Trpanj Croatia – hidden gem on Peljesac Peninsula
Trpanj, a small little fishing village in the Pelješac Peninsula is truly one of Croatia’s hidden gems.
It has a long history that dates back to Roman times and earlier, a rich cultural heritage that has spanned the centuries, a fishing tradition, and is set in a stunning landscape that is replete with vineyards and olive orchards that are centuries old.
It is only in recent times that this little village has opened itself to tourism. And the world has loved this town; it now sees visitors from all over the world who enjoy all that Trpanj has to offer.
The History of Trpanj
Facing the Croatian mainland, Trpanj is located on the northern coast of the Pelješac Peninsula. Its history is long and varied.
An Ancient Settlement
First settlements date back to prehistoric times, with archeological finds of pottery and implements on the slopes of Gradina, the small hill facing the harbor indicating the area was inhabited by an urban-style culture.
Further proof of the area being inhabited in the distant past has been found on St. Roko’s knoll.
There are also remnants of Roman occupation, discovered in 1922, where a mosaic was unearthed on Gradina hill in a local park. Later in 1963, even more evidence of Trpanj being a Roman settlement were found.
The fortifications of a Roman villa and the foundations of columns and even an inscription dating back to the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD was revealed.
At that time, the inhabitants of the land were called Illyrians, with whom the Romans came in contact. According to the Dubrovnik historian Jakov Lukarić, Tarpano (also called Tarponio), an ancient fortress, had been destroyed by Julius Caesar himself when he battled the Illyrians on the slopes of Gradina.
During the 6th century AD, most of Dalmatia was dominated by the Goths, and so Emperor Justinian I of the Byzantine Empire built a range of defenses along the peninsular coastline.
This was done in a bid to rebuild the lands that had been abandoned to the Goths so that trading along that route would be safer. Remains of those defenses can still be seen on Gradina hill.
The Neretva channel has always been a maritime trade route, and despite the constant battles over borders in that region, mercantile exchanges never ceased. Ships from ancient Greece plied the channel, carrying supplies to Corinth for the manufacture of incense, as it was used by the Romans to trade in wine amphoras.
As trade grew in the region, the princes of Neretva introduced a tributum pacis (peace tribute), which was a tax imposed on traders. It required anyone buying and selling good in that region to pay them a peace tribute for their trade.
It was during the Middle Ages that the modern Croatian population settled in the region, and they constructed their own monuments over the old ones in the Trpanj region.
For example, the first as well as most significant church of those times, which was dedicated to St. Peter, was built over the ruins of an ancient Roman villa.
The Lords of Trpanj
It was during the era of the Republic of Dubrovnik that Trpanj began to flourish as a maritime village.
The region of Trpanj was divided into 4 parts, 2 of which were given to the brothers of the Gambe family, Dobre and Luka. The other two parts were given to the brothers of the Bucchia family, Marko and Petar.
Both noble families were seafarers, strong in the maritime business.
Both families, however, died heirless and their shares of Trpanj were sold to Gradi family.
The head of the family, Stjepan Gradi, left the property to his son-in-law, Jerolim Frano Gundulić, and so the Gondola family came to be the lords of Trpanj in 1498.
Despite many legal battles and inheritance struggles, the region of Trpanj remained in the Gondola family till 1856, when the residents of Trpanj legally bought the town from their landlords and freed themselves from serfdom.
This was the first time in Pelješac that this had happened, making the people of Trpanj truly unique.
What to Do in Trpanj
Despite the fact that Trpanj is a small town, there is so much to do that you really won’t get bored!
This fishing village has lovely beaches with crystal clear waters, old world churches, seafood restaurants, a stunning promenade, mountain trails, a healing mud lagoon, and so much more!
The Beaches of Trpanj
Trpanj is a popular seaside town for a reason. The pebbly beaches are shallow and front the crystal-clear waters of the peninsula. They are lined by pines and palms, tamarisks and other Mediterranean trees.
You can soak up the sun or relax under the cool shade of the trees while you drink in the beauty of the sea.
Thanks to its geographical location, Trpanj has a mild balmy climate throughout the year. Summers are hot, but moderate, and the mistral, the afternoon sea breeze, keeps you refreshed, and you can enjoy your time at the many beaches dotting the area’s coastline.
Some of the most popular beaches are Pozora, Luka, Divna, Duba and Jezero. Pozora is perfect for families with children. Located just outside the hotel Faraon, this is shallow gravel beach, and is shaded by trees. On the eastern entrance to the town is Luka beach, which is also great for families.
Divna is located 10km outside Trpanj, on the way to Duba. This beach is a mix of sand and gravel, and is a truly beautiful place. The sparkling azure waters of the sea to one side, and lush Mediterranean foliage to the other, it truly lives up to its name, which means gorgeous.
