Hiking In The Alps Of Bosnia At Lukomir

If you wish to experience hiking in the Alps of Bosnia for even a day then don’t forego the chance to hike at the historic village of Lukomir.

If you would like to experience hiking in the Alps of Bosnia we can think of no better place than Lukomir. The hike in the Bosnian Alps at Lukomir can be considered suitable by even novice hikers who are in good health and suitably fit. The hike offers stunning scenery and beautiful highland landscapes; a well-defined hiking trail from Lukomir village into the adjacent Rakitnica valley; an amble through the authentic medieval village of Lukomir, itself a reason to visit; a drive across an expansive glacial karst as you approach the village; and reasonable access by car from Sarajevo, a city which is on the agenda of most visitors to Bosnia.

Getting to the Bosnian Alps and Lukomir by Car from Sarajevo

The 50 kilometre road trip to Lukomir in the Dinaric Alps from Sarajevo takes about one and a half hours. You can get to Lukomir by car between November and May, but even in those warmer months you will need to think carefully about whether a two wheel drive vehicle will be able to cope with the road conditions in the vicinity of Lukomir village. This isn’t a reference to scary alpine roads and mountain-side corners. There aren’t any. It is a word of caution about the road surface that may await you when driving across the flat valley floors and plains. And note, there aren’t any commercial bus services to Lukomir.

The Route to the Alps of Bosnia and Lukomir from Sarajevo

The easiest route to the Alps of Bosnia and Lukomir is to take the M18 from Sarajevo to Krupac, and then the R442a and R442b to the Bjelasnica Olympic Ski Resort.

The Mt Bjelasnica Olympic Ski Resort can be seen on the right on the route to Lukomir
The route to Lukomir passes the Mt Bjelasnica Olympic Ski Resort

The route will take you past the resort and this is where you turn right onto another sealed road. This road is not in the best condition but you will be able to glimpse some traditional Bosnian villages nestled in the foothills.

When you will emerge from the forest you will be about 10 kilometres from Lukomir and in the distance you will see Mt Cvrsnica and the landscape akin to your hiking destination.

Mt Cvrsnica in the Bosnian Alps and the hiking terrain can be seen from the road on the way to Lukomir
The view of the hiking terrain in the direction of Lukomir

Drive Across An Expansive Glacial Karst As You Approach Lukomir

At this point on your way to the Alps in Bosnia you will drive onto an unsealed limestone gravel track. The foliage of the forest and fields starts to yield to a harsher, barer landscape.

Green fields and forest give way to bare fields on the boundary of the karst in Bosnia near Lukomir
A change of vegetation and landscape on the boundary of the karst in Bosnia at Lukomir

It becomes clear that you have driven onto a landscape which is characteristic of the Dinaric Alps, a desolate glacial karst. Although some might find the karst featureless, others will revel in the evidence of previous glaciation in the form of rounded valley floors and smoothed valley walls. The fertility of the valley floors appears contradictory but they benefited from the deposition of sedimentary material that is transported during glaciation. The karst landscape continues into Montenegro where we feature it in our post about the Lovcen National Park.

The rounded valley floor, smooth valley walls and fertility of the valley floor suggest material was moved during a period of glaciation near Lukomir
The physical characteristics of the valley suggest a period of glaciation in the karst near Lukomir

The limestone gravel road that takes you to Lukomir can become almost impassable for two wheel drive vehicles. You will crawl along a potholed and jarring road, lurching from side to side, sometimes even having to stop occasionally to get out of your vehicle so you can consider the best option of how to proceed. You would be much better off renting an off-road vehicle for your hike and visit to Lukomir.

The Village of Lukomir, High in the Bosnian Alps

When you arrive at the highland village of Lukomir you will be pleased with your decision to hike here. You will feel that you are in yesteryear. Time appeared to stop here many decades ago. Celebrate your arrival by drinking some cool, pure, crystal-clear water from a cistern that has its source in the surrounding mountains.

First thoughts of Lukomir on arrival is of a village from times lost
Arrival at the village of Lukomir in the Bosnian Alps

Lukomir is the most remote, permanent settlement in the country; as well as being the highest. Lukomir therefore qualifies to exemplify the traditional features of village life in the Bosnian Alps including sustainable living.

