In the middle of the Adriatic Sea, almost halfway to Italy, you will find Vis, the most remote and perhaps mysterious of Croatia’s islands. Closed off to the rest of the world for decades, this island boasts a unique and rich history, offering a glimpse into life in authentic Dalmatia.
A paradise of postcard-perfect towns nestled into bays, abundant with hidden caves and beaches, and surrounded by water that is every shade of cyan imaginable, Vis is an idyllic destination to explore, dine, and embrace the Dalmatian pace of life, pomalo (slowly).
History of Vis
The oldest Greek settlement on the Adriatic, dating back to 4th century BC and known as Issa, was located on the site of modern day Vis. This independent state, soon renamed to Vis, came under many rules over the centuries, including Roman, Venetian, Austrian, French, British, Italian, Yugoslavian and eventually Croatian. This complex and ever-changing history is reflected in the architecture found throughout the island; from Roman baths, to British forts, and even abandoned Yugoslavian submarine tunnels.
Being the farthest flung Dalmatian Island, and with its strategic position in the Adriatic Sea, Vis was used as a military base for most of the 20th century, and saw action by the Allied military through WWII against Italy and Germany. The island only recently opened its harbours, and beaches of course, to tourists in 1989. In 1992, the Yugoslavian army left Vis, and the island's military base status was no longer.
Thanks to the preserved way of life on this quiet island prior to 1989, it has truly retained an untouched beauty, dotted with hidden bays, and Old Towns where locals still make a living from age-old fishing and wine-making traditions.
Best Way to Get to Vis
Despite its location, Vis is still relatively well connected to the mainland by passenger and car ferries. If you’re travelling to the island from Split, the fastest way to travel is on the daily catamaran, which takes 1.5 hours, and departs daily in the high season. You can also catch a car ferry that takes approximately 2.5 hours and allows you to travel with a car or scooter to the island!
Unfortunately there is no ferry that directly connects Dubrovnik and Vis, due to the distance between these two locations.
Ferry timetables can be found here.
If you’ve booked an Elegance or Explorer island hopping cruise between Split and Dubrovnik, then it’s likely that the mystical island of Vis will be a stop on your itinerary!
Things to do on Vis Island
1. Eat Fresh Seafood
Fishing has been a key industry in Vis for centuries and the age-old traditions are still well and truly alive on the island. The island's second largest town, Komiža, had not one, but a total of seven fish factories in operation back in its fishing heyday, despite its small size! You can find incredibly fresh and tasty seafood everywhere on the island, however Komiža is recognised as one of the top places to eat lobster in Dalmatia! Combine your lobster dinner with a waterfront location, locally made wine and you know you’re well and truly in Vis.
2. Climb Mt Hum
As one of the most remote islands in middle Dalmatia, a hike to the highest peak on the island will reward you with incredible views out across the open sea! On the western side of the island you’ll find the hiking trail that leads you to the impressive peak of Mt Hum, overlooking the town of Komiža. The highest point on Mt Hum sits at a stark 587 meters above sea level, and offers stunning views out across the town below and the island of Bisevo, home to the famous Blue Cave!
3. Catch an Old Movie at the Open Air Cinema
Have you ever been to an outdoor cinema right on the waterfront? We didn’t think so! This unique open air cinema is located in the small village of Komiža and sits right on the waters edge. This movie theatre has been operating since 1964 and has been showing the latest titles in their original language with Croatian subtitles for many years. Grab some popcorn from the mini bar and get settled in as the sound of the water laps against the shore.
4. Visit a WWII Airstrip turned cricket pitch
Vis’ history is steeped in military occupation and mystery. During WWII, Yugoslavia’s leader Tito used Vis as his base and hideaway, constructing a maze of tunnels, bunkers, and the well-known airstrip that served as a launchpad for the Allied Forces. Vis’s only airstrip is no longer in use, however this grassy destination still retains its eerie charm. What you may not expect to find at the airfield is the oldest Cricket Club in Europe (outside of the UK), and a functioning cricket pitch complete with markings! The cricket pitch is just another example of the British influence on the island of Vis and is certainly worth a visit!
Our top tip: get up close and personal with the military history of the island on the Vis Military Tour, where you’ll jump in a jeep, chuck on a hard hat and get off-road to visit some of the most jaw-dropping secret spots on the island!
5. Explore Tito’s Cave and Bunker
At first glance, Vis island appears tranquil and peaceful, however hidden in tunnels and bunkers strewn across the island are tales of its interesting military past! Discover Tito’s cave and submarine base, etched secretly into the side of a limestone hill (as to avoid detection from the air), get lost in the secret world of tunnels underneath the island and explore Tito’s bunker.
