Region: Pelješac/ st. Ilija peak
Length: 26,5 km
Elevation gain: 1080 m
Maximum elevation: 961 m
Technical difficulty: 5/5
Download GPS Track: MTB Pelješac_st.Ilija_Cyclotrail
Date of ride: 17.06.2018
Suitable for E-bike: No
St. Ilija is the highest peak of peninsula Pelješac. Because of its distinguished position st. Ilija offers one of the best views in Croatia and is situated on hill known as Zmijino Brdo (Mons vipera) or Perun’s hill. I mentioned Perun when I was writing about my visit to Mostar and ascend to Velež ( in Slavic mythology Perun is the highest god of pantheon and the god of sky, thunder, lightning, storm, war, law, fertility and oak threes) Peak was named by chapel of st. Ilija.
For a long period of time, visit to Zmijino brdo by bike, was on my bucket list. And I was sure that this visit would be once in a time, because remoteness and distance of peninsula Pelješac from rest of Croatia, but as it shows, I was mistaken. During 2018. I visited st. Ilija three times, two times by bike, and one time while hiking with my friends, and every time I visited this isolated area I discovered another beautiful part, which was hidden from me before. If I wanted to live in a peaceful part of Croatia, far away from city noise, light pollution and smog I would definitely chose Pelješac. As I’m writing this text, construction of bridge that connects Pelješac and mainland is in progress, and even though this move will ease access to Pelješac, it will also destroy islandish nature of Pelješac, I hope I’m wrong. On Pelješac for the first time I saw moufflons, jackals and the most venomous European snake vipera ammodytes. And when I saw them there, they seem so natural there, as if they were created for only purpose just to live on that harsh rock.
Herd of moufflons near the peak sv. Ilija.
Although our circular route that starts in Orebić is only 26,5 km long, it takes 3-5 hours from start to finish. It seems a long time, but a good part of ascent is bike&hike, which requires a lots of time. First part of the trail is some old carriageway. Then we came on unpaved road which leads to the sign that points to st. Ilija peak. After that sign starts combination of hiking and biking, but mostly hiking.
After the sign I come to know about the diversity of Pelješac. First we went through the wood hiking on rocky singletrack, then afterwards we came up to the little meadow near old hut. There we saw a herd of horses which freely run around the trail. After the meadow we encountered little pine forest. After all this flora and fauna, and mixed feelings of excitement and fatigue we came to an old hunting house made of stones, and our last resting spot before the final ascend. This last few hundred meters is different story. Only rocks and more rocks, but because there is nothing on your way to disrupt the view, in every position you have beautiful sight. Dalibor told me that hiking on st. Ilija can be dangerous sometimes, because many tourist go hiking with poor judgement and equipment. Lucky ones are found dehidrated and delirious, unlucky ones are found dead, or are forever lost.
I was amazed that someone could die on a hill that is not even a mountain, but Dalibor explained to me, that the main problem is if hiker starts hiking late and the night comes down, then you can easily lost the trail, and you can only follow city lights, but the main problem are those lights which are from neighbour island Korčula and they often navigate lost hikers in abyss.
After we enjoyed at the top, I realized that gimbal which stabilizes video is malfunctioning so I had to improvise to record even a small glimpse. Sadly, gimbal was not working very well on steep and rocky descents so my video could not represent real difficulties st. Ilija placed before us, and how well Dalibor manages them.