The villager of Lukomir in the Bosnian Alps use traditional farming and husbandry practices to live sustainably
The villagers at Lukomir in the Bosnian Alps live sustainably

Lukomir is an important cultural identifier for Bosnia. Evidence suggests that Lukomir was occupied in the 15th Century and some historic customs associated with itinerant highland populations are still being practised. As you make your way through the village you will see grave sites (stećci) that are scattered throughout the village. These are important markers that date Lukomir to the 14th and 15th centuries. The gravesites, carved from the local limestone, are arranged in rows as has been the custom from the Medieval. These are also very evident in some of the other villages along the road towards Lukomir.

Traditional grave stones carved out of limestone and laid in rows date Lukomir to the medieval
The gravesites of Lukomir date the village to the medieval

The origin of the alpine village at Lukomir shares some consistency with its current habitation. Shepherds traditionally returned to Lukomir in summer to provide water and pastures for their flocks. The villagers then returned to Herzegovina for the winter. This seasonal cycle led to the establishment of a permanent village at Lukomir. Now, however, the villagers don’t return to Herzegovina in the winter but seek the warmer comforts of Sarajevo. Most of the residents in recent times have left the village and young people long ago sought permanent work in Sarajevo. On the day we visited in late spring there were only seven villagers at Lukomir.

The most material and fundamental evidence of Lukomir’s connection with its past is its housing and the attire and practices of the villagers. The village is populated by both older, traditional structures, some of which have been abandoned, and larger structures that have been erected in recent times. The older houses are rectangular in shape, some approximately square. They are constructed from blocks fashioned from the local limestone and sit underneath steeply pitched rooves that ensure as little snow as possible accumulates overhead. The villagers originally used shingles that were shaped from the timber of surrounding beech, oak and fir forests. The timber also served as firewood. As additional materials became available, villagers sought to improve the water proofing and general insulation of their rooves by overlaying them with products such as tin sheet. These extra sheets of roofing were often fixed from the ridge to the ground, covering the small windows, resulting in an A-frame.

As you amble through Lukomir towards the start of the hiking track you will encounter some of the friendly villagers. Some use their traditional skills to farm, some shepherd their flocks or herd their cows, while others will have set up small stalls to encourage you to purchase some local wares. Irrespective, you will see many of the villagers dressed in their often hand-knitted traditional garments, particularly women, which has been the custom since the medieval.

And so you raise the question, ‘Did Lukomir survive the devastation of the Balkans conflict’? Yes, they did. Lukomir was just far enough away at altitude for the invading force to consider it not sufficiently worthwhile to travel to it. The village and its inhabitants were saved by its elevation and remoteness.

The Hike in the Bosnian Alps at Lukomir

A hike at in the Bosnian Alps at Lukomir can be enjoyed as a day hike or as part of a longer hike that passes through Lukomir. Irrespective, you must come prepared. There aren’t any shops at Lukomir and the only maps you will have are those you bring. The same applies to food and drink. Even the day hike requires exertion and so it is necessary to be well supplied. The track is uneven and loose gravels abound. Proper hiking boots are much superior to joggers in these conditions. Check carefully the expected weather for the period you will be hiking because the area can get extremely hot in summer and the slopes would have to be dangerous when wet.

The day hike starts at the village of Lukomir and descends into the Rakitnica valley within the Dinaric Highlands. The path for the hike is well-defined and follows major changes in topography which open up a stunning landscape and beautiful scenery.

The changes in topography at Lukomir and the formation of the Rakitnica valley can be attributed to two adjacent mountains, Mt Bjelasnica and Mt Visocica. Mt Bjelasnica is one of three mountains which are located generally south-east of Sarajevo and which are referred to as the Olympic Mountains because of the role they played in the Winter Olympic Games in Sarajevo in 1984. You saw Mt Bjelasnic as you drove towards Lukomir. The others are Mt Trebevic which overlooks Sarajevo (chairlifts), and Mt Igman which is adjacent to Mt Bjelasnic. Mt Visocica is located further west of Lukomir towards the city of Mostar.

Mt Visocica in the background near Lukomir
Mt Visocica, an important component in the landscape of Lukomir

The landscape within the Bosnian Alps surrounding Lukomir and the topography of the hike has been significantly influenced by tectonic events at Mt Bjelasnica and Mt Igman. These mountains form a large tectonic remnant which resulted from the erosion of a large rock sheet which had been displaced several kilometres across the older rock beneath it. Mt. Bjelasnica was mildly folded and its main ridge is the fold’s north-eastern extremity. And there, perched precariously at an elevation of 1450 metres, is Lukomir.

