Spiritual travels and pilgrimages are blooming all over the world no matter the religion and beliefs. It is not only about searching the tranquillity and hope, but also about historical and cultural discoveries behind the dogmas. Bosnia & Herzegovina is no different in this regard. A particularity that distinguishes this country is a dominance of three different religions – Islam, Orthodoxy and Catholicism. Each of these religious communities has its holy places and shrines that attract many believers and pilgrims. Perhaps the best way to explore this complex religious pattern is to visit three outstanding spiritual centres in the region of Mostar.
Whether a pilgrim or a curious non-believer, don’t miss the opportunity to visit mysterious Međugorje to discover Europe's third most important apparition site. Only 24 km southwest from Mostar and 15 km from Čapljina, Međugorje is a small picturesque town whose name stands for the “place between the mountains”. The legend has it that the Virgin Mary (with a baby Jesus in hands) appeared in front of six children on the hill Podbrdo in summer 1981, and she kept appearing for a couple of days. Numerous seers have been claiming that the Blessed Virgin Mary appears to the present day leaving them messages.
In spite of the confusion over this place’s recognition as a holy shrine, since Vatican’s authorities haven’t officially confirmed or denied the authenticity of the miracles happening in Međugorje, more than 30 million pilgrims from all over the world have visited this place reporting miracles such as unexplainable healing of illnesses or seeing signs in the sky. One thing is sure. Those people experienced something extraordinary here.
Only 12 km south of Mostar, at the source of the river Buna, lies a real fairy tale spot, a small town called Blagaj and its mystical Dervish monastery. Nominated for the UNESCO World Heritage List, this 600 years old Sufi monastery is an absolute must-see in the region of Herzegovina. Founded just after the arrival of the Ottomans in the 15thcentury, the Tekke or Tekija is a sanctuary where the dervishes do the “Zikr” to glorify the God. This place gathers most of the visitors in May every year, when the mawlid is celebrated.
Uniquely perched on a 200-metre high cliff that hugs the entire area, the Tekke is constructed in the classical Baroque style with the elements of Ottoman and Mediterranean architecture and is the only one of its kind in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The monastery was built alongside the unbelievably beautiful blue-green river Buna. The source of this river is a splendid karstic spring emerging from a huge cave beneath a high vertical cliff. Wherever you stand, Blagaj will overwhelm you with its magnificent views. Simply put, nature has done such an incredible job in Blagaj that everywhere you turn, the view is phenomenal.
A true symbol of resurrection, the Žitomislić Monastery is a valuable Orthodox shrine from the 16th century. Located 15 km south of Mostar, just before an endangered town of Počitelj, this monastery is one of the most important and most beautiful Orthodox sanctuaries in the country. Even more, the Žitomislić Monastery is an eternal Orthodox heritage that resisted all the menaces throughout its history. Consequently, together with a late-antique basilica and stećci necropolis, this monastery is considered a National Monument of Culture in Bosnia & Herzegovina.
Nestled at the foothills and surrounded by countless vineyards in the Neretva RIver valley, the Žitomislić is an oasis of peace and contemplation. Dedicated to the Annunciation of the Holy Virgin, the monastery was built in 1606, after more than 40 years of tremendous work, as a legacy of the Miloradović-Hrabren family. During its more than 400 years of existence, this monastery has been five times destroyed – three times by the Turks and twice in the 20th century. The monastery of Žitomislić boosts in cultural heritage and religious art. In the 16th and 17th century, the monastery was home to a prominent scriptorium and a rich library with many manuscripts, copied books and documents.
Whether you are road tripping from Mostar towards the seaside or, the other way around, exploring the hinterlands of the Bosnian Adriatic coast before reaching Mostar, keep in mind that, within a range of maximum 25 km from this city, you can visit three outstanding spiritual centres of Herzegovina. And when you are in the area, it would be a pity to miss the most stunning waterfalls you will ever see – Kravice Waterfalls, known as Monica Bellucci’s hidden gem.
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