Hiking Lukomir - Bosnia's Nomadic Village Frozen in Time

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Hiking in Lukomir & Exploring Bosnia's Last Nomadic Village

Every so often you encounter an experience while traveling that makes you feel completely alive, fully present, and grateful for that particularly moment in time. 

I had one of these powerful experiences when exploring the untouched wilderness of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Bjelašnica mountain. On this trip, I did a 16km hike to visit Lukomir, the highest inhabited settlement in Bosnia, and one of the last remaining nomadic villages left in Europe. 

Bjelašnica is a mountain in central Bosnia and Herzegovina, located southwest of the capital city Sarajevo. It is about a 90 minute drive from Sarajevo, and was once host to the 1984 Winter Olympics. 

The first sight of these mountains is of theatrical perfection. The amazing vistas wrap around the entire panorama as far as the eye can see. One side of the mountains is filled with dense, heavily-wooded Alpine slopes, and the other flows with golden, wind-swept peaks, bursting with wildflowers and forest berries.

Bjelasnica Mountain Hike
Bjelasnica Berries

We started our remote mountain expedition at Umoljani, which is a another semi-nomadic village along the way to Lukomir. We walked around the village, seeing what a simple, pastoral life looks like, and curiously investigated the wares being sold by locals: finely hand-knitted clothing made from local wool, fresh forest berries, and dried herbal tea picked from the mountains.

Next, we began our hike to the nomadic village of Lukomir. The first part of the trail was about 3.5 hours long. The trail took us from a starting altitude of 1275m in Umoljani, and across Obalj Peak, perched at 1896m. Along the way we explored settlements dating back to the Illyrian (pre-Slavic) period, and enjoyed breathtaking scenery, particularly at Studeni Potok (Cold Creek).

This is without a doubt one of most amazing trails I’ve ever hiked. The sheer beauty, remoteness, and pristine cleanliness of Bjelašnica mountain made it feel like the wild, untouched nature I always dreamed of exploring.

We barely saw any other people on the trail besides a few villagers, one elderly man picking berries in the middle of nowhere, a shepherd herding his sheep, and two other small groups of hikers.

Another cool thing is that depending on the time of year, you will find vast fields of wild berries, rose-hip, mushrooms, thyme or other plant species you can freely gather and enjoy. We were there during blueberry and raspberry season, and each resting spot seemed to have an abundance of them growing for us to feed on.

Lone man picks berries
A lone man picks berries high up in the mountains

This is without a doubt one of most amazing trails I’ve ever hiked. The sheer beauty, remoteness, and pristine cleanliness of Bjelašnica mountain made it feel like the wild, untouched nature I always dreamed of exploring.

We barely saw any other people on the trail besides a few villagers, one elderly man picking berries in the middle of nowhere, a shepherd herding his sheep, and two other small groups of hikers.

Another cool thing is that depending on the time of year, you will find vast fields of wild berries, rose-hip, mushrooms, thyme or other plant species you can freely gather and enjoy. We were there during blueberry and raspberry season, and each resting spot seemed to have an abundance of them growing for us to feed on.

Bjelasnica Mountain
Lukomir Village

Lukomir – the nomadic village frozen in time

Once we made it to the peak, we had a rest stop and then made our way down to Lukomir. 

At almost 1,500m, Lukomir is the highest and most remote village in Bosnia and Herzegovina, dating back at least 600 years ago.

Our first sight of the village was a small group of primitive stone houses with Cherrywood shingles and rusted metal roofs. It is rare to find a village that looks like it once did hundreds of years ago.

Given its isolation, things happen slowly here. Electricity didn’t arrive until the 1960s. Today, there is still no market, school, doctor, or store.

Yet somehow, the people here have survived living a nomadic lifestyle for generations. From the first snows in winter until mid-spring, the village is inaccessible, except by skis or on foot. During this time, villagers escape the remote, bitterly cold mountain with their herds and move closer to Sarajevo until the winter passes. In summer, about 17 families from the surrounding towns and cities, return the village to live, celebrate medieval traditions, and look after their livestock.

Lukomir Food

Century old traditions are kept alive in Lukomir. Worshippers gather at the local mosque for the annual celebration to finish preparing hay, and to observe Eid al-Adha. The local women, wearing colourful dresses and headscarves, cook and knit. The men, wearing wool trousers, berets and tweed coats, chop wood and tend their flock of sheep. 

When we arrived, we had a locally prepared lunch full of delicious pita rolls filled with meat, spinach and cheese, as well as sugary pastries to go along with the typically thick Bosnian coffee (the first ever coffee I actually finished!). I also had a chance to meet some of the local people and learn about their customs, how they lived and watch them prepare the traditional coffee and pita in their homes. 

After our Lukomir village experience, it was time so start the hike back via Rakitnica canyon and Cold Creek valley. This was a relatively flat walk, and took about 2.5h.

Final thoughts

This trip gave me an invaluable appreciation for Bosnia & Herzegovina’s nature, the hard work of the Lukomir locals, and the quiet beauty of contented isolation.

To the visitors eager to hike the mountains to see the village, the first impression is often theatrical perfection: isolated nothingness, awash with expansive wind-swept, golden panoramas, sincere, hard-working locals, the sight of sheep grazing in the distance, and centuries-old structures.

Lukomir’s remoteness and difficulty to access is the reason why it is one of the best preserved and last remaining nomadic villages in Europe.

In the busy world we live in today, we can take comfort in the fact that such a naturally beautiful, historic, and culturally impressive oasis exists as it once did hundreds of years ago. For those eager to access it, the experience of a lifetime awaits.

How to get there

Sarajevo-based Funky Tours leads tours to Lukomir. I traveled with them several times during my stay in Bosnia & Herzegovina and loved their attentiveness to sharing culture, history and nature, through the eyes of locals.

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