Military Tunnels of Vis Island

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.

View of Stupisce with Bisevo island across the sea
View of Stupisce with Bisevo island across the sea

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…

Stone huts
Stone huts camouflaging gas exhausts

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 tunnel
The tunnel

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.

Out in the sun
Out in the sun
The tunnel
The tunnel

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.

Behind the massive doors
Behind the massive doors

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.

The rooms for missiles
The rooms for missiles

And then we went out to explore the rest of the base.

Stupisce base
Stupisce 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.

Typical bunker
Typical bunker

Inside the bunker was fairly light.

Inside the bunker
Inside the bunker

But the most interesting part of the base are definitely canons pointing out from a series of bunkers facing Bisevo and open sea.

Ansaldo canon, Italy, 1941
Ansaldo canon, Italy, 1941

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.

Guarding the ghosts
The view of Stupiste, Bisevo and Svetac
One of the bunkers.
One of the bunkers.

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.

Former underground barracks
Former underground barracks

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.

Sunset at Stupisce
Sunset at Stupisce

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.

Travel in Croatia

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