HIKING IN SUTJESKA NATIONAL PARK: THE MOST BEAUTIFUL ROUTES & HIKES

by Kathi Daniela

In the age of instagramworthy views and overcrowded hot spots, they still exist: the undiscovered places. One of them? Sutjeska National Park.A wild paradise in the heart of the Balkans, in the east of Bosnia and Herzegovina on the border with Montenegro. 

Here, the karstic peak of Maglić, the highest mountain in Bosnia and Herzegovina, rises ruggedly into the sky, wild animals cavort on the lush meadows of Zelengora, and one of the last primeval forests in Europe, the Perućica, not only hides an enchanted waterfall, but is also home to many animal species long endangered in Europe. 

In Sutjeska national park we humans are still only guests, immersed in the silence and the well-rehearsed coexistence of nature, full of awe, with the feeling of actually being quite small. Off the beaten track, you can still find untouched nature and beauty here, and even though many national parks claim that - here it is really true.

I was lucky enough to spend three days in the national park recently, exploring its most beautiful hiking trails and visiting its most impressive viewpoints. In this article, I'll introduce you to the most beautiful hikes in the Sutjeska National Park.

So let's go visit the Yosemite of the Balkans, as it is sometimes called.
But a word of warning: you'll definitely want to lace up your hiking boots right away!

The oldest national park in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Sutjeska National Park in Bosnia and Herzegovina is not only the largest, but also the oldest national park in the country.It was founded as early as 1962, and even in the 1950s, before the park was actually founded, part of its current area, namely the Perućica primeval forest, was declared a protected zone.

Sometimes called the Yosemite of the Balkans Sutjeska National Park is home to Maglić, the highest peak in the country at 2,386 metres, one of the last primeval forests in Europe, Perućica and many endemic animal and plant species. The rugged, karstic mountains are home to trees over 300 years old, lush meadows, crystal clear mountain lakes, deep gorges and waterfalls.

Sutjeska is also part of the Via Dinarica, a network of long-distance hiking trails in the Dinaric Alps that is over 2,000 kilometres long.It stretches from Slovenia through Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro to Albania. 

Sutjeska National Park: Getting there

The park is located in the south-east of Bosnia and Herzegovina, about two hours from the capital Sarajevo.The easiest way to get there is by car or rental car. If you don't have a vehicle, you can take the bus to Foča.From there you can take a taxi or an organised hiking tour to the park.

The best season for hiking in Sutjeska National Park

Spring | A great time to see nature blooming again and be one of the first on the trails.

Summer | Hot and dry, this is the best season for hiking in and through the forest. Expect lots of mosquitoes in the mountain meadows.

Autumn | An ideal time to visit Sutjeska. Popular hikes are less crowded, the trees shine in the most beautiful colours and the temperatures during the day are often still pleasant.

Winter | In winter, Sutjeska is not particularly crowded. Many hiking trails are inaccessible because of the snow and can only be completed in the company of a trained guide. Snowshoe tours are hardly offered.

The most beautiful hikes in the Sutjeska National Park

Hiking in Perucica primeval forest to Skakavac waterfall

Perućica is one of the last preserved primeval forests in Europe and is a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site - it was declared a strict nature protection zone as early as 1952. 

The most popular hike leads to the Skakavac waterfall. You can already see it from the Dragoš Sedlo view point - densely forested valleys stretch as far as the eye can see and a hundred metres below, the Skakavac waterfall shimmers, plunging 98 metres into the depths in the protected zone.

The way there is quite challenging: in less than four kilometres, it is 340 metres to the bottom of the primeval forest - and then the same way back again. There are no marked hiking trails in Perućica, the forest is very dense, in some places even impassable. Since the principle is not to interfere with nature, fallen trees are not removed from paths, and newly growing flora or fauna are not torn out.

‼️ Please note ‼️ 

Entry is only permitted with a guide and with prior notification. Violators are subject to hefty fines. Only 16 people per day are allowed in protection zone 1 directly by the waterfall.

Conversely, this means for you: You have the jungle practically to yourself, you can sit at the waterfall without large groups and just enjoy.And the hike with a guide guarantees exciting insights into the flora and fauna of one of the "lungs of Europe".A very special experience!

You can book a hike to the Skakavac waterfall here. Big recommendation for our hiking guide Dejan, who designed this hike like a safari and pointed out to us an uncanny amount of animal tracks, happenings in the forest and "life history" of the trees.

Specifications

  • Length: 3.9 km
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Height difference: 350 m

What does it actually mean: primeval forest?

Around 6,000 years ago, Europe was a continent of primeval forests.Around 80 percent of our continent was forested. Today, hardly anything is left of it.

There are only a few so-called primary and primeval forests left.A forest is called such if its life cycle and ecosystem have never been interfered with by humans. 

This also means that these forests must not be interfered with by humans in any way that would have lasting consequences if they are to retain their status.

