What to see in Croatia: The Blue Cave
As your captain gently steers the little boat through the low, narrow entrance, sunlight gives way to darkness. The momentary gloom starts to reveal rock walls as your eyes become acclimatized. And as you push deeper into the cavern, an ethereal aquamarine light floods up through the sea water, giving it a silvery-blue hue. The effect is quite other-worldly and unlike anything you’ll see anywhere else in the Adriatic Sea. This is the legendary Blue Cave of Croatia and here’s why it’s a must-see on your next vacation.
Where is the Blue Cave?
The Blue Cave, known as the Modra špilja, is hidden away in the Balun Cove on the eastern side of a little Croatian island called Bisevo; one of the 1,200 isles and islets that cluster like jewels along the country’s Adriatic coastline. Bisevo sits in the middle of the Dalmatian archipelago of islands, around three miles off Vis which itself is off the southwest coast of the sunshine island of Hvar. Bisevo is one of just a couple of hundred Croatian islands that is inhabited, although with just 15 people living there in 2011, its population is tiny in comparison to many others.
The island rises to 785 feet at its highest point and is a mix of pine forests, vineyards, fertile fields and rocky shrub land leading down to the coast. Islanders make a living making wine or fishing, and it’s to the local fishermen that we owe the discovery of the Blue Cave.
The fishermen of Bisevo know the waters like the back of their hands and, unsurprisingly, have known about the Blue Cave for centuries. And the cave isn’t the only one on the island either: a total of 26 caverns pierce the tiny island. But it is the only one to glow blue and is widely agreed to be one of the best caves in Croatia and, indeed, anywhere in the Adriatic. It is only relatively recently that the grotto has become a visitor attraction. So how was the cave formed and how did it become such a lure for Croatians and vacationers alike?
How did the Blue Cave form?
The Blue Cave, along with all the others around the Bisevo coast, is carved into steep limestone cliffs. But this is not a man-made cavity; the grotto has been formed over centuries by the slow,gradual erosion of the limestone by Adriatic waves.
It remained hidden for centuries, known only by fishermen, as there was no entrance from the open sea or for boats to enter. The only way in was to make a slightly perilous dive under a rock wall in just the right place so that you surfaced in the glorious pool at the heart of the grotto.
It was a tricky place to find and certainly not easily accessible for tourists, but that changed when the locals decided to open up the cavern in 1884. The solution was to use dynamite to blow a small entrance in the side wall of the rock face to allow small dinghies and row boats to sneak into the magical grotto; fortunately, this didn’t change the enchanted atmosphere. But why does the cave glow blue?
But why is Croatia’s Blue Cave blue?
The cavern is something of a geological, scientific and natural wonder. The white limestone of the cave floor is crucial for the glow since the wave action of the Adriatic smoothes the stone. But it is sunlight that creates the magic.
During the summer between 11am and noon, the sun’s beams penetrate the cave through a small underwater opening. Normally, that would light up a dark cave only a little bit, but the crucial element is the limestone cave floor that reflects and refracts the sunlight up through the seawater, giving it an ethereal, neon glow. It’s unlike anything you’ll have seen elsewhere and is utterly captivating to see fish that appear silver against the aquamarine light.
Visiting Croatia’s stunning Blue Cave
Access to it is not easy: for a start, only small boats can navigate the opening since it’s only five feet high and eight feet wide (and you might still have to duck to avoid hitting your head on the cave roof).
The small size of the cave, at just 59 feet long, 19.5 feet high and 19.5 feet deep, also restricts the number of visitors who can enter at any one time. You’re not allowed to swim into the Blue Cave so the easiest and best way to visit it is with your own private tour as part of a full day boat excursion from Hvar.
You’ll kick off the day with a speedboat from Hvar town to take in some of Croatia’s glorious Pakleni archipelago on the way to the Blue Cave. Your captain will guide you past the Stoncica stone lighthouse on Vis island; this is the last inhabited lighthouse in the Adriatic and has guarded and guided ships through the shallow Hvar channel for decades. It is occasionally open to visitors and the bay is a wonderfully scenic spot to stop for a swim.
Next stop is the Green Cave, or Zelena spilja, on the tiny island of Ravnik. It’s a wonderful natural sight, but the best is yet to come when you reach the Blue Cave after a short swim off Stiniva beach. And although, sadly, it is not permitted to dive into the waters of the Blue Cave, the experience will definitely touch you, creating some unique Croatian memories. Sounds idyllic, doesn’t it? Just wait till you see it for yourself since no words can do the stunning spectacle justice!
What to see in Croatia
Croatia is full of scenic landscapes, staggering sea views and breathtaking beauty, but few places can rival the tiny blue grotto hidden under the limestone cliffs of Bisevo island. The sunlight penetrates deep under the seawater, bounces off the cave’s limestone floor and then refracts up through the brine, scattering blue sunbeams. It’s a magical site and unique in the Adriatic Sea. So next time you’re planning a visit to Croatia, make sure you book your private tour with our friendly travel consultants. You’ll be blown away by the beauty of this tiny sea cave, taking home a little bit of Croatia in your heart. Happy travels!