Orebić has hotels and restaurants and more to pack into a weekend. A major trading centre until the late 19th century, it contains grand villas festooned with greenery, built by retired sea captains. Its main sight is a Franciscan monastery on a hilltop 20 minutes’ walk from the Hotel Bellevue. Built in the late 15th century, it houses Our Lady of the Angels, an icon said to protect sailors in the Pelješac Channel picturesquely spread below. Before you reach it, another trail leads to the summit of Sv Ilija, with views from 961 metres high. Locals come to Orebić and nearby for its beaches. The nicest one is Trstenica, sandy, with a few bars and a section for naturists. It’s a 20-minute stroll east of the ferry terminal. Boats make regular journeys to Viganj, a popular spot for windsurfing. Near here is Poboduče, a wine-producing and fishing village nestled in a secluded pebble-beach bay: a tranquil spot that’s well worth a visit. The main diving club, OreBeach, outside Orebić, is a modern centre with a hotel and restaurant. Viganj has three churches. The oldest, the 16th-century St Liberan – more a chapel, really – sits on the main spit of beach that is the windsurfing hub. The other two, Our Lady of the Rosary and 18th-century St Michael’s, are on the way to a historic local point of interest: the Nakovana archaeological site, with evidence of the Stone Age.
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The family-run Skaramuča winery owns the biggest stretch of the vineyards that cover the slopes above Dingač village. They are also among the area’s most successful winemakers, producing a mid-price Plavac that is among the best bargains in Croatia, a more upmarket Plavac Premium, a supreme-quality Dingač, and a much-lauded Dingač Barrique. You can buy them all at outlet prices at the Skaramuča wine shop in Pijavično, a village on the main road from Orebić to Ston or in Viganj on the seafront road as you head out of the village towards Loviste. You can also book a tour of the vineyards themselves, which lie on the other side of the hill from Pijavično (they’re actually accessible through a famously spooky road tunnel from Potomje). A stone-built tasting pavilion near the top of the sloping vineyard provides visitors with sweeping views of the coast, and provides some idea of how much work is involved in harvesting these hillside-grown grapes.
Beside Pelješac's main road, at the heart of local wine scene, just after Potomje towards Orebić, is Wine Bar and Shop Peninsula. Over 60 wines from Pelješac and Korčula, hard to find elsewhere, makes the effort to get there worthwhile. Aside from famed Plavac reds and Pošip whites from little boutique wineries and available by the glass, you can pre-order some great fish or meat, prepared on an open fire behind the bar. Friendly service and reasonable prices.
Towering over Orebić is the gnarled grey Sveti Ilija, at 961m Pelješac’s highest point. Although it looks forbiddingly arid and stony from a distance, Sveti Ilija is covered in grasses and herbs, and frequently grazed by moufflon goats. Views from its slopes are as outstanding as you would expect, with much of southern Dalmatia visible from the summit. There are several marked hiking paths up the mountain. The lower slopes are also perfect for mountain biking, although specific routes are not marked as such, and it’s really a question of improvising your own two-wheeled trails. The most direct hiking ascent (3hr 30min) is from Urkunici just outside Orebić to the north, although it has some taxingly steep sections. A slightly easier alternative is the signed path that forks uphill just to the east of Orebić’s Franciscan Monastery. The most popular route (2hr), starting out from the semi-abandoned village of Gornja Nakovana on the Orebić-Lovište road, involves a much more gradual ascent. There’s a fourth route from Viganj, which meets up with the path from Nakovana above. The largely abandoned hill villages above Viganj and Kučište, on the flanks of the mountain, are connected by old roads perfect for more easy-going biking or hiking. However you choose to approach the mountain, be sure to take proper footwear, a weather report, ample water supplies and long trousers – the area is a popular habitat for the horn-nosed viper.
There are few better places to while away a warm Pelješac evening than the ‘Three Palms’, a welcoming wooden pavilion with remove-able canvas sides that sits right on the lip of Orebić’s small-boat harbour. A big wicker lobster pot hanging from the ceiling helps to set a jolly seafaring tone - although there’s also something of a pirate theme, with the staff clad in skull-and-crossbones T-shirts (and at least half of them sport black pointy beards). It’s a quality coffee-sipping spot during the daytime. Otherwise, silky red Dingač and Postup wines are available by the glass; the cocktail menu is dusted off in summer.
The hillside beneath Orebić’s Franciscan Monastery is densely covered by a belt of dark-green cypresses planted in the mid-twentieth century. Now a protected nature reserve, the forest also includes smaller numbers of Aleppo Pine, Carob and Olive trees. The path from just above the Bellevue Hotel to the Franciscan Monastery passes through the reserve, enabling you to enjoy the fragrant calm of this unique spot.
Occupying a stony ridge to the west of town, the Franciscan Monastery is a muscle-toning twenty-minute walk uphill from the Hotel Bellevue at the western end of town. It’s certainly worth the effort, offering stunning views of the Pelješac Channel from the gazebo-like structure that stands opposite the monastery entrance. Built in the late 15th century, the monastery church houses Our Lady of the Angels, an icon said to protect Orebić’s sailors. Homeward-bound captains used to blow their ships’ horns in salute when passing beneath the monastery – the monks responded by tolling their bell. The monastery treasury displays baroque paintings, and a miracle-working crucifix from the island of Badija; while the nearby graveyard contains some extraordinary family tombs.
Boutique Hotel is housed in a grand 17th century building right on the seafront. The characterful building was previously owned by the church and then a school, but now it's a sophisticated adults-only hotel, with an à-la-carte restaurant and superb wine cellar. All rooms have sea views, an LCD satellite TV, air conditioning and hardwood floors. The most desirable come with exposed stone wall interiors and a balcony, and the whole place is kitted out with antique-style furniture. Water sports facilities are in the immediate vicinity, and the hotel organises trips to Međugorje, Dubrovnik, and islands of Mljet and Korčula. The nearest grocery store is at a distance of 100 metres. A bus station and a ferry port, with frequent links to Domince on Korčula Island, are within a 5-minute walk. The town of Ston is 55 km away, while Dubrovnik is 110 km from the Hotel Adriatic.
Diving Centre Adriatic offers visitors the chance to plunge into the big blue, with first-rate facilities and accommodation available at the nearby Holiday Resort Adriatic. Open to first-timers and advanced scuba divers alike, Adriatic provides a safe, hugely enjoyable underwater journey – as well as boat excursions to the Peljesac-Korcula Canal, where you can soak up expansive views of islands, inlets and cliff-lined lagoons. In Orebić, the rocky seabed is textured with underwater delights, and as you dive through the reefs, you can observe marine animals in their natural habitat, while sea-critters tickle your toes.
One of the most worthwhile mainland excursion destinations within reach of Orebić is the site of Narona, the Roman town and trading hub whose remains are mostly submerged beneath the modern village of Vid. A first-century temple at the heart of Narona was discovered in the mid-1990s, and a museum was built to cover the site of the excavations, complete with the mosaics and statues that were found at the spot. A sleek grey box containing metal stairways and see-through floors, the museum is certainly an object lesson in how to preserve and exhibit an archeological dig. The temple floor is surrounded by 17 marble sculptures of gods and imperial rulers – most are lacking heads and arms but they still look pretty impressive. There’s a viewing terrace on the roof of the museum, allowing sweeping views of the Neretva Delta’s irrigation canals and orange plantations.