Komiža, Vis: Savoring the Off-Season Charms of One of Croatia’s Most Remote Islands

The enchanting Croatian island of Vis has had many identities over the last few thousand years. For a time, it was an ancient Greek colony known as Issa. Then, from the 1950s until the 1980s, Vis was a secret Yugoslavian naval base that was off-limits to foreigners. From there, tourists — and filmmakers — started discovering Vis’ many charms, with the Mamma Mia sequel being filmed on Vis (and not Greece) in 2017.

Shawn and I are fortunate to have spent several winters in Croatia. But, it would be a few years before we would venture to Vis, which is about 2.5 hours away from the mainland city of Split.

View of the Adriatic Sea, taken from the back of a ferry in Croatia.
Taking the ferry from Split to Vis.

One February, just as the Dalmatia region was starting to come alive again with flowers and warmer weather, we decided to head out to Vis for four nights. Our Croatian friends warned us that Vis would be quiet in February, but that promised solitude only added to its allure! We were craving brilliant sunsets, so we decided to base ourselves in the coastal town of Komiža, which faces the south. Tiny Komiža, which has been a center of fishing activity for centuries, is home to about 1,400 people.

A church on a green hillside towers over white stone buildings along a coast.
The St. Nicholas Church towers over Komiža’s Old Town. It dates back to the 13th century.

Our winter days on Vis were spent simply soaking up the details:

  • We took time to take in the scent of lush lavender bushes and rosemary. We marveled at the plump lemons and oranges growing in residents’ gardens.
  • We watched the birds flit from one blossom-filled tree to another. As they touched down on the flowery branches, petals danced to the ground, resembling pink snowflakes.
  • We walked to the St. Nicholas Church, whose namesake, Saint Nicholas, is the protector of seamen. Every December 6th (St. Nicholas Day), Komiža residents commemorate the saint’s day by burning decrepit wooden fishing boats. As we sat on the white-stone terrace of the church, we looked out at the shimmering Adriatic Sea. We’d brought a flask of coffee and slices of homemade banana bread with us, so we enjoyed a coffee break, too. (If you’re looking for a superb banana bread recipe, be sure to check out Cookie + Kate’s recipe at that link.)
  • We popped into a neighborhood café / bar and bought two glasses of their house wine made with Vis’ signature Vugava grape. Crisp and white, it’s similar to Viognier.
  • We walked through the rugged landscape, watching the waves crash far below us.
  • We were befriended by an affectionate cat on the beach. We nicknamed her Issa.
  • We showed our gratitude for the beautiful environment by picking up pieces of plastic that had washed up on the beach.
  • We acknowledged the kindness of strangers, most notably a man we met who was tending his vines. When he heard we were visiting Vis for a few days, he offered us the use of his moped for free — no strings attached. We decided to just explore Komiža on foot, nevertheless, we were touched by his thoughtful gesture.
  • We sat on our apartment’s balcony, watching the sun set behind the neighboring island of Biševo.

There’s certainly much, much more to do and see in Vis — especially during the warm months! The next time we visit Vis, we look forward to seeing the celebrated Blue Cave on Biševo, as well as the Issa Archaeological Museum in Vis Town, which houses ancient Greek relics.

Have a peek at the Komiža Tourist Board website for more ideas about what to do on Vis.

