Rafting Tara, Bosnia and Herzegovina – crossing the deepest canyon in Europe

How we crossed a state border during our first experience and where we fell in love with from the first ride

Driving to Brstanovica – the starting point for rafting on the downstream of Tara

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Brstanovica 43.319714, 18.959355
Brstanovica/

The driver of our SUV was a very funny person, explaining us where minefields were present along the road to Montenegro. We were travelling by the Drina River, near the border between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro. The area is a popular rafting destination and there are many camps along the river coast, offering accommodation and rafting tours to thousands of adventurers every summer. We were staying in Rafting Center Drina – Tara and from there I and my wife Mimi started our first rafting adventure ever – Rafting Tara.

View from our SUV

View from our SUV

So we reached the border checkpoint Sćepan Polje. It is located just above the point where rivers Tara and Piva connect and form the Drina river. The border is crossed by a small bridge, looking more like a pedestrian bridge, but actually we saw even trucks there.

Sćepan Polje and a little bit of Montenegro

I never thought that when I enter Montenegro, I would immediately make a U-turn and go back. However, this was exactly what happened. But wait a minute before I tell you why.

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Шћепан поље 43.347636, 18.845501

Sćepan Polje

Despite it was low season, it took us some time to cross the border. There were 7-8 SUVs with boats and rafting adventurers before us and we waited maybe 30 minutes before driving through the checkpoint. I need to mention that in most of the camps are still closed. I cannot imagine how long the border crossing would take in the high season.

On our way to Brstanovica

On our way to Brstanovica

Well, we were let in Montenegro and our car immediately made a U-turn, taking the small road by the Tara River to the Brstanovica area where the rafting Tara begins. By the way, our driver told us that a new road was being built on the Bosnian side of the river in order to avoid the slow border crossing in the future.

Rafting Tara and Drina

Marko

We gathered on Brstanovica, brought the 8 boats to the river and after a short safety course we hopped in. Mimi and I found ourselves in Marko’s boat in the company of several very nice Bulgarian boys and a girl named Tsveti. Therefore, Marko, our guide and instructor, told us that he had been sailing by Tara and Drina for the last 7 years. He could speak only Russian and Serbian but we was doing great and we had a wonderful ride with him.

Marko with his pink boat

Marko with his pink boat – the begining of Rafting Tara

Tara River

Tara River is only 144 km long but stunning beautiful and of immense value to Montenegro. 40 km of its stream are shared between Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Tara flows through the Durmitor National Park and its canyon is located within the park. Tara canyon is one of the deepest river gorges in the world and the deepest in Europe – 1300 m at its deepest point. The average depth of the canyon is 1073 m. It is 82 km long and is included in the UNESCO world heritage list.

We only had the chance to sail through the last 14 km of Tara river stream but we were still stunned by the beauty of the canyon. The clear, drinkable, ice-cold water, forms beautiful but not very extreme rapids. Marko and the other instructors were really experienced, navigating professionally between the stones and the curves.

Rafting Tara

Rafting Tara

The minimal age of the participants in Rafting Tara is 8 years. Rafting through the last 14 km of Tara river is nice and not very difficult so it is a great idea for your first rafting experience. It can really make you fall in love with rafting from the first ride. All the rafting camps in the area will supply you with licensed and adequate rafting equipment, as well as experienced instructors. We really felt safe with the instructors of Rafting Centre Drina – Tara
Maria and Me riding the boat on rafting Tara

Maria and Me riding the boat on rafting Tara

Waterfalls

As I already mentioned, the water in Tara River is clear, drinkable and delicious. The instructors were very experienced and we sometimes lacked extreme situations, so Marko offered to change this by parking our boat just under a . We did not need a second invitation to jump in the water despite it was about 4°C and the air temperature was not more than 15 degrees. It was feeling really cold but the adrenaline was stronger.

Rafting Tara

We parked the boats below a set of wooden benches

We made a short break in the middle of our route. We parked the boats below a set of wooden benches, near another small waterfall. We jumped in the water again for some photos despite the not so warm weather. Luckily, the neoprene costumes saved us from getting really cold. In the summer here, you can buy a beer or another drink, but in April, everything was still closed. After our short break, we headed to the next cornerstone – where Tara and Piva flow into each other to create the Drina River.

A beautiful creek

A beautiful creek

Drina River

I will never ever come to this area without my car. Everything is so beautiful around, there are plenty of stunning places, but most of them were left unexplored by me because the only means of traveling outside the camp were my feet. But next time….

Drina River

Drina River

Drina river is formed when Tara and Piva connect after the bridge on Sćepan Polje. If you are staying in a camp on the territory of Montenegro, probably your rafting will end here. However, I would not miss the last 10 km of our route that are entirely in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Despite the river in this area is deeper and calmer, rowing there is a pleasure and the water is still so clear and beautiful. From our rafting centre there was also an option for a second route – from the base to Foca, about 25 km. However, it is even less extreme and consists mostly of rowing in calm waters.

