Vis Islands holds many historic secrets. From still unearthed Greek town, sunken ships and planes, fortresses hidden in the hillside… But, some of the most attractive are the military tunnels dug throughout the island after 1945 when the island was a major military base for Yugoslav army.
There are over 30 different military objects now scattered across the island: from tunnels, underground hospital and command center, army barracks… and most of them are abandoned. One of the most attractive is the missile base at Stupisce point near Komiza. It was a huge base for land-sea missiles with quite impressive tunnel and bunker complex to be on alert in case of an invasion from Italy. Yugoslav authorities were paranoid of invasions, enemy attacks from abroad…while the country finally collapsed from within back in 1990s.
There are two ways one can reach the base: one is from the panorama point on top of the hill (on the main road) and it is a longer way. A much shorter way is to simply to drive to it. One has to pass a garbage depot and although small, it is not the nicest smelling point of Vis Island in the peak summer month.
That morning, we decided to hike…
The hike is scenic but long. As soon as we saw the barbed wire fence, we knew we were close. And soon, stone huts appeared. These stone huts are not real huts but camouflaged gas exhausts for huge rocket gas tanks buried deep in the ground! But we just started discovering all the secrets of the base.
The dirt road leads to the very interesting tunnel. We had no idea what it was but it looked very scary! Almost like something from the Walking Dead. The wire frame above the entrance was covered with big pieces of styrofoam to mask it and to appear as the natural, rocky surface of Vis Island. Now it is nearly gone but still looks quite impressive.
The tunnel is not too long but the central part is quite dark. Luckily, we had light on our cell phones and were able to see the rooms for missiles.
Now empty, the rooms are still in fairly good shape with ceramic tiles on the floor. I guess it had something to do with highly dangerous gas fumes. The base was holding up to 12 Russian made, 20 meter long, P-21 missiles with half-ton war heads each.
And then we went out to explore the rest of the base.
Many bunkers can be seen all over the place and many of them can be entered through several openings. We explored a few just to get a proper perspective and the view.
Inside the bunker was fairly light.
But the most interesting part of the base are definitely canons pointing out from a series of bunkers facing Bisevo and open sea.
It was strange to see an enormous base defended only by ancient Ansaldo canons from 1941 (Made in Italy) but I guess, the military knew why they kept them there. The cannons have been disabled before the JNA left the island in 1993. and they have been like this ever since.
One can get behind the canon and explore the tunnel connecting all the bunkers. It is a fairly big complex. Somewhat of a maze but not that difficult to navigate as there is a pattern. Most of the rooms below served as classrooms or storage rooms and some still have broken furniture.
The JNA troops were up to 4000 strong on the island in its peak days always ready to give a refuge to Tito and his staff or to be the defense base in case of even a nuclear attack. Vis and Lastovo were off limits for foreign tourists for decades but that helped them stay nearly untouched oasis compared to the rest of the coast.
Today, all these abandoned military bases are guarding the ghosts of of once mighty army, ideas of unity and brotherhood that existed in these lands.