A Guide to Trebinje: Exploring East Herzegovina

Last Updated on: 28th November 2022, 11:23 pm

Situated within the region of Eastern Herzegovina and the political entity of Republika Srpska, Trebinje gets considerably less attention than its neighbors. It feels like a world away from the nearby tourism hotspots of Dubrovnik and Kotor, and that makes it an ideal place to escape the crowds. In the following Trebinje guide, we’ll be going over the top things to do and see in one of the region’s most overlooked towns.

Mentioned for the first time in the 10th century, Trebinje largely took its current shape and form during centuries of Ottoman rule. Be that as it may, the Serb-majority city is full of Orthodox churches, giving it a look and feel distinct from other cities in Herzegovina like Mostar.

Given the city’s size, most of the locations in the Trebinje guide below can be easily accessed on foot. For more information on transportation and accommodation, be sure to check the very end of the article.

Around Central Trebinje

Central Trebinje is small enough that you can explore it all on foot within an hour or so. But given its beautiful scenery and laid-back vibes, you’ll definitely want to take things slow.

Situated alongside the Trebišnjica River, Trebinje is widely regarded as one of the most charming cities in Republika Srpska.

Trebinje Guide

The city’s main square is known as Trg Slobode. Surrounded by cafes, this is also where local farmers and craftsmen come to sell their wares. 

Also nearby is Gradski Park, home to the Cathedral Temple of Holy Transfiguration of Our Lord, known for its vivid frescoes.

Trebinje Guide
Trebinje Guide
Trebinje Guide
Trebinje Guide

The city center is also where you’ll find the historic walled Old Town. If you’re just coming from Montenegro or Croatia, you may be surprised to find this one largely deserted – both in terms of people and attractions.

It does, however, contain a few interesting landmarks, such as the city’s oldest mosques. Interestingly, despite centuries of Ottoman occupation, they weren’t constructed until the early 18th century, around the same time as the rest of the walled city.

Trebinje Guide

There used to be many more mosques in Trebinje, though they were mostly destroyed during the civil war of the 1990s. While always majority Serb, Trebinje used to be home to a sizable Muslim Bosniak population as well, though they currently make up just around 6% of the populace.

Other landmarks around the walled city include the clock tower, the former city gates and the Herzegovina Museum.

The Herzegovina Museum

The Herzegovina Museum is undoubtedly Trebinje’s top museum (and probably the only!). But before talking about its collection, let’s briefly go over the name.

As mentioned above, Trebinje is situated in Republika Srpska – a separate entity from the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. 

Together, however, these two entities make up the country that’s simply called Bosnia & Herzegovina. If you’re feeling confused, you’re certainly not alone!

Trebinje Guide

While Republika Srpska is a political entity, Herzegovina is a geographical region. And following the civil war of the 1990s (another complex topic for another time), the territory of Herzegovina was split between the two federations. As a result, much of Eastern Herzegovina now lies within Republika Srpska. 

To make matters even more confusing, you’ll also encounter a Museum of Herzegovina in Mostar, the largest city in Herzegovina as a whole.

But what is there to see inside this museum? 

Most items on display once belonged to the private collection of Jovan Dučić, a local poet and Yugoslav ambassador who was born in Trebinje in 1874. He served as a diplomat for over 30 years in countries like Italy, Greece, Turkey, Egypt and others, during which he developed a great passion for ancient cultures.

Throughout his life, he collected many sarcophagi and sculptures from the Greco-Roman era, many of which he’d donate to his hometown. 

Trebinje Guide
Trebinje Guide

The museum also details the history of resistance by the Serbs of Eastern Herzegovina against the long Ottoman occupation. After the Ottomans, the area was briefly occupied by the Austro-Hungarian Empire before the formation of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.

The upper floor of the museum contains an ethnographic section with costumes and furniture from these periods, along with detailed info on the region’s colorful history.

Church of St. Archangel Michael

Aside from the famous Hercegovačka Gračanica Monastery (more below), Trebinje is home to yet another hilltop church that most visitors miss. 

Built at the spot where an Austro-Hungarian tower once stood, information on the church’s history is hard to come by. And at the time of writing, it’s not even normally open.

Trebinje Guide
Trebinje Guide
Trebinje Guide

So why come? Aside from admiring its unique architecture, which utilizes multiple pillars, it’s also a good place to catch views of the city below. Unfortunately, it was terribly hazy at the time of my climb due to nearby forest fires. Hopefully, you’ll have better luck.

The Arslanagić Bridge

Lots of towns and cities throughout Bosnia & Herzegovina have at least one prominent Ottoman bridge, and Trebinje is no exception. 

This one was completed in 1574 during the Ottoman period when the region was ruled by a local vizier named Mehmed Pasha Sokolović. This is the same pasha responsible for the more famous bridge over the Drina in Višegrad, also in Republika Srpska.

Trebinje Guide

Interestingly, while one would never guess it today, the bridge was once located about 10 km further upstream. The original was destroyed by the flooding of a reservoir in 1965, and it had to be reassembled from scratch in this new location.

