Via Dinarica: Finish tour operators and a travel blogger discover magic of tourism in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Sep 14, 2017

A couple of tour operators and a travel blogger - journalist from Finland, visited Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) this week, and explored some of Via Dinarica trails, aiming to inform Finnish tourists about this destination, and prepare attractive programs for them. Via Dinarica corridor consists of the three main Trails – Green, Blue and White. The Green Trail follows the lower forest belt of the Dinaric Alps, and the Blue Trail goes across the coastal Dinarides with a magnificent view of the Adriatic Sea. The White Trail follows the highest limestone peaks of the Dinaric Alps, that are covered in snow most of the time. During their 5-day trip, a group from Finland had a chance to explore the Via Dinarica, an area that is yet to be discovered by many hikers and cyclists. On this adventure, they found a playground for active travelers on the Via Dinarica: exciting trails, amazing views, colorful wildflowers, and welcoming culture.

“I think that (Via Dinarica) is unique. There is no such a thing anywhere else in the world, it’s fantastic. I think it’s something many people and countries would like to have, but they can’t. It’s the most amazing hiking trail in the world. It’s a place where not so many have been to, and that matters to Finns.  It’s a place that is a really well-kept (tourist) secret, and that is something that attracts us,” said Ms. Marinnella “Nella” Himari, a travel blogger and journalist from Finland. Ms. Himari writes stories about Via Dinarica in her travel blog and in the major outdoor magazines in Finland. She visited Bosnia and Herzegovina for the third time and she keeps returning: “I don’t know what is magical in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but there is something that not so many countries have, (…) and that’s why I am coming back all the time.”

The Finnish tour operators and a blogger hiked in the great Dinaric Alps - undiscovered by tourists, and saw spectacular limestone peaks and caves. They experienced the wilderness of Sutjeska National Park, a stunning area located at the heart of the Dinaric Alps, and visited Perućica, one of Europe’s last remaining Primeval forests. The Finns visited Lukomir Highland Village on the Olympic mountain of Bjelašnica, cycled around the Blidinje glacier lake, walked over the old Ottoman Mostar Bridge, rafted the emerald waters of the Neretva river, and visited Bosnia and Herzegovina’s capital Sarajevo. The Finnish tourism experts believe that cultural heritage, historic places, beautiful nature and affordable prices are the key things, which would attract Finnish tourist to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“I’ve done a lot of tracks and hikes around the world, but I got very excited when I saw pictures and heard about Via Dinarica. It is definitely a world class hiking and tracking area,” said Mr. Mikka Ukkonen, representative of the Finish tour operator Mandala Travel. He plans to bring Finish tourists to Via Dinarica trails: “Our plan is to offer more tours in the Balkans, and we can easily offer active tourism with hiking tours around the major culture sites on Via Dinarica. I think the selling points would be pristine nature, unique warm culture, good food, very welcoming people, and no mass tourism, (…) so you have a feeling of exploration.”

 “I think there are a lot of different things to see (on Via Dinarica). We don’t have mountains in Finland, and in Bosnia and Herzegovina there are great mountain ranges, a lot of almost untouched nature to be seen, clear rivers, good fishing, rafting, canoeing, climbing, tracking and a lot of cultural and historic attractions throughout the country,” said Mr. Tatu Kullberg, representative of the Finish tour operator Aventura, and elaborated: “The Balkans is a still unknown (tourist) destination, but I think there is an interest for the Balkans, it’s becoming more and more popular destination.”

The tour for tour operators and a travel blogger - journalist from Finland was organized within the scope of the “Via Dinarica: A Platform for Sustainable Tourism Development and Local Economic Growth” Project, which aims at the development of potentials of the Dinaric Alps’ corridor and its promotion. It has been designed to reduce economic, social, and regional disparities in Bosnia and Herzegovina through promotion of Via Dinarica as a regional tourism attraction and to increase Bosnia and Herzegovina’s standing in the competitive nature-based tourism sphere. Via Dinarica Project aims to support the process of establishing the Via Dinarica corridor as a tourist product that provides sustainable livelihoods for a broad spectrum of stakeholders in local communities along the trail.

“The arrival of the Finnish tour operators is a step towards expanding the market of Via Dinarica as an international outdoor destination. Moreover, the FAM/Press trip is an opportunity to local tour agencies, with networks of other service providers in BiH, to connect with international tour operators and journalist to promote and sell the Via Dinarica. It is very encouraging that the initial feedback we received from the Finnish tour operators and a journalist is overly positive,” said Božena Kaltak, Via Dinarica project manager.

Via Dinarica is an initiative of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the United Nations Development Programme Country Office Bosnia and Herzegovina (UNDP BiH), and is implemented with the support of Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations of BiH, Ministry of Environment and Tourism of the Federation of BiH, and Ministry of Trade and Tourism of Republika Srpska.