Sutjeska national park is one of my favourite places in Bosnia-Herzegovina. I have visited the park several times on my photo workshops and have a decent knowledge about the place. This time I decided to visit on my own to do some more scouting and to do some hiking in Sutjeska national park. Read more about this 5-day adventure for photos and useful information to plan your own trip.
Table of Contents
- Sutjeska National Park
- Climbing Mount Maglić (2386m)
- Trnovačko Lake – Hiking and Camping
- Climbing Trnovački Durmitor
- Jagodino Lake
- Exploring Zelengora
- Hiking in Sutjeska National Park – Conclusion
- Further Information
- Behind the Scenes Phone Snaps
Sutjeska National Park
This is the biggest and the oldest national park of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Located on the east of the country, it borders Montenegro. Together with Piva nature park on Montenegrin side, it forms large and diverse natural ecosystem. The area encompasses river valleys, high mountain peaks, mountain plateaus, natural lakes and one of the oldest primeval forests of Europe. The park got its name after Sutjeska river that runs in the middle of the park. The name Sutjeska means a canyon or a gorge in local language.
At the end of this post you will find useful resources about hiking in Sutjeska national park, accommodation and where to eat. Let’s get now to my experience from last summer.
Climbing Mount Maglić (2386m)
There are two peaks of Mt Maglić, Bosanski Maglić (2386m) and its twin brother, Veliki Maglić (2389m). Since the later is located just across the border in Montenegro, the title of the highest peak of Bosnia and Herzegovina belongs to the lower of the two.
The most popular starting point for Mt Maglić is from Prijevor saddle. This is where my friend, an excellent photographer Jaka and I started as well. This direct approach to the peak should take no more than an hour and a half. There is about 720m elevation gain and most of the trail is well marked and secured where necessary. It took us a good hour to get to the top. We did spent a good amount of time waiting to see what will happen with the approaching storm . Luckily it turned East and we were able to continue our ascent.
The views from the top were amazing. There was a lot of humidity in the air so the visibility was too low for photography. We decided to continue to the second, higher peak on Montenegrin side. Views from there are even better. One can see most of the peaks of Maglić massif, Trnovačko lake and much farther into Montenegro. On clear days, I believe, peaks of Durmitor national park should be well visible.
Jaka and I spent a decent amount of time on the top. We found some beautiful wildflowers and I was munching on chives and wild onions 🙂 My favourite shot from this hike on day 1 is the last one in the gallery below. A view on Bosanski Maglić, taken from Veliki Maglić.
Photos from Mt Maglić
We decided to return to Prijevor, pack our tents and sleeping gear and continue our hike to Trnovačko Lake. Going back via direct route wasn’t pleasant though. The terrain is difficult, crumbling with every step. It demands constant attention. We were back to our car in less than an hour.
Trnovačko Lake – Hiking and Camping
Trnovačko Lake (Trnovačko jezero) must be one of the most beautiful mountain lakes in the Balkans. It lies on the Montenegrin side of the border. I wanted to visit this lake for a long time. First I saw images from an American mountain photographer Jack Brauer and was hooked on the idea to spend a night at the lake. Then I read blog post by my Serbian colleague and an experienced mountaineer Nebojša Atanacković when he visited the lake in Autumn. I highly recommend reading his blog! I find a lot of inspiration and ideas from him.
The usual approach to Trnovačko lake is from the Bosnian side, from Prijevor saddle. It takes about 1h 15min to get there and it is not a strenuous hike. The more scenic trail goes via Mt Maglić and then continuing along the ridge to the lake. Since we have already done Mt Maglić that day, we opted for the short, direct route. Once at the lake, we spoke with Miloš, the Piva nature park ranger who resides there during the summer. Earlier that day we met him at Prijevor and he promised to prepare a meal for us. When I stepped into his cottage, I immediately saw he kept his word – a huge pan of meat, potatoes, veggies and bread was steaming on his firewood stove!
We set up our tents, had a dinner and photographed around the lake in the evening. It was overcast, no special light or colour. Still the atmosphere was so beautiful and peaceful. Only thousands of mosquitoes spiced it up a little bit. This is the part you don’t usually see in photos!
Climbing Trnovački Durmitor
In order to see the heart shape of Trnovačko lake, one has to climb one of the surrounding peaks. We opted to climb Mt Trnovački Durmitor (2242m). Apparently the view from this peak offers the nicest view on Trnovačko lake and Mt Maglić in the background.
We spent early morning at the lake, photographing. Then we started our hike. The trail is much longer than the one to Mt Maglič the previous day. It took us almost three hours to get to the top – partially because of numerous photo stops. It was also more taxing because of hot sun all along the way. The trail is incredibly scenic. First it passes an active mountain pasture, Katun Rudinske kolibe. Then it follows the valley between Mt Trnovački Durmitor and Mt Volujak. And lastly, there is a long grassy ascent along the south slopes of the mountain until one reaches the top.