6. Indulge in Octopus Peka
One of Croatia’s specialities and a must-try dish is Peka, or Ispod Peke, which translates to this particular way of cooking the dish under a dome-shaped lid in Dalmatia. Vegetables and meat (octopus, veal or lamb) are slow braised over hot coals, and the dome-shaped lid encases the dish, creating a slow-braised meal that is cooked for hours. This juicy, flavoursome dish is best described as Croatian comfort food, and some say the best Octopus Peka is found on Vis Island!
Learn more about how to cook Peka at home.
7. Discover Mamma Mia Shooting Locations
If you get a sudden urge to burst into song while twirling through the narrow streets of Komiža, that is in fact because it was the setting for the fictional town in the film, Mamma Mia 2. And it’s not hard to see why it was chosen! Only 10km from Vis Town and tucked at the foot of Mount Hum, Komiža is postcard perfect. Whilst the majority of the film was shot in Komiža, you can also catch glimpses of Vis Town and Barjoska Beach throughout the blockbuster movie!
8. Take in the Blue Cave
Something of a natural marvel, the Blue Cave, is as magical as its name suggests, and with its closest access being Vis, you can easily beat the day trippers swarming from Split, Hvar and other nearby islands. The science behind the blue-lit cave, which instantly transports you to a scene from a sci-fi movie, is to do with the reflection of light on the water when the sun is at its highest point in the sky; however science aside, the Blue Cave is a big tick you absolutely must have on your bucket list.
Previously the cave could only be accessed by divers, although the cave located on Bisevo Island is now accessible to tourists via a short boat trip, however you’ll still need to duck to enter the cave! Once you're through the narrow entrance, the cave opens up into a mesmerising flood of blue light. Although you’re not able to swim inside the cave, the impressive colours and lights are one of those phenomenons that just need to be seen to be believed.
9. Swim in the Green Cave
Although slightly less popular than the famous Blue Cave, Vis’ Green Cave certainly shouldn’t be overlooked! The beautiful Green Cave is located on Ravnik Island, a short boat ride away from Vis, and is accessible by two natural openings. Once inside the Green Cave you’re allowed to swim, snorkel and even jump from the roof of the cave, right into the sea!
10. Taste Local Wines
Locals on the island of Vis have been producing wine for centuries, and in particular, two well-known varieties; Plavac Mali (a full-flavoured red wine) and Vugava (an indigenous dry white wine variety). These unique varieties flourish on the island due to the sandy soil, rolling hills and abundance of sunshine. There are a handful of larger scale wine producers dotted throughout the island that you can visit on an organised wine tour, or simply stumble across some of the smaller wineries as you explore the island at your leisure!
11. Take in the Sunset at Fort George
At the tip of the peninsula sitting guard to the entry of Vis Town’s bay is evidence of the island’s peculiar history; Fort George, built by the British during their occupation at the time of the Napoleonic wars. Partying in Croatia often means unique and mind-blowing venues that you cannot find anywhere else in the world, from caves, to towers, and uninhabited islands, and of course here on Vis, a 19th Century fort! One of a handful of spots for nightlife, Fort George is also a restaurant and event space, hosting art exhibitions, music festivals, and even weddings. Every July, the Fort is home to Ultra Music Festival’s closing party, where beneath trees and old stone walls, revellers dance the night away to flashing neon and strobe lights. If techno music isn’t your cup of tea, the Fort also has an outdoor restaurant and bar open during summer. If you’re simply after spectacular views of the coastline, you can make the trek, ride a scooter or take a taxi up the peninsula to take it all in!
Top Bars in Vis
Whilst Vis has a few bars dotted throughout the island, it is not a destination that is heavy with nightlife options like its neighboring islands. If you’re after a waterfront bar serving cocktails and a view, or quirky local hangouts, then you’ll be spoilt for choice in Vis Island!
Caffe Bar Bejbi
Located in Vis Town, Bejbi Bar is always full of locals and tourists alike. It’s thatched roof and waterfront location makes for the perfect spot to while away the day into the early hours of the morning, playing pool, sipping on cocktails and listening to live music.
Set inside a former 16th Century villa in Vis Town, Lambik makes a charming backdrop to sip on a glass of local wine. Whilst the picturesque surroundings spill out into the cobbled square, the indoor bar area is always full of young people mingling, dancing and singing well into the night.
Caffé Bar Biliba
If you’re after a sports bar that’s essentially always open, then Caffé Bar Biliba is your best bet! Also located centrally in Vis Town, this Caffé Bar overlooks the water and has plenty of outdoor seating available along the stoney streets of the Old Town. A wide-screen TV usually plays the most popular international sports events, so on game day, this place fills up quickly with locals and tourists!
