River Drina at Wild River Rafting Camp

Bosnia and Herzegovina – the Hidden Gem of Eastern Europe

Probably many of you wouldn’t consider Bosnia and Herzegovina for a perfect travel destination. And that was my case too. Till this year, when our friends asked us if we would like to join them and other six in a 7 day adventurous “all inclusive” vacation.

The first thing that came into my mind when thinking about this country was the past civil war and the landmine contamination. In two words a dangerous destination. But sometimes you have to get out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself and that’s why we decided to go. And I think for John and I it was the time of our lives. We really enjoy this vacation and we can’t tell if it was because of the activities we had, the people we traveled with and met there or the beautiful landscape. Probably all of them made the perfect mix.

Why visit Bosnia and Herzegovina?

As I said above, I don’t know what to mention first: the wealth of cultural wonders, its troubled history, the beautiful nature, the amazingly tasty food or the wonderful people we met in Bosnia? This troubled country really amazed me and left a positive impression. I totally recommend it if you are looking for an exciting, interesting experience. We found there a little bit of everything: fascinating towns, amazing mountain landscapes with clear rivers and lakes, very good simple food and friendly people who know how to make you feel welcome.

Accommodation in the rafting camp

We booked our vacation in Bosnia through a Romanian adventure travel agency that has a partnership with a Bosnian rafting camp. They pretty much took care of everything, making this vacation an all inclusive one. Of course we are not adepts of all inclusive vacations, but this one was a different one. It was “active” all inclusive, our accommodation being in Wild River rafting camp or “Kamp Divlja Rijeka” in local language, situated 19 km apart from the town of Foča, on the bank of river Drina.

Our all inclusive room was a wooden cabin, furnished with two or three single beds and… that was it. But after all day long activities, trust me, you won’t need more than a bed to lay your exhausted body, so we didn’t sense any lack of comfort.

Wooden cabin and shared bath at Kamp Divlja Rijeka
Wooden cabin and shared bath at Kamp Divlja Rijeka

And it was an adventure vacation, not a luxurious one. In this regard we shared the showers and toilets situated outside, in a separate building, enjoying the up and down walk to get there every needed time. And we also could savor relaxing moments laying in the hammocks hanging around the camp. We had one right in front of the door of our cabin.

Natural beauties

The main attraction of this trip was the two-day rafting on beautiful, emerald river Tara. Which was a delightful experience that was covered by John in his post about rafting on Tara. But Bosnia and Herzegovina has much more to offer, especially when it comes to natural beauties.

Mountains in National Park Sutjeska Bosnia and Herzegovina
Mountains in National Park Sutjeska Bosnia and Herzegovina

I hadn’t made much research about the country we were going to visit before we went on vacation. I don’t usually go blind like that in a trip, but this time I relied on the plan our agency had sent us and did little to no research. We hadn’t even looked on a map to see the route we should have taken from home to the camp, and this led us to circle around a few times in various towns, when the GPS didn’t quite knew where to take us. But that’s another story.

The first thing one notices once entering Bosnia and Herzegovina is its natural landscape. In fact all the way from Romania throughout Serbia is picturesque as most of our route went through mountains.

Motorways may not be the best I’ve ever seen, but they are not as bad as you might think and the scenic drive totally compensates any drawback. If you take the longer road, which takes you through small villages you will definitely enjoy the ride.

Hiking the primeval forest Perucica to Skakavac waterfall

The adventures began with a day of hiking in one of the last primeval forests of Europe, Perucica to the Skakavac waterfall. The forest is part of the National Park Sutjeska, near the border with Montenegro, and it is under protection of the state as a strict natural reserve.

Here the flora and fauna is diverse and the nature takes its course without any human intervention. I hadn’t known too much details about the wildlife, but after we returned I found out that is not unusual to see bears, wolves and snakes around. Thank god we haven’t met any. Actually I think our guide saw a snake and told us to stop and wait for it to pass, but we didn’t see it with our own eyes.

At first the track seemed to not call on too much effort, but after a while it got more difficult with steep-downs and ups, wet ground, sometimes the pathway being very narrow and right on the edge of the abyss. But we managed somehow to get to the beautiful, over 70 m high waterfall.

Last descend towards Skakavac waterfall
Last descend towards Skakavac waterfall
Breathtaking 75 meters high Skakavac waterfall
Breathtaking 75 meters high Skakavac waterfall

The way back was even more difficult for some of us, as we had to go up on the same track we came down. As usual I found climbing easier than descending, though. After this trip I had sore muscles for the next 3 days but it was worth it.

Useful info

Hiking in Perucica is allowed only if pre-announced and accompanied by an authorized guide. I think there is a tax also, but I cannot say exactly how much it is as our was included in the package. As I saw on some tour offers it is just 1 or 2 euros. In the natural park fire, smoking, hunting or fishing is not allowed.

More information about Perucica forest and the National Park Sutjeska on the park’s website.

The next two days were the rafting days. John wrote about them in a post and I will continue by telling you about the fourth day.

Trekking to Trnovačko Lake, Montenegro

Our last day of adventures was dedicated to a not so adventurous trip to see the heart shaped Trnovačko Lake. The lake is in the Maglić mountain, but is in the Montenegrin part, very close to the border though. We jumped on the same Volkswagen Transporter and an off road car for a short drive to the same National Park Sutjeska, but our guides changed the route by turning right at one point. We went by cars as long as the road permitted and then started our trekking.

We walked for about one and a half hour crossing a valley, then through a forest and I can say it was a piece of cake this trip comparing to the one we did to get to the waterfall. And this time I was wearing my snickers. Not a very good idea, since I was trekking in the mountains by the way. Doesn’t matter how easy you think the hike is, always wear your trekking shoes! Useless to say that the landscape was impressive again. The pictures will speak better than I could, so I’ll let you enjoy them:

After one and half hour or so we reached the beautiful Trnovačko Lake where, after a lunch break, some of us decided to continue hiking along the border of the lake, but we preferred to sit on a bench and have a chat with our guide while admiring the surroundings.

We went back on the same path, took another hundreds of pictures and late in the evening we were back in the camp ready to wolf down the amazingly tasty food that our hosts had prepared for us: roast lamb with potatoes made under the bell (traditionally named peka).

Roast lamb under peka
Our last dinner at Kamp Divlja Rijeka – roast lamb cooked in peka

I haven’t found references about peka from Bosnia, but croatian people also use this way of preparing meals and you can check honestcooking.com for more information about the bell.

All in all this active vacation has been the most exciting, interesting and fun in the last years and I would definitely would like to visit Bosnia and Herzegovina again to discover its other treasures.

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