I have written about road trips through Bosnia and Herzegovina before on this blog, and for this post I decided to go inland, and show you a special road trip along the Vrbas river. It's definitely a scenic ride that offers great variety in experiences, from natural wonders to citylife. The Vrbas is a major river with a length of 235 km/147 miles, in western Bosnia and Herzegovina. The word vrba means "willow" in Bosnian language. Along the way there are major stops worth seeing. So come along and enjoy...
A Road Trip along the Vrbas River in Bosnia and HerzegovinaHere is the road trip on a map:
1. JablanicaA historical monument of an important World War II Battle that went on in these regions greets you in Jablanica. In World War II, the so called Case White, also known as the Fourth Enemy Offensive, was a combined Axis strategic offensive launched against the Yugoslav Partisans (The National Liberation Army of Yugoslavia). Even a Academy Award Nominated movie has been made about this.
2. Prozor / RamaMoving along we have the Prozor-Rama region. Make sure to park on the side of the road before the Jablanica Dam located a couple of miles north from Jablanica. You can also stop to see the valley of the Rama Lake, and take in scenic views of mountains and small villages here.
3. Donji Vakuf / SemisnicaYou have to make a stop here for lunch. Inside the city Donji Vakuf, before you cross the bridge over the Vrbas river (if you are traveling south to north) you will see a sign for Semisnica. Take a left turn and drive for a couple of miles before you arrive in this oasis.
Apart from industry, forestry has been an important contributor to the local economy and continues to be. In recent years, agriculture has grown in sustaining the Bugojno's economy as many people are investing in land and agronomy.To the west towards Kupres is a region called Koprivica. This enormous forest was once one of President Tito's favorite hunting spots. The town houses Tito's Villa (now destroyed). The uninhabited dense forest has created a sanctuary for wild animals. Kalin Mountain is a popular weekend area for hikers and nature lovers.
5. JajceThe fortress was built in the 14th century, by the founder of the city Jajce. It was the seat of the kings, who engraved their coat of arms on the castle. A part of the wall was found by the Hungarian King and the Ottomans made the powder magazine. Just head into the city and discover the inner walls of the old town.
6. Krupa na VrbasuKrupa na Vrbasu is about 25 km / 16 miles south from Banja Luka. It is situated at the point where the Vrbas river leaves the canyon and enters Krupsko polje. The place with its outstanding natural and cultural values such as waterfalls, mills, Strikina pecina, Monastery of St. Ilija (1289), wooden church (XVI century) and the medieval city of Greben (1192), conditioned the development of excursion, religious, sports and recreation, scientific, agricultural and fishing tourism. The art colony is traditionally held in Krupa, where artists from all around the world are motivated by miraculous power of nature to create life works.
7. Banja LukaWe arrive in Banja Luka in the end. The name is interpreted as "Ban's meadow", from the words ban ("a medieval dignitary"), and luka ("a valley" or "a meadow"). You can spend some time here and head back, but for me personally I would rather spend the night here and explore the city a bit further. And there is lots to see here like the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, Banski Dvor Cultural Centre, Ferhadija Mosque and Mladen Stojanovic Park.
Logistics of the Road Trip
This is the best way to travel here. Yes, you could use buses, but a lot of the spirit of discovery and adventure will be gone.There are many services in the area, most noticeable in Mostar, like Carrus Rent-a-Car, that is very affordable. If you are traveling with others, then you can share the cost and won't even think about this as an expense. Daily rental fees start at 30 €/33$. All cars are fully insured, air conditioned, and you have unlimited mileage.
Food and Drinks
Jablanica is known for its restaurants on the south entrance, and you will surely eat nicely in Semisnica. You can find bigger supermarkets in Jablanica, Bugojno and in Banja Luka.
Most of the places I have listed have gas stations in them, and you will find many of them along the way, so you don't need to worry about it. The trip lasts 6 hours driving in total so you don't need to tank to many times.
The local currency is Konvertibilna Marka (KM, international code BAM). By law, only the local currency is allowed, but most toursit places do except Euros. You can exchange money in banks in Jablanica, before you head out, like at the Sparkasse Bank, or in various places in Banja Luka if you start the trip north to south.
I hope you enjoyed this trip along the Vrbas river in central Bosnia and Herzegovina.