Sutjeska National Park: following Tito’s partisans

The oldest national park

Sutjeska National Park was established in 1962 and is the oldest national park in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the Republika Srpska (i.e. Serb Republic) entity. We drove to the park directly from Sarajevo that is only 100 km away (but it takes 2 hours to reach Tjentište). The roads are beautiful on this route. The way passes many narrow river canyons with high steep walls. As usual in Balkans, despite high rank of the road, one should stay cautious and expect cows and similar traffic on the winding road.

Cows on the road to Sutjeska National Park

Cows on the road to Sutjeska National Park.

Attempt #1

Tjentište is a small settlement in the national park. It was May. There were no tourists and hotels were shut down until summer season starts. In fact, when we arrived there it was raining. Small, but constant rain shower. We hoped that the rain would not get bigger. Our destination was Prijevor hill. We left our car on a roadside in Suha right next to barrier blocking car road that goes deeper into Sutjeska. The barrier was newly painted into colors of Republika Srpska.

Barrier in colors of Republika Srpska

Barrier in colors of Republika Srpska.

The road was an easy, but short trail. We soon had to turn left and start climbing to Tunjimir hill. That was in the beginning very steep path.  Afterwards it started to flatten, but the rain increased. Before reaching Tunjimir, our clothes soaked. Also some of our clothes in backpacks were dump. We often pack our gear into extra bags, but this was not a usual day.

It was getting dark fast. Especially because we were already between large, old trees on the edge of Perućica primeval forest. We decided to pitch our tent on a small spot of flat ground without much vegetation and rocks. We had quick dinner and went to sleep quickly hoping that our clothes will dry by the morning, but that was too optimistic assumption while lying in our wet sleeping bags.

When we woke up, it wasn’t raining anymore. Nevertheless, our clothes were still wet and our tent was soaked in few places where outer layer touched inner layer due to strong wind at night. We were wet and it was cold, so our laziness showed up and we went down back to the car. Our plan was to come back to our accommodation in Sarajevo, dry everything and do one day hike next day in Sutjeska.

The battle of Sutjeska

On the way back we stopped in Tjentište to check the biggest attraction of the settlement: the Valley of Heroes memorial commemorating Battle of Sutjeska from World War II.

Valley of Heroes memorial

Valley of Heroes memorial.

In the one month long battle local partisans won over Axis occupying forces by escaping from encirclement. The partisans were led by Josip Broz Tito who later became the first president of Yugoslavia. The monument is really impressive, because of its size and socialist style. Looking from the back you can see that the monument is exactly the same as from the front, but upside down. Behind the main monument there is a list of partisan troops taking part in the battle. After the trip we knew we should watch the Sutjeska movie about the battle.

The monument from the back

The monument from the back.

Attempt #2

Leaving Sarajevo early next morning, we finally had good sunny weather. Luckily the weather didn’t change 2.5 hour later when we’ve arrived to Tjentište. This time we decided to go to Prijevor by car in order to save time. Or maybe we’re simply getting older? To get to Prijevor you need to find a narrow, but 18 km long road on the left side before village shop in Tjentište. It leads first to few houses in Mrkalji.

There is (not so good) asphalt cover up to a barrier that is a place for entrance fee collection. You need to buy ticket for the car and all passengers. We arrived there right at the same time as two park rangers. One of the rangers wanted a ride with us to Prijevor as he said he wants to start patrolling the park from there. We gladly agreed to take him, so we have help in case our car breaks down on bumpy road, because there is no asphalt at all from this point on the road.

The road climbs steadily to reach an asphalt parking place at Dragoš Sedlo after about 10 km and one hour. The amount of time it took shows how bad the road was. Luckily there was no long steep sections, but there were some bigger stones and deep wheel ruts. Good that we had our car from Finland with its high clearance. But the way was pretty tiring both for me as driver and for the car.

A not so good road to Prijevor

A not so good car road to Prijevor.

We stopped on the parking to let our car’s engine to cool down and we walked to a viewpoint. Based on the size of the parking area, Dragoš Sedlo is pretty crowded place in summer. The short path leads you to the viewpoint on top of a cliff with the view to Perućica primeval forest. You can also see from here Skakavac (i.e. grashopper) waterfall that is one of the highest in Bosnia measuring about 75 m. Skakavac is a popular name for waterfalls as there is a waterfall with the same name next to Sarajevo that is 98 m high and definitely worth a short hike. After the short stop we continued up towards Prijevor. On this section of the road there were some viewpoints, but very limited. Basically whole road from the village is simply a forest road with no views.

Hike to the highest peak of Bosnia

When we arrived to Prijevor hill, we parked among few other cars that arrived here before us. Probably some of them passed us when we were at the viewpoint and some of them stayed overnight here. Most of them where 4×4 vehicles, but even an old Volkswagen Golf – popular throughout whole Bosnia – was parking there. We said bye to the ranger who tried to sell us fridge magnets with landscapes from Sutjeska before going on his own way 😀

For the first time we saw the highest peak of the country, Maglić (2386 m a.s.l.). Our first destination was Trnovačko lake in Montenegro and from there we wanted to continue to Maglić. As it was early spring in the mountains we were prepared that we can’t reach the peak of Maglić due to big amount of snow covering the trail, but we thought we will go as far as we safely can.