A purple and green lavender plant
Fragrant lavender — in February!
Rugged mountain cliffs, framed by the branch of a tree with pale pink flowers.
Blooms the color of pink champagne set against the rugged hillsides.
The edge of a coastal cliff, with a cactus plant in the foreground
Cactus plants dot the hilly landscape.
An orchard of orange trees in a mountainous landscape
Trees brimming with oranges.
The slopes of a green and rocky mountain meeting the sea in Croatia
The outskirts of Komiža are delightfully devoid of development.
Left: A backyard garden divided by walls. Right: The gable of a yellow house with brown shutters. There's a bird sitting on the roof.
The views from our home away from home. Left: A ladder inviting you to explore this quiet garden. Right: A bird sings a sweet song.
A yellow house with brown shutters located on the coast of the Adriatic Sea. There's an island off in the distance and a flowery tree in the foreground.
A man holding a coffee cup looks at the mountain views from a balcony.
Shawn, enjoying an afternoon cup of tea on our balcony.
A yellow, blue and white bird sits on the branch of a tree with pale pink blossoms.
We nicknamed these colorful birds “action hero birds” because it looked like they were wearing masks and a cape as they dove through the blizzard of falling blooms. If you know what species of bird it really is, please let me know in the comments.
Left: Close-up of a lemon tree with 3 lemons. Right: A vintage chair with rose fabric sits on a concrete landing alongside the sea. A wave is crashing into the scene.
Left: Lemons. Right: A vintage chair with a stunning late-afternoon view.
The white stone tower of an old church, framed with the branches of an olive tree.
The St. Nicholas Church, framed by the branches of an olive tree.
Tricia and Shawn standing in a field, with a stone church steeple and coastal view behind them.
Me and Shawn. Behind us is the St. Nicholas Church, and what we thought was a fledgling orchard of lime trees.
The belltower and ruined stone tower of a centuries-old church in Komiza, Croatia. There's a mountain, village, and sea view in the background.
The terraced landscape behind the St. Nicholas Church. Note the fortified tower.
A brown donkey stands in a terraced field among bushes and foliage.
A curious donkey.
The belltower and ruined stone tower of a centuries-old church in Komiza, Croatia. In the photo on the right, Shawn walks on a trail past the church.
Approaching the St. Nicholas Church.
Brown and green farming fields dotted with rows of olive trees. There are stone houses in the background.
An olive grove with a fantastic view.
Terraced stone walls filled with small olive trees, as well as a tree with white flowers.
Terraced stone walls.
Two old wooden fishing boats are left in a field to deteriorate. There are rows of vines next to them.
Two wooden fishing boats sit on the edge of a vineyard, perhaps waiting to be burned during the next year’s “boat funeral” custom. On 6 December (the feast day of St. Nicholas, the protector of seamen, Komiža residents commemorate the day by burning boats.
The belltower and ruined tower of a centuries-old church in Komiza, Croatia. The complex is made of a white-colored limestone.
The white stone belltower of a an old church in Komiza, Croatia. A man is walking up stairs to the church's terrace.
Left: Shawn makes his way up the stairs of the St. Nicholas Church. Right: A pair of heads — perhaps depicting St. Nicholas? – flanked the entryway of the church.
Close-up detail of a white stone church in Croatia. Above the doorway, there are 2 figures of male heads with beards.
A pink flower grows in the cracks of an old stone wall.
A snapdragon manages to grow in the mortar of the stone wall.
The cemetery of an old church in Croatia. On the right, you can see the detail of several white stone headstones, which are intricately carved.
The St. Nicholas Church Cemetery.
The swirly embellishments of an iron railing cast shadows on a stone walkway
The Dalmatian sun casts shadows on the church’s terrace. We enjoyed a picnic here while looking out at the Adriatic.
The swirly embellishments of an iron railing, with the blue sea in the background
A seagull sits on a stone wall by the sea
Hello, Mr. Seagull!
Palm trees growing in the backyard of an old stone home in Croatia
