Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Return to the old love - Viganj, Croatia


It was the summer of 1999—my early windsurfing days. I came to Viganj (10 hours drive from where I live) because a friend told me that there is a place with good wind every day. His promise came true, and I enjoyed that summer very much. First time in foot straps, first blasting in the harness, and the first water start – it was all done in Viganj!

But, it was a different place back then; one or two improvised camping places right on the seashore, a small store to buy bread, milk, maybe some beer, and one restaurant with not so good pizza. Mostly, there were windsurfers from the Czech Republic, a couple of Slovenian guys and a Croat or two, here and there.

From that moment on, I was a regular guest for a few years. Then I started traveling more, discovering new spots in Greece, Egypt, and around, so Viganj somehow dropped out of my map. 2020., a year of Covid19 pandemic brought me back to that beautiful place. Traveling became risky, and Viganj was here, just around the corner, accessible with the car.

I was excited to check out a well-known place, but now completely changed. A lot of campsites, some of them four stars category and a lot of people (Viganj is one of the rare places in the world with an increase in tourism during corona summer 2020.) It seems that many people from Europe chose to come with their campers and caravans. It was crowded but safe. There are no hotels in Viganj, no nightclubs, and windsurfers, kitesurfers, wingsurfers, and the rest, are quite busy during the day, so except for occasional music on the beach, nights were quiet and restful.

Two things were the same, though. First: the Czech Republic and Slovenia guests were in the majority, plus Austrians and Germans. However, there were people from Belgium, Netherlands, UK, Italy, and other countries as well.

And, second, the reliable wind almost every day in the afternoon.


Where is Viganj?

Did you hear about Dubrovnik? Sure, you have. Well, it’s almost there.

Take a highway south through Croatia, all the way down to the city of Ploče. Here you can take a ferry (40 minutes sail) to Trpanj on the Pelješac peninsula and stay all the time in Croatia. Or you can drive further south on a motorway through Opuzen in the valley of river Neretva, pass through Neum (Bosnia and Herzegovina, only 15 minutes, and you are back to Croatia – transit is easy, no problem), continue towards Dubrovnik until you see the sign for the city of Ston (at this point you are 50 kilometers from Dubrovnik). Turn right and follow the signs to Orebić (60 km serpentine drive – 90 minutes). Once there, continue following the seashore some 5 km more, and arrive at Viganj.

It’s 550 km from Zagreb (7-9 hours of drive, depending on traffic). And Zagreb is easily accessible by car from all European countries. It’s not the nearest place for windsurfing in Croatia, but it’s sure worth the effort.


The spot

Viganj owns its winds to the narrow channel (1,5 km) between the Pelješac peninsula and the island of Korčula. The mistral wind comes from the northwest almost every day during summer. It’s usual strength of 10-15 knots in the rest of Adriatic increases to 15-20 knots due to the configuration of the channel. The peak of the mountain Sveti Ilija (Mons Vipera or Perun hill) is 960 meters over the sea level (which is a lot, considering that it grows almost directly from the sea).

The same strengthening is happening with the wind from the south called “jugo” (literary, south wind).

It is possible to windsurf on famous bora wind too (much stronger than mistral or jugo).

So, except for a few days in the month, think big sails and boards. Most of the people ride on 110-150 liters boards and use sails 7,0, 7,5, and above (up to 10,00). If you are ok with that, most probably, you will be on the water every day.



No waves, flat to choppy conditions, especially when it is crowded. Many sailboats are passing through the channel, although most of them are keeping with the Korčula side of the channel (away from windsurfers, kitesurfers, and the rest). Anyway, be careful because some of them are not.

In the morning, there will be an ideal condition for beginners. Around 14:00 – 15:00, you can count on mistral wind (sometimes visibly coming on the horizon and filling up the channel).


This year I started to foil (that is something I’ll surely write about more in the future because I am positively delighted and enormously inspired with foiling). I would say that, together with the rest of the Croatia shore, Viganj is an ideal foiling destination!



As I already wrote, you can kite, wing, sup, or whatever is your thing. You can take non-windsurfing friends and family with you, they will enjoy the place, for sure.

The only thing… well, the mixing of kiters and windsurfers (and now so many others) is not something I prefer. Unfortunately, I don’t see how it would be possible to separate them, so if you are annoyed - like I am - with different directions of the sailing of different sails, kites, and wings, you would have to adapt, just as I did. Once you accept the situation, it will become better, and you’ll start enjoying it.



The Centers

If you want to rent the equipment, there are plenty of places to do so. One of the most colorful (and most equipped) is Water Donkey.

I have a special affection for them because their team saved me from a sad destiny after I broke my boom head almost at the shores of Korčula. They were ready to help without question and took as gratitude only “thank you” and few icecreams. I think they deserve more, so I decided to recommend them as a well-organized place, with friendly people. They offer kite-wind-foil courses for all levels.

Of course, there are other centers there; you can choose by your camp or accommodation location or preferences.


Anything to do when the wind takes a break?

Plenty! Take a bicycle with you, or rent one. You’ll find that the exploration of Pelješac on two wheels is a delight!

You can also do some trekking on the Mons Vipera (2-3 hours up). When you come to the top, you’ll enjoy one of the most beautiful sights in the Adriatic!

Start early, and take a lot of water. It can be hot up there. Use trekking shoes, and take with your cell phone. Do not underestimate that mountain! Few careless tourists lost their life there, mainly because they get lost (the path is marked) or slipped due to wearing summer slippers or otherwise inappropriate shoes. And, oh, the name Mons Vipera (The Hill of the Snakes) is not accidental. A lot of snakes there – but, if you take a stick and make a noise (hitting the stones as you walk), snakes will run away much before you will able to see them. 



Did I mention that Dubrovnik is less than 100 km away? So, here is your chance to visit that legendary city! If you are a fan of “Tha Game of the Thrones”, it is a must, of course. (The winter is not coming to Viganj, don’t worry).

From Viganj, probably right from your camping place, you’ll have an excellent view of the city of Korčula. There, among picturesque old streets, is a house where Marco Polo was born. You’ll approach the shores of Korčula many times with your board blasting back and forth, but on the windless days, or in the morning, you can also take a ferry to Korčula (20 minutes) from Orebić. Maybe you can take your bicycle with you and explore the view on Viganj from the other side.

And one more thing: Orebić and its surrounding (including Kučište and Viganj) have fascinating architecture: old stone houses with gardens in front, built by wealthy ship captains. Orebić had the biggest flotilla in south Adriatic during the 16th century (under the Dubrovnik Republic), and again during the 19th century (under Austro-Hungarian Empire). It was a custom that the ship captain, after each far away sailing, bring back with him an exotic plant or a tree to make his garden even more attractive. So, pay attention during your walks – there are many things around to see and admire.


A note for gourmands

Ok, you already know. I am a vegetarian and a gourmand. Croatian cuisine is… ah, not for me. Very rarely, I can truly recommend a restaurant in Croatia that is vegetarian friendly and serving delicious food. That is why I am delighted to see the change is happening (how strange) on the two most known windsurfers spots in Croatia. One is Bol on the island Brač, where Biomania rules.

And the other is right here, in Viganj: a restaurant with the name Ciringito.

It is not entirely vegetarian or vegan, but it is vegetarian friendly, and you can eat some excellent food prepared with skill, looking fabulous and tasting even better. I’ll leave it to you to judge about the looks of it from a few photos taken one evening when we were starving after a great windsurfing session. For the taste… well, you’ll have to visit Viganj!