The trail was pure wilderness pleasure! Wildflowers everywhere and I haven’t seen such abundance of lilies in my life. Unfortunately I didn’t have the right lens and my diffuser with me so no photos. The light was just too harsh. Anyways, the main goal was the views from the peak.
Photos from Trnovački Durmitor
We spent a good hour at the top, basking in the sun, snacking, enjoying the views, photographing. On our return, we packed our tents, hiked up to Prijevor where our car was and returned to Tjentište. This was our base for the next three days when we explored the nearby places of Sutjeska national park and beyond.
Just south of Sutjeska national park, there is a small mountain lake, that every mountain photographer would appreciate. Jagodino jezero (lake) is located near Volujak mountain hut, close to the border with Montenegro. It is possible to drive to the hut and park there. Keep in mind that the road is in bad shape so a car with high clearance is recommended. From there, it is just 40 minutes or less of easy hiking. All along the drive and the hike to the lake, the views are spectacular. Plan more time than you think so you can stop and photograph without being pressured.
We waited till sunset at the lake. As usual, the clouds were in the wrong side of the sky. It was also very windy so no reflections on the lake. I climbed the hill behind us to find alternative views with a better light. The image below is the result. We returned to Tjentište for a dinner and Jelen beer.
For the last couple of days, Jaka and I decided to explore Zelengora. A vast mountain area, known for gentle rolling green hills and mountain lakes. It is located on the west side of Sutjeska river and it is much less visited than places I write about above. Its name translates into a “Green Mountain” and it’s easy to see why. One week would hardly be enough but we did cover some nice locations in the two days we were there.
Orlovačko lake is just one of the numerous lakes of Zelengora. From the photos I have seen so far, one of its most beautiful ones. This is why we decided to visit it. It is possible to drive all the way up to the lake if you have a car with high clearance. As we arrived we met a few tourists who were camping there with their 4×4 cars. We also met a couple of boys from Foča, who invited us for a fire cooked lunch. We politely declined but accepted their offer for homemade brandy. Fueled by rakija, we headed to the lake. We spent all day at the lake and I even swam in it. The most memorable thing however was gorging on endless fields of blueberries! I never had my belly so full of blueberries that I didn’t need any more food.
Donje Bare & Borić Viewpoint
For the last day of our Sutjeska trip, we visited two beautiful places, located just above Tjentište. Donje Bare Lake is accessible by car. The road is in really bad shape and one wonders where does the road toll income go? Anyways, count at least one hour to get there! The lake itself is sheltered by mountains so it does not have the last sunlight of the day. Late afternoon time is beautiful as there is amazing backlight on the trees and the lake. We spent a short time around the lake, then we hiked to Borić viewpoint.
It takes about half an hour walking to get to the viewpoint. With photography, much longer. The landscape is so beautiful that we were stopping all the time, mountain meadows, backlit trees and later pristine forest and amazing ancient black pine trees.
Borić viewpoint offers views across Sutjeska river valley. We were able to see Mt Maglić and its massif – the area where we hiked a few days before. We decided to wait for sunset here. Such a great place to finish our 5-day hiking in Sutjeska national park!
Hiking in Sutjeska National Park – Conclusion
Five days of hiking and photography in this park of Bosnia (and Montenegro) ended too fast. There is still so much to explore and photograph that I am already planning my next trip(s). There are some placesI still need to visit for the first time, such as Peručica primeval forest and Skakavac waterfall. But there are so many places I want to return at a different season. Autumn at Trnovačko lake must be spectacular. And visiting Zelengora earlier in summer, for wildflowers.
Here is some more useful information for visiting Sutjeska national park and surrounding area. The base for exploring the area can easily be Tjentište. This is the centre of the park, where one can find places to stay, restaurants and a small market. Do not expect too much! The only hotel Mladost has seen better times. It is still a good option to stay. Or private rooms. In summer, camping is the best thing to do. There are a few campsites within the park, but it is also possible to do wild camping. The few basic mountain huts need to be contacted in advance if one wants to stay there.
Hiking maps are not available anywhere in the park and even locals can give you only the basic information and directions. If you are not sure about hiking on your own, contact the national park for their guides. They might be able to take you up the mountain roads if your car is not suitable for rough roads.
Here below are some useful links to plan your trip to Sutjeska and wider area in Bosnia and Montenegro.
PhotoHound – best photo spots in the area. I have added most of them myself for this region. You will find here all the locations I am writing about in this post.
Nestvarna Blog – My friend Nebojša has the best blog about hiking and mountaineering in the Balkans. He is also a very good photographer and I always find his posts very inspiring. He is also adding his GPS tracks which is super helpful. Use Google translate for English…
Outdoor Active or WikiLoc – two communities for outdoor enthusiasts that I use the most. They both have mobile apps with offline maps and topographic maps of the area. Make sure you download the maps prior arrival!