As we cross the border from Dubrovnik en route to Kotor, we cannot help noticing that there is a huge line of traffic coming the other way. Our hearts sink as we need to reverse our journey in just a few days. I do not relish the possibility of hours of waiting to cross a border. I do some research and come up with an alternative. This route helps you avoid the Kotor Dubrovnik border and you get to enjoy a little taste of Bosnia too. Yippee!
As we pull up to the little ramshackle huts on the top of the mountain, there’s just a trickle of cars ahead and we are feeling quite smug at the prospect of beating the queues at the Herceg Novi border. When we decided to take this route we thought we would kill two birds with one stone – beat the three mile line of traffic for the Montenegrin border crossing and also take a quick detour into new territory. Bosnia and Hercegovina is simply too close to resist!
Montenegro – Bosnia border crossing
Montenegrin exit border
From Herceg Novi, we head up the steep hillside into a barren landscape resembling the moon, rather than a mountain range in Europe. We make it through the Montenegrin border with just a cursory glance at our passport and not even a sniff of an exit stamp.
I’m confused though. Where is the entry border for Bosnia? We pass a welcome sign for the country and drive for a few miles over rocky, inhospitable terrain with no sign of a entry border. Is this no man’s land? I’m quizzing my husband about the missing border when we round a corner and almost slam into a much longer line of traffic. Mmm, perhaps that smugness was a little premature.
Bosnian entry border
The wait here is significantly longer. Drivers abandon their cars to chat with their neighbours, and kids and impatient adults pace up and down the road, gauging the distance and number of cars to the checkpoint. Thirty five minutes later and we reach the front. This time, I hear the satisfying slam of ink marking my passport, and it’s official, we are in Bosnia.
The road quickly descends into fertile farmland and it’s hard to imagine that this country was ever the scene of a bloody, hate-fuelled war. We follow signs for Trebinje and enter surburbs rammed with communist era high rises. These stark, grey monoliths are a depressing sight, masking the jewel of the old town beyond.
Trebinje may not have the scale of the fabulous old towns of Dubrovnik and Kotor, but I fall in love with the authenticity of the town, as we wander crumbling streets, duck under low tunnels and admire flower covered buildings and squares. We then jump in the car on a mission to visit attractions on the surrounding hillsides.
I can see a dramatic, ornate orthodox church perched high above the town and am determined to take a closer look. I guide Jason by sight into a residential area with no tourist signs to indicate the presence of such beauty. A few misguided turns and eventually we round a corner to find the magnificent church. It’s surrounded by rickety homes, abandoned rubbish and devoid of tourists. I take a quick peek at Arhangel Mihailo Church, but our next border is calling and Jason calls to me impatiently. He is worried there will be lengthy delays en route to Croatia.
I persuade him to take a small detour to Arslanagic Bridge. Built in 1574, this bridge is reminiscent of some of the Yorkshire Dales humpback bridges but on a grander scale.
Bosnia – Croatia border
Bosnian exit border
Reluctantly, we leave the small town behind and follow signs past endless vineyards. Wafts of sweet smoke occasionally embrace us from small forest fires nearby. We gradually ascend into yet more mountains, this time covered in red, brown and purple heathers. Once again, we stumble upon the border, with just a few cars in line and we are through in minutes.
Croatian entry border – Dubrovnik
Just a small drive and we arrive at the slightly longer line for the entry to Croatia. It takes less than ten minutes to pass through the border, so it seems my plan paid off. It took less than an hour to pass through all four borders, plus we got to see a tiny sliver of Bosnia.
Travelling in this part of Europe brings back memories of travelling as a teen when each border meant a potential passport demand and a trip to the foreign exchange to change money. Each border hinted at new possibilities, experiences and adventures
When researching the quickest border route, I came across a story on Tripadvisor from someone who alleged to have crossed into Dubrovnik from Bosnia without realising that they had actually passed a border. They were fined for their carelessness, but rather than admitting their mistake, claimed this was a bribe.
Admittedly, the post dates back around five years so things may have changed but if the borders I saw are unchanged from when they travelled, I fail to see how they could not realise it was a border.
Maybe you have your own border story, like for instance forgetting your passport on your holiday to France (thankfully I got away with it). If you have a great border story, I would love to hear from you. Feel free to share away in the comments below.