Several Finland tour operators and travel bloggers visited BiH in the last several days to explore trails on Via Dinarica, in order to inform and attract tourist interest.
Via Dinarica is an initiative of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the United Nations Development Programme Country Office Bosnia and Herzegovina (UNDP BiH), and is implemented with the support of Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations of BiH, Ministry of Environment and Tourism of the Federation of BiH, and Ministry of Trade and Tourism of RS. Via Dinarica corridor consists of the three main Trails – Green, Blue and White. The Green Trail follows the lower forest belt of the Dinaric Alps, and the Blue Trail goes across the coastal Dinarides with a magnificent view of the Adriatic Sea. The White Trail follows the highest limestone peaks of the Dinaric Alps, that are covered in snow most of the time.
As it was announced from Via Dinarica, Finnish group, during their 5-day trip, had a chance to explore the Via Dinarica, as the area that is yet to be discovered by many hikers and cyclists. On this adventure, they found a playground for active travelers on the Via Dinarica: exciting trails, amazing views, colorful wildflowers, and welcoming culture.
“I think that Via Dinarica is unique. There is no such thing anywhere else in the world, it’s fantastic. I think it’s something many people and countries would like to have, but they can’t. It’s the most amazing hiking trail in the world. It’s a place where not so many have been to, and that matters to Finns. It’s a place that is a really well-kept (tourist) secret, and that is something that attracts us,” said Marinnella “Nella” Himari, a travel blogger and journalist from Finland.
She writes stories about Via Dinarica in travel blogand in the major outdoor magazines in Finland. She visited BiH for the third time and she keeps returning but, as she said, doesn’t know what is magical in BiH, but there is something that not so many countries have.
“That’s why I am coming back all the time”, Himari said.
The group hiked in the great Dinaric Alps – undiscovered by tourists, and saw spectacular limestone peaks and caves. They experienced the wilderness of Sutjeska National Park, a stunning area located at the heart of the Dinaric Alps, and visited Perućica, one of Europe’s last remaining Primeval forests. The Finns visited Lukomir Highland Village on the Olympic mountain of Bjelašnica, cycled around the Blidinje glacier lake, walked over the old Ottoman Mostar Bridge, rafted the emerald waters of the Neretva river, and visited the capital Sarajevo. The Finnish tourism experts believe that cultural heritage, historic places, beautiful nature and affordable prices are the key things, which would attract Finnish tourist to BiH.
“I’ve done a lot of tracks and hikes around the world, but I got very excited when I saw pictures and heard about Via Dinarica. It is definitely a world class hiking and tracking area,” said Mikka Ukkonen, representative of the Finish tour operator Mandala Travel.
He plans to offer more tours in the Balkans, and can “easily offer active tourism with hiking tours around the major culture sites on Via Dinarica”.
The tour for tour operators and a travel blogger – journalist from Finland was organized within the scope of the “Via Dinarica: A Platform for Sustainable Tourism Development and Local Economic Growth” Project, which aims at the development of potentials of the Dinaric Alps’ corridor and its promotion. It has been designed to reduce economic, social, and regional disparities in BiH through promotion of Via Dinarica as a regional tourism attraction and to increase BiH standing in the competitive nature-based tourism sphere.
The project aims to support the process of establishing the Via Dinarica corridor as a tourist product that provides sustainable livelihoods for a broad spectrum of stakeholders in local communities along the trail.
“The arrival of the Finnish tour operators is a step towards expanding the market of Via Dinarica as an international outdoor destination. Moreover, the FAM/Press trip is an opportunity to local tour agencies, with networks of other service providers in BiH, to connect with international tour operators and journalist to promote and sell the Via Dinarica. It is very encouraging that the initial feedback we received from the Finnish tour operators and a journalist is overly positive”, said Božena Kaltak, Via Dinarica project manager./IBNA