Water is the source of life and we in the Balkans can be happy with the generosity of mother nature when it comes to this resource! Rich in waters of all kinds, the Balkans are a perfect place to visit if you are a lover of kayak, rowing, wild water swimming or rafting, canyoning, diving and so much more!
This story, we are dedicating to the river beauties of the Western Balkans, located in the parts of the region where our tours are mostly performed. It was hard to select only one river per territory, but we promise that next time we will feature more of them. Let’s start alphabetically.
The beautiful icy Valbona River is located in the same-named Valley, which is at the same time, a national park in Northern Albania located at the foot of Prokletije mountains (one of the natural borders between Montenegro and Albania).
The valley and the river are untouched and extremely attractive while nature shows all its power in this intact zone. Unfortunately, there are indications of the hydroelectric plant building in this area, but hopefully, the officially protected area will stay unbroken.
Valbona has crystal clear water and numerous waterfalls and its canyon is a habitat for many species of birds.
Bosnia & Herzegovina
Probably best known for Ivo Andric’s story – Na Drini Curpija, this river is a natural border between Western Serbia and Bosnia & Herzegovina. With its 346 km length, it is the longest tributary of the Sava River and the longest karst river in the Dinaric Alps, as part of the Danube (Dunav) river watershed.
This is a very fast and cold alpine river with intensive green water colour, due to the karst terrain it runs through. The deepest point is 12 m while it is the widest close to Visegrad with almost 200 m.
The Drina is the main kayaking and rafting attraction in Bosnia & Herzegovina and it’s Europe’s primary habitat for endangered salmonid fish species, huchen. The Drina River runs through the recently formed National Park Drina.
Peja Bistrica/Lumbardhi i Pejës
The Lumbardhi i Pejës (meaning white river in Albanian), or Pec Bistrica (meaning clear waters in Serbian) is a 62 km-long right tributary to the White Drin river which flows entirely within the south-western part of Kosovo.
This river sources from the eastern slopes of the Mokra mountain, on the border of Kosovo and Montenegro, at an elevation of 1,900 m, in the Rugova region. The short but powerful Lumbardhi i Pejës runs in the impressive Rugova Canyon, which is 23 km long and up to 1,000 m deep, while the upper part of the gorge is the 25 km long Rugova glacial trough originating from ancient times.
Rugova Gorge offers numerous travel attractions and it is one of the must-see spots in our Kosovo tours.
Known as the Tear of Europe due to its clean waters that are drinkable along all its flow, Tara is a Montenegrin 146 km long river which converges with the Piva river at the Bosnia & Herzegovina and Montenegro border to form the Drina river.
The Tara River Canyon, in mountainous Montenegro, is the longest and deepest canyon in Montenegro and Europe and the second deepest in the world after the infamous Grand Canyon in the USA. Tara River Canyon is UNESCO protected and the waters are rich in endemic salmonid fish species, huchen.
Rafting is very popular on Tara River so this is one of the favourite spots of European adventure travellers, especially from May to September. Not only European, but worldwide guests are amazed by the area. Here it’s worth mentioning Đurđevića Tara Bridge, on the crossroads between Mojkovac, Žabljak and Pljevlja.
Vardar is the longest river in North Macedonia with a total length of 388 km of which the majority belongs to North Macedonia and a small part runs through Northern Greece.
The river rises at Vrutok, a few kilometres southwest of Gostivar. The valley is comprised of fertile lands at some points of the valley, otherwise runs through the mountains. The Vardar river was very famous during the Ottoman Empire and it’s mentioned in numerous epic poems.
Source: Macedonia Timeless
Sava is the right bank and the longest tributary of the Danube and it flows through Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and finally through Serbia, where it blends into the Danube in the capital, Belgrade.
The Sava river is 990 kilometres long, sources in Slovenia, and has about 2 thirds navigable for larger vessels. The Sava River valley is also a route for road and rail traffic. It used to be the biggest and longest river in ex-Yugoslavia.
The use of water for public water supply as well as for industrial production purposes is massive. The use of its water for agriculture is mostly applied in non-consumptive uses, such as fish farming while the use of water for irrigation is relatively low.
Sava basin has 18 hydroelectric power plants with power generation capacity exceeding 10 megawatts. The population in this basin is estimated at 8,176,000 and includes four capitals: Belgrade, Ljubljana, Sarajevo and Zagreb.
What is your favourite river in the Balkans? Let us know in the comments below.