Driving the Road of Hell: Sucuraj to Jelsa on the Island of Hvar
Tourists arriving at the port of Sucuraj have a scary driving experience before reaching the glitz of Hvar Town. Some tips to survive the Road of Hell.
Tourists arriving on Hvar by ferry at the eastern port of Sucuraj are often surprised at what they find. Far from 'the new St. Tropez', as Hvar Town has been labelled, they descend from a tiny ferry into a quaint sleepy Dalmatian village, with the next significant civilisation 60km away, and the only thing that separates the two is the Road of Hell. St. Tropez never seemed so far away. Here are some tips to survive the route.
The Road of Hell: An Overview of the Sucuraj – Jelsa Route
Tourists sometimes make the mistake of thinking that, having arrived on the island, they have almost arrived at their destination. While there are distinct benefits using the Drvenik ferry for travellers from Dubrovnik, the main destinations are still some distance away – Hvar Town (80km), Stari Grad (65km) and Jelsa (56km).
The quality of the road is poor and the experience is not helped by the fact that it is hilly and winding, without protective barriers in many parts. While the road is wide enough for cars to pass with relative ease, an approaching truck on a bend with a sheer drop to the right can be intimidating. Due to the lack of sensible overtaking points, frustrated drivers are more likely to take risks when overtaking, which can add to the stress.
Journey times to the nearest main town, Jelsa, are at least an hour, with another 20-25 minutes if Hvar Town is the destination. It should be noted that there are no petrol stations on the road before Jelsa, so it is advisable to fill up before catching the ferry. The last leg of the trip can seem the hardest, as the road twists and turns at regular intervals, restricting speed. For confident drivers and relaxed passengers, the views are stunning.
Leaving the Ferry and Driving Styles
The small ferry carrying car passengers from the mainland to Sucuraj can hold a maximum of 32 cars. If you are not in a hurry, it is perhaps best to have a coffee in Sucuraj and allow the rest of the ferry traffic to proceed. Impatient tourists and locals who know the road can make driving a less than pleasant experience, as they are in a hurry to get to their destination. While a few cars and caravans may turn off at Camp Mlaska, 2km out of Sucuraj, the majority continue to Jelsa and beyond.
Breaking the Journey: Humac
The Road of Hell passes through some pretty stone villages – Bogomolje, Gdinj, Zastrazisce and Poljica – all without running water and very depopulated, but steeped in their own histories and traditions. If you are not intending to spend time on this side of the island, one place which is worth seeing is the abandoned stone shepherd's village of Humac, about three quarters of the way to Jelsa. It is abandoned and a magical place to walk around. Some restoration is now happening in this protected village, and there is an excellent restaurant at the entrance, which is well worth a visit.
Night Driving: Beware the Wild Boar
Driving the Road of Hell at night brings its own sense of fun. Apart from having to be careful that the road does not disappear due to the lack of street lights, there are some other factors to contend with, such as roaming wild boar, who tend not to look for the zebra crossings when moving around, as this correspondent's car can attest, having been subjected to a head on collision with a couple of hundred kilos of live pork.
If there is no rush, then the drive can be a pleasant one and the views of the Adriatic and neighbouring islands are breathtaking. Having arrived in Jelsa and beyond and recovered, you may be tempted to try out some more interesting roads on the island, such as the old road from Stari Grad to Hvar or the legendary Pitve - Zavala tunnel.