With its sprawling coasts, rich fisheries and a major wine-growing industry, Pelješac is generating a buzz as a less-discovered alternative to Dubrovnik. Indeed, many pass over this peninsula, making their beeline straight for the ancient walled city. All the better for the locals who are drawn to Pelješac for its very lack of tourists, fine wines, long shingle beaches and the best mussels and oysters in Croatia.
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Heading to Pelješac?
The Pelješac peninsula
The destiny of the Pelješac Peninsula has always been linked to its position. Sprawling out towards the sun of the Adriatic and the central Dalmatian islands, some 30 miles north west of Dubrovnik, it was for its Illyrian, Roman and Slavic masters a link between the Balkan hinterland and Korčula and Hvar. Later on, at the time of the Napoleonic Wars, it was important for the French troops for the same reason. Apart from bequeathing it the still-existing Napoleon Road, which runs along sheltered areas from the isthmus to Orebić, they left it the secret of producing Pelješac champagne, an excellent sparkling wine bottled in old siphons. Before that, the people of Dubrovnik had endowed it with stone-girt cities and skill in farming shellfish, the people of Zahumlje with ancient little chapels, and the Greeks and Romans with the viticulture, the production of wine and sea salt, urbanity and a cultivated estate lifestyle. And yet, in spite of the rich history and pristine beauty, Pelješac is one of the least known facets of the Croatian coastline. The peninsula is divided into several regions each with their own distinctive features. The eastern part includes Ston, Ponikve and Crna gora, together with the Ston plain, the ancient cardo and decumanus of which are still to be seen. Driving along the Adriatic coast road from Dubrovnik to Pelješac, not far from the peninsula, the first thing to grab your attention is the defensive walls on the steep slopes that join Ston and Mali
20 great things to do in Pelješac
Lined with long shingle beaches, the Pelješac peninsula that stretches out north of Dubrovnik towards Korčula is that wonderful rarity, a Dalmatian getaway without the crowds. Welcoming to windsurfers and wine lovers alike, Pelješac is also known for its oysters and mussels, arguably the best in Croatia. Once the northern outpost of the Ragusa Republic, today’s Dubrovnik, Pelješac still contains the unique historic attraction of the Walls of Ston, Europe’s longest fortification. RECOMMENDED: where to eat, sleep and drink in Pelješac.
Pelješac is passed over by most visitors to Dubrovnik but locals are drawn to its very lack of tourists, fine wines, long shingle beaches and, most of all, the best mussels and oysters in Croatia. They are farmed at Ston, one of two key destinations on the Pelješac peninsula, which sticks out 90km towards Korčula. The other is Orebić, a resort in its own right, a quick hop and a quieter alternative to Korčula. A windsurfing scene nearby gives it the younger edge that Korčula lacks. One road runs the length of the peninsula, and unless you have a car, your best bet is to head for Ston, where Pelješac meets the mainland, by bus from Dubrovnik, or cross from Ploče to Trpanj. With your own transport, you can drive the 65km of vineyard-lined road, calling at wine cellars serving the famed Postup and Dingač reds. Ston’s natural lake-like bay has hosted mussel and oyster farms since Roman times. In summer, locals sell 5kn oysters by the side of the road. Renowned restaurants from here to Dubrovnik feature Ston oysters on their menus. The Ostrea Edulis variety can only be found in Ston. Smaller than its Atlantic counterpart, it is served open on its flat side. The meat is also firmer and richer flavoured. It is also not cut off from its shell, so don’t tip it down your throat. Excellent beaches stretch either side of the main road too. On the north side, Divna, near the tiny village of Duba, some 6km from Trpanj, is secluded and sandy. Prapratno, 3km west of Ston, is also sandy. O
Kite & Windsurfing Center Water Donkey
Viganj has become a favourite summer meeting spot for wind- and kite-surfers from all over the world. The sea channel between Pelješac and Korčula – and the wind that blows within – provide the ideal conditions for windsurfing and kite-surfing, as it’s here that the wind accelerates in the narrowest part of the channel. Water Donkey offers individual and group kite- and windsurfing classes according to IKO and VDWS standards.
Nakovana Cave and Nakovana Village
Occupied more or less constantly from the early Neolithic period until the arrival of the Romans, Nakovana Cave has been the subject of intensive archeological interest over the last 15 years. It can’t be visited because of its sensitivity as an ongoing archeological site, but photographs of the finds at Nakovana are increasingly visible in museums throughout Croatia. The object of most excitement is the so-called ‘Middle Chamber’, discovered by a Canadian-Croatian team in 1999 digging away at what they thought was the end of the cave. Inside it they found a large stalagmite strongly reminiscent of an erect male organ – together with pottery, plates and votive gifts suggesting that it was the centre of a fertility cult in the 4th to 1st centuries BC. The area was certainly an important one to the Illyrians, who ruled the area prior to being conquered by the Romans. The Grad hillfort, occupying the summit of a nearby outcrop, was an important centre of Illyrian power, and is thought to be a possible power-base of the Illyrian queen Teuta, and a centre of resistance to Roman rule. Even though the cave itself can’t be visited, the largely abandoned village of Nakovana, with its old stone houses and cobbled lanes, is a wonderful place to enjoy a stroll back in time.
Diving Center 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.