Corto Maltese Cocktail Bar
Corto Maltese Cocktail Bar is the perfect spot for a specialty cocktail. This bar is decorated with black and white comic book silhouettes and has a warm and inviting atmosphere throughout its quirky venue. Outside the bar there are tables set up amongst romantic pine trees with the sound of the sea serving as the perfect background music.
Where to eat in Vis
Rokis is the most popular spot on the island to indulge in slow cooked octopus, lamb or veal peka and home grown wines. Set amongst stunning vineyards, rolling hills and the surrounds of a former RAF airfield, Rokis is certainly a unique culinary experience! Located in the middle of the island, Rokis offers an authentic Dalmatian experience and prides itself on its homemade, organic cuisine and wine. The restaurant also offers transfers from Vis Town for groups of four or more.
This seafood restaurant is a local favourite, and its waterfront location is one of the best in the fishing village of Komiža. Freshly caught seafood is the speciality, and the menu changes daily depending on what was caught that morning!
For exceptional service, beautiful surroundings and delicious Dalmatian food, Konoba Kantun is the answer! Located in the heart of Vis Town this restaurant offers high quality cuisine in a relaxed environment.
Our top tip: try the cuttlefish risotto for a Dalmatian taste sensation!
Where to stay in Vis?
There are two main locations on Vis Island that are popular choices for accommodation. Vis Town offers the largest variety of accommodation options, that vary from shared dorms to luxury high-end hotels. Komiža is the quieter of the two locations, and offers guesthouses, Airbnb’s and luxury accommodation. We recommend using an accommodation search engine, such as Airbnb to book your accommodation on Vis Island.
Visit the Best Beaches in Vis
Vis is famous for its postcard perfect beaches and hidden bays, but with so many to choose from, how do you narrow down the best beaches to visit on the island of Vis? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered!
If Vis Town is your base, then Stončica Beach will be the first beach you’ll stumble across after leaving Vis Town. This picture perfect sandy beach boasts thick forest around its edges, crystal clear waters and even a stunning reef to snorkel over! The beach has shallow water for approximately 30 meters from the shore, making it the perfect destination for families and kids to relax and play. This beach is well equipped with beach volleyball nets, a couple of small restaurants and a snack bar.
Voted by over 10,000 travellers, this famous beach was named the Best Beach in Europe in 2016, and it isn’t at all hard to see why! From it’s towering cliffs and turquoise waters, to its simply stunning pebbled beach, Stiniva is one to add to your bucket list! There are two ways to visit this impressive beach, and the first is via speedboat. Departing from either Vis Town or Komiža, you can join the many other tourists hoping to catch a glimpse of the famous beach, before anchoring just outside the cliffs and swimming ashore. Due to the structure of the cliffs, boats cannot get inside the small opening to the beach, which leaves the small bay within the cliff walls uncrowded!
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also hike down a relatively steep cliff face for approximately 30 minutes until you reach the pebbled shore. Trust us, the effort is worth the reward! Whichever way you decide to visit this popular beach, you’ll be wowed with its stunning beauty and impressive location.
Srebrna Beach can be found on the south eastern side of Vis island. Whilst it may not be as popular as Stiniva Beach, Srebrna is one of the most beautiful beaches in Vis, and is very popular with locals. Srebrna is a pebbled beach that is framed by thick green pine trees, allowing you to escape the summer sun whenever you feel the need! If you are looking for a naturist area, then the area called ‘Bilbok beach’ is reserved for you! The rest of the beach is suitable for families and beachgoers alike looking to relax and unwind. Although one of the most beautiful beaches on the island, Srebrna has very few facilities, so be sure to pack everything you’ll need for the day before you go!
If you’re looking for a no-fuss beach where you can relax in peace and quiet, then Zaglav Beach is your best option! This beautiful quiet beach has sandy shores and glistening turquoise water! Like most beaches on the island of Vis, you’ll be able to find a shady pine tree to set up underneath and enjoy the sights and sounds of the beach all day long.
Found on the southeastern side of the island is Smokova Beach. This sandy spot is located just a hop, skip and a jump away from Stončica Beach and is popular with beach lovers, locals and tourists. One unique element of this beautiful beach is that hidden beneath the turquoise water is the remains of a WW11 aircraft wing! Jump into the sea and approximately 100 meters from the beach is a piece of history and snorkelling paradise combined.
Shrouded in mystery, military history and an abundance of stunning beaches, Vis is one place you won’t want to miss on your trip to Croatia! This far flung island oozes romance and natural beauty, showing off the best of authentic Dalmatia as it once was.