Palm trees congregate in a courtyard near the Old Town.
White wooden pallets that have been turned into furniture sit on a hillside overlooking a mountainous, coastal view
Wooden pallets find new life as furniture.
Left: A tabby cat with green eyes walks on a stone wall. Right, a white stone church in Croatia with 3 naves
Left: “Issa” the cat. Right: The St. Maria Church (Crkva Sv. Marija / Gospa Gusarica) is unique in that it has three naves.
Shawn and a cat playfully come face to face
Shawn and Issa bond near the beach.
An antique white stone water well that's been carved with Christian motifs. There is a metal cover placed on top of the well.
An intricately carved well near the St. Maria Church reminded us of the gorgeous stonework we saw during our earlier visit to Croatia’s Stonemasonry School on the island of Brač.
Yellow, white, and red fishing boats sit on a pebbly beach in a Croatian coastal town. There are stone buildings in the background
Two boats sit in a driveway. They are in the process of being re-painted. There are traditional Dalmatian stone homes in the background.
A boat gets a fresh coat of paint.
Hillsides overlooking a residential area. They have dry-stacked walls.
Hillsides with dry-stacked walls. I’m not sure when (perhaps many decades ago), locals cleared the rocks from the hills so that they could cultivate some kind of agriculture there.
Sea pine trees reach to the sky along the coast in Croatia. There is an island off in the distance.
Left: waves crash onto the shore near an old stone church. Right: The silhouette of an agave tree, overlooking a coastal town with old stone buildings
Tricia sits at an overlook point along the Adriatic Sea
A hand holds plastic garbage picked up along a pebbly beach
Picking up plastic trash from the Gospa Gusarica Beach. It feels like it was our “admission fee” for visiting such a beautiful outdoor place.
Shawn stands along the coast. There is an old Mediterranean village behind him.
Shawn, pausing during one of our evening strolls.
An abandoned building along the coast on the Croatian island of Vis. There is a cluster of homes and buildings behind the abandoned building and waves are crashing into the abandoned building
The skeleton of an abandoned building, jutting out into the turquoise Adriatic.
Two agave plants growing along the edge of a cliff. There is the silhouette of an island in the background.
A pair of agave plants silhouetted against the island of Biševo.
The Adriatic Sea, with fluffy white clouds overhead, and the silhouette of an island off in the distance
The island of Biševo, just off the coast of Vis.
Two green sculptures attached to a home.
Sculptures attached to the exterior of a home — presumably referencing how Vis used to serve as a submarine base.
Left: A white and brown dog is tied to a flag pole on a walkway. Right: A memorial plaque erected by the Coastal Forces Veterans Association. Its content is written in English and Croatian: "In memory of the British seamen who sailed from this harbour in support of the liberating forces and whose resting place is the sea. U spomen na Britanske Mornare koji su isplovili iz ove luke, kao podrška oslobodilačkim snagama čije počivalište je more, 1943-1945
An iron balcony lined with terracotta pots filled with green plants. The home is made of whitish stone blocks, and the wooden shutters are all closed.
A building, shuttered up for the season.
Left: Two antique style lampposts on a curvy street in Komiza. Right: A glass of blonde colored wine with the silhouette of a tower in the background
Left: A sleepy Old Town street. Right: A glass of Vugava wine.
Shawn and Tricia toast each other while sitting on chairs in an old Croatian village
Toasting our great fortune of having Komiža practically all to ourselves.
Two men wearing hats sit on white benches watching a sunset in Craotia.
Two locals watch the sunset. I can’t help but wonder if they’ve known each other since childhood. The tower is a 16th-century citadel called the Kaštel.
An abandoned building with street art painted on a wall along the coast of the Adriatic Sea.
Komiža at sunset. The Hajduk logo painted on the wall is for Split’s beloved soccer team.
The sun sets over a mountain slope that's meeting the Adriatic Sea. The sky is orange and the sunlight is reflecting on the water.

