The hearth of south east Europe, Bosnia and Herzegovina, is definitely a green hearth and one of the emerging ecotourism destinations. Before the war tourism was a thriving industry. Today it’s one of the last undiscovered regions of the southern Alps. Reason why tourism and ecotourism are being viewed with interest in Bosnia and Herzegovina as one of a few sectors with growth potential, since the country is blessed with a lush natural environment, valuable historical relics, and a unique mix of cultures. Ecotourism, meanwhile, offers a strategy for balancing the goal of preserving the environment and historical relics with community development.
If we walk away from the city of Sarajevo, known as the Jerusalem of Europe, due to its long and rich history of religious diversity (in Sarajevo adherents of Islam, Orthodoxy, Catholicism and Judaism coexisted there for centuries), and from one of the largest Catholic pilgrimage sites, Medjugorje, we come across stunningly beautiful landscapes, from the Dinaric Alps to the Adriatic Sea (surprisingly, a small piece of Adriatic coast is in Bosnia).
Vast tracks of wild and untouched nature (close to 50% of the country is forested) make it an ideal ecotourism destination for adventurers and nature lovers alike. Enchanted by both Mediterranean and Alpine climates, the range of diverse landscapes will stun and amaze every kind of adventure traveler: from cave explorers to climbers, from skiers to hikers and bird watchers.
There are 7 important rivers in Bosnia, reason why whitewater rafting has become practically a national pastime with three adrenaline pumping rivers: Una in the Northwest, Neretva in Herzegovina and the deepest river canyon in Europe – the unforgettable Tara River near Sutjeska National Park. This is one of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s oldest parks, 17,500 hectares of magnificent and untouched wilderness. It hosts one of the last two remaining primeval forests in Europe, called Perucica. Beech trees tower over 60 metres high and endemic black pines stem from the rocky faces that protect the ancient forest.
Rivers give birth to magnificent waterfalls, up to 95 meters high. The most famous is Kravice Waterfall, located in Herzegovina. It’s a must see. Here the river drops into a horseshoe-shaped canyon. The falls are surrounded by hemp, figs and poplars. Bosnia and Herzegovina’s highest peak, Maglic at over 2,386m, presents a challenging climb for even experienced hikers. Zelengora Mountain is great for hiking and walking and there are several newly renovated mountain huts on the mountain. Bear and wolf sightings are common.
Bosnia is also the right place also for winter sports. Jahorina is the mountain range to the southeast of Sarajevo and it once hosted the 1984 Winter Olympics. Damaged during the war, the ski centers are being reconstructed and today the slopes are still not too crowded. Its highest peak reaches 1,910m. The ski lifts climb to 1,894m with fabulous views towards Sarajevo. The slopes of Jahorina are covered in tall pines till about the 1,500m mark.
Pliva Region, along Pliva river, offers possibilities of fishing, kayaking and caving. There are 360 caves are located throughout this region, but only two have been sufficiently explored and marked to provide tours. Name of the most beautiful cave is “Vaganska” (approximately 500 meters have been marked); another important cave is “Sokola?ka” which is located nearby medieval town Sokograd. The forests and river valleys of the Pliva river region contain a diversity of herbs and mushrooms that have also an economic value for local people that use them for food, medicines and fragrances.
Last but not least, Bosnia is the right place for bird-watching. Hutovo Blato Natural Reserve, located in Herzegovina, the largest of its kind in this part of Europe, in terms of both size and diversity. It’s marshland that gives home to over 240 types of migratory birds and dozens that make their permanent home in these sub-Mediterranean wetlands surrounding Deransko Lake. Teeming with freshwater fish, wild duck, geese, coots, hawks, herons, pheasants, wild boar and wild horses, it accommodates birdwatchers, nature lovers and families with children alike.
If you want to get in touch with local population in rural areas, you can stay at one of the 22 teledoms. Teledoms are multipurpose – information communication and service centres opened in small and rural communities across Bosnia-Herzegovina. The local teledom managers will arrange housing, meals and may provide transportation and guides to local attractions. This is a good opportunity to get to know Bosnia and see it through the eyes of the local community.