The beauty of the National Park “Sutjeska”, which no one can resist, year after year attracts an increasing number of domestic and foreign tourists. This national park is also the oldest in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and it was founded in 1962. It covers 17,250 hectares, of which more than 66 percent is covered in forests, while the rest is pasture, meadows, and barren land above the upper boundary of the forest.
It covers the area of Sutjeska with the largest preserved rainforest in Europe – Perućica, parts of the mountains Maglić, whose highest peak is 2,386 meters and is the highest in Bosnia an Herzegovina, Volujak, Vučeva, and Zelengora with glacier lakes known as “mountain eyes”. Since 2000, Sutjeska National Park has been included in category II of the United Nations Department of Nature and Natural Heritage (IUCN).
Our tour of the National Park “Sutjeska” started at Tjentište, from the Valley of the Heroes (Dolina heroja), a place where the memorial “Battle of Sutjeska” was built in 1973. In the wider area of the National Park “Sutjeska”, one of the most important battles in World War II was played between the German occupying forces and the liberation units in 1943, known in history as the fifth offensive.
The monument amazes with its massiveness and its outward appearance. It consists of two stone boulders, 19 meters high, built of white cement. Through the space between the two boulders, there are stairs, which lead to the high amphitheater to the marble strips bearing the names of the 16 brigades, the name of the central hospital, and the Supreme headquarters. On the underside of the monument, there is a commemorative ossuary where 3.301 fighter of 7.860 dead are buried and two lines in the form of a violin further lead towards the Belgrade-Dubrovnik highway.
Guards of the National Park recommended us to visit the Sutjeska canyon on the way to Gacko. They say that the canyon astounds you with its beauty, and the green river is a true break for the eyes and the soul. After several kilometers of driving between high rocks and numerous tunnels, we arrived at a place where it is possible to walk down to the river itself.
Peace and quiet disturbed only the noise of water that penetrated through the rocks and flowed towards the Drina River. Cold mountain water helped us to cool off at a temperature of 30 degrees Celsius, but also gave the necessary energy to continue – to Perućica, the last rainforest in Europe.
We went back to Tjentište and continued on to Foča, while the Hero’s Valley remained behind us, calm and tranquil, giving an eternal honor to the fallen fighters. We turned towards the village of Mrkalji and further to Perućica, which extends on 1,434 hectares. It is the most preserved and the largest rainforest in Europe, where any intervention of humans is strictly forbidden.
The road is macadam and quite bad, that made it difficult for us to drive. Although it is only five or six kilometers to the entrance, it took us more than half an hour to reach the ramp. A guard approaches us and kindly invites us to rest a little in front of his house, but also to instruct us where we will move and what awaits us in the rainforest.
– Recently, mountaineers from all over Europe climbed mountain Maglić. People do it every year. Strangers come and they cannot believe such beauty exists. They are simply amazed and they are constantly coming back. They come here, enjoy rafting on Tara, visit Tjentište, and come to the rainforest – says the guard.
He warns us about the bad road, but also emphasizes that it is worthwhile to try, because expecting fantastic scenes and enjoyment that cannot be experienced anywhere is what expects us.
– You have another five kilometers to the Beškita Viewpoint from where you will have a fantastic view of the rainforest and the Skakavac waterfall. The path to the gazebo is marked and goes through a dense forest – he says.
When asked which animals live in the rainforest, the guard says that there are bears, quivers, wolves, wild boars, rabbits, foxes, wild cats, sugary eagles, gray falcons…
-Do not worry, you will not see them now because they come out in the evening when the temperature drops – he says.
In dense forests and mountainous vultures, 114 species of birds were recorded, although some believe there are more. Of the recorded 114 species, 61 are nesting in the National Park, 32 species visit the park every summer, while 16 species belong to the migrants passing through here in the autumn and spring. The list should include nine types of clovers, which represents 90 percent of this family in Europe.
After a short break, we continue our journey through beautiful landscapes covered with centenary trees and dense low plants. After half an hour of driving and a 20-minute walk along the path, we reach the viewpoint. The scene we found left us speechless. The bird twitter and the crickets were disturbed only by the sound of the waterfall, which is about a kilometer away from the viewpoint. Powerful and beautiful falls down from a height of 81 meters and goes through the canyon of the rainforest in the river Sutjeska.
We restored the soul, filled the batteries, and headed towards Dragoš Sedlo in search of the grave of Nurija Pozderac, who was a teacher and politician, a participant in the National Liberation Struggle, and a vice-president of the Executive Committee of the Anti-Fascist Council of People’s Liberation of Yugoslavia (AVNOJ).
– On June 12, 1943, the first vice-president of the Executive Committee of the Anti-Fascist Council of People’s Liberation of Yugoslavia was severely wounded and died at Vučevo. This is written on the board around which there are several bouquets of flowers. Nurija was born on January 15, 1892 in Cazin, and his father, Mustafa-agha Pozderac, was one of the last aghas of the Ottoman Empire in the Cazin region.
Perućica did not allow us to separate from it, but the sun slowly came down among the thick crown of the rainforest and it was time for our return. Although reluctantly, we went back under the strong impression of what we saw and experienced. Perućica and National Park “Sutjeska” were behind us, and only one thought was moving in our minds – this is where we must return.
Destination to be visited in 2017
The prestigious American magazine “Ger patrol” has listed the National Park “Sutjesku” among 25 world destinations to be visited in 2017.
Thus, the oldest park in Bosnia and Herzegovina has stood side by side with top world destinations in Russia, Japan, Chile, Spain, America, Thailand, and other world countries.
The National Park “Sutjeska” has been classified as one of the most attractive places in the six countries of the Western Balkans, and this magazine compares it with the US National Park “Yosemite” located in California, and recommends it to tourists all over the world.