Blagaj is a village in Herzegovina, in the southern part of Bosnia and Herzegovina, 12 km south of Mostar. It stands at the edge of Bišće plain and is one of the most valuable mixed urban and rural structures in Bosnia and Herzegovina, distinguished from other similar structures in its urban layout. Blagaj was most likely named for its mild weather patterns since “blaga” in Bosnian means “mild”. Blagaj is situated at the spring of the Buna river and a historical tekke (tekija or Dervish monastery).
The Blagaj Tekija
The Blagaj Tekija was built around 1520, with elements of Ottoman architecture and Mediterranean style and is considered a national monument. Tekija on Buna in Blagaj is an important monument of the early Ottoman period in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This is the place where dervishes performed special rituals – and perform it today – zikir (praise God).
The Tekija (or Tekke) was first founded during the height of the Ottoman empire. The Ottoman sultan was impressed of the beauty of this place and ordered a tekija to be built right next to it. This 16th century house/monastery was built for the Dervish cults and is still one of the most mystical places in all of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Time and rock slides have led to extensive repairs and reconstruction to the buildings. Today, thanks largely to a Turkish travel agency, the Tekke looks mostly as it did in the past.
According to historical narratives, the Dervish house on Buna spring was founded by Dervishes from the Bektashi order in the 16th century. It is known that the Dervish house existed as early as mid 17th century, and this is confirmed by Evlija Čećebija, who wrote down that the Mufti Zijaudin Ahmed-ibn Mustafauz from Mostar ordered the construction of a Helvetian order Dervish house on Buna spring ”where the Dervishes talk and have scientific discussions”.
In mid 19th century, it was renovated by Omer Pasha Latas, and it became part of the Kaderi order. Today, the Dervish house is owned by the Nakshibendi order. The attractiveness of the piece of Oriental Bosnian architecture lies, among other things, in its brighter reflection in the calm water. The tekija is open to visitors all year round and serves cold drinks, tea and Turkish coffee in a beautiful garden overlooking the source of the River.
Buna Spring (Bosnian: Vrelo Bune) is the natural and architectural ensemble at the Buna river spring near Blagaj kasaba (village-town) and a part of the wider “Townscape ensemble of the town of Blagaj – Historical and Natural Heritage of Bosnia and Herzegovina”, southeast of Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is impossible to separate the natural values from the cultural and historical heritage of Blagaj, since its distinctive quality is in the coexistence of the natural and the man-made, in the integration of the physical structure into the landscape.
This spring is the strongest karst spring in Europe, with an average water flow of 43,000 gallons per second. His internal gallery, the depth and length of the underground chambers, ranks among the five most interesting in Europe.
This region characterizes the diversity of its above-ground and underground waters. The source of the Buna is one of the largest and most beautiful in Europe. It is the finest example of an underground karst river. It flows out of a 200m cliff wall and single-handedly creates the Buna River.
The region is also known for the diversity of its flora and a number of endemic species. At lower altitudes there are many evergreen plant and deciduous thicket species, while at higher altitudes in the hills there is sparse forest. Fertile cultivable land is suitable for the agriculture typical of the Mediterranean climate.
Blagaj Fort (locally known as Stjepan grad) is a town-fortress complex near the town of Blagaj. The old Blagaj Fort (Bona, Stjepan grad) was built on a high, inaccessible karst hill, at an elevation of 310 metres (1,020 ft) above sea level and 266 metres (873 ft) above the source of the river Buna. Blagaj Fort is 275 metres (902 ft) above sea level.
If you are in for a bit of hiking, you could walk to the fortress of Herceg Stjepan, who ruled Hum (present-day Herzegovina) in the Middle Ages. The name Herzegovina comes from the duke Stjepan Vukčić Kosača who titled himself herzog (ruler) and also named the fort Stjepan grad. This fort was originally an Illyrian tribe settlement that was later reinforced by the Roman invaders, further fortified by the ruling Bosnian state and significantly expanded with the arrival of the Ottomans. This is also the birthplace of the Bosnian Queen Katarina Kosača-Kotromanić. Atop the high cliffs, this fort is accessible by a winding trail that takes about an hour to walk. It has not been conserved but many of its high walls are still intact. It is a great place for a view of the Neretva Valley and an ideal picnic spot.
Getting to Blagaj
For those who want to visit Blagaj, it is most important to come to Mostar, then they can take a taxi or bus to Blagaj, that goes daily from the bus station in Mostar.
Bus tickets from Mostar to Blagaj cost 1€ each way.
The entrance fee to the Tekke is 2€ for tourists.