Just 12 kilometers from Mostar, on the Buna River, lies the enchanting town of Blagaj, a medieval city of the Humska state, from which modern-day Herzegovina emerged in the mid-15th century. From the ruins of the old city or the Tower of Herceg Stjepan (the ruler of these lands before the arrival of the Ottoman Empire in 1465), which was strategically positioned on the cliffs above the source of the Buna River, you can enjoy a beautiful panorama of the Neretva Valley. The view justifies the one-hour climb to the top of these ruins.
In the vicinity, you can find the Velagic House (a beautiful example of Ottoman residential architecture from the 17th century), the Mosque of Sultan Suleiman (built around 1520), the Karađozbeg Bridge, built on the Buna River, dating back to 1570, and a Hamam built at the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries. On the right bank of the river, in a stunning setting that only nature can create, is the Tekija, a 16th-century dervish house that seems to float between rock and water; for centuries, it has been a place of prayer and meditation. Inside the building, there are rooms for learning, prayer, a guest room for travelers, a kitchen, and a hamam. Near the Tekija is a chamber (turbe) that preserves the memory of the dervishes Sari-Saltuk and Ačik-paša. The Tekija, open to visitors year-round, is one of the most significant examples of sacral-residential Islamic culture in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Blagaj, with its Šćepan town, magnificent landscape, and the spectacular source of the Buna River, is one of the treasures not to be missed when passing through this region. Take the opportunity to enjoy trout in one of the restaurants near the source.
What to see in Blagaj
Before we get started, it is important to clarify that Blagaj is the name of a town, where Blagaj Tekke (the monastery) is located.
It probably goes without saying but the most important thing to see in Blagaj is the monastery, so let’s see why:
Blagaj Tekke, the most unique monastery in Bosnia
Blagaj Tekke is a Dervish monastery that dates back to the 16th century. The Dervish are members of the Sufi religion, which is a mystic branch of Islam known for their dancing or whirling form of practice. You may have heard of this religion if you have visited Turkey and seen one of the Dervish dances where they whirl in circles dressing in white long clothes while praying (and if you haven’t yet, add it to your bucket list cause it is worth it!).
The Blagaj Dervish monastery is one of the best examples of Ottoman-style architecture around. It is actually formed by a complex of buildings with a beautiful courtyard.
One of the things I found most amazing is that the Blagaj monastery is still active to this day. It was abandoned for several years when Bosnia and Herzegovina was part of Socialist Yugoslavia, but the Dervish monks returned to Blagaj in the 80s. The Monastery was fully restored in 2012 and has since become one of the main tourist attractions of the region.
Tickets to visit the inside of Blagaj Tekke cost 5 EUR (10 KM). The visit can be quite short, in about 30 min you are able to check all the rooms but you can stay as long as you need. It is important to know that you should wear appropriate clothes for going in (women are asked to cover their shoulders and given a cloth for covering their hair).
The best angle to photograph the Blagaj monastery
If you have been researching Blagaj or Bosnia in general, there is a high chance you have already seen incredible pictures of the monastery in a perfect reflection in front of the river, like the pictures above. To get to the place where these pictures were all taken, you first need to cross the bridge to the other side of the river.
Behind the restaurants, there is a small path that goes a bit above the hill and then down right in front of the monastery. This is the best angle to take pictures of the Blagaj Tekke and where you can fully take in its beauty with the surroundings.
This is also the best spot to see the cave that is located in front of the monastery. During the high season, you can buy a quick boat tour that enters the cave so you can get closer to the source of the Buna River.
Visiting Blagaj Tekke: Infrastructure
The highlight of the visit is the monastery itself, but the locals have built a whole area based on the tourists that visit every year.
By the river, you will find a lot of restaurants. These are very tourist-oriented places so you can expect quite inflated prices.
On the path leading to the monastery, you will also have small tents with locals selling souvenirs. Besides the traditional magnets and postcards, there were also some handmade items being sold when we went.
Do you want to experience Blagaj firsthand, enjoy stunning architecture, picturesque views of the source Buna river, and learn all about its rich history? Contact us.
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