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I just needed to get out. After two years, the pandemic was seriously frustrating me and I was in desperate need of exploring another country. Until then, I covered a lot of places already.
65 countries to be specific. “Where should I go next?” I asked myself and found a quick answer to this question while looking at the “countries been” app on my phone.
Bosnia & Herzegovina was the obvious choice. But why did I choose this country? What is unique about it? Let me take you on a little journey to a very specific place in the remote and isolated northern part of Bosnia & Herzegovina. A journey I took only to get one particular picture.
Seeking Vodopad Blihe
Although most people associate Bosnia & Herzegovina with poverty and pollution (which is true), this beautiful Balkan country truly offers a lot.
For example, you can easily find delicious food, pleasant conversations with friendly locals and exciting history. On top of that, Bosnia is relatively cheap, making it a perfect destination for an affordable getaway.
However, what attracted me the most was one specific landmark. A place in nature that looked so stunning in pictures that I just had to get there myself: Vodopad Blihe (called Blihin Skok by locals).
This waterfall drops about 56 meters (183 feet) and lies in a hidden valley close to the northwestern border to Croatia. Once I discovered this natural beauty during my research online, both my flight and rental car were booked in no time.
Only three days later, in the beginning of March 2022, my journey started in a small city called Banja Luka, about 3 hours north of Bosnia’s capitol Sarajevo. The first hour, I found myself driving on the M4 west towards a town called Prijedor. Basically, you could say there was not much to see throughout the entire drive.
However, if you are into photography and like old abandoned buildings like I do, this is paradise. There were dozens of abandoned buildings and ruins left from the war in every town I passed through.
All of them were easily accessible and right in front of me. No detour is needed. Just parking the car for a couple of minutes was enough to snap some great pictures.
The cold and cloudy winter day complemented the already depressed feeling about those places as I walked through them. Once again, just like during many of my previous journeys, I found myself wondering how people could live here.
Time seemed to have stopped a long time ago. No people out in the streets, no restaurants, no entertainment. Just lots of trash and a few stray dogs crossing the street every once in a while.
From Prijedor, I continued on the R405 southwest towards Donji Kamengrad and further towards Fajtovci. The GPS was set to the waterfall (“Vodopad Blihe”) and led me right into nowhere. “You have reached your destination” a friendly voice told me. Obviously not.
Turned Around For Vodopad Blihe
Once I turned around and drove back a few minutes, I saw a bright yellow “Vodopad Blihe” sign right on the side of the street. Seems like I had simply overlooked it. “Sometimes, paying more attention to the road than to the GPS sure wouldn’t hurt” I thought.
After I followed the designated road for 2 additional minutes, I reached a small wooden information booth, a playground and a tent that served as a restaurant (by the way, setting the GPS to “Bistro Vodopad Blihe” instead of only “Vodopad Blihe” would have brought me here correctly). Of course, everything was closed and not a single person to be found anywhere.
Just like during the past 30 minutes of my journey, that was precisely what I was hoping for. I personally find a strong correlation between off-season traveling and the happiness level of my experiences in nature.
The fewer people, the happier I am. Not just because of my photography, but in general. I feel emotionally thrilled when I am as alone as possible in nature.
And right then, I was the only person inside the entire nature preserve area. I decided to park the car close by a tree below the playground and started to make my way down towards what seemed to be the right direction.
It was cold and started to rain/snow right when I took my first steps on the wooden path. I had to be extra careful, since the slippery ground made it not easy to move forward without almost falling. After a few minutes, the wooden steps turned into an actual hiking trail and then back into a wooden track that led to a little shelter.
I used this stop to prepare my tripod, drone and camera lenses. According to the GPS, I was right in front of the waterfall but yet couldn’t see it. Neither could I hear it over the wind and rain at this point.
Once I felt prepared enough, I continued my walk for only 30 more seconds and suddenly saw the waterfall behind a slight little right turn. It was majestic, beautiful and overwhelming.
Much bigger than it looked in any of the pictures I found online and way more impressive than I ever imagined it could be. At the end of the wooden path, I reached a small platform that served as a lookout point.
Capturing Vodopad Blihe
It was open towards the front, so people can walk as close to the waterfall as they like. Easier said than done. The force of the water dropping into the pond in front of me created so much wind and water mist that I had a tough time walking much closer. The muddy and slippery ground contributed to the tricky endeavor.
Before I even finished thinking about what lens and camera angle I should go for, my entire equipment, including myself, was completely wet. At this point, I was highly demotivated.
There was one specific picture I wanted. I knew exactly how I wanted it to look but couldn’t figure out how to execute the task in this harsh environment.
It almost seemed impossible to position the tripod far enough from the waterfall to avoid the mist getting the camera wet, but close enough so I could safely make it to my desired position within the 10-second camera timer. All of it without hurting myself by sipping off wet rocks while running of course.
Just as I was about to give up and leave with “only” some waterfall pictures, the wind in the valley changed in a way that it pushed against the mist coming from the waterfall. This was my time window. I set up everything again in a few seconds and managed to take my shot.
Off The Grid
After double-checking the picture’s quality, I packed up my gear and moved back a few steps to sit down inside the small shelter I had passed earlier. For about an hour, I just sat there.
Sure, it was cold and wet, but this is always what I love most after all. After all the effort finding places, after the preparation and picture taking, after all the stress, the siting down and taking in nature is what I love the most. ‘
No cell phone, no camera, no drone. Just nature and me. After about an hour it started to get dark in the valley, so I slowly got up, moved up the wooden path and made my way back to Banja Luka.
If you are into nature and landscapes, this country definitely deserves a place on your bucket list. Particularly because Bosnia & Herzegovina is not yet very developed for tourism (yet!), there are numerous opportunities to experience untouched landscapes without hundreds of other visitors.
If you are willing to deal with a colder environment and walk that extra mile, off-season gets you an even better chance of true isolation. However, no matter where you will end up exactly within Bosnia & Herzegovina, you should definitely make Vodopad Blihe a mandatory stop.
Plan this trip to Vodopad Blihe
Are you ready to plan a trip to this impressive waterfall? If you are already in Europe, I highly recommend booking budget flights with RyanAir.
This Airline is generally connected to Banja Luka, a small city in northern Bosnia. Although this place has not much to offer, it is only about 2 hours away from the waterfall.
If this flight connection is not possible, you have to drive about 5 hours from Sarajevo. As for hotels in Banja Luka, you can easily find many options on common websites, such as booking.com.
However, I highly recommend staying in the Hotel Vila Viktoria. Considering the general condition of the country, this place has quite nice rooms and collaborates with a good restaurant right next door (where also breakfast is served).
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Author Bio: Thomas Später is an experienced backpacking traveler that specializes in adventurous trips around the globe. He has traveled to remote and exotic places, such as Namibia or Mongolia and focuses on landscape and wildlife photography to share the beauty of our planet with others. In 2021, Thomas published a (german) book about Overpopulation and overconsumption (Die Überbevölkerung). With his awareness of current global issues, he uses his travels to support particularly local hotels and restaurants to raise awareness for the nature and culture of his destinations.