Many trees in the Perucica primeval forest are up to 300 years old and 50 metres high.A total of over 170 different species of trees and shrubs and over 1,000 other herbs and plants, many of them endemic, grow in the Perućica, which is also home to bears, wolves and lynxes.

You can read more about the primeval and primary forests of Europe at WWF.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Hike to Trnovačko Jezero (in Montenegro)

Of all the hikes in Sutjeska, the one to Lake Trnovačko is certainly the most popular. And rightly so: it is one of the most beautiful hikes I have done since living in Bosnia and Herzegovina. And how cool is it that you actually cross a national border on the hiking trail?

Because Trnovacko Jezero is actually not in Sutjeska National Park, but in Piva National Park in Montenegro. You can reach the lake from Montenegro, of course, but the route from Bosnia and Herzegovina is also a popular hiking route.

This rewarding hike takes you in the first stage from the Prijevor viewpoint, the starting point and car park, directly into the shadow of Bosnia's highest peak, Maglić. The trail continues along scree fields, with rugged karst ridges to the left and right, down to a beautiful meadow surrounded by the high peaks of two national parks. Then it's a steep climb back up to the lake - the most challenging part of the route, which makes reaching your destination all the more rewarding!

‼️ Please noteThe entrance fee to the lake is one EUR, which you should have in cash. As you are also crossing a national border, you will need to carry an identity document. You can find my article about hiking to Lake Trnovačko here.

Specifications

  • Length: 10,3 km
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Height difference: 545 m
  • Trail map

Hiking excursion to the Gornje Bare and Donje Bare lakes

Completely untouched by human hand, the Donje Bare lake lies in a remote part of the Zelengora mountain. A hike to these crystal-clear bathing lakes is a solitary pleasure. Even the approach alone is a challenge: it takes over an hour uphill on gravel roads until we finally park at a small signpost.

Our hike - more of a walk - then leads across mountain meadows, dotted with blueberries, to the lake (the second lake dried up at the end of summer) at the foot of a boulder field.A true paradise on earth - I have never seen such clear water, never perceived such peaceful silence anywhere.The only other people present are, with luck, a few mountain goats. The wild goats are at home on the slopes of Zelengora.

In contrast to the barren plateaus of Maglić, not only they, but also bears, deer and other forest animals find plenty of food here. Travelling with a well-trained guide is a clear advantage: he knows the signs and tracks of the animals, whether there might be one nearby and how to behave. If you want to visit the Sutjeska, I really recommend that you do it with a mountain guide.

A hiking trip to Donje Bare can be combined very well with another stop at Donje Bare Lake. Today there is a small mountain cottage here that offers a spartan idyll - situated on the shore of the lake and rented out by the mountaineering association. In the past, however, Yugoslavia's elite met in Tito's villa on the shore of the crystal-clear lake, which seems almost transparent - today only a ruin remains.

Specifications

  • Length: 3.2 km
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Height difference: 110 m
  • Trail map

Climbing Maglić

The highest peak in the country is naturally on the list of many hikers, but should only be climbed by experienced hikers. The route is demanding and challenging, good hiking gear is a must!

Even in summer, the weather can change quickly. Maglić is also called the misty mountain and once you leave the mountain meadows at its foot behind, you climb over rugged karst fields to the summit. But the views during the climb are worth it! And at the end, of course - the sense of achievement!

From Maglić you not only have a view of the surrounding peaks, but many hundreds of metres below, Lake Trnovačko shimmers deep green and blue. It is a good idea to visit it on the way back, as the route is considered the "easiest".

Specifications

  • Length: 12.6 km
  • Difficulty: challenging
  • Height difference: 1.109 m
  • Trail map

Accommodation in Sutjeska National Park

The village of Tjentište is the only one within the borders of the national park and also the place where you can stay.The war unfortunately destroyed tourism in the country in many places and even here in Sutjeska everything is not yet back to how it could be. Since the national park is state-owned, modernisation is slow - while hiking trails are being improved, there is still a lack of good and new accommodation.

One place to stay is Hotel Mladost – certainly all the rage in the 70s of the last century, now not much of its glamour is left. But you can get a hot shower, the beds are comfortable enough and the breakfast is okay. 

From there, it is also only a few minutes' walk to the Tjentiste War Memorial, built for the Yugoslav partisans who fell in the Battle of the Sutjeska during the Second World War. The partisan memorial is a very interesting architectural construction and hard to miss.

Also within walking distance is the Komlen restaurant - I would recommend dining here rather than at Hotel Mladost.

The restaurant also rents out several apartment villas, which are great for larger groups. Apart from the hotel, they are your only option for accommodation directly in the national park. The villas are spacious, and one of them even has its own sauna!

Reiseplanung für Bosnien-Herzegowina leicht gemacht

💸 Welche Währung hat Bosnien und Herzegowina?
In Bosnien und Herzegowina wird mit Konvertibiler Mark (kurz KM) bezahlt.  Seit dem 22. Juni 1998 ist sie die Währung von Bosnien und Herzegowina und war bis 2001 im Verhältnis 1:1 an die Deutsche Mark gekoppelt, seit 2002 an den Euro. Ein Euro ist immer exakt 1,95583 KM). Die Umrechung ist also super einfach.

