August 9, 2023: Centuries ago, monks carved the fantastical Dragon Cave reliefs high above the sea as they hid in from pirates and invading Turks.
At six am we set out from Bol to visit the mysterious Dragon Caves (Drakonjina špilja). This should have been about a five-mile hike, followed by a swim before the heat of the day. But the cave is elusive, even with digital aids. Wrong turns took us well up the mountain, and we doubled both the distance and elevation we had planned. It was hot on the way up, and loose gravel made the downhill even more challenging.
Totally worth it. But if you go, get directions save yourself a few miles!
Hiding in the Hills
During the middle-ages, locals didn’t live along the beautiful Adriatic shores. It was too dangerous, with invading Ottoman Turks and pirates raiding. Instead, they climbed high up the cliffs, disguised their stone houses and monasteries, and raised sheep, goats, grapes, olives and figs in the sparse, stony soil.
To the Lair
As we learned, if the path seems obvious, you are on the wrong trail. Avoid our wrong turns by finding the lower of the two caves found on Google maps. Follow the Blue Eyes, up past the abandoned terraces of a monastery, and look for the deceptively small spur trail climbing steeply up. There, you’ll find the cave.
You’ll also find that the chapel is barred and locked. You can see and photograph the western reliefs, but the way is shut. You’ll need a paid guide – or great rock-climbing skills – to enter.
The Dragon Cave
In about the 15th century, Glagolitic friars built a chapel in a hidden cave about what is today the small town of Murvica. There an artistic monk wrestled to reconcile pagan and Christian beliefs, leaving his story in the rock walls. On the western wall of the front chamber, fantastic reliefs show angels, demons and a dragon crowded around a crescent moon and surrounded by early Slavic pagan symbols. On the eastern wall, humans and nested birds with Christian iconography.
The views back down the trail are amazing, with Hvar far in the distance across the channel. Take a moment occasionally to just soak in the view. Then put both eyes on the path as you ease on down, else you’ll tumble all the to the bottom!