Shawn’s Video:

Where in the World?

Planning Pointers:

How do you get to the island of Vis?

Located southwest of Split (Croatia’s second-largest city), Vis is one of Croatia’s most remote islands. You can get to Vis Town via ferry or catamaran. From Split, the ferry trip takes about 2 hours and 20 minutes, while the catamaran ride is about 1.5 hours.

Visit the Jadrolinija website to see ferry timetables and ticket prices. It is also possible to island-hop to Vis from the neighboring islands of Brač and Hvar.

Note that Jadrolinija is Croatia’s state-owned ferry company, which makes trips from Split to Vis year-round. During the tourist season, it’s also possible to travel via private boat or catamaran.

Accommodation in Komiža, on Vis Island:

We spent 4 nights at the Apartment Mare (affiliate link), in the town of Komiža on Vis’ western coast. When I read other guests’ reviews praising the Apartment Mare’s magnificent views, I was skeptical. However, when we arrived, we couldn’t stop marveling at the magnificent vistas before us. The island of Biševo was straight ahead, framed by swaying sea palms and Vis’ rugged coastline.

Even though we visited Komiža during the winter months, the weather was pleasant enough to sit on the balcony. We spent many hours there, soaking up the sunshine and staring out into the sea.

The apartment was cozy and clean, the internet and heater worked well, and our host, Katarina, was happy to answer any questions we had about the island.

We were just a short walk (down a series of stairs) to Komiža’s main beach, and the town of Komiža was only about eight minutes away.

Also just outside the Apartment Mare’s doorstep: great walking trails, and more superb views of Komiža.

Looking for more Croatia trip-planning inspiration?

From exploring the 1,700-year-old palace of the Roman emperor Diocletian and meeting one of Dalmatia’s few remaining silver filigree master jewelers to foraging for wild asparagus in the Croatian countryside, see all of my posts from Croatia.

Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

Published by Tricia A. Mitchell

Tricia A. Mitchell is a freelance writer and photographer. Born in Europe but raised in the United States, she has lived in Valletta, Malta; Heidelberg, Germany; and Split, Croatia. An avid globetrotter who has visited more than 65 countries, she has a penchant for off-season travel. Tricia has learned that travel’s greatest gift is not sightseeing, rather it is the interactions with people. Some of her most memorable experiences have been sharing a bottle of champagne with distant French cousins in Lorraine, learning how to milk goats in a sleepy Bulgarian village, and ringing in the Vietnamese New Year with a Hanoi family. She welcomes any opportunity to practice French and German, and she loves delving into a place’s history and artisanal food scene. A former education administrator and training specialist, Tricia has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in international relations. She and her husband, Shawn, married in the ruins of a snowy German castle. They’ve been known to escape winter by basing themselves in coastal Croatia or Southeast Asia. Her writing has appeared in Fodor’s Travel, Frommer’s, and International Living.

25 thoughts on “Komiža, Vis: Savoring the Off-Season Charms of One of Croatia’s Most Remote Islands

    1. Hi Jo, I absolutely agree that these quiet and cooler months are a lovely time — perhaps my favorite! — to be in the Mediterranean. The landscape is again green, trees are in bloom, it’s still usually sunny, and the temperatures are comfortable for going on long walks/hikes.

      Also, I loved your line about “things burgeoning quietly with all the time in the world to spare.” That’s so true, because you do get to enjoy the scenery without the masses. In addition, it does seem that the locals (especially people who work in the tourist industry) have time to socialize. Hope you’re having a relaxing weekend!

      1. Lots! Obidos is a small medieval town and lovely, Braga is beautiful in a big city way and you’ll have heard of Bom Jesus de Monte? Amarante on the Douro River was probably my favourite place but Monsanto, though out of the way, really unmissable, but you have to enjoy a climb. I’ll be writing about them all in the weeks to come. 🤗💟💟

      2. Jo, some of those spots sound familiar, but I’ve pinned the others I hadn’t heard of before on my map to visit someday. :) We have friends who are headed to Portugal shortly, and I’ll have to direct them to your site. Until then, may you have many wonderful walks! I suppose the temperatures are still quite comfortable there.

    1. Hi Darlene, these mostly undeveloped islands are a treat to explore! We actually visited Vis a few years ago (we’re in France now), but we’ve enjoyed every Croatian island we’ve visited. Croatia has more than 1,000 islands/islets, but only a few dozen of those are actually inhabited. For that reason, we could spend a lifetime exploring them all.