Maglić from Prijevor

Maglić from Prijevor.

A beautiful lake in Montenegro

The trail to Trnovačko lake is very easy. It crosses the border to Montenegro soon after the parking lot, but there is no border control. After that the trail goes down to a cute, tiny valley which had a little lake formed by melted snow water. It’s only about 2 km to our destination from that point. The trail goes uphill, following a small creek and sometimes in the creek.

Border between Bosnia and Montenegro

Border between Bosnia and Montenegro (marked by a tiny sign on the tree).

The lake lies in the middle of the mountains. As we arrived in spring ,we saw many flowers blossoming around the lake. Flower carpet was covering the ground. Water in the lake was still too cold for a longer swim, but in summer it should get warm as the lake is shallow.

First view of Trnovačko lake

First view of Trnovačko lake.

Flowers around the lake

Flowers around the lake.

We were lucky enough to find nobody around, in summer the place is for sure full of tourists. There is even a small wooden cabin selling snacks and drinks working during high season. Probably doesn’t get as crowded as Morskie Oko in Tatra, but surely there are many people. We already met few groups around the lake after we went down from Maglić trail. The trail to the peak surrounds the heart shaped lake from south.

Higher altitude

At first, it goes through a forest and that is the only steep part. After the forest, you can enjoy the views to even more peaks than from lake’s elevation. And the lake water has very cool colors when seen from here.

Heart-shaped lake from trail to Maglić

Heart-shaped lake from trail to Maglić.

So even if you don’t plan to hike all the 5 km from the lake to Maglić, it’s still worth to go a bit up and see the lake from this perspective. When we reached altitude of about 2000 m, trail was covered by snow. First we continued up, but it kept getting worse, so at some point we decided to go below the elevation of snow and enjoy the views while soaking up the sun.

Snow covered trail

Partially snow covered trail.

We had great weekend exploring Sutjeska National Park. Rainy weather at our first visit, but sun on our second time in the park rewarded our struggle in the rain. There are plenty of other trails in the area to explore, including trail to Volujak peak that is only 50 m lower than Maglić. We didn’t see any free online map of trails in Sutjeska National Park. To plan your trip, check a map we found next to the monument in Tjentište.

Sutjeska National Park map

Sutjeska National Park map.

 

 

Sutjeska National Park, hike between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro

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  • Kristine AARSHEIM

    I know I shouldn’t laugh, but the story with the bad weather and bad luck is funny. At least everything turned well and you saw a lot of gorgeous sites 🙂 the photos are gorgeous!

    • No worries, we completely understand it and laugh on the memory of it too! But that day it wasn’t funny at all 🙂

  • Your photography is stunning! That Heart-shaped lake looks beautiful and makes me want to pack my bags and go, just to spend hours photographing this place! Great post!

    • Thanks! That lake looks really amazing from the top and is definitely worth 2 hours ride up plus some extra kilometers of hiking.

  • Lydia@Lifeuntraveled.com

    I’m fascinated by the architecture of the Valley of Heroes monument. That picture of you with the heart-shaped lake looks like a painting – very nice!

    • The monument is really cool! We still have many similar post soviet monuments around Europe on our list of things to see!

  • Coleman Concierge

    Looks like a beautiful place to explore! I did not realize that Bosnia was filled with so many picturesque peaks! Thanks for adding to the destination list 🙂

  • Neha Verma

    Quiet an adventurous hiking trail. But looks like you were truly rewarded with the beauty of nature once you conquered it. Driving through that path in the rain must have been quiet an adventure in itself

  • Diana – MVMTblog

    The views on this hike look amazing! It’s crazy that you’re wearing shorts and a t-shirt and it looks really sunny and then all of a sudden there’s snow on the path! I’ve been wanting to visit Bosnia, and this makes me want to go even more! Love me a good hike.

  • Clare Colley

    It looks beautiful. I will have to add to my list of places to see when I go to Bosnia. I love hiking and being in the mountains so definitely my type of place 🙂

  • Gorgeous photos! I really love that you crossed the border ON the hike. I’ve never done that! Only in a car. How fun. I would’ve taken a cheesy pic with the sign haha. Thanks for sharing!

  • CarrieEMann

    Wow, this looks so beautiful. And with the bonus of getting to see a bit of Montenegro too!

  • Amy Butler

    Wow, you guys are brave! I’m not sure I’d attempt a hike like that on my own — especially with those roads! But stunning pictures. B&H seems like such a hidden gem!

  • Miranda Knudtson

    What a unique post! I haven’t heard much lately on Bosnia & Herzegovina. The pictures from this park are absolutely gorgeous, & I loved the history lesson & image of the monument of the Battle of Sutjeska from World War II. I never knew how much involvement this country had in that war