You can even camp at this beach, and there is a beach bar that serves you refreshments.
13 kms from Trpanj, Duba is the most popular of all the beaches in the area. This beautiful gravel beach is shallow and sparklingly clear. Another family beach, there is also a beach bar where you can get refreshments while you enjoy your time there.
Jerezo is more of a hidden cove, a lagoon located 1km away from Duba.
The only way you can get to this beach is by boat, but is it really worth it. There is a lake that surrounds the beach from the land, and a small brook crosses the beach to empty out into the sea. Surrounded by lush green foliage, the blue, blue lagoon is breathtaking.
The Vineyards of Trpanj
The vineyards of Trpanj are located in Gornja and Donja Vrućica. These settlements are on the inner slopes of Pelješac and you will encounter the truly pastoral nature of the area. Ancient olive groves, sprawling vineyards and limestone knolls surround you.
This is an old, old place, with churches and chapels dotting the countryside, some of which are mentioned in some of the oldest Christian documents. Treat yourself to a wine tasting session, complete with home-made olive oils and Mediterranean figs.
You will get really good wines such as Plavac mali, Postup and Dingač, and you can even try local cuisine traditionally cooked on the fireplace such as baked goat meat.
If you like to hunt, then this is where you should visit. Locals can guide you to hunt wild boar and chamois.
Excursions in Trpanj
If you’re an outdoorsy person, then Trpanj is perfect for you. It isn’t just a beach town, after all.
You can go hiking and biking on trails that cater to the casual tourists as well as the serious trail goers.
You can take the 2km walk (or bike) around the Trpanj coast. To one side is that bright blue sea, and on the other side is the rich foliage of the Mediterranean.
However, the truly amazing trails are the Olive Oil Route and the Herbs Route. The Olive Oil Route begins from Vrilo Camp and is a 6km long trail that ends at Velika Prapratna.
There are stone benches and gazebos along the trail where you can rest, or even have a small picnic.
Also called the Medicinal Plants Path, this is a beautiful trail that starts in Donja Vrućica. This is one of those ancient paths that has been followed by people through the centuries. You will be surrounded by the scent of exotic flowers, aromatic herbs like sage, heather, rosemary and basil.
Along the way, you will see mounds of stones that date as far back as the Illyrian period.
If you are looking for something more challenging, then you need to try the mountain trails of Trpanj.
You can try the Miloševic mountain trail, Viter Hill Path, Paškal’s Path and Loriza.
The Churches of Trpanj
A deeply Catholic belief is a part and parcel of Trpanj culture and history. So, the region is dotted with churches that are so old that reach far back into the dawn of Christianity.
At one time, the oldest church of St. Peter existed in Trpanj.
The architecture was pre-Romanesque and dated back to the 9th century AD. Over time, the church fell to ruin, and was used as a cemetery. Finally, to save remnants of the famous church, 2 of its altars, the iconic Rosetta Stone and the entrance stones were moved to St. Michael’s Church. The last remaining altar was moved to the Lady of Carmen Church.
St. Michael’s Church, now renamed Church of St. Peter and Paul, was constructed in 1799. The Lady of Carmel Church was built even before that, somewhere after 1645.
The Church of St. Roko, the protector of lepers, was built in the first part of the 17th century. It was built over the remains of an even older church, and it houses a cemetery for children.
The Church of St. Anthony was built in the 1700s, the Church of St. Nicholas in 1840, and the smallest church in Trpanj, the Chapel of the Lady of Grace was constructed in 1865.
Each of these churches has a long and interesting history – how they came to be, who commissioned their building, what was contained in each of the churches and so on.
You could actually spend days learning about the history of each of these churches, while you take in the beauty of the stunning architecture and attention to detail in each of these places of worship.
The Fortress of Gradina
Dating back to the time of the Illyrians, and then further built up by the Romans, the Slav and the Turks, the fortress of Gradina is a marvel.
This lagoon is covered in therapeutic mud, which is supposed to be effective in aiding the healing of many rheumatic diseases. For those of you who are health conscious, this place is a must see!
How to Get to Trpanj
The other way is you drive down to Ploce and cross over on the car ferry from there. It is a one-hour crossing, so you can relax.
You will need to get off on the island of Korcula. From there, you will need to cross over in a ferry to Orebić and then take a bus to Trpanj.
You can travel by air to Dubrovnik and then use the mini-bus collection service to get you to Trpanj.
You can even travel to Trpanj on your own yacht or boat and dock at the town’s harbor!
Where to Stay in Trpanj
Now that the town is geared towards tourism, you don’t really need to worry about where to stay, or if that stay will be comfortable. You have the choice of Airbnbs, apartments, hotels, camp sites and so on!
For more information, you can contact the Tourist Board of Trpanj at +385 20 743 433. You can even email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.