VIA DINARICA: A Trek across the Western Balkans

See why the newest long-distance trail has been selected as one of the world’s best travel destinations of 2017

By: Amanda Cubello

In the far corner of Europe sits a gateway through seven countries: the Via Dinarica hiking trail. Chains of limestone mountains guide travelers across the highlands of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia & Hercegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Kosovo, and Macedonia, while immersing them into the traditional cultures of the Old World. What was once used as a natural barrier during centuries of political strife is now considered a ‘cultural corridor’ for international adventure.

From Slovenia to Macedonia, the 1,200-mile traverse links the jagged high peaks of the Dinaric Alps, known to be the least explored mountains in Europe, and Sharr ranges, while following ancient trading routes, military passageways dating back to the Ottoman Empire, and shepherd traversals’ across Southeastern Europe.

Limestone karst fields, lush valleys, primeval forests, nomadic shepherd villages, glacial lakes, and deep canyon gorges are just some of the diverse landscapes this hike has to offer. Considered to be some of Europe’s most unspoiled territory, this mega trail was selected as one of the “Best of the World” destinations for 2017, by National Geographic Traveler.

Through steep valleys and rugged terrain, a traditional life known to have vanished from the rest of the continent emerges.  In the back-country of the highlands, nomadic shepherd villages and alpine summer pastures appear from behind the protection of granite peaks. Grazing cattle and blooming wildflowers welcome hikers as they pass through the glaciated valleys of the Alps. Temporary lean-to’s in these villages, as well as manned mountain huts, rustic B&B’s, and unmanned shelters provide refuge for travelers as they make their way through the Western Balkans.

The trail has been in the works since 2010 as a way to “make connections between cities and rural communities in the region, raise awareness about good business practices and environmental protection, and to assist a blossoming tourism offer across the Peninsula,” according to the Via Dinarica Alliance, which consists of four of the Western Balkans’ best adventure-tourism companies.

The White Trail, the only fully marked and most commonly used pathway, follows the highest peaks of the Dinaric Alps, while including the tallest peaks in each respective country. This traverse crosses into Sutjeska National Park in Bosnia and Durmitor National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, in Montenegro. Home to 18 glacial lakes, 48 high peaks, and the Tara River Canyon, the second deepest in the world after the Grand Canyon, Durmitor is quite possibly the most beautiful section of the entire trek.

The Via Dinarica takes three months to complete in its entirety, but can be broken up into hours, days, and week-long itineraries, depending on what sections interest you the most. From DIY hikes to guided tours, this long-distance trail can be modified for all desires.

 If Europe is on your travel list, replace the well-known tourist cities with this outdoor paradise. See the uncomprising mountain traditions before this living musuem becomes another tourist hotspot.

By: Amanda Cubello | @amanda_cubello