Sveti Ilija on Pelješac
Sveti Ilija on Pelješac
A rocky giant of the southern Adriatic
The peninsula Pelješac warmly welcomes its guests and impresses with its beauty. The hilly karstic landscape of Pelješac makes it uniquely picturesque and at the same time lures those who wish to venture into mountaineering adventures.
After Istria, Pelješac is the largest Croatian peninsula (348 km2). It is 62 kilometres long and only 3 to 8 kilometres wide. It is connected to the neighbouring land with the 1500-meter-wide Stonska Prevlaka and it therefore resembles more an island than a peninsula as per its geographical features. In its relief structure, two ranges of limestone mountains dominate, sheltering a vast dolomite plateau in between.
The highest part of Pelješac is on the north-western side of the peninsula, above Orebić. This is where the width of the Pelješac Channel is only 1270 m and due to the relief barrier on the north, this channel provides a haven for boats in cases of bora gusts. It is also why it played a historical role of the southern doors to the central littoral zone of Croatia. Therefore, the position of Orebić, in its narrowest part, was a decisive factor for the blooming of Pelješac maritime affairs at the time of sailboat navigation. In the second half of the 19th century, the maritime association of Pelješac had over 33 ocean sailboats.
The highest peak of Pelješac is Sveti Ilija, 961 meters high. From the ridge of Pelješac, steep bare rocks slope on both sides. Although the mount is on a peninsula, it has all the features of an island mountain given its position and viewpoints. If Pelješac were an island, this would be the highest summit on the Adriatic. The ascent to the top is possible from three directions: from a tiny village, Urkunići, east from village Ruskovići, from Karmen and Bilopolje or from Gornji Nakovanj, 6 km southwest from Viganj. The old trail from Rusković is the steepest and the main route is nowadays the one from Bilopolje. It takes 3 hours to climb to the top, water should be carried along in abundance, as there is very little on the mountain, and most of the trail is exposed to sun.
The entire mountain is special due to its extraordinary views of the islands of Dalmatia and Orebić Riviera. Given its height and the isolated position of Pelješac, this is one of the widest and most beautiful viewpoints of all Croatian mountains. Older maps contain the names such as Monte Vipera and Perunovo Hill. This name stems from the Pre-Christian era when this peak was a place of worship of the old Slavic god of thunder and today’s official name was given after the Chapel of St Ilija. The summit is marked with a pile of stones and a small wooden cross, as well as a marble plate with the name of the summit.
It is impressive how many interesting sites can one see and experience on such a relatively small peninsula. Each of these particularities is a reason for true gourmands to spend at least one day on the hilly Pelješac – and a good reason to return again and again.