Category archives: Trip Impressions

My First Outdoor Experience in Bosnia

Lukomir 27/6/2014

“He is richest who is content with the least, for content is the wealth of nature.”
– Socrates

My name is Avery Nelson and I am a sophomore undergrad at the University of Denver. I am working as an intern with Green Visions for 8 weeks this summer. As a part of my internship here, I am encouraged to participate in as many hikes and trips as possible. Here is a little bit about my experience with the Definite Departure hike to Lukomir with a group of other University of Denver students.

As we loaded into our mini bus that was waiting for us at the Bascarcia tram stop, we were greeted by our guide who goes by Benjo (full name is Benjamin Mujkic if you would like to check him out on our website). Benjo is full of energy and it is hard to find him without a smile. As we left Sarajevo into the surrounding hills Benjo explained some of Sarajevo’s history and explained some of the mountains we were driving into, etc. As we got closer to finishing our drive to Lukomir, we stopped at a natural spring that was built into the side of one of the mountains. It was a pretty cool experience to fill up our water bottles here. The water was cold, fresh, and apparently pretty clean. I’m used to throwing a couple iodine pills into my Nalgene before I feel safe drinking it, but all over the mountains surrounding Sarajevo and greater Bosnia are these little springs where everyone fills up their water with clean glacial melt.

My Return to Bjelašnica

Faruk explains the habits of the wild boars in the area

“We live in a fast-paced society. Walking slows us down.”
– Robert Sweetgall

Avery the Intern here again reporting for duty. My second walk/hike with Green Visions started at the village of Umoljani, which is a village located near Lukomir, about an hour south of Sarajevo. Both Lukomir and Umoljani are settlements on the mountain of Bjelašnica.  I was participating in the Seven Watermills Definite Departure hike. We were led by Faruk Karabegovic, a 56 year old mountain guide for Green Visions who is originally from Sarajevo. Faruk, in my opinion, wins the ‘Most Interesting Man’ award for all of Sarajevo, but that is a blog post for another day.


Exploring Sutjeska

The team up at the summit

“Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself…”
― C.S. LewisThe Four Loves

Loading into the van at the Baščaršija tram station is always the first exciting part of Green Visions hikes. When I enter the van, I get to see the people who I will be hiking with for, in this case, the next two days. It’s always interesting to see the different languages, experiences, opinions about traveling in the Balkans, etc. The mountains are absolutely stunning, don’t get me wrong, but one of my favorite parts about these hikes that I have been doing with the company is the ability that I have to converse with the people that I am hiking with. It never gets old and each hike brings new and exciting people into my life who I often learn from. Peeling little bits of knowledge from all the different people allows me to slowly obtain a better understanding of international similarities and differences.

Into the High Country


The summer blog is back in action! My name is Katie, and I’m the seasonal intern for Green Visions this year. I study Global Finance and Trade at the Korbel School of International Studies in Denver, Colorado, but my background is in environmental science and conservation, which originally drew me to Green Visions. I’m from Lexington, Kentucky, I enjoy long walks in the woods, good cheese, and funky yoga classes.

I help Green Visions with social media and outreach initiatives to get the word out about the Balkans, because they’re stunning, vibrant, and much less traveled than their Western European neighbors. To help with that, I’d like to post information and stories of unique places in Bosnia that visitors can find during their adventures here.

Green Visions offers a biweekly trip to Bosnia’s highest inhabited town, Lukomir, for 40 euros a person. The town is nestled high in the hills at 1500 meters on the western slope of Bjelasnica Mountain, above the Rakitnica River Canyon, which is one of the main tributaries to the Neretva. The water of the Rakitnica cannot be seen from the cliffs alongside Lukomir, but its influence is evidenced from the winding valley scoured out from millenniums of water erosion. The dendritic pattern of the valley below inspires folk lore of dragons, and if you happen to be a fan of Game of Thrones, Lukomir and the surrounding geography has that, “north of the wall” feel.

Bosnian Food 101

Pita, ćevapi, & burek. Photocred Kaleb Fulgham/Flickr

Whenever I travel, my general impression of a place is based on food. The food I have encountered in the Balkans never ceases to surprise my taste buds and I. Whether its traditional Bosnian dishes or modern vegetarian twists, travelers can fill their bellies without breaking the bank.

Traditional Dishes

Bosnia has three main food groups: dairy, bread, and meat. The cheese, creams, and milk from the region are unlike anything I’ve tasted before. The salty goat cheese, similar to feta in texture in color, goes great with salads, sandwiches, pasta…I slice and eat it by itself. If you see the words, “Vlasicki sir”, buy the cheese. In bulk. This cheese comes from the town of Travnik, a metropolis below the Vlašić Mountain, known for its goat cheese, medieval history, and as the birthplace of Noble Laureate Ivan “Ivo” Andrić.


Exploring the Una River

River Una in BiH. Photocred Muhamed Toromanovic/Flickr

The Una River forms the natural border between Croatia and Bosnia & Herzegovina, meandering mostly north to south and covering a watershed area of almost 10,000 square kilometers. The river Una runs through Bosnia’s newest and largest national park, which was founded in 2008 as a conservation effort for the diverse woodlands and karst geography of northwestern BiH. When traveling to Una National Park, visitors can expect blue-green rivers and lakes reminiscent of Plitvice National Park, its Croatian cousin to the north.

National Park Una contains three river bodies within its territories: the Una, Unac, and Krka. Boasted on the park’s website as, “the largest fly fishing grounds in Europe”, the rivers most notably contain native Stream Trout and Grayling (although I believe some species of Salmon and Grayling here are endangered…please feel free to comment below). A one-day fishing permit costs 40km (or 20 euros), and other price packages can be found on the park’s website.

