If you have recently discovered Europe’s biggest sea secret, and you have already pinned surprisingly unknown Bosnian seaside on your bucket list, here is what to expect from this exciting journey – a mix of nature and archaeological discoveries, all in only an hour drive from Neum, country’s sole sea resort. Whether a connoisseur or a novice when it comes to archaeological ruins, whenyou are in the region, you will want to know that there is a lot to hold you here. Due to its specific position, through millennia the history had created a vibrant fusion of cultural influences that resulted in numerous ancient sites spread all over the area. It really is wonderful to explore ancient Roman ruins, to discover a potential Homer’s Troy and to wander around the medieval castles, while travelling back in time with every single step you make in the hinterlands of the Bosnian Adriatic coast. And to start your voyage serenely, let’s see what Neum’s outback has to offer for all nature lovers.
Placed on the right bank of the Neretva River, Čapljina, a legendary herons town, is a situated on four rivers. Besides the Neretva River, it is surrounded by three other watercourses – Trebižat River, Bregava River and Krupa River. As the legend explains, the origin of its cute name comes from a Latin word ‘ardea’ (‘heron’ in English) which is ‘čaplja’ in the local language. Today, you will not find that many herons in the town, but close to Čapljina, there is a renowned nature & birds reserve Hutovo Blato, that is a home of many herons. Hence there is no coincidence with the name.
If bird-watching is your thing, there is no better place in Southeastern Europe than Hutovo Blato, a nature park with over 240 migratory bird species and dozens of others that make the marshlands their home. A unique Mediterranean swamp and one of the largest wintering places for birds in Europe is located on the left bank of the Neretva River, close to the town of Čapljina. Teeming with freshwater fish, wild ducks, geese, coots, hawks, herons, pheasants, wild boar and wild horses, it accommodates birdwatchers & nature lovers. Hutovo Blato is a must-see for all outdoor enthusiasts, as it provides a unique oasis for a memorable bird-watching.
Mogorjelo, the most important archaeological site in the region, is located on a hill above the Neretva River, only 5 km from the town of Čapljina. It is a well-preserved Roman Villa Rustica from the 4th century with rich ancient architecture. Surrounded by the lavish greenery, this villa is one of the most beautiful archaeological monuments from the Roman times and therefore protected by the state. The Mogorjelo site contains the ruins of a fortified farm for the 1st century (burnt down in a fire in the 3rd century), a new splendid Roman Villa Rustica from the early 4th century (damaged by Visigoths in the same century) and two Christian basilicas from the 5th century. Whether a connoisseur or a novice when it comes to archaeological ruins, following Roman footsteps in Mogorjelo will please all tastes as they speak about the ancient history of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
If you like Mogorjelo, you will undoubtedly enjoy another rich archaeological site called Gabela. Also, only 5 km from the town of Čapljina and even less from the Croatian border, this ancient settlement is located on the right bank of the Neretva River. In this place, you can find the ruins of the largest Roman military camp in the region. Being on the crossroad of empires, different rulers have conquered and influenced Gabela, that was finally destroyed by the Venetians in 1715. Another reason why Gabela attracts history lovers is an interesting theory coming from a Mexican archaeologist Roberto Salinas Price that this place is actually Homer’s Troy.
The medieval town called Počitelj is also only an hour drive from Neum, and it belongs to the hinterlands of the Bosnian Adriatic coast. Only 4 km from Čapljina, this lovely settlement is located below the high cliffs above the Neretva river, dominated by the medieval defense fortresses. Picturesque Počitelj is characterized by the fusion of the Oriental and Mediterranean construction styles, which gives this place an exceptional dimension. As a result, its unique architecture has earned the UNESCO World Heritage status as one of the 100 most endangered cultural heritage sites in the world. Počitelj has been under the program of permanent protection since 2000, which means that the whole town is slowly being renovated and it is getting back its old glory.
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