The precarious position of Lukomir overlooking the valley from the ridge of Mt Bjelašnica
Lukomir is precariously located on a ridge of Mt Bjelašnica in the Bosnian Alps

Lukomir’s stunning position also means that the village sits on the precipice of a deep canyon which is the contact of two folded blocks; Mt Bjelasnica (2067m) on the right hand side of the canyon and Mt Visocica (1970m) on the left hand side. The folding of Mt Bjelasnica can be discerned from the image below.

When returning to the village Lukomir’s location on the folded ridge is very evident
Lukomir’s ridge position and folding is clearly seen from the trail heading back to the village

The deep, long canyon between the two blocks is the 32 kilometre-long Rakitnica River Canyon, second in depth in Europe to the Tara River Canyon. What is amazing is that the bottom of the Rakitnica Valley is the intersection of the Bjelasnica and Visocica blocks. One side of the valley belongs to the slopes of Mt. Bjelasnica and the other side of the valley belongs to the slopes of Mt. Visocica. Theoretically, you could stand at the base of the valley with a foot on each block.

The Hiking Trail in The Bosnian Alps from Lukomir Village

You will be able to see before you set off on your hike from Lukomir that the well-defined hiking track cuts into the face of the continuing ridge of Mt. Bjelasnica.

The hiking track is clearly seen cutting across the ridge of Mt Bjelasnica
The hiking track at Lukomir cuts across the ridge of Mt Bjelasnica while Mt Cvrsnica looms in the background

Your hike will start on a gravelly track which may require you to jump over some tricky sections where water has found its way down the slope and eroded the track.

The start of the hiking track at Lukomir in the Bosnian Alps is gravelly and uneven but the scenery is beautiful
The gravelly hiking track when leaving Lucomir

Given that the Rakitnica River Canyon beneath Lukomir is situated in the Central High Dinarides, the area would be expected to feature karst fields of limestone and dolomite overlying other sedimentary rocks. Hikers will see where the dominant limestone rock has overlaid other sedimentary rocks, distinguishable by their minerals and composition. These rocks have been folded which is only a gentle reminder of the enormous forces that once prevailed here.

Hikers see folded sediments next to the limestone along the hiking trail at Lukomir
Minor folding in sediments amongst the limestone on the hiking trail at Lukomir

The hiking trail continues through heavily grassed areas. The side of the valley occupied by Mt Bjelasnica is more openly exposed when compared to the opposite side of the valley and has been subject to a loss of vegetation resulting in increased erosion. But most interesting is that the region reflects three climate zones such that conifers dominate above 1200 metres and grasses and junipers on the plateau. This was very evident as you drove across the karst into Lukomir.

The hiking trail again meets up with the side of the valley with a precipitous drop on one side. There is no respite. It is a matter of descending down into the Rakitnica River Canyon – descending, descending, descending, descending you will go … never trekking horizontally; never ascending. Down, down, down you go, becoming numb with the thought that at some point you are going to have to do it all again in the opposite direction.

The hiking trail at Lukomir descends into the Rakitnica River Canyon
Down into the Rakitnica River Canyon on the hike in the Bosnian Alps at Lukomir

Hiking in the Alps of Bosnia at Lukomir is a wonderful, multidimensional experience. There is no end to the stunning scenery of the Rakitnica valley; no alternative but to confront the power that was invested in the formation of the highland landscape; the eerie desolation of the karst in comparison to the surrounding forests; the history and authenticity of the village of Lukomir; and the exhilaration of hiking through the Alps in Bosnia.

As you leave Lucomir you can again glimpse another important mountain in the Bosnian Alps, Mt Cvrsnica, its highest peak being Plocno at 2228 metres.

Mt Cvrsnica

Final Thoughts on Hiking in Bosnia in the Alps at Lukomir

If you are not in good condition you will find the hike challenging and you should reconsider. You will be able to assess your risk from the hiking trail when you stand at the top of the descent down into the Rakitnica valley. Should you choose not to participate in a hike, you will still find plenty to enjoy around the village of Lukomir and its landscape.

If you can find a tour rather than organise the hike yourself then we recommend you book the tour at least one week before the tour date. Be aware that sometimes the tours don’t always run on the preferred date and they are also usually contingent on having a minimum number of participants.

We would not rate the hike as particularly family friendly although we would not discourage parents from taking their children. Children should not have problems with the terrain but sometimes it is necessary to manoeuvre around parts of the gravelly mountain-side track that have been eroded.

The ascent out of the valley is steep and children are likely to tire. Additionally, the edges of the tracks are not the place for children to play. So it comes down to parents knowing their children.