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Lake Trnovačko in Montenegro, only accessible hiking from the Sutjeska National Park in Bosnia and Herzegovina Written: February 2018
Updated: December 2019

Bosnia and Herzegovina probably doesn't score high on most people's travel bucketlist. It should though! Bosnia and Herzegovina has a lot to offer to travelers, both cultural and natural.

One natural treasure of Bosnia and Herzegovina that I accidentally came across while travelling through Eastern Europe is the Sutjeska National Park: truly a forgotten hikers paradise in the south of Bosnia and Herzegovina, near the Montenegro border. This 175 square kilometer park was established in 1962 and includes both the highest peak of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Mt. Maglić, 2386 meters) and one of Europe's last remaining primeval forests (the Perućica Forest)1. The Sutjeska National has even been called the Yosemite of the Balkan2. A name, I believe, it has deserved.

Also interesting: If "Yosemite of the Balkan" sounds interesting, you might want to check out the Grand Canyon of Europe next!

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The "recent" troubled history of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Between 1992-1995, a terrible civil war claimed many lives in Bosnia and Herzegovina. After the war ended, Bosnia was in ruins. This war had been one of the worst atrocities seen in Europe since the second world war, and two decades later, divisions still remain. Development in Bosnia is going slow, and poverty wide-spread3.

However, don't let this history of war discourage you. Bosnia and Herzegovina is a country of friendly people, beautiful natural areas and interesting cultures. I've only met friendly people while in Bosnia and Herzegovina, even including the slightly corrupted police officers trying to get us to give them money.


Enough with the history lesson and back to hiking, for that is what you're here for right?

Traveling to Bosnia and Herzegovina is one thing, but deciding what to do in a country that is not very touristy is another thing. So, as we all do in difficult situations, I asked Google for help before heading to Bosnia. After clicking through website after website, I came across a few pictures of the Sutjeska National Park, which was right along our route in-between Mostar (beautiful historic town) and Srebrenica (place of the worst massacre of Europe since the second world war)4.

Once in Sutjeska, we found out about a cross border hike into Montenegro to a beautiful heart-shaped lake surrounded by spectacular mountains. In this post, I will tell you about our hike to Lake Trnovačko, where we met a ranger who invited us to his camp for a 'coffee'. This taught me two important life lessons: 1) 'coffee' does not mean just coffee for a Bosnian ranger, and 2) hiking while drunk is not something I wish to do again (more on that later).


The Lake Trnovačko hike in a glance


Where Start: Prijevor Parking, Sutjeska National Park, Bosnia and Herzegovina. (location on Google maps)
Getting there By car: turn of the M20 at this crossing in the town of Tjentište and follow the gravel road winding up the mountain to the Prijevor Parking) under the Maglić Mountain. Having a GPS could be helpful here, as you may come across unmarked crossroads and your navigation may not know these roads. From the M20 to the parking is about 15 to 20 kilometers.
Costs Free!
Best time to visit Spring and summer
Duration of hike ±5 hours (return)
Accommodation in and around Sutjeska National Park:

I personally recommend Autocamp Drina near Foča because of it's great location and it's super friendly owner.

Check TripAdvisor.com or Booking.com for more accommodations in and around Sutjeska National Park.
Things to do in and around Sutjeska National Park:

Make a quick stop at the Tjentište War Memorial, a monument commemorating the failure of the Nazi's operation Fall Schwarz (the battle of Sutjeska) and its huge loss of civilian life.

Or, check on TripAdvisor.com for more things to do in and around Sutjeska National Park!
Warning Throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina, you can still find remainders of minefields. Many of these fields are known but not yet cleared. Whenever you come across a sign warning of mines, do not proceed. Be careful, be smart!

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Hiking to Lake Trnovačko


The night before hiking to Lake Trnovačko we'd found a great campsite near the town of Foča. The next morning, we woke up early to prepare for our hike. While having our breakfast, the camping owner came to bring cup of homemade herbal tea. Later, upon hearing we had to stop in Foča to buy a bread before heading into the mountains, he brought us a loaf of the best (and heaviest) homemade bread I've ever had. That deserves a little free and non-sponsored advertising, so here it is:

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Let me sneak in a little free advertising for a great campsite

Whenever you're in the area of the Sutjeska National Park in Bosnia and Herzegovina, make sure to stay at Autocamp Drina. Autocamp Drina is perfectly situated along the Drina River just outside of the town of Foča. Various types of accommodations available, from log cabins to camping spaces, and the staff is the friendliest. A great place to prepare for hiking in the Sutjeska National Park or a stop-over on your roadtrip through the scenic south of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
This advertisement box is non-sponsored and was placed as a thank you to the friendliest man I met in Bosnia and Herzegovina.


When our tea was finished and our backpacks packed, we set off to the start of the hike. From Foča, we drove south along the M20 to the town of Tjentište. Here, we turned into a gravel road winding up the mountain to a parking under the Maglić Mountain (±15 to 20 kilometres from the M20) at the Prijevor Parking.


Road to the parking under the Maglić Mountain, Sutjeska National Park, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Eastern Europe
Road to the Maglić parking. Better not tell the rental company that I took their car here...


Even if you're not here to go hiking, this road may be worth driving. Maglić is the highest mountain in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Prijevor parking at the end of this road provides great views of Maglić and the surrounding valleys and peaks. In addition, a viewpoint along the way provides views of the Skakavac Waterfall (75 meters) and the Perućica primeval forest.


