Vela Špilja

Useful Information

Location: Ul. 4, 20270, Vela Luka.
On the island near the village Vela Luka on the western end of the island. From the harbour follow Ul. 4 north, it goes across the village, up the hill and makes a big bow, 2.8 km. Park on the small car park at the end of the paved road.
(42.9697318, 16.7183568)
Open: All year Mon-Sat 9-20.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave
Light: n/a
Dimension: L=50 m, W=40 m, H=20 m, A=120 m asl. Portal: W=8 m, H=5 m.
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: yes
Bibliography: E. Cristiani, R. Farbstein, and P. T. Miracle (2014): Ornamental traditions in the Eastern Adriatic: the Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic personal adornments from Vela Spila (Croatia) Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 36: 21-31.
P. T. Miracle, T. O'Connor, C. Rainsford (2014): Fishing in the Adriatic at the Mesolithic–Neolithic transition: evidence from Vela Spila, Croatia Environmental Archaeology 9(3): 311-320.
D. Brajkovic, R. Farbstein, P. T. Miracle, D. Radic (2012): First Epigravettian Ceramic Figurines from Europe (Vela Spila, Croatia) PLoS ONE 7(7): e41437.
P. T. Miracle, D. Radic, R. Wallduck (2010) Treatment of the Dead in the Late Mesolithic: reconstructing taphonomic histories of human remains from Vela Spila, Croatia UDK: 393 (497.5 Vela špilja).
Patricia Duff (2018): Vela Spila - The Millennia-long Story Of A Croatian Cave, Current World Archaeology, Issue 89, pp 50-52. pdf online
Address: Centar za kulturu Vela Luka, Ulica 26 br. 2, 20270 Vela Luka, Tel: +385-20-813-602. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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1951 first excavation in the cave by Marinko Gjivoje.
1952 excavation by Grga Novak.
1974-* systematically excavated by a group of archaeologists led by Božidar Čečuk.
1991 archaeological exhibition at the Cultural Centre in Vela Luka opened to the public.


Vela Špilja (Vela Cave) is an impressive cave ruin which was once a huge cave, but has now collapsed to form a sort of natural amphitheatre. Vertical walls and the remainders of the roof make this a shady place with rays of sunlight. The amount of light is high enough to allow the growth of plants, there is even a huge tree growing in the middle of the cave. This cave is definitely a mysterious and mystic place.

The cave has been inhabited by man since prehistoric times. Archaeological excavations revealed numerous remains which are on display in the museum collection of the Centar za kulturu Vela Luka (Cultural Centre at Vela Luka). The cave is located 130 m above Kale bay, on the southern slope of Pinski Rat (171 m asl). The entrance faces almost south, and offers a great view of the bay and Blatsko field. As an important archaeological site the cave was closed by a massive iron bar gate. We are not sure if the given open hours are the museum or the cave, but we guess it is a good idea to check in at the museum before you walk up to the cave and find it closed.

The cave has a sediment floor which is at least 10 m deep, a result of the weathering of the surrounding cave and sand and dust blown in by the wind. The constant addition of loose material slowly filled the cave, covering and preserving all items which humans left in the cave since prehistory. The wealth of remains was excavated for some 70 years now by generations of archaeologists. Huge sections, about 20 % of the floor were excavated up to 10 m deep, without reaching the rock basement in more than a few spots. Most of the floor is still in its original state. Due to its size, this is one of the richest and most significant Mediterranean archaeological sites. It was inhabited from the end of the Paleolithic to the middle of the Bronze Age, 22,000 years of more or less continuous visits.

One of the things which were discovered here is that pottery is much older than originally thought. The archaeologists believed that people started pottery when they started agriculture. Actually, pottery is not really practical in a nomadic life, too heavy and too fragile. However, here numerous ceramic figurines were found which are much older.

During the excavation in 1985, two graves with skeletons were found. They were buried with pottery in the style of Hvar culture, in a specific position, their heads tilted to the side. Locals named these skeletons Dida and Baba, which means grandpa and grandma in the local Dalmatian dialect.

At the end of the last ice age, during the Epigravettien Culture, the level of the Adriatic was more than 100 m lower. The islands of today were mountains separated by valleys. The Vela Luka bay was a valley with a river, the source at the location of today's Vrulje. There were large grassy plains where animal herds lived. Their hunting prey was deer, cows, donkeys, pigs, roe deer, and rabbits. Sometimes they even hunted birds.

The cave is a show cave, but not in the normal way with speleothems, concrete trails, and electric light. This cave has daylight, so there is actually no need for light. The floor is natural, but it is more or less level, so it is quite easy to navigate, even for disabled. Without a roof, the rain falls in, and we guess the earth will get slippery on wet days. The cave is visited self-guided, there are numerous explanatory signs along the walls.

There is a road to the cave which ends at the cave entrance with a parking lot. Since 2022, there is also an educational trail named Plavi put (Blue Road), which is a long concrete trail from the village to the cave entrance. It has numerous stairs, but also numerous educational signs, and medicinal plants were planted along the trail.