the most important for Vela Luka's residents were highlighted, these include the construction of a new ferry-passenger terminal worth 60 million kuna, which should be implemented this year, and the project of the construction of a fishing port, for which the project documentation is currently being prepared.

''As the completion of the construction of Pelješac bridge will be the symbol of the first decade of Croatia's membership of the European Union, these two projects in Vela Luka will symbolise [our] development thanks to EU funds, as well as our care for the islands,'' concluded Vela Luka's deputy prefect.

Make sure to stay up to date on the construction of infrastructure in Vela Luka and far beyond by following our dedicated lifestyle and business pages. If it's just the island of Korčula you're interested in, give Total Korčula a follow.

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Oliver Dragojević to be Honored with Museum in Heart of Vela Luka

It's been just over 3 months since the one and only Oliver Dragojević left us. The iconic singer was remembered especially over the last few days, as family, friends, and local citizens visited his gravesite in his hometown of Vela Luka on Korčula, leaving flowers, candles, and prayers.

Monday, 29 October 2018

Ferries in Dalmatia When the Sun Don't Shine: Vela Luka to Split (VIDEO)

Ferries in Dalmatia. Gliding through a millpond, a gentle breeze through your hair under perfect blue skies, gliding along the islands and mainland of Croatia's Adriatic coast. 

That is the romantic summer version of taking ferries in Dalmatia (and much of rest of the year too). 

But when the weather turns foul an a storm is brewing, it takes on an altogether different experience. 

There is some very severe weather in Dalmatia at the moment, and the other side of ferries in Dalmatia was captured by Index.hr reader Andrej Pavicic, who captured yesterday's ferry from Vela Luka on Korcula to Split, with the Jadrolinija ferry Bartol Kasic having a very rough time of it as it passed the island of Hvar. 

Check out the ferry and Index video by clicking on the image below.

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Monday, 15 October 2018

A Villa from Korčula Awarded "Best Holiday Home Beach House" Title

The European Holiday Home Association, EHHA, has awarded the best holiday homes in Europe in 2018, in 14 categories.

Friday, 21 September 2018

Top Five Things Not to Miss in Vela Luka

At the western tip of the island, Vela Luka is a must-visit! 

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