It’s one of the most exciting outdoor adventure sports. Following rivers through wild landscapes, absenting down cliffs, jumping into pools below waterfalls, and climbing over massive boulders. It involves skill, agility and teamwork, but above all, it is endless fun.
One of the best and most beautiful places in Europe to do it, is in the remote and rugged wilderness of southern Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The Rakitnica Gorge
The village of Konjic lies in a mountainous and densely forested region between the capital Sarajevo and the lovely village of Mostar. It’s the ideal place to stay while making daily excursions into the Rakitnica Gorge, a 16 mile (26km) long canyon with spectacular rock formations and the pure, emerald waters of the Rakitnica River.
There is a wonderful trail that follows the ridge, but the best way to ply through the gorge is by canyoning along the river.
This sport combines hiking, climbing, swimming, jumping, scrambling and abseiling. Canyoneers typically wear helmets, wetsuits and special shoes, while carrying climbing gear and waterproof backpacks. The sport entails entering a canyon on one side, overcoming all obstacles and doing whatever is necessary to exit safely on the other.
Several experienced guides offer group excursions for either one or multiple day outings. A one day tour concentrates on the last five miles (8km) of the Rakitnica River where it meets the mighty Neretva River. Rafts take you through narrow canyon walls part on the way, while at other times you climb over boulders and pass waterfalls.
Multiple day tours start near the beginning of the gorge and for the duration you must carry your own supplies and camp in natural shelters at night.
It is possible to attempt the nearby Bijela Gorge, though this entails more caving techniques and operating in the dark. Only one hundred or so people have ever challenged the Bijela.
Hiking is one of the most popular activities in the area and one trail leads to the exceptional village of Lukomir. At an elevation of 5,000 feet (1,500m), it is the highest and most isolated village in Bosnia, and is inhabited by the only semi nomadic people in the country. Visiting is like going back in time 100 years.
Not far away is Kravica Waterfall, one of the most awe-inspiring in Europe and should not be missed. For rail fans, one of the best train journeys in Europe is the stretch between Sarajevo and Mostar, with Konjic station being right smack in the middle.
When To Go
The best time to do canyoning in the Rakitnica Gorge is between April and September.
The climate exhibits influences of oceanic, humid continental and humid subtropical zones, with four seasons. July is the hottest month with a 71°F (22°C) average temperature.
Getting There & Around
Fly into Sarajevo International Airport (SJJ) which is located 4 miles (6km) southwest of the railway station, in the suburb of Butmir. Take the scenic train to Konjic on the way to Mostar.
- Mid-range accommodations: $60-120
- Meals: $5-15
- Beer: $2
- Come in May or October when the waterfall is flowing the strongest.
- Take the scenic train from Sarajevo to Mostar, the Raktinica Gorge will be on the line.
- Pack as little as possible and fit everything into airtight, waterproof containers.
- Try this unless you are in good physical and mental condition.
- Go alone and always have an experienced guide with you.
- Believe your taxi driver. The scam goes like this: unsuspecting tourist will be taken to a more expensive hotel and the driver and receptionist will swear that the new arrival is in fact in the right place.
- The canyon is close to the Bjelašnica mountain, which hosted the winter Olympics.
- The Rakitnica River and its canyon have been listed in the recently published book “The Most Beautiful Canyons in the World“.
- The canyon entrance stands at 3,772 feet (1,150m) above sea level. The gorge, carved out by the river, is 13 miles (21.5 km) long and at it’s end, the river Rakitnica flows into Neretva at 984 (300 m) above sea level.
Feature Image Credit: QueenstownRafting