Written by Tim Clancy
Whether you want to lace up those hiking boots, go whitewater rafting of explore Europe’s largest karst cave, there are plenty of activities on the Via Dinarica to get your adrenalin pumping.
A bird’s-eye view over Trnovačko jezero, a high point (both literally and metaphorically) of a hike on the Via Dinarica © Adnan Bubalo
Although the Via Dinarica has every variety of outdoor activity, its first and foremost function is as a long-distance hiking trail. From leisurely day hikes to epic Alpine adventures, the Via Dinarica is a demanding hiking trail. The main White Trail that runs from Albania to Slovenia is a 1,350km long-distance trail. The world’s newest trail, it is truly wild, with many sections that travel through remote areas with only basic shelters for accommodation. The trail is, however, designed along popular routes lined with mountain huts, shelters, and small private homestays in most locations. The hiking terrain ranges from family-friendly hiking to very challenging mountaineering, and always offers a little bit of something for everyone. The White Trail boasts top-notch hiking through some of the most pristine wilderness areas in all of Europe. Whether it be the long trek across Velebit in Croatia, the humbling hike up and over Prenj Mountain in Bosnia and Herzegovina, or the steep ascent to the Accursed Mountains on the border of Montenegro and Albania, the Via Dinarica truly represents the best of European hiking. It is no exaggeration to say that this is the most biodiverse area in all of Europe, with a rich diversity of landscapes, remote wilderness, and a peek into old-world Europe found in the highland culture of the Dinaric Alps.
Mountain biking is an exhilarating, adrenaline-pumping way to devour the highlands more quickly and daringly than on foot, and the rapidly changing landscapes along the Dinaric Alps are exciting to experience pedalling along at high speed. Though not the tallest mountains in the world, the Dinarides offer variable and challenging terrain, such as steep wooded slopes that open out into breezy expanses with views to deep valleys below, and uniquely jagged summits with rock formations that fascinate and impress. These mountains are characterised by a diversity of climates as they act as the barrier between warm, sunny Mediterranean lands on their south-facing slopes, to the colder, more Alpine areas on the continental side. Alongside the movement to improve and create new hiking trails in the Dinaric Alps has been a similar initiative for mountain-biking tracks, which often follow or intersect the Via Dinarica trail. There are now tracks that delve deeply into the wilderness of this enchanting mountainous region, and they’re accessible and easy to follow. The biking trails in Bosnia and Herzegovina even made National Geographic’s list of Top 10 adventure destinations in 2012.
Stage 27 of the Via Dinarica is a cavers’ paradise as it is part of the world’s largest karst field © Miro Sumanović
As home to the largest karst field in the world there is no lack of caving adventures to be had on the Via Dinarica trail. Although spelunking, or pot-holing, is certainly a niche activity, there is no place on earth that has a more intricate and diverse underground cave system than the Dinaric Alps. One can enjoy open caving in commercial caves such as Vjetrenica in Herzegovina or Postojna Cave in Slovenia or opt for the more challenging endeavours deep into the belly of the earth in places like Livanjsko Fields in western Bosnia and Herzegovina which has been identified as the largest single karst area on planet earth. Commercial caving is safe and easily accessible in many locations along the Via Dinarica. Caves are open to visitors all year round except for during extreme weather conditions. Spelunking is offered by several clubs in Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro, where proper safety gear and guides are recommended.
Kayaking is a great way to explore the waterways of the Dinaric region © Kenan Muftić
The Dinaric region has some seriously impressive waterways. Less is scientifically known about most of the hundreds of rivers in this region than about many rivers in the more remote Amazon Rainforest. But one thing is for certain – these sparklingly clear waters offer some of the most attractive white-water rafting and kayaking in the world. For angling enthusiasts, the entire region offers world-class fly-fishing for trout and grayling. Canyoning is a challenging sport to say the least but for the hard-core the canyoning experiences to be had on the Via Dinarica are second to none. If it’s a saltwater experience you’re looking for, sea kayaking on the Croatian and Montenegrin coast is second to none.
Whitewater rafting on the Neretva River is a perfect day trip on the Via Dinarica © Adnan Bubalo
Watersports are a popular pastime for adrenaline junkies and novices alike along the waterways of the Via Dinarica. The many rafting routes comprise a full range of difficulty levels, and while some must be sought out from deep within the lush wilderness of the Dinaric Alps, others are found conveniently close to major towns. Many rafting routes travel along or across the Via Dinarica trails, which bring a welcome and refreshing break from the demands of hiking the trail. The Dinaric Alps region is home to the largest karst field in the world, and its rivers have carved dramatically beautiful gorges through the limestone mountain range. You can cruise upon turquoise waters with walls of rock or trees rising on either side of you, manoeuvring through thrilling white-water cascades or gliding along peacefully, enjoying the scenery. Whichever way you choose to experience this eco-friendly adventure sport, you’re sure to have a blast. More information on watersports in the region can be found on the official Via Dinarica website.
Want to find out more about the adventure activities on the Via Dinarica? Check out our dedicated guide: