Gem of the Croatian south. Croatian California. Heaven on Earth. There are many names for the same landscape – Neretva valley. Embark with us in the exploration of this place of sun, sand, river, and the sea. And don’t forget to stop by and explore a bit, you might find some sunken treasure – literally.
introduction to neretva valley
Neretva valley is situated in southern Croatia, and the 3 most famous cities in it are Ploce, Opuzen, and Metkovic. We won’t discuss these cities much because the real beauty of Neretva valley is not hidden in them, in fact, it is not hidden at all, it’s everywhere around you.
This landscape is made by the Neretva river which has a source deep in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Only 20 kilometers of this mighty river flows through Croatia and finally reaches the Adriatic sea near the city of Ploce. In this last part of its journey, the Neretva river is a slow and peaceful river, somewhat resembling a human being in his last years of life. But it seems that this river made its most special landscape right here at its end.
Neretva valley is a unique landscape in Croatia with many places ready to be explored. Some of them are already pretty famous, like the Neretva river mouth which is one of the most popular places for kiteboarding in Croatia. Some others, like Kuti lake, are secluded and harder to reach, thus not so visited. But who knows, maybe just here you’ll find ‘your dream place’.
Let’s explore Neretva valley!
neretva river mouth
Neretva river mouth is the most popular place in the whole valley. It’s right where Neretva kisses the Adriatic sea. Somehow it seems that this is the central part of the valley and everything is happening right here. If you are to visit the Neretva river mouth in the summer months you would find many kiteboarders enjoying their game, especially if you are to come in the afternoon hours. Many swimmers would be around too, swimming or enjoying on one of the sandy beaches.
The landscape of Neretva river mouth is full of sandy beaches, sandbars, and shallow sea. We even think it’s the place with the most sandy beaches in the whole of Croatia. The good thing is that it’s close to the main road and, even if you are just passing by, you’ll need only 10 minutes to reach this place and 10 more to return to your original route. Worth of taking a chance, what do you say? Who knows, you might even stay here for your whole vacation.
Now we get to not so known place of Neretva valley. But equally beautiful as others. Kuti lake is a bit secluded, hidden behind the labyrinth of canals and not so visited. Few traditional boat tours are going there, but it’s nowhere near crowded as in Neretva river mouth.
We went to explore Kuti lake a few times on our kayaks and almost got lost in the canals labyrinth. You need some serious skills navigating these. Or GPS. There is a cool legend about Kuti lake. You know about the ancient city of Troy and how nobody knows where it was. Well, you’re right, there are some claims that this famous city is right in the Kuti lake. Some locals swear they saw walls in the sand of this shallow lake.
It would be good if the Troy was here, but even if it’s not, Kuti lake is equally beautiful and worth exploring. There are even a few restaurants offering local delicatessen.
Another beautiful place of Neretva valley. Norin river has a source near the city of Vid, in the ancient times called Narona. You’ll find later why it was famous. Narona river is not long nor large and it pours into the Neretva river at Kula Norinska village.
For us, it’s one of the wildest landscapes of Neretva valley and a place we gladly visit. As soon as we kayaked down this river for the first time we decided we want to organize a tour there and so our Norin river kayaking tour was born. Norin river has a jungle-like landscape, its water is crystal clear and cold as hell.
A good thing is that, if you plan to visit this river, you might also plan a visit to a place described in the next section. Regarding tours of the Norin river, the only adventure tour we know of is our kayaking tour, but there are numerous tours done by traditional boats that start from local restaurants.
roman museum in vid
In the times of Antique, Vid was called Narona and it was the second-largest Roman city on this side of the Adriatic. The split was the largest one. Today, Narona is called Vid and there is a large museum about a Roman culture built there and it’s the only museum of that kind built on the archeological site. The story goes that there was a man who wanted to build a house and he started to dig the foundations of the house and found one statue. Everything stopped and the whole Roman temple was found there. Shame for the guy building a house, but good for everyone else.
There are still ancient urns buried in the sand of Neretva river. And if you are visiting this museum, which we strongly suggest, consider visiting the Norin river too since it flows through Narona…we mean Vid.
metkovic natural history museum
Neretva valley is full of life and more than 300 bird species found their home here. Some of these animals are free and roaming nature while their less lucky relatives are stuffed in the Natural history museum in Metkovic. Ornithological life is the foundation of this museum, any if you choose to visit it, you’ll have the option to observe many interesting bird species. Let us just say that the museum is an interactive experience with sounds accompanying the actual animals shown in it.
any restaurant with local food
The important part here is ‘with local food’. There are many restaurants in the Neretva valley and not all of them offer traditional food. You are free to visit them too, some of them offer really good food. But if you are visiting Neretva valley, then you must eat like a local. At least for a single day.
So what is considered to be traditional food in Neretva delta? Well, what do you find in river areas? Frogs and eels. These two are the main specialties and you have to try them when visiting the Neretva river delta. Local cooks have been working on these recipes for centuries and they have made them almost perfect. When it comes to restaurants with traditional food, we recommend Đuđa i Mate, konoba Buđoni, and konoba ‘Pod Maslinom‘.
marin vijenac mountain
Ready for some hiking? The best views of the Neretva valley are from one of the local mountain peaks. Don’t expect Andas here, these are pretty low peaks, but still offer a breathtaking view of the valley. Make sure you have the right equipment when embarking on a hiking adventure.
Two of these are the most popular – Babina gomila and Marin vijenac peaks. Both of them are beautiful and offer a somewhat similar view of the Neretva valley. Babina gomila is a higher peak and you’ll need more time to reach it. We choose Marin vijenac for 2 reasons. Reason number one is that you’ll need less time to reach it, some hour and a half. The second and more important reason is wild horses that found their home on this mountain. How cool is that?
modro oko lake
Modro oko lake is another gem of Neretva valley. It’s situated near Desne, and it has a mesmerizing deep blue color. Freshwater is being pumped from it for a long time. The Modro oko lake is situated near the local road, there is a viewpoint made on the edge of it.
predolac cave in metkovic
Another amazing place in Neretva valley is situated in the city of Metkovic. For a long time, Predolac cave was known only to locals although it’s basically in the city. Predolac cave is one of the most significant caves in the whole of Dalmatia. Another fun fact is that in this cave there is a special kind of shell and it’s the only shell to be known to live underground. Visit their official Facebook page for more information.
bonus place: bacina lakes
We have written about Bacina lakes numerous times. Although it might be considered separate from Neretva valley, it is still situated on the sole edge of it. The proximity of Bacina lakes to Neretva valley makes this place an absolute must to visit when exploring the valley.
Bacina lakes are a specific group consisting of 7 lakes and are situated near the city of Ploce. The mouth of the Neretva river is closest to these lakes and it would take you approximately 20 minutes of car driving to reach them. Once there, you just need to relax and immerse yourself in the beautiful nature of Bacina lakes.
There are many activities to do there too, ranging from kayaking and SUP tours to cycling and boat tours. All in all, place worth visiting and a true natural antidote for all your troubles.