Sniježnica in Konavle
Sniježnica in Konavle
The narrowest Croatian one-thousand-meter-high mountain
Sniježnica above Konavle, which towers above the spacious Konavosko field on the eastern side, holds a special place among the most attractive Croatian mountains. The borders of Konavle are the hills of Herzegovina on the north-eastern side, the Montenegrin part of Orjen on the eastern side, the Adriatic on the south, and the town of Cavtat with Župa Dubrovačka and settlement Zvekovica on the west. Konavle is elongated, stretching some 40 kilometres in length and 2 to 15 kilometres in width.
Above the spacious Konavosko field, there are picturesque hills accommodating a number of Konavle settlements: Kuna Konavoska, Duba Konavoska, Brotnice, Šiljesci, Velji Do and other. The peak of Sveti Ilija on Sniježnica is the southernmost Croatian one-thousand-meter-high typical karst mountain with limestone rocks and scarce Mediterranean vegetation. It was named after the snow that can linger on for long on its tops, until May. The reason is less precipitation and the influence from the north, which is decisive for low temperatures prevailing irrespective of the proximity of the sea.
The starting point for climbing Sniježnica is settlement Mihanići, close to Pridvorje, on the eastern rim of the Konavosko field. Some 500 meters behind the post office in Pridvorje, before Lovorno, a narrow paved road bifurcates upwards towards village Kuna Konavoska (721 m). The road steeply ascends and winds for some 5 km to Kuna where mountain markers begin. A mountain house looked after by Dubrovnik mountaineers, "Kuna Konavoska School", the southernmost mountain house in Croatia is located in the village.
Mountain markers starting from the village follow a wide structured trail that ascends with no greater slopes or demanding points. It passes through macchia and littoral woods, which create a comfortable shade from the sun. In the lower part of the trail, in its direct proximity, there is an interesting church of St Nicholas from the 16th century, surrounded by a medieval cemetery and several well-preserved Bogomil stećci tombstones. The trail was built at the time of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire and was used to pull cannons to the top of Sniježnica. Since the trail ascends and winds all the way to the top, the markers cut it short until the pass Duži, from where a view of the mountains of Herzegovina and Montenegro stretches. From the pass, one needs to go west looking at the peak ridge of Sniježnica as the orientation point. This part of the trail is not blazed but due to its width (it is similar to the Premužić trail on Velebit) it is virtually impossible to get lost. From Kuna Konavoska to the top of Sniježnica it takes a total of two hours of moderate walk.
Sveti Ilija (1234 m) is the highest summit of Sniježnica and the highest summit of the County of Dubrovnik-Neretva. East from the peak, there is a 19th century hewn stone chapel, the Chapel of St Ilija, after which the summit was named. From this point, a spectacular view of the Konavosko field and Dubrovnik airport in Čilipi stretches. The view also extends to the islands of the Dubrovnik archipelago: Elafiti, Mljet, Korčula, Lastovo and the peninsula Pelješac, the mountains of Bosnia and Herzegovina Čvrsnica, Prenj, Velež, Zelengora and other, and the mountains of Montenegro Durmitor, Orjen, Subra, Lovćen and even towards Komovo and Prokletije in the south. The traditional pilgrimage to the church of St Ilija takes place every year on Pentecost Monday and the traditional climb to Sniježnica is undertaken on 26 December, as a memory of the first climb of Dubrovnik mountaineers in 1928.