Drina River and lights of Foca

Drina River and lights of Foca

Drina River flows into Sava River, which flows into the Danube, which flows into the Black sea. So, theoretically, if you just let yourself by the stream, you could end in the Black sea. However, it is probably not the fastest way to go there.

„Rafting Center Drina – Tara“

After more than 3 hours of rafting, we arrived in our rafting center and headed to the warm showers and the hot lunch. The rafting center is known with its wonderful food and I can confirm that everything I tried there was great, even the lamb (I don’t really eat lamb). What I liked most was the fresh trout.

Rafting Center Drina-Tara

My favourite soup

My favourite soup

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Рафтинг център Тара-Дрина 43.368620, 18.795934
„Rafting Center Drina – Tara“

Rafting Center Drina-Tara consists of a few dozens bungalows. Some of them are simpler, accommodating 4 people, and others are bigger with en-suite bathroom. They were all very clean and with nice beds, however really narrow. However, we didn’t go there to stay in the bungallows so we didn’t mind the lack of space in the bedroom.

The bungalow

The bungalow

Advises

Before booking a standard bungalow, make sure that you are fine with sharing some really limited space with your friends or roommates. We called the bungalows “tents” because they were not bigger than a standard 4-person tent. However, they were really clean and the beds were comfortable, our company was good and we were completely fine with this. If you need more privacy, ask your guide if you can be accommodated in a separate bungalow or at least with less roommates.

The bungalows

The bungalows

Most of the houses do not have their own bathroom and toilet. You are supposed to use the shared bathroom facilities that can be 100-200 m far from some of the houses. There are a few houses featuring private bathroom so ask for them if you need your privacy.  You will appreciate that if the weather is not very welcoming and the temperature outside is around 4°C, which happened to us. Despite the cold air is refreshing in the morning, my wife would really love to skip this experience.

The restaurant

The restaurant

The restaurant is also open and not very comfortable in cold weather. We were really out of season and some of us returned with a cold. However, the delicious food made us forget about many of the inconveniences.

Maglic Mountain and Skakavac waterfall

If you come here in the summer, the beauty of the place will probably stun you. But we were met there by rain and a fog and couldn’t see much. The visit to this place is offered as Jeep Safari to Sutjeska national park from the rafting center. The program includes a visit to the waterfall and a few other beautiful places in the mountain. However, none of these happened because of the bad weather. if you decide to go on this tours, please make sure that you are well-prepared and wear proper shoes and clothes, adequate to the season. We were there in April and were badly surprised by a 2-hour trek under torrential rain and snow, wearing sneakers.

So I strongly advise you to research what the tour you are being offered would look like. Ask how far is the place, how long the whole tour is going to take, does it include any long treks. Unfortunately, thanks to bad weather and some poor decisions made by us, we didn’t enjoy the experience at all. Moreover, we were left without any power and dry clothes to attend our planned visit to Sarajevo later that day.

Maglic Mountain

Maglic Mountain

What else to see in the area?

We were lucky to visit Bosnia and Herzegovina twice in less than a year and I can recommend you some really wonderful places to see if you have this opportunity.

The Wooden town of Kusturica , Serbia

Mostar

Absolutely lovely city with its stunning Old Bridge (Stari Most), a part of the UNESCO World Heritage list. 160 km from the rafting centre (3h drive) Read my story about it here: The New Old Bridge in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Višegrad

We fell in love with this small town, located near the border between Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, some 90 km (2 hours) from the rafting center. Višegrad is home to another famous bridge – the Mehmed Pasha Sokolovic bridge, another UNESCO site. In Višegrad you can also see the wonderful Andricgrad built by director Emir Kusturica.

Sarajevo – 90 km – 2 hours – the capital city of Bosnia and Herzegovina. We still haven’t been there but next time in Bosnia, we will definitely not miss it! What I have read and heard is that the city is wonderful and very interesting.

Please not that there are no highways in this part of Bosnia and Herzegovina. All the roads are mountainous and slow so the average speed is 50 – 60 km/h.

Would we go to Rafting Tara again?

No doubt! We would even try to make the extended 80 km ride along the canyon. However, this option is not offered by all tour companies because there is a fee for passing through Durmitor National Park and the price is much higher. I would actually allow 4 or 5 days to pass the whole distance and another day for exploring the beauties of the area by myself. Moreover, I would definitely head to such an adventure mid-summer, when the shared outdoor bathrooms are an advantage and not a deficiency,

 

The best blog post about Rafting on Tara:

Rafting on Tara – a 4-country trip, swimming in cold waters and life lessons learnt – by our friend Maria from travellingbuzz.com.

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