As a well-travelled and modern day global citizen, how much do you really know about Bosnia and Herzegovina?
If anything like me prior to my visit, not a whole lot.
What I did know is that this country, often shadowed by its turbulent past, is incredibly beautiful. Both its people and its natural scenery.
This was confirmed during my wanderings through the country and I clearly remember having a hard time lifting my jaw off the floor of the train, in complete awe of the surrounding landscape.
This, as I wandered my way across the country from Mostar to Sarajevo.
“How do people not know about this?” I kept repeating to myself, almost in disbelief.
So now I feel it’s important for me to introduce a little gem of this country to you.
Located in the Southern part of Bosnia and Herzegovina, 12 km southeast of Mostar is a village-town called Blagaj.
Small geographically? Yeah
Weird sounding? Hell yeah!
Huge in its potential to make a vast impact in your travel experience.
Nominated for the UNESCO World Heritage List, today Blagaj has become popular as the tourist center of Herzegovina.
This is mainly due to its location at the source of the river Buna and its mystical tekke or Dervish monastery.
✈ Vrelo Bune
The source of the Buna River is the largest karst spring in Europe and often said to be the one of the most beautiful.
This area of limestone, characterized by numerous caves, sinkholes, fissures and underground streams, all formed as the result of years of erosion.
The water flows through a cave that is part of a 200-meter high stone cliff wall and single-handedly creates the Buna River.
✈ The Main Attraction
So why go all the way to the tiny village of Blagaj? Well…
An incredibly awe-inspiring sight, right? I (should) rest my case..
The key sight here is the half-timbered historical Tekija or Sufi monastery that is perched against the cliffs, alongside the surreal blue-green Buna River.
I was told that this hermitage was founded by Dervishes of the Bektashi order in the 16th century under the orders of the then Ottoman sultan.
Still in use today, it is a venue for Zikr, or praise-chanting, of the local dervishes every Thursday.
Built in a classical Baroque style with elements of Ottoman and Mediterranean architecture, the tekke is the only one of its kind in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The complex is open to visitors all year round, serving Turkish coffee, tea and other cold drinks on the terrace overlooking the source of the River.
✈ Get there
You have three main options for getting to Blagaj:
1. Hire a car and drive while stopping at a number of significant ones throughout the day with my favourite being the Kravice waterfalls. Regional road M17 will take you there.
Public buses number 10 or 11 go regularly from the road opposite the main station in Mostar making a stop in Blagaj 15 minutes later.
(Be sure to check the times once in the city but these are the correct times at the time of publishing: 6.30; 7.45; 11.00; 16.30; 18.30; 21.30)
3. There is always the option of hiring a taxi in Mostar.
Note that the Mostar Airport is located only 4 km away.
✈ Things to note:
Cost: Entrance into the tekke is 2 KM per person. Which is nothing, really.
To gain entry, you need to follow some customary rules. Men and women must cover their legs and women must wear headscarves with their shoulders covered.
The house itself comprises just empty rooms really, for prayer and the grave of Dervish. Clean and simple. The architecture, the wooden interior and the ceiling are attractive.
Without prior knowledge or the use of a guide/interpreter, the visit inside the monastery might seem unremarkable, much like that of a visit to a very plain old turkish house.
There are no good views from the tekke itself. The best views are from across the river on the upper level of the Vrelo Restaurant.
Should hunger strike while in explorer mode; there are a few restaurants along the river.
The village can get overcrowded and full of tourists. You might not be able to enjoy the natural surroundings, or the ambiance of the tekke, as a result of the crowds and with that the tourist-oriented restaurants.
✈ Final thoughts
That being said, over the years the village has become a national historical and cultural monument and is said to be one of the most mystical places in all of the country.
Should you decide to travel to Blagaj too, I do hope you get a glimpse into the beauty and mystery that surrounds this expanse.
Stay bold… keep exploring,