If you are in the quest for destinations that will make you escape from the hustle and bustle, but somewhere in Europe where the Mediterranean and continental landscapes intertwin in the most spectacular way, the region of Trebinje, the southernmost city of Bosnia & Herzegovina, could be the ideal choice. Not only is this region very close to Dubrovnik on the Adriatic coast (30 km), but it also boosts in countless hidden gems that no nature admirer wants to miss. Whether it be hiking over the mountains on the border with Montenegro, cycling along the historic railroad or caving the underground treasures, Trebinje and its surroundings are sort of a paradise for active travellers.
When it comes to hiking experiences in the surroundings of Trebinje, forget about the alpine sceneries with glaciers, lakes and creeks. The coastal mountain Orjen that spreads over two countries - Bosnia & Herzegovina and Montenegro is full of broken stones and deep hollows. Covered by the dense forests and limestones, this massif is not suitable for the comforters. Its raw and hard-to-reach beauty, full of hidden gems, is designed for true adventurers and curious minds ready for challenges. This mountain range is home to many bears, wolves, and even snake eagles, rarely found outside Africa. Another peculiarity of this mountain is an evergreen tree from the family Pinaceae, known as Bosnian Pine and locally called “munika”, that can be only found in the Balkans. Considering those peculiarities, there is an ongoing initiative to preserve this mountain by proclaiming it a national park. So, if you are lucky enough to organize your active holiday around the coastal Mt. Orjen, besides the hiking, you can enjoy the mountaineering and mountain biking, but also some speleology activities, as the region boosts in cave pits.
Besides the mountain biking over Mt. Orjen, Trebinje is a part of the regional network of cycling paths. As you might have heard, Bosnia & Herzegovina is an ideal destination for the lovers of cycling along the old railways, an increasingly popular activity in the Balkans. One of them is also a historic railroad that used to cross the valley of Popovo Polje. Built in the early 1900s, this narrow-gauge railway, served by the steamer popularly called “Ćiro”, was connecting many tourist attractions: Old Bridge in Mostar, old town of Počitelj, Orthodox monastery Žitomislić, Hutovo Blato Nature Park, Roman ruins in Mogorjelo, Vjetrenica Cave, Orthodox monastery Zavala, Popovo Polje, Trebinje, Dubrovnik and Konavle.
When this railway was closed in 1976, the whole region lost its visibility. Finally, around ten years ago, the authorities decided to revitalize the line by organizing the cycling tours along the old narrow-gauge railway in the hinterlands of the Bosnian Adriatic coast. Since then, more and more curious travellers are coming for cycling along the old narrow-gauge railway of “Ćiro”.
On the west end of Popovo Polje and only 40 km from Trebinje, you can visit one of the most interesting grottos in the whole Dinaric Alps mountain range and the largest one in Bosnia & Herzegovina – Vjetrenica Cave. This spectacular cavern, famous worldwide for its karstic and speleological riches, has in total over 6 km of passages, while the main channel is about 2,50 km long. Amongst the many archaeological discoveries are the drawings that are estimated to be over 10,000 years old.
Vjetrenica is an underground treasure like no other. It is the richest cave in the world regarding the subterranean biodiversity with more than 200 different animal species, who completely adapted to life in the eternal darkness. 37 of them were discovered and described for the very first time in this place, mostly crabs, molluscs and insects. It is also a place where the remains of an extinct species of leopard that lived in Europe (Panthera pardus spelaea) is discovered. Finally, Vjetrenica is home to the Human Fish (Proteus anguinus L), an extremely endemic and the only European underwater vertebrate.
If hiking, cycling and caving around the hidden gems of Trebinje is not extreme enough, and you are looking for a more thrilling plan for active travellers, I have something for you – nomad safari. While driving quads over the wild routes, you will not lack adrenaline. Whether you opt for a couple of hours or a couple of days (with sleeping in tents), either way, you will immerse into the local culture and gastronomy of this region. And when you want to refresh yourself after all those adrenaline-raising activities, there is nothing better than experiencing Trebinje from a water perspective.
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