Food and drink
Recommended restaurants in Pelješac
Pelješac stands at the centre of one of the Adriatic’s richest fisheries, providing local restaurants with an abundance of fresh seafood. Ston, with its oyster beds, is the one town in the region that is known throughout Croatia is a major gastronomic destination, and the peninsula is one of the Adriatic’s main wine-growing regions; famous above all for its outstanding reds. Read on for our pick of the best restaurants in Pelješac.
Around the Pelješac peninsula
Orebić area guide
Orebić is the principal town of the Pelješac, a rugged, unspoilt, 90km-long peninsula made up of rocky ridges that twist their way above the sea. Pelješac also boasts famously fine wines, long shingle beaches and, most of all, the best mussels and oysters in Croatia. Standing opposite the island of Korčula (to which it is connected by frequent ferry), Orebić is both an ideal base for exploration and a relaxing beach resort in its own right. A major trading centre in the 19th century, Orebić is filled with grand villas festooned with greenery, many of which were built by the sea captains and ship owners whose Orebić-based vessels plied the seas. There are some fine shingle beaches in Orebić itself, and several more spread out along the coast to both east and west. It’s a stretch of shore that’s a paradise for campers, with a string of sites set out along the coast, most of with enjoy direct access to one beach or another. The village of Viganj, west of Orebić, is arguably the best place in Croatia for windsurfing; giving Pelješac a youthful edge that nearby Korčula sometimes lacks. As well as the highly-prized vineyards that drape the peninsula’s southern side, the Orebić area is also graced with some hauntingly rustic stone villages and excellent bay-hugging beaches.
Ston area guide
Ston, and its counterpart Mali Ston, sits on the cape of land connecting the Pelješac Peninsula to the mainland. Known as a salt-producing town, Ston was an important military fort of the Ragusan Republic, and the defensive wallls are world-famous. The 900 metre encircles the area for three miles - the second largest in the world after the Great Wall of China. Despite its military history, nowadays Ston is a small, laid-back fishing town, which boasts some dramatic views - think crumbling churches, olive groves and a stunning coastline. Its proving a winner with tourists, also drawn in by the superlative oyster farms (the oysters here have been commended as some of the best in the world.)
Trpanj area guide
Not so long ago, Trpanj was home to only fishermen and mariners. Laid back and full of charm, Trpanj still has that small village feel, but now attracts tourists from all over the world. Located on the peninsula of Pelješac, it is easily accessible by ferry boat via the port of Ploče, by air, the airports of Split and Dubrovnik or by road via Ston.
Janjina area guide
Further to the west from Prapratno and Ponikve, close to the central part of the Pelješac peninsula, you come to the picturesque backwaters of the Janjina area, and then the central and most densely populated part of the peninsula, with its well-developed agriculture. Here the main villages are Kuna, Oskorušno, Potomje, Pijavičino and Donja Banda as well as Trpanj and Trstenik, a colourful little harbour with a nice beach.
Where to stay in Pelješac
Offering a-la-carte restaurant and bar, and free bike rental, Hotel Ostrea is located in Ston, just 100 metres from the entrance to Old Town and right next to the beach. It is housed in a renovated historic building and features a summer terrace. Free Wi-Fi access is available.Rooms here will provide you with a flat-screen TV with satellite channels, air conditioning and a minibar. Featuring a hairdryer, private bathrooms also come with free toiletries and slippers. Some rooms have a sea view.At Hotel Ostrea guests will also benefit from a 24-hour front desk service, meeting facilities and a shared lounge. An array of activities can be enjoyed on site or in the surroundings, including canoeing. During the summer, breakfast is served at the terrace, while in colder days guests can enjoy it at the nearby restaurant.Malostonski Bay is just 10 metres away. Excursions and day trips can be organised upon request. The Stone area is famous for its oysters and oyster tasting can be organised for the guests. A supermarket and a fresh food market can be found 2 km from the property.The Stone Town Walls can be found 2 km away. Ston Bus Stop can be reached in 1.5 km, while Dubrovnik Airport is 71 km away. The property offers free parking.
Named after the owner (who was nicknamed The Indian at school), the family-run Indijan is a delightful find, hidden behind screen of palms just five minutes’ walk west of the ferry jetty. Right on the seafront path, it’s an intimate, 19-room hotel decked out in soothing pastel shades; with a hint of luxury provided by the spa, fitness centre and dinky indoor pool.
The Villa Koruna is situated on the seashore in peaceful Mali Ston on the Pelješac Peninsula and offers you air-conditioned en-suite rooms with satellite TVs and free Wi-Fi.Tasty Croatian cuisine is served in the restaurant of the Villa Koruna.You can park your car free on site.
Holiday Resort Adriatic
Far away from any noise, surrounded by unspoilt nature on the Pelješac Peninsula, Holiday Resort Adriatic in Mokalo near Orebić offers a peaceful stay at one of the most picturesque beaches in the area.Experience warm hospitality at the family-run property. Mouth-watering Dalmatian cuisine awaits you at the à la carte restaurant, accompanied by superb Peljesac wines.The apartments are cleaned daily and all guests have their own parking place. Some apartments are for non-smokers only.The resort includes a camping area, set between the main hotel building and the beach. Free WiFi access is available at the restaurant and in its surroundings.Take part in diverse interesting excursions to Korčula, Mljet, Dubrovnik or Međugorje or go on an adventurous boat trip.