Warning: The road to Mt. Maglić

The road to the Maglić parking is small and narrow and is, according to Emir Mulabegovic at Balkanvibe, best driven in someone else's vehicle. However, as you may not have someone else's vehicle at your disposal, I recommend driving carefully. This road may not be suitable for large campervans.

Hiking trail to Lake Trnovačko, Montenegro, from Bosnia Herzegovina Sutjeska National Park, Eastern Europe
First section of the hike
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The trail to Lake Trnovačko starts at the parking at the end of the road and is signposted at the start (5 kilometres, 2 hours). The first section of the trail follows the flank of the Maglić Mountain over old avalanche paths with sporadic trees, until it slowly descends to a meadow in the valley.

When crossing this meadow, take your time to enjoy the wide array of blooming flowers, among which are several orchids, attracting many species of butterflies. You don't want to miss them!


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Hiking trail to Lake Trnovačko, Montenegro, from Bosnia Herzegovina Sutjeska National Park, Eastern Europe
The trail slowly descends into a meadow.


After crossing the meadow, the trail enters a forest and winds its way uphill to the Lake Trnovačko. Until here, the hike has been no more than an easy stroll. This last uphill section of the hike is the most challenging part, though I don't think it will be too difficult if you've already made it this far.

At the top of the uphill section, the forest slowly opens up and you'll get your first glimpses of Lake Trnovačko and the towering mountains that surround it. Congratulations, you've made it! Time to take out the picnic basket and have a well deserved coffee.

Welcome to Lake Trnovačko, Montenegro, from Bosnia Herzegovina Sutjeska National Park, Eastern Europe
Welcome to Lake Trnovačko, you've made it!


At the lake, we were welcomed by a Bosnian forest ranger/border guard who charged us a few Euros for crossing the border (or whatever reason, I don't remember). After checking our ID's and seeing that we're Dutch, he told us he looked like our famous soccer player and coach Johan Cruijf. Though I did not really see the similarities, we politely agreed.

After a small chat with the ranger, he invited us to his camp in the forest for a 'coffee' with him and his friends. This is when I learned that 'coffee' does not mean just coffee for a Bosnian ranger.

More on Montenegro

This is about as far as we got into Montenegro. Did you come here to see more of this beautiful country? Check out this post by Cassie from her blog Cassiethehag.com: Most Photogenic Spots on a One Week Montenegro Itinerary.

After introducing ourselves to our new Bosnian friends, we sat down at a picnic table. Even before the coffee was ready, one of them took out a set of small shot-glasses and a bottle of some non-recognizable booze.

After something that sounded like a Bosnian 'cheers', we took our glasses and emptied them. Not even a second later, they were full again. The cheers sounded again, we emptied our glasses, and they were full again. Magic... I lost count, but it took about 5 cheers' until the coffee was ready.


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After about 10 shots we'd had enough. However, 'I have to drive' was no valid excuse, and was met with 'Police no check'. Luckily we'd sobered up before driving back to our camping, as we were stopped by the police for speeding that afternoon (we didn't speed though). We got away with a 10 Euro bribe so the officers could go get a drink in town later.

That was our experience with the Bosnian police throughout all of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In our 5 days in Bosnia, we have been stopped by police 4 times for no valid reason, had to discuss with them 4 times, given a small 'donation' twice, and got out of it without a fine all 4 times.

The hike back is one to remember, but not really one to be proud of. We stumbled our way back while calling out to bears to come and show themselves (we really wanted to see bears). I don't think any self-respecting bear would have responded to our calls though.

Hiking did prove to be a great way to sober up. Once back at the parking I was almost sober. Despite, we still spent a few hours at the parking sobering up before driving back down the winding gravel road. Don't drink and drive kids!

Also, don't drink and hike! Nothing good will come from that.

Not my proudest moment... Don't drink and hike kids!


While sobering up at the parking, we met a guy who'd just returned from a few nights camping at Lake Trnovačko with his family. He was surprised to hear that we'd been invited for a coffee by the ranger, as the ranger (or his friends) had used the tent of two other Dutch guys for target practice a few nights earlier.

Okay, not really, but they did try to frighten them by shooting over their tent at a log in the lake after the Dutch guys had been disrespectful to them.

Needless to say, the Dutch guys were gone by morning. I have no way of confirming this story though, and it might just have been a bit exaggerated.

Nevertheless, a note to myself: Never piss off a Bosnian ranger!

Hiking Sutjeska National Park, Bosnia Herzegovina, Eastern Europe
Near the parking of Prijevor

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If you liked this post, feel free to share it using one of those nice social media share buttons below or pin it by pinning one of the two images below to one of your Pinterst boards. Do you have any questions, do you miss information or do you want to share your experiences, feel free to respond to this post in the comment section below!

So, planning a trip to eastern Europe? Make sure not to skip Bosnia and Herzegovina's Sutjeska National Park. It has all the charm and beauty of other European national parks, but without the mass tourism.



Further reading





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Sources


  1. Wikipedia (2019, December 23). Sutjeska National Park. Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sutjeska_National_Park.
  2. Clancy, Tim (2018, May 18). Sutjeska National Park: The Yosemite of the Balkans. Balkan Vibe. Retrieved from https://www.balkanvibe.com/story/Sutjeska-National-Park-The-Yosemite-of-the-Balkans/26.
  3. Borger, Julian (2012, April 4). Bosnian war 20 years on: peace holds but conflict continues to haunt. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/apr/04/bosnian-war-20-years-on.
  4. Wikipedia (2019, December 23). Srebrenica massacre. Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Srebrenica_massacre.

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