Okljucna village and Kraljicina spilja cave

I have been reading about Kraljicina spilja cave (Queen’s cave translated to English) for a while now but never had the time to visit. It is the largest cave of Vis island and it is located on a fairly inaccessible part of the western coast close to Okljucna village. Yesterday we had some extra time and decided to visit the cave.
First, we drove to abandoned Okljucna village.

Okljucna today…


Okljucna today is just a shadow of once a lovely village that even had a full school of students. No one lives there year round any more. Just a few restored houses are now left and many more are abandoned.

The church at Okljucna


To reach the Queen’s Cave, one has to drive from Vis all the way to a sign that tells a story of the cave and the research conducted. It involves some dirt road driving but in general, it is an easy drive.
Then, it is enough to follow the signs along the path. For about 50 minutes.
Abandoned house along the route.

Abandoned house along the route.


Being end of August, we enjoyed picking and eating blackberries and figs but also saw rare service tree filled with fruits (still sour)
Service tree

Service tree


The path is quite scenic but very narrow. it is difficult to get lost, though, as it is the only path you can follow. At times, it goes bellow the pine trees providing much needed shade. make sure you bring plenty of water as you will need it!
Following the path

Following the path


Nearing the cave, the views became stunning. Open seas and steep, rugged western coast of Vis.
The western coast of Vis

The western coast of Vis


The final part of the trail is fairly difficult and ropes have been positioned and tied to the trees to ease the approach. The cave is right above the sea, some 70 meters, although, due to many trees, it does not look that way!
The entrance to Queen's cave

The entrance to Queen’s cave


The cave is not too big and one needs ropes to get to more distant halls. Without any equipment, one can easily get through the first two sections. Some carved steps can also be found to ease getting from one part to another.
The cave is filled with ornaments and it is quite lovely. Nothing spectacular but still pretty. Lots of bats, too!
Inside the cave

Inside the cave


Beautiful part of the cave

Beautiful part of the cave


The cave has also suffered some devastation although some of the major destruction seems to have been done by an earthquake. The archaeologists have doe some excavations as the cave was inhabited in the past. Not permanently according to the evidence found but probably only as a stop when traveling.
Some half hour is enough to enjoy the cave (without ropes) and to enjoy the cool temperatures before heading back.
One exiting we heard and briefly saw, very rare Eleanora’s falcon! That makes these cliffs a top position for any serious birdwatcher!
The road back was nothing easier… Another 50 minutes in the scorching sun and looking for rare pine tree shades. We were happy to be back to Oključna.
Opuntia ficus-indica

Opuntia ficus-indica


Just one of many great places to visit while on Vis!

Travel to Croatia

Beaches of Vis Island – Sandy Smokova beach

Vis is generally known as one of the most beautiful islands of Croatia. Culture, history, food, beaches…all that makes Vis  Island a very special destination. There are several very popular beaches on the island (Srebrna, Stončica, Grandovac, Stiniva…to name just a few) but some are only accessible by a boat as the coast of Vis is quite rugged and wild.

One of my favorites is Smokova for sure.

Smokova beach

Entering Smokova bay

This is not a small bay. It can hold dozens of boats of all sizes and and it is a perfect refuge from jugo (southern) wind or maestral (north western). It is a popular destination for all boaters but it was not crowded despite the fact it was August 1st which is usually the busiest month of the season.

Smokova

Smokova

In the bay

In the bay

The beautiful bay ends with a small sandy beach that is just perfect for families! Well…maybe not everyone likes it.

Great for families and (most) children

Great for families and (most) children

The beach itself is maybe a 100 meters long and it is made of a very fine, nearly white sand. The beach is open to northern winds and it is not the cleanest as some people have a custom of throwing stuff overboard… The Vis island tourist board should find some funds to clean these beaches and maintain it that way through the season (and after). Lots of driftwood as well but I like that and some folks built a nice shade.

White sands

White sands

It is also worth mentioning that, because of the high hills that envelope the Smokova bay, sun is lost fairly soon so, by 7 PM, it was already dark on the beach.

At the beach

At the beach

A curiosity of Smokova is that one can still see part of a WW2 bomber wing at the sea bottom. About 100 meters from the beach. It is part of a wing of an aircraft that did not make it to the Vis airport and crashed here. The airport for allied airplanes was created in the central part of the island as US and British airplanes were attacking Nazi targets during the last stages of the WW2.

Part of the wing

Part of the wing

And then it was time to head back.

Heading back to Vis town

Heading back to Vis town

Stončica lighthouse looked pretty as ever.

Stončica lighthouse

Stončica lighthouse

In general, nearly all beaches of Vis are quite special and very hard to pint one out as the nicest. Smokova is excellent for families as that sandy part makes it easily accessible and great for children. Smokova is part of our motor boat trip around Vis Island as one of the most popular stops.

 

Travel in Croatia

 

 

 

 

 

 

Restaurant Apolon, Stari Grad, Hvar Island

Recently, we have been invited to inspect Hotel Apolon in Stari Grad on Hvar Island. It was a pleasant surprise over a year ago when I first visited but, what intrigued me even more, was the restaurant that everyone was raving about. So, we used the opportunity to visit and taste some of their favorites.

Hotel restaurant Apolon, Stari Grad, Hvar

Hotel restaurant Apolon

There are several great hotel-restaurants in Croatia but not so many in Dalmatia which is a pity considering all the riches we have: from seafood to fruit, from herbs to meat. But, several attempts are already making a big difference. One of them is Apolon.

I have to admit that, when I first saw their menu, I was not impressed. Used to modern cuisine in better restaurants, their offer looks sort of boring with only typical classics you can find in, pretty much any tavern or regular seafood restaurant.

Apolon menu

Apolon menu

But I was seriously wrong…

The manager Rico explained their/his philosophy and he is spot on! Why reinventing something that is so superb? Dalmatian cuisine has it all and all it needs is a modern touch and someone creative to put it on the table. Of course, there are GREAT chefs all over the coast that are bringing that fresh air to our culinary scene.

We started with a bruschetta and every single dish was nothing short of superb! Not only in their taste but also in quite creative presentation by young chef Duje.

Apolon bruschetta

Apolon bruschetta

Cold seafood starter

Cold seafood starter

Squid stew

Squid stew

Deconstructed apple pie

Deconstructed apple pie

Some will immediately notice similarities with Grašo restaurant (in Split) menu. The chef spent some time cooking there but everything at Apolon is seriously better that at Grašo. Somehow feels fresh and modern while the tastes are superb! Everything is simply delicious and each one of the dishes that were brought out is worth coming back. Seafood, of course, is the main reason to come as it is very fresh. Most of the vegetables are grown in the restaurant garden or they buy them from organic producers on the island.

Chef Duje

Chef Duje and manager Rico

Needles to talk about the wine list as Apolon is on Hvar; famous for Tomić, Duboković, Plenković… and many other great wine producers.

Again, a VERY pleasant surprise and well worth stop on either your cruise or a getaway from Hvar town crowds. Stari Grad feels like stepping back in time. Thanks to Restaurant Apolon, not in culinary way.

Culinary Tours in Croatia