🇧🇦 Welche Sprache wird in Bosnien und Herzegowina gesprochen?
Offizielle Sprachen des Landes sind Bosnisch, Serbisch und Kroatisch, die sich jedoch sprachlich kaum unterscheiden – ich vergleiche sie immer mit Deutsch und Österreichisch. Serbisch benutzt allerdings die kyrillischen Buchstaben, was im Landesteil Republika Srpska zu Verwirrung führen kann. Am besten, du lädst dir Google Translate herunter, damit kannst du auch Fotos der kyrillischen Menüs oder Straßenschilder machen und sie so übersetzen lassen.

💉 Brauche ich eine Auslandskrankenversicherung für Bosnien-Herzegowina?
Unbedingt! Nie, nie, nie solltest du ohne Auslandskrankenversicherung verreisen. Bosnien und Herzegowina ist außerdem nicht in der EU, das heißt, deine deutsche Krankenversicherung deckt das Land nicht mit ab. Ich empfehle anderen Reisenden immer gerne SafetyWing. Für weniger als einen Euro pro Tag kannst du dich hier versichern und dich zusätzlich noch gegen die Risiken von Extrem-Sportarten, verlorenem Gepäck und anderen Reisewehwehchen absichern.

📲 Kann ich europäisches Roaming in Bosnien und Herzegowina nutzen?
Nein, da Bosnien und Herzegowina nicht in der EU ist, gilt dein Roaming-Paket hier nicht. Du kannst dir entweder vor Ort am Kiosk für ein paar Mark eine SIM-Karte kaufen oder dir einfach eine eSIM wie Airalo holen, die du nach deiner Bosnien-Reise sogar für andere Länder auch nutzen kannst. Hier kannst du die Airalo-App herunterladen.

🪂 Welcher Tour-Anbieter ist für meine Bosnien-Reise empfehlenswert?
Zusammen mit meinem bosnischen Partner habe ich 2022 die Boutique-Reiseagentur .Cheyf gegründet. Unsere Erfahrungen aus dem nachhaltigen Tourismus in Orten wie Südafrika haben wir mit unserem Wissen über Bosnien und dem Lebensgefühl ćejf vereint – die kleinen Momente zu genießen, die das Leben lebenswert machen. So sind Touren entstanden, die Nachhaltigkeit, lokale Erlebnisse und Communitys und ein echtes Lebensgefühl übermitteln. Hier kannst du dir unsere Touren ansehen und .Cheyf besser kennenlernen.

🗺️ Ich möchte ohne Reiseagentur reisen, gibt es vorgefertigte Routen?
Ja! Ich biete eine interaktive Reisekarte für ganz Bosnien und Herzegowina an, mit mehrere vorgefertigten Reiserouten und jeder Menge Restaurants und Geheimtipps. Und das Beste: Die Karte wird regelmäßig erweitert und ergänzt, das heißt, du hast immer die aktuellsten Empfehlungen direkt in der Westentasche. Hier geht’s zum interaktiven Travel Guide.

💦 Kann ich das Leitungswasser in Bosnien und Herzegowina trinken?
Das Wasser in großen Städten kannst du bedenkenlos trinken. Nach starken Regenfällen oder Überschwemmungen sowie in ländlichen Gebieten wird abgefülltes Wasser empfohlen. 

🛬 Wo finde ich die besten Flüge nach Bosnien und Herzegowina?
Die günstigsten Flüge findest du auf Kiwi – dort kannst du direkt Preise vergleichen.

🏯 Wo finde ich die besten Unterkünfte in Bosnien und Herzegowina?
Die meisten Unterkünfte in Bosnien und Herzegowina, auch private Unterkünfte, werden oft auf Booking.com eingestellt. Hier kannst du neben Hotels also auch Wohnungen oder Gasthäuser buchen und mit deinem Aufenthalt dort direkt die bosnische Bevölkerung unterstützen.

🛵 Wo kann ich einen Mietwagen für meine Bosnien-Reise buchen?
Auf Rentalcars.com kannst du aus einer Vielzahl von Mietwagen wählen und Preise vergleichen. Ich empfehle dir, auf jeden Fall mit Vollkaskoversicherung zu buchen. Der deutsche Führerschein ist gültig, du brauchst also keinen internationalen Führerschein einzupacken.

TRANSPARENCY: INVITATION & AFFILIATE LINKS

I was invited on the hikes to test them for my travel agency .Cheyf and to include them in our offer. However, my opinion is uninfluenced by this - if I hadn't liked the excursions, they wouldn't have ended up on this blog or in my travel agency's offering.

This blog article also contains personal recommendations in the form of affiliate links. If you book or buy something through the links, I receive a small commission.This does not change the price for you at all. Thank you for your support!

Have you ever been to Sutjeska National Park? If so, how did you like it? Do you have any additional tips or experiences?I look forward to reading about it in the comments!

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