Hiking a new mega-trail in the Balkans

Close to the top of Mount Maglić, on the Bosnia-Montenegro border, a deafening clap of thunder rips across rugged Piva national park. The summit of the 2,386-metre limestone peak is not far away, but with a glance at the darkening sky, the guide decides it’s best to turn back.

We weave our way down towards perfectly heart-shaped Lake Trnovačko, just reaching a forest as the downpour hits. When the storm passes, the view across the valley is our reward – glittering, luminous and streaked with post-squall mist. The slopes are lined with tufted grass and a golden eagle floats overhead. The scene silences us, and we walk in quiet contemplation until the guide stops us to point out a sign: “Welcome to Bosnia.”

There’s no checkpoint and no fuss – perhaps surprising, given the history of these once war-torn Balkan countries. We’re hiking part of a new mega-trail – the Via Dinarica – and up here, the conflicts across the former Yugoslavia feel firmly in the past.

The main artery is the White trail, from Slovenia to Albania – via Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Montengro, and soon to be extended into Kosovo – following the Dinaric Alps for 1,260km, taking in the highest peaks. Opened fully in 2017, it has mapped and united old trails, shepherd paths, royal hunting grounds and military routes, with accommodation in mountain huts, riverside cabins and lodges along the way.

When two further trails have been completed (blue, along the coastline, and green, connecting small villages), the route will also take in Serbia, uniting seven Balkans countries.

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