Walking through the stony woods of Dinaric Alps

17 Sep 2013

imageDinaric arc, Montenegro. Photo credits: Elma Okić

Over the past decades cross-border cooperation between the Dinaric Arc states has decreased, leaving this region in a rather peripheral and marginal position. However, recently there has been a political and economic shift towards more active cross-border partnership and cooperation, manifested in elaboration of common tourism development strategies and building of cross-border destinations. Similar approach is being considered for the area of the Dinaric Arc Region.

The Dinaric Mountains represent a network of natural trails that connect six countries – Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovenia and Italy, through Via Dinarica, as a corridor for sustainable development at inter-regional and inter-states levels.

This region is endowed with monumental peaks, stunning lakes, waterfalls and historic and cultural spots, and the mountains of Montenegro are undoubtedly among the most beautiful. Its network of paths and trails is mainly well marked and mapped and local guides are hospitable, just like the local population.  

A team of two, Elma Okić, a photographer and Kenan Muftić, a mountaineer from Bosnia and Herzegovina, has hiked recently along the Via Dinarica key sections of all five countries, with a goal to use their creative resources to promote the region as a corridor of sustainable development. They stayed in Montenegro between August 31st and September 7th.

Elma and Kenan entered Montenegro from the Albania side, at the Grnčar border crossing. Enes Drešković, manager of the Prokletije National Park showed them the beautiful valleys of Grebaje and Ropojana and the Hridsko Lake on the other side of the park.

The team then moved to the Konjuhe village near Andrijevica. “We were hosted by Brane Babović, local trout breeder,” said Elma. “Duško Raketić, a mountain guide from the Kolašin ‘Explorer’ tourism agency joined us, and we hiked together along the Mojanska River to the Carine highlands and Komovi. There we visited an amazing church built in 1900, while climbing the 2487 m high Kučki Kom was more than impressive!”, Elma explained.

The next day they proceeded to the Bjelasica Mountain where they enjoyed panoramic views of Prokletije, Komovi, Moračke mountains, Sinjajevina and Durmitor. The lunch-stop was at the Vranjak eco-“katun”, an ethno settlement built in purely traditional style and powered only by an alternative energy source. “At Vranjak, we tasted probably the best sheep cheese ever!” Kenan was delighted. The descent was to the Biogradsko Lake trough one of the very few European indigenous forests.

The day in the Durmitor National Park was reserved for the visit to the crystal lakes on the Žabljak side of the mountain. In the evening the team was hosted by Rajko Dakić and his son Aleksa, an outstanding performer of traditional fiddle songs who won awards at several fiddlers festivals.

The highlight of the trip was climbing to the Bobotov Kuk, officially the highest peak of Montenegro (2523 m). The descent to the Skrčko Lake led Elma and Kenan via the challenging and frighteningly beautiful trail of Samar. The day after, they managed to climb up to the Planinica summit (2330 m) and swim in the cold lake water. They left Durmitor through the canyon of Sušica, and in the village of Nedajno they found another hospitable family to stay at overnight.

After Nedajno, the team stopped at Savo Popović’s katun on the Grabac peak (1487 m) to enjoy the views of Durmitor, Ljubišnja and Tara River for the last time before departing to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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The Dinaric Arc is a region of south-eastern Europe encompassing some 100,000 km2 and more than 6,000 km of the Adriatic Sea coastline, from the city of Trieste (Italy) to Tirana (Albania).  The region hosts in western Bosnia being the largest karstic field in the world. Towards the southern end of the region, the Prokletije Massif and the “Albanian Alps” are among the wildest mountains in Europe. The Dinaric Arc hosts important freshwater ecosystems and wetlands of international importance, such as the Neretva delta (Bosnia and Herzegovina/Croatia), and Skadar/Shkodra lake (Montenegro/Albania). The river Tara, which flows through Montenegro into the Drina, is well known for forming a long and wild canyon which is the second deepest in the world, after that of the Colorado.

In light of the conclusions from the XI Alpine Conference and the I Dinaric Conference titled “Alps as development potential of Europe – a common future” held in Slovenia in March 2011, and by signing a joint statement, representatives of the Governments from the Dinaric Arc states expressed political willingness to cooperate and forge links in this region.

The Adventure Tourism Association of Bosnia and Herzegovina (ATA BiH) conducted the project “Via Dinarica Walk” for the purpose of promoting this region and identifying development needs and potentials for regional tourism offer of the Via Dinarica. This project is financed by the UNDP and USAID Offices in Bosnia and Herzegovina, with the support of UNDP Montenegro, UNDP Croatia and Oxfam Albania.