In February 2008 I was asleep on a bus travelling down the southern Croatian coast, and I was woken up with a jolt.
Southern Herzegovina & the Via Dinarica
The first couple of days we explored Dubrovnik and Šipan island, enjoying the gorgeous late summer sunshine. Then, it was time to move to Southern Herzegovina – first, we finally visited Neum, and then we headed inland to Ravno, Ljubinje and Trebinje.
20 Things to do in Herzegovina
Things to do in Neum
1) Swim in the Adriatic
Most of the activities available on the Croatian coast, like cruising, sailing and kayaking, can also be enjoyed in Neum – at half the price. However, the summer season winds down earlier than in Croatia – in October, there was hardly a soul around and several bars, restaurants and attractions were closed.
2) Explore weird Yugoslav architecture
3) Seafood – half the price of Croatia and double the size!
Things to do in Ravno
4) Visit the town
5) Visit Doctor Burič
6) Visit Popovo Polje (and taste its products)
6) Visit Vjetrenica Cave
The cave is probably about 20 km long, stretching all the way to Croatia, but tourists are only allowed to walk down a 500 m long platform. The lighting helps you see some of the stalactites, stalagmites and water pools, where if you’re lucky you may glimpse a ‘human fish’, a strange pale cave salamander. Vjetrenica is the richest cave in the world in terms of biological diversity, so much that it was nicknamed ‘Underground Amazon’.
7) Eat Sač
Things to do in Ljubinje
Ljubinje and Trebinje are part of the Republika Srpska, one of the two entities of Bosnia Herzegovina. In the area, Cyrillic characters are used more than Latin characters, and there are several beautiful Serbian Orthodox churches with icons and frescoed interiors.
9) The Herzegovinian Herb and Honey Road
12) Learn about herbs
13) Eat boiled goat
Marko explained that lambs and goats of Southern Herzegovina spend their life on the hills, grazing local wild herbs. This lends their meat a peculiar, aromatic taste, that is better appreciated by boiling the meat and eating it with a simple tomato and cucumber salad, and some boiled potatoes. I was convinced, and we ordered a plate of boiled goat and veal – it was delicious, and did indeed have a ‘herby’ taste. Not to mention, lunch for three (with beers) only cost us about 20 euro!
Things to do in Trebinje
14) Visit Tvrdoš monastery
Just below the church there’s the wine cellar, with a vaulted ceiling and huge wooden barrels. Two main varieties of wine are produces – Vranac, a dry red typical of the Balkans, and Žilavka, a fruity white wine reminiscent of Riesling.
15) Crkvina Hill and Gracanica Church
On the top there’s the Hercegovačka Gračanica monastery, a replica of the famous Gračanica monastery in Kosovo, one of the holiest Serbian orthodox places. The church was built in 2000 to house the remains of Jovan Dučić, Trebinje’s most famous poet and local hero. Dučić died in the US abut wished to be buried back in Trebinje – his wish came true thanks to a wealthy local man, who is portrayed in a fresco inside the monastery ‘delivering’ the monastery to the Virgin Mary.
16) Tour the city – on foot or by kayak
17) Enjoy Bosnian coffee
18) Hike around Bijela Gora
With such beautiful mountains around Trebinje, we were really looking forward to hiking around Biela Gora, a mountain on the border between Herzegovina and Montenegro. We had planned to hike with Sinda Kunic, a local guide and nature lover, but sadly we woke up to incessant rain and cold wind. Instead of hiking, we just drove up to a mountain cabin where some of Sinda’s friends were staying, and spent the morning with them.
The mountains looked awesome, shrouded in clouds with blooming heather bushes and waterfalls, and Sinda is the perfect guy to go on a wild outing with – I think he would be a match for Bear Grylls in terms of survival skills! We are regretting our missed opportunity so much that we are already planning to return to Trebinje for a hike with Sinda. Let’s just hope luck is on our side next time!
19) Visit Austro-Hungarian forts
20) Taste local products
We also visited the house of a friendly man called Risto, maker of the best pršut this side of the Adriatic, and drank some fresh pomegranate juice. The association’s plans include establishing trails that visitors can follow on foot or by bike, stopping at local homes to sample local products. We think it sounds like a brilliant idea and a great way to get in touch with the spirit of this wonderful, undiscovered region.