The Una River near Bihac. Photocred TKnoxb/Flickr

The rivers and lakes of National Park Una are its biggest tourist attraction. Although it is roughly a 4-hour trip from Bosnia’s capital, Sarajevo, there is more than enough to do during a weekend visit here, and cooling off in the Una River is far less crowded than the Croatian coastline. If you are more of a mountains-and-rivers sort of traveler (which is probably why you’re reading this blog), then I definitely recommend a weekend trip to Bihać and neighboring Una National Park.

White water rafting tours, hiking, kayaking, canoeing, snorkeling, and diving are all offered within the park, and guided activities can be organized through your travel partners here at Green Visions.

Car Rentals in Sarajevo

Renting a car is the best way to explore the Balkans in terms of price and convenience. Other modes of transport are inexpensive (buses, taxis, hitchhiking, biking, walking) or easy (by plane), but rarely both. I spent the past weekend traveling through Bosnia and Montenegro by car, and although the trip itself was beautiful and relaxing, the act of getting a car during peak tourist season proved to be the true adventure. If you keep your cool and take these bits of advice to heart, the whole process can be nema problema (no problem).

Tip #1: Rent from an actual rent-a-car business IN town

The first step I took on rental cars was going online to compare prices. With great access to wifi at hostels, hotels, and cafes, this is the easiest option for travelers who may be wary of the language barrier. And this is a great option. But. But, make sure that you are renting through an actual company/business in the area, and not a middle-man provider. “Booking” sites serve as the secretary for rent-a-car’s but work internationally, with no real knowledge of the car availability. They show super low prices, but the car may not exist by the time your rental request gets into the business.

Go straight to the business itself. Either online, by phone, or in person. For Sarajevo, use the internet to search rental car businesses at the airport or town center and look for the familiar rental car names of Avis, Budget, Enterprise, Hertz, Alamo.

Tip #2: Use Local Resources

The best resource I have had while traveling in Bosnia (outside of GV staff), has been the owners of our hostel at Residence Rooms. Utilize the local knowledge by asking Bosnians at your hotel or hostel about where to rent cars and find the best prices. Green Visions can help you out with this part of your Balkan adventure as well.

Swimming in the Bay of Kotor outside of Herceg Novi, MNE

Swimming in the Bay of Kotor outside of Herceg Novi, MNE

Tip #3: Manual or Automatic?

While looking for cars in Sarajevo, I never came across offers for automatic cars. I know they exist (although more expensive), but it may be best to assume that your only means of road tripping is if you or a travel buddy can drive stick. So maybe this is the time to bring along your friend Karen on the trip. Yes she’s annoying, but she can drive manual and she loves paying for drinks late night at the bar, so there are trade-offs.

Tip #4: Book in Advance

In the peak summer travel season, it is possible for an entire city to run out of rental cars. No, I am not clear on exactly how this works, and yes, expensive cars are still available, but who wants to drive a Mercedes through the Balkans for 100 euros a day? Regardless, book your car two-weeks in advance just to be safe, and make sure you are clear on the pick up and drop off location.

The road through Sutjeska National Park, Bosnia & Herzegovina

The road through Sutjeska National Park, Bosnia & Herzegovina

Tip #5: Search for Rentals in Surrounding Towns

If you have waited until the day before to finally book your car (I’m guilty), and you have found everything sold out, you do still have options. If you’re coming out of Sarajevo, search and call rental places in Tuzla and Mostar. Both towns are a few hours away by bus, and buses leave several times from Sarajevo every day of the week.

Tip #6: Go for the GPS

If you are given the option, spend a little extra for the GPS. Google Maps overall works well in the Balkans, but it can lead you down some shady side streets and abandoned gravel roads that may be too narrow or difficult to traverse. Save a map offline on your Google Maps for backup, and use the GPS as you go. Before you leave the rent-a-car, be sure that the GPS turns on, you know how to use it, and the car charger works as well. Extra note: If the GPS tells you it will take 3-hours to get somewhere, tack on another 2-hours for your driving “cushion”.

The zipline at Đurđevića Tara Bridge overlooking the Tara River

The zipline at Đurđevića Tara Bridge overlooking the Tara River in Montenegro

Tip #7: Enjoy the Ride

The Balkans are stunning. They offer mountains, vineyards and wine country, the coast, and secluded highlands all within a few-hours drive of Sarajevo. Take your time with the journey, signal for the speed demons to pass, and stop frequently for coffee and fresh fruit. The road trip may be the highlight of your summer travel adventure.

Pridruzite se Nasem Timu!

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Come meet us at the ITB Berlin: The Western Balkans and Via Dinarica Hiking Trail Aim for the Stars

Come meet us at the ITB Berlin: The Western Balkans and Via Dinarica Hiking Trail Aim for the Stars

Named one of National Geographic Traveler’s “Best of the World” destinations for 2017, the Western Balkans’ Via Dinarica Trail is Europe’s new adventure darling. From March 8-12, tourism professionals from the region—Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia—will attend the ITB Berlin travel trade show—Hall 4.1, stand 213. Stop by for conversation and daily networking opportunities presented by the Via Dinarica Alliance, the Western Balkans Network, and a host of other operators from the Balkans. Activities include workshops and two trip giveaways.

The Western Balkans also welcome all visitors to attend two special presentations—both on the Pow-Wow (Responsible Tourism) Stage located in Hall 4.1.b:

Via Dinarica Mega Trail: Where Mountain Summits meet the Stars
Thursday, March 9, 15:30 – 16:00
Conservation Tourism: a new model for Macedonia
Friday, March 10, 16:00 – 16:30

#besttrips2017, #itb2017, #viadinarica

Picture courtesy of Adnan Bubalo / Balkanvibe