Via Dinarica Bosnia: Story from a hike to Lukomir

In the summer of 2016, all 350 km of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s segment of White Trail was officially open. That meant thru-hikers all over the world had a green light to explore off beaten paths of Via Dinarica in Bosnia. The year 2016 was the year when first hikers came to backpack the entire 1,260 km of the White Trail from Slovenia to Albania or vice versa.

Four years later, locals see many benefits of Via Dinarica, and there are more and more online stories and blog posts about the experiences of hikers who trekked the whole trail. Before you travel to the Balkans, make sure you did your research. I would suggest to read experiences of others who have hiked a whole trail, join a Facebook group about Via Dinarica (members are locals and people who have hiked the trail, and who are planning to do it), and make sure you have pack  gear you need for this type of adventure. 

Maintenance of Via Dinarica - Adopt a Trail Program

If you ask me, Via Dinarica is the best thing that ever happened to Bosnia and the rest of the region. It’s not perfect, like nothing in life is. In the last four years, we saw there is space for changes and improvement. Volunteers from many mountain clubs throughout the region did a great job in building this trail and maintaining it in the last four years. 

The biggest problem is that most long-distance trails in the rest of the world have institutional support or mechanism in place to properly maintain the trail and ensure the safety and enjoyment of hikers. Our region, and especially Bosnia, is struggling to get this kind of support all the time. Every spring there is a lot of work on the trail: clear branches and rocks, fix landslides and refresh markings. Therefore, it was created a program “Adopt a Trail” – a sustainable support system that is beneficial for all. Click here if you would like to help and be part of it!

Via Dinarica in Bosnia mostly runs through wild and off beaten parts of the country. That being said, we think research, good preparation and orientation in nature, and gear are the key to finishing the whole trail. Sharing stories from hikers who have hiked sections or whole Via Dinarica are very important for everyone (volunteers on the trail, future hikers of Via Dinarica, and also for the promotion of the trail). Therefore, read a story of two Belgium guys. They have hiked a few sections of Via Dianrica, and here is their experience at Via Dinarica from this year. In summer of 2019, they have hiked section: Neretva and Rakitnica Canyon to Lukomir Village

Under billion of stars. Courtesy of Cyriel Van Damme

Experience of two guys from Belgium on Via Dinarica in Bosnia

by Cyriel Van Damme

Four days passed by since we asked the taxi driver to drop us in front of the suspension bridge across the Neretva. This was the last time we actually spoke to someone else than each other. The last words entering our ears were: “You guys are crazy!” Maybe he wasn’t totally wrong…

Hot days are passing by and managing to stay hydrated is pretty hard, it’s 36°C outside and the weather is nothing like we had the year before on Prenj, where we only had dense fog and little rain. Still, we keep managing having just the water we need by refilling our empty bottles on springs.

After some days, the trip is more about survival than about fun, especially when we finally find our spring we were looking for so long (because it wasn’t marked very well) almost dried out…With some rope and an iron bucket, we try to get as much water as possible out of the spring (what actually was just a hole in the ground covered with rocks for shade). After many attempts, we manage to refill 2,5 empty water bottles, hopefully enough to come around till Lukomir.

Getting lost on the trail

The next day passes smoothly until we figured out that we lost the trail. Trying to get back to our last marked point we’re running out of the water quickly and we decide to leave our backpacks on a point we marked on so we could go to Lukomir with only empty bottles for water and return later for our backpacks.

After hiking for some more hours without any water we can finally see Lukomir in the distance, but we’re already somehow desperate and knew that it’s a dangerous off-trail hike towards this beautiful mountain village, especially without any water. With desperation in our heads, we decide to call the rescue team.

After lots of calls to the Bosnian police, the rescue team finally had permission to come and save us. They told us they would be there in some hours, because they came all the way from Sarajevo and they proposed we could try to get closer to Lukomir, we agree. After my friend started his risky trip towards Lukomir, I followed and finally (all shaking) we both arrived. I was never happier to drink just water.

Help of a mountain rescue team

A little later the rescue team arrived and after explaining our story they decided to search for our backpacks together with us. The minute I showed the exact location of the backpacks, my phone’s battery just went down to zero percent, so now we all had to do it on feeling, memory, and geographical knowledge.

After a wild ride from about 40 minutes in the jeep, we head out with the rescue team to find the backpacks we left half a day ago somewhere in a forest. It was already getting darker so we didn’t have too much time.

Hiking through the landscape, and crossing snakes, we finally find the backpacks and head back to Lukomir just in time before the dark. I feel blessed, thanks to the amazing rescue team we’re both safe and well with our belongings. I appreciate very much the team’s patience, goodwill, and effort they made for us and our backpacks.

As we returned to Lukomir, my friend and I said goodbye to volunteers of a mountain rescue team. We stayed in a hospitable guesthouse in Lukomir where we had booked our overnight. They knew we were fine again and in the good hands of our host. Like men on a mission, they headed back to Sarajevo, ready to save the next day!

On the trail. Courtesy of Cyriel Van Damme

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