If spending your holidays on the Adriatic coast but without major crowds and high-prices appeals to you for this summer’s scenario, your ideal destination seems to be Neum – Bosnia’s only see resort. Even though it looks landlocked, Bosnia & Herzegovina actually has beaches on its slice of the lovely Adriatic. But besides glittering golden beaches and dazzling blue sea, the hinterlands of the Bosnian Adriatic coast bust in the ancient cultural heritage too, making this region a truly authentic historical gem. Have you ever heard that the region of the Balkans has been inhabited for at least 3500 years? Well, in the outback of Neum, you will find the oldest town in the Balkans, as well as the remnants of the Stonehenge of Bosnia & Herzegovina and countless medieval tombstones. Isn’t it exciting to discover the ancient remnants of the urban life that are almost four millennia old? So, let’s start the journey.
Perhaps small by size but immense concerning its historical heritage, the charming town of Stolac has been inhabited for at least 16 millennia. We know this thanks to the Paleolithic site Badanj, that dates back to 14,000 BC. Only 7 km from Stolac, the Badanj Cave has remarkable horse drawings engraved on a stone, officially one of the oldest Balkan’s Paleolithic artefacts. When you come to Stolac, the oldest town in Bosnia & Herzegovina, don’t forget to explore this cave, as it is very easily reachable and absolutely fascinating.
The best place to grasp peaceful and green sceneries of Stolac is Vidoška Fortress, located on the top of the hill, only 15 minutes of walk from the centre. Not just the panorama over the town and beautiful deep-green Bregava River is stunning, but the history of this ancient fort is fascinating too. Founded by the Byzantine emperor Constantine in the 5th century, the castle survived many empires, including the Ottomans and Austro-Hungarians. With its 13 towers in the 17th century, it was one of the best-fortified towns in Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Stolac remains to date the largest citadel in the country. In May every year, this place hosts a traditional medieval fair called Stolačka Tarča, the only one of this kind in Bosnia & Herzegovina.
Only 5 km from Stolac, on the top of the hill in the Ošanići village, one can find Daorson, an incredible megalithic site. The mainstream belief says that Daorson is 2500 years old, but some geological studies confirm that the ruins below the site date back 7000 years. If this proves to be true, it would mean that the megalithic complex Daorson, the Stonehenge of Bosnia & Herzegovina, predates the Greek civilization by more than 3500. Isn’t that mind-boggling and inviting to discover?
According to some written sources, this town was built on the ruins of a prehistoric fortress from 1700/1600 BC that lasted until the end of the Bronze Age 900/800 BC. Daorson is one of the best-preserved towns built by Illyrians, the ancient inhabitants of the Balkans. It used to be the capital of the Hellenized Illyrian tribe Daorsi, who lived in the valley of the Neretva River from 300 BC to 50 BC. They used the Greek language and Hellenistic traditions, and they maintained regular trading with the Greeks. During the Roman times, Daorsi had even some kind of autonomy. Finally, the town was destroyed by the Dalmatians in 43/44 AD, and after this invasion never again this complex was used for living. Observing the site, one can compare it to other ancient cities around the world (in Egypt or Peru) that were similarly constructed.
On your journey into deep hinterlands of the Bosnian Adriatic coast, just after the town of Stolac, you will encounter the Radimlja necropolis, the most important site with medieval tombstones called ‘stećci’. The necropolis includes 133 stećci, where almost half of them are decorated with valuable ornaments of high artistic quality of craftwork. The symbol of this necropolis is a male figure with a raised arm, announcing to the visitors that they will be friendly welcomed. Not far from Radimlja, there is another site worth visiting - Boljuni necropolis with 274 ‘stećak’ tombstones. These unique stone sleepers with their countless stories are included in the UNESCO world heritage list, as the most typical monuments of Bosnia & Herzegovina.
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