Behind its mysterious beauty, the hills of the Pelješac peninsula in Croatia hide a long history of human habitats. One such hidden place with secrets that will probably never be discovered fully is the cave above the abandoned ghost village of Nakovana.

So, you are in Viganj, chasing the wind, but if you look up to the hills, you will probably not think about Neolithic history and the people who lived there 8000 years ago. You will probably not think about ancient Illyrians who inherited the secret cave and turned it into their own sanctuary devoted to the God of fertility. And, most probably, you will not think about the name of the place you are in: Viganj.

You should, though, because there is a legend behind that name and the name of the abandoned village above it: Nakovana (or Nakovanj). That legend is not so ancient (coming from the middle ages or later), but it is definitely a part of the interesting history of that place.

“Viganj” means “the blacksmiths bellow” and “nakovanj” is an anvil. The legend says that three brothers, who were blacksmiths, decided to split. One kept the house (Kućište, another village between Viganj and Orebić, probably received its name from the word “house”, or in Croatian “kuća”), one kept the anvil (thus Nakovanj or Nakovana), and one kept the tools, specifically blacksmith’s bellow used to fan the fire. Is it a strange synchronicity, or is there some other hidden meaning in the fact that Viganj practically serves as a natural bellow, producing a constant and abundant stream of air so precious for watersport lovers? Well, we can only speculate.

In the meantime, back to Nakovana. While Kućište and Viganj are well and alive, Nakovana is an abandoned village (actually, that’s Gornja Nakovana, “Upper Nakovana”). The last resident left in 1991., but the houses belong to descendants of old owners, waiting for some better times.

(If you wish to read more about the history of that place, the most comprehensive writing I found is the text by Heinrich Hall: “Off the beaten track: Nakovana, an archaeological landscape in Dalmatia”)

History aside, a short hike to the ancient Neolithic cave and the abandoned village of Nakovana is something worth doing. You’ll need less than two hours and not too much strength (it’s an easy hike, almost like a walk). But, it is a place of power, so be prepared for inner experiences which are hard to express. We made a trip the other day, and here is what we have to show and say about it.

Hike to Nakovana Cave

There is a well-known viewpoint on the road from Viganj to Lovište. Drive a little bit further, and after a kilometer or so, you will see a table announcing Nakovana archeological site on the east side of the road. You can leave your car there or drive a little bit further to a parking clearing to the left and right. Nakovana village and the cave are to the right.

Here is our GPS track this morning.

You’ll first come to the small, well-maintained chapel (Mala Gospa). The path continues behind it, and at first, it is well-marked. You’ll have to pass through one wooden door (open and close them behind you).

After a few hundred meters, you’ll come to the second wooden door. If you continue further, you’ll soon reach the abandoned village of Nakovana. However, the path to the cave is on the left!

There are no visible markings, and honestly, if it weren’t for the Garmin maps we used with our watches, we’ll be lost not only here but also later on. The markings are rare, and the visible ones are old. The bushes around the track are dense, and sometimes you don’t know where to go next. In spite of the cave being open to the public, it is, unfortunately, a kind of path less traveled.

Also, you have to wear appropriate clothing (long sleeves and long pants), otherwise, you can cut yourself on dry branches and thorny plants.

Another warning; there are snakes around, some of them poisonous. So make some noise while making your way through the bushes (hit the rocks in front of you with the sticks). Also, watch the low branches of the nearby trees. We don’t want to scare you – we didn’t see a single snake on the way, but better safe than sorry.

On the bright side, you’ll enjoy magnificent views on the way. This place is truly a place of natural power. It is raw and radiates some sharpness, but at the same time, it touches something deep inside you. We’ll never know the reason why ancient Neolithic people and later Illyrians choose that place for their sanctuaries. The climatic and the landscape might be different then. But there is some strength of connection between earth and heaven here, and you may feel it if you watch around you.

And finally, the cave. Again, not much to see, but a lot to feel. Take some peaceful time, close your eyes, meditate, dance, or do some private ritual. It is the right thing to do in such a powerful place.

The way back was easier (we knew the path). When we reached the second wooden door, we took a turn through them and made some circular track, visiting the lost village of Nakovana and back to the main road and parked car.

It was a good morning indeed!

About the Author: Adrian

Author and writer of more than fifty books, teacher, lecturer, explorer of consciousness, avid windsurfer, and lover of outdoor activities. He’ll write mostly about windsurfing on fin and foil, spot reviews, and camping equipment.
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