Adventure and activism across the Balkans

Vía Dinárica

The Adventure

The Vía Dinárica White Trail measures 1200 km, crossing five countries. Northern Trail Head: Nanos, Slovenia Southern Trail Head: Valbona, Albania

Developed by the UN Development Program and the US Agency for International Development, the Vía Dinárica is a series of three trails. Only the White Trail, which we hiked, is considered complete. The Blue and Green trails are still being developed. The ultimate goal is to spur tourism in rural communities across the Balkan countries, focusing on Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro. To learn more, visit: https://viadinarica.com

Slovenia

Hiking Days: 6 Highest summit: Mt Snežnik 1796m At the beginning, the White Trail crosses impressive caves, summits limestone mountains and zigzags through rolling farmland.

Croatia

Hiking Days: 8 Highest Summit: Mt Dinara 1831m Although the White Trail is considered complete, the route isn't ideal in Croatia. There is plenty of epic mountain singletrack, but it's interrupted with long sections of both gravel and paved roads. When temperatures soared above 40C or long stretches of paved road lay ahead, we accepted a few rides.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Hiking Days: 18 Highest Summit: Maglic 2388m The route across Bosnia and Herzegovina is the undeniable highlight of the Vía Dinárica White Trail. Trails are marked and easy to follow, crossing stunning mountain ranges and linking small rural communities. We loved every second spent in this unique country and continue to marvel at its stunning scenery, friendly locals and lack of crowds. It felt like we had the mountains to ourselves.

Montenegro

Hiking Days: 7 Highest Summit: Planinca 2330m Montenegro was a surprise. The hiking, for the most part, was fast. Our route followed some great trails through national parks, crossed rural farmland and followed the occasional dirt track. After 32 days on the trail, we were exhausted and fighting illness. We enjoyed Montenegro, but it was hard to stay focused on anything except reaching the finish.

Albania

Hiking Days: 3 Highest Summit: unknown Albania was a surprise. We left the Montenegro grasslands behind, crossed the borders and encountered rugged mountains and a developed trail system. For the first time since Slovenia, we also encountered other trail users. The Vía Dinárica follows a section of the Peaks of the Balkans route, which is undoubtedly the Balkans most popular multiday trekking route.

When we reached Valbona, Albania, we were thoroughly exhausted. We had hiked just under 1000 km and we had climbed 33687 m. It was an adventure unlike our previous efforts. The hike tested both or physical and mental endurance, introduced us to an underappreciated part of Europe. It was epic.

If you're keen to experience the Vía Dinárica, but don't have the time to hike the entire route, check out the supported hiking trips offered by the Vía Dinárica Alliance: www.via-dinarica.org/tours

But wait, there is more to talk about.

Before ending my story, I want to raise awareness about an environment crisis we discovered along our hiking route. Time is running out on many of the Balkans' wild rivers.

Save the Blue Heart

The Balkans are home to Europe's last wild rivers, but 3000 proposed hydroelectric dam projects threaten to completely alter the region, including both its landscapes and communities.

We need to speak out against this wide spread destruction. Join the conversation, get involved and learn more about conservation efforts at Save the Blue Heart of Europe: www.BalkanRivers.net And see Patagonia's film about this looming environment crisis: http://blueheart.patagonia.com

I'm submitting this story to @Steller @epiXtrip #epiXtrip contest. Publish your own adventure story before Oct 31, 2018, for a chance to win an epic trip to Bora Bora! To see more of my work, please visit: www.jeffbartlettmedia.com www.instagram.com/photojbartlett Thank you!

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