The Vjetrenica Cave is located on the southwestern edge of the fertile Popovo Field, one of the largest karst fields in Bosnia and Herzegovina, through which the Trebišnjica River flows. It is located in the town of Zavala, in the municipality of Ravno, which, due to its proximity to the Adriatic Sea (12 kilometers) and larger centers (Dubrovnik, Trebinje, Mostar), attracts numerous visitors from all over the world.
It is one of the most beautiful and important speleological objects in BiH and the Dinarides. The hydrologically rich system with constant and several periodic water flows with underground lakes, recognizable air flow in the summer period will certainly not leave anyone indifferent during the visit.
The air temperature inside is around 11 degrees, making it an excellent destination in the summer for refreshment. In 2021, the windmill, which was a protected monument of nature, becomes a protected landscape of BiH, which is open to visitors along a 750-meter-long infrastructure-organized path. From the 19th century until today, numerous explorers from all over the world have passed through Vjetrenica, and recognized the importance of this speleological object, and the explored part is 7,323.90 meters.
What makes Vjetrenica particularly significant in the world is the underground biodiversity with more than 200 animal species that are adapted to life in complete darkness. The most interesting inhabitant of the cave is Proteus Anguinus, or olm, which visitors can see on the tourist trail.
Davor Baković is currently the acting director of the Public Company Vjetrenica. In an interview for Visit BiH Magazine, he says that the main direction, that is, the focus of work and future activities in the Protected Landscape of Vjetrenica is aimed at sustainability. Considering that the Vjetrenica cave is a protected landscape, and that it belongs to the world’s top in terms of biodiversity, says Baković, it is very important to direct actions that are in line with the protection of the ecosystem with an emphasis on the sustainable development of tourism.
– Respecting all the standards for environmental protection, we try to achieve a positive balance between development of tourism and the receiving capacity of the environment. In addition to ecological sustainability, through projects we try to further expand the tourist offer, and through cooperation with experts, that is, scientists, we achieve monitoring and stability of the entire Vjetrenica ecosystem – emphasizes Baković.
Can you tell us how many tourists visited Vjetrenica last year, as well as this year?
– As for last year, we had a record number of visits. Almost 17,000 visitors passed through Vjetrenica. When it comes to this season, the numbers are already pretty good. In the first four months, we had about 3,000 visitors, and there’s a large number of announcements, and with optimism we enter the prime part of the season, i.e. the summer period.
At this moment, can we talk about expanding the tourist offer in Vjetrenica and the Zavala settlement, and the municipality of Ravno in general?
-Through projects, we are working on improving the existing infrastructure. In Zavala itself, the construction of a beautiful promenade has been completed, from the new Info-educational center to the very entrance to the cave. The promenade is an excellent place for photographing the panorama of Popovo Field, a break before and after a walk through Vjetrenica, a viewpoint was built, in the town of Čvaljina through the project of the Municipality of Ravno, with smart benches. The plan is to further expand the offer of Vjetrenica, new outdoor recreational cycling trips, as well as the creation of a tour offer of the cultural and historical heritage of Ravno. We are trying to present the wealth that Ravno has to visitors and additionally strengthen the Municipality on the tourist map of the region.
Last year, an extraordinary adventure tour was launched in Vjetrenica. Will it be in Vjetrenica’s tourist offer this year as well?
-We continue to offer adrenaline-adventure tours to Veliko Lake to visitors this year, that is, this summer. Visitors can get information, conditions, dates, and applications for this type of experience on our official website vjetrenica.ba, where we will publish the details. It is important to emphasize that these visits are unfortunately limited only to the summer period, due to the conditions, i.e. the amount of rainfall in the rest of the year, so we can implement them only during summer months. In addition to Veliko Lake tours, we will soon offer outdoor recreational cycling trips and arrangements where visitors will be able to enjoy all the natural, cultural-historical and gastronomic offer of our municipality.
Vjetrenica is a great challenge for all speleologists, in terms of research and discovery of new contents. Are you planning new speleological research this year as well?
– We do systematic monitoring of the cave every year, mostly in the summer period, when all the explored channels of Vjetrenica are accessible (passable). The plan is to organize a speleological camp this summer, to exchange experiences with professionals, and to work on further biospeleological research. We will also organize environmental actions to clean up the Protected Landscape, and a workshop for children to strengthen awareness of the importance of protecting the environment and the beauty we have.
Apart from Vjetrenica, what facilities are available to all visitors who decide to come to Ravno?
– The municipality, due to its geographical position and pleasant climate, has a very rich gastronomic offer, accommodation facilities that offer spectacular views of Popovo Field, cultural and historical heritage that are national monuments, and natural phenomena and beauties. So, I would say, Vjetrenica is one segment why you should visit us in the sea of natural and cultural heritage that we offer, and I believe that if you visit us, you will come back with unforgettable experiences and impressions.
Vjetrenica was nominated as the first natural monument to be included in the UNESCO list. When can we expect nomination results?
– I am extremely glad that Vjetrenica was recognized as an important ecosystem, and accordingly protected, i.e. today it is categorized as a Protected Landscape of BiH. Regarding the UNESCO Nomination File, we have sent it, and we are optimistically awaiting the final declaration of Vjetrenica under the protection of UNESCO. I would like to hereby thank everyone who contributed to the creation of the File, especially the Federal Ministry of Environment and Tourism, experts, the Municipality of Ravno, and colleagues.