November 22, 2018 – Where are the best places to stay in Croatia? A tour of the luxury listings recommended by Relais & Chateaux, starting with Lesic Dimitri Palace on Korcula.
Croatian tourism is evolving, and one of the areas where great progress has been made over the last few years is the luxury sector. Mass tourism in the 1960s in former Yugoslavia gave way to an explosion of construction of concrete eyesores to meet the mass need, and many of these hotels still exist today on a 2 or 3-star level. But finding top-quality, luxury accommodation for high-spending guests who are looking for a hospitality experience to match Croatia’s 5-star destination billing in terms of beauty, has proven to be not such an easy task.
Things are changing slowly, however, and several top-quality luxury boutique hotels have appeared on the scene. While small in number, these hotels have proved to be enormously successful, addressing the needs of luxury tourists looking for that something extra. The well-respected Relais & Chateaus website shows just how rare they still are, however, with just four listings for Croatia on its global website. Let’s meet them.
Few would argue that the top luxury hospitality hotel experience in southern Dalmatia is to be found on the island of Korcula at Lesic Dimitri Palace. Apart from establishing a successful business, the arrival of Lesic Dimitri on Korcula a decade ago has done much to raise the level of quality of the tourism offer of its competitors. So much so that Korcula can now rightly be regarded as an elite gourmet destination, whose strategy is to move its hotels to a minimum of four stars. No mass tourism here, just an island focused on nature, culture, heritage, gourmet and adventure tourism.
“Hotel and restaurant on the seafront. People say that the Silk Road started from this island; Korčula has good reason to be proud to be home to Marco Polo’s house, a stone’s throw from Lešić Dimitri Palace. The building’s history dates back to the 17th century, when the Lešić family, rich property owners and merchants combined a number of semi-detached houses to create a palace worthy of that name. It has been meticulously renovated yet with a touch of contemporary design; its historical character and original layout have been retained and it now offers a small number of independent suites. Each evokes a step in Marco Polo’s journey towards China, in a harmonious décor, with top-quality materials.”
One of the things that fascinates me about walking through the stone towns of Croatia is that one has absolutely no concept of what is behind the walls of each building. And while the buildings may look reasonably similar on the outside, inside can take you to different worlds entirely. Nowhere is this truer that at Lesic Dimitri Palace – spacious journeys to India, Ceylon, Arabia, Venice and China – a true flavour of the Silk Road, just yards from the birthplace of Marco Polo.
I have never stayed at Lesic, but have been fortunate to have eaten there on several occasions. One thing that comes across very strongly is the passion and dedication of its staff, none more so that chef Marko Gajski, who clearly loves what he does and has found the perfect home to grow and innovate. Lesic Dimitri is also included in the 2018 Michelin Guide, one of two entries on the island (Konoba Mate in Pupnat is the other).
More flavours from the East – an in-house massage service from Thailand.
A top boutique hotel has its own luxury services for its guests – here is chef Marko again, on the hunt for sea urchins, just part of the luxury Lesic sailing experience.
The man behind Lesic Dimitri is Michael Unsworth, a retired British financier who first came to Korcula about 50 years ago to visit a local girl he met in London. He ended up falling in love twice, and is not happily married to Masa, that same local girl, as well as in love with his beloved Korcula. Here is Michael, featured in a recent British Embassy video on what unites Croatia and the UK.
To learn more about Lesic Dimitri, click here.
To learn more about Korcula, why not check out our dedicated portal about the Marco Polo island?