      Do you have any islands that are personal favorites that you’d recommend — either in Spain or elsewhere? The only Spanish island we’ve visited in Gran Canaria, so we have more exploring to do there. :)

      1. I too love Islands. We have a small island near us called Tabarca Island which I love exploring. https://www.alicanteturismo.com/en/tabarca-island/ I am off to Arran Island off the coast of Scotland for a week-long writers retreat. I will be exploring and collecting ideas for another book. Also my daughter owns an acre of land on a small island off the west coast of Canada. I love visiting her there. (will be there next month.)

      2. Darlene, I hadn’t heard of Tabarca Island before you mentioned it, but the snorkeling there sounds wonderful, and the crystal-clear water looks inviting. I also hope you have a productive and relaxing writers retreat in Scotland. Arran Island seems like it’ll offer much inspiration; are you collecting ideas for your Amanda series?

  1. What great photos and description of Vis! After seeing these anyone would want to visit and try their wine! I especially like the local wildlife, Shawn’s video, the boat being repainted, and the two of you enjoying it all!

    1. Hi Marilyn, it’s nice to hear from you! Are you in Mexico or Alaska at the moment?

      I’m glad you enjoyed this peek at Vis. This long-weekend trip offered just what we needed: relaxation and some light exploring — but there is so much more to do on Vis. And since you mentioned the wine, I would absolutely love to visit a vineyard and meet a winemaker the next time we’re out there. We enjoyed trying the little café-bar’s house wine, but I’d like to actually see the Vugava grapes growing among Vis’ majestic landscapes.

      Wherever you are in the world, I hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend. Thanks again for dropping by!

  2. Tricia, this makes me want to travel so much. Komiža seems like a very idyllic and peaceful town located in such a beautiful setting. The church, the orchards, the hills, the scenery, the sunset, everything just looks so picture perfect. And the fact that you had the place for yourselves only made your experience even better, I can imagine. Thank you for sharing such a picturesque place with us.

    1. Hi Bama, I hope you’ll be able to get back out on the road and start exploring again soon! This little weekend trip to Vis Island is one we did a few years ago, actually. Revisiting Komiža’s stunning landscapes makes me want to visit an island or coastal area, too. In just a few more weeks/months, I imagine that Vis is going to look quite different from what we experienced in that it’ll be crowded with beach-goers and sun-seekers.

      I’ll have to hop on over to your site and see what interesting spots you’ve encountered in Jakarta or beyond. It’s a good thing I just had lunch, because the last time I read about all the tasty restaurants you’d recently visited, I left your website and felt the urge to snack. :)

      1. I would recommend anyone to eat first before reading my blog because I have a habit of throwing food photos here and there. 😄

    1. Hi Cornelia, I certainly would’ve enjoyed seeing what Croatia was like when it was still part of Yugoslavia. Perhaps one of these days, our paths will intersect with yours in California, Germany, or Croatia, and you can share some of your favorite memories with us. Hope you’re doing well!

      1. Hi Cornelia, Shawn and I would love to meet up with you if you come to Garmisch! I’m not sure where we’ll be in August, but please let me know if you’re definitely coming. :)

    1. Dobar dan, Anna!

      Each season indeed has its charms! The quieter months (October – early April) are some of our personal favorites though, as we love long hikes and spending time with the locals. :) We’ve even been able to squeeze in some swimming during that period, but several of our Dalmatian friends have told us they think the water is too cold in early autumn / late spring.

  3. A spectacular setting you introduce with this post, Trica. You show the magic of Croatia. The photos are marvelous, a bit of a fairytale setting ~ and especially like the one of you and Shawn with the St. Nicholas Church in the background. I really need to visit Croatia and see Komiža for myself. Wonderful write up, and continue living the dream :-)

    1. Hi Randall, it’s great to hear from you! We haven’t been to Croatia since late last spring. I do wonder how crowded it is now that it’s become an exceedingly popular digital-nomad destination. I suspect that during the off-season (which is when we prefer to travel) that you can still find much of that magic and a bit of solitude. When you head to Croatia, do let me know and I’ll be happy to answer any questions. Where in the world are you at the moment?

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