This valley, which meanders through stunning mountain scenery from Foca to green rolling hills in Zvornik, is the heartbeat of eastern Bosnia. The river itself gives the entire region a special character, with most of its citizens living along its banks. The emerald green river feeds the Black Sea basin via the Sava River Bosnia’s far northeast on the border with Serbia. Its creators are the Tara and Piva Rivers, both stemming from Montenegro’s wild and beautiful canyon lands.
Although some of the region’s most ancient towns find their foundations along the Drina River, the area remains somewhat underdeveloped and, in the post-war era, rather poor. The upside to this is that their predicament has ‘kept it real.’ The lack of development has preserved its awe-inspiring nature in many ways. The people’s modest lifestyles have kept their friendly and exceptionally hospitable traditions more than alive. After an initial stare or double take, visitors are often treated as kings and queens. What they lack in flash they make up for in genuineness.
The journey through the Drina Valley region is a blast through the past (forgive the cliché). It is old-school Yugoslavia, Austro-Hungary, Ottoman and Byzantine lands all rolled into one. Most will find the live culture more intriguing than its static one, though. There is a fascinating, and indeed admirable, connection between the people and the land. And the land, to say the least, is one of the best and most untouched nature areas in the western Balkans.
There are a handful of Don’t Miss destinations that the reader is encouraged to, well, not miss. Sutjeska National Park is, hands down, the most amazing swath of Mother Nature in southeast Europe. Both sides of the Tjentiste Valley are superb drives for amazing views – albeit with some pretty crappy gravel roads. The Tara River Canyon, Europe’s deepest, is a rafting experience one will soon not forget. The launching area is a phenomenal drive deep into the gorge on the Bosnian side of the river. Venturing furthering downstream, Visegrad’s Mehmed pasa Sokolovic Bridge, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a testament to Ottoman architecture. Kamengrad, built for his film on Nobel Laureate Ivo Andric, is the newest addition to the towns steadily improving tourism attractions. The narrow gauge train from Serbia now travels the distance past Dobrun Monastery into Visegrad town.
From this point a series of dams and deep canyons force one to travel inland. The mountain terrain on either side of the border is a drive worth taking. On the other side awaits the towns of the lower Drina – Srebrenica, Bratunac and Zvornik. Although these towns are less geared towards tourism and tourists, the nature, the food, and the people certainly make it worth the visit.