The process took around six years and amazingly, most of the stones are original.

For those doing further travels throughout Herzegovina, you’ll encounter a famous Ottoman bridge in Mostar that also had to be rebuilt. But that was a result of the much more recent conflict of the ’90s.

Trebinje Guide

Hercegovačka Gračanica Monastery

The highlight of this Trebinje guide would have to be the hilltop Hercegovačka Gračanica Monastery, which offers amazing views of the town and surrounding mountains.

Hercegovačka Gračanica Trebinje Guide

If you’re doing more extensive travels around the Balkans, the name Gračanica may sound familiar to you. The 14th-century Gračanica Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the most significant Serbian Orthodox monasteries in Kosovo.

And this church, only built in the year 2000, pays homage to it.

Having been to both, the architecture is indeed nearly identical, though Trebinje’s version appears much smaller. But the hilltop setting of Hercegovačka Gračanica makes it an altogether different visiting experience.

Hercegovačka Gračanica Trebinje Guide

Another interesting fact about Hercegovačka Gračanica is that it now houses the remains of Jovan Dučić. As mentioned earlier, Dučić, born in Trebinje, was a long-term Yugoslav ambassador and renowned poet.

He died in 1943 when visiting a relative in the US, and his remains were kept at the Saint Sava Monastery in Libertyville, Illinois. It wasn’t until the year 2000, upon this church’s completion, that his remains were finally transported to his hometown.

After admiring the beautiful views, be sure to step inside to see the colorful frescoes.

Hercegovačka Gračanica Trebinje Guide
Hercegovačka Gračanica Trebinje Guide
Hercegovačka Gračanica Trebinje Guide

Tvrdoš Monastery

Those spending more than a full day in Trebinje should also consider visiting Tvrdoš Monastery, one of the most important religious sites in the region.

It’s situated about 5 km from the center of town. If you don’t want to hire a taxi, the monastery can be reached in about 70 minutes on foot. While not a very exciting walk, the terrain is flat and the road doesn’t see too much traffic.

Tvrdoš Monastery Trebinje Guide

Originally built in the 4th century, the main church is dedicated to Saint Mary. The monastery had to be rebuilt in the Middle Ages following one of the Ottoman-Venetian wars. And more recently, it was refurbished in 1955.

Tvrdoš Monastery Trebinje Guide
Tvrdoš Monastery Trebinje Guide

Stepping inside, visitors can still see some of the original foundations by looking down through the glass flooring. While photography is discouraged, the frescoes here are also excellent.

Tvrdoš Monastery has been well-known for its wine since at least the 15th century. And today, it attracts all sorts of visitors who come for a taste. 

Tvrdoš Monastery Trebinje Guide

In the cellar area, you’ll find a small bar and plenty of tables, and you can order a glass for the equivalent of a couple of euros. The glass I ordered ended up being one of the tastier wines I tried in the Balkans.

Aside from its wine, the main reason Tvrdoš Monastery is so popular is due to its association with St. Basil, one of the most prominent saints of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

Tvrdoš Monastery Trebinje Guide

St. Basil started his religious career here before going on to be a monk at the cliffside Ostrog Monastery in Montenegro. His remains would be kept there upon his death, and over time, word spread of all sorts of miracles happening to those who’d make pilgrimages to see them.

As such, Ostrog is now packed daily with hundreds of devotees. Tvrdoš Monastery, on the other hand, is more what you’d expect from a monastery – quiet and relaxed, much like Trebinje as a whole.

Tvrdoš Monastery Trebinje Guide

Additional Info

The best way to reach Trebinje is by bus. Coming from within Bosnia & Herzegovina, you can find direct buses from Mostar or Sarajevo.

Coming from Montenegro, you can find direct buses from Kotor, Herceg Novi and Podgorica.

In my case, I came by bus from Kotor, which departed at 7:40. After passing through Herceg Novi and then the international border, we arrived in Trebinje a few hours later.

There are also numerous buses from Dubrovnik, Croatia, just 30 km away. Even if you don’t have plans to travel through Croatia, you could consider flying into Dubrovnik and then taking a bus or taxi.

Speaking of Dubrovnik, it used to be quite common for people to visit Trebinje as a day trip from there. Or, conversely, budget-savvy travelers could base themselves in Trebinje and visit Dubrovnik for the day. While this wouldn’t have been practical at the time of my visit due to pandemic border restrictions, things appear to be largely back to normal now.

While Trebinje isn’t nearly as touristy as Mostar, you shouldn’t have much trouble finding somewhere to stay within your budget.

I stayed at a place called Hostel Guest Centar, which is one of the best values I found in the Balkans. I had a private room with air conditioning and a private shower (but with a shared toilet, strangely) for €21 for 3 nights.

The entry is tricky to find, but it’s above an agricultural store and the manager of that store is the one who runs the guest house. It was fairly centrally located and I could get everywhere in the above Trebinje guide on foot.

The manager spoke no English, but check-in went smoothly enough. Just be sure to get a police registration form if you’re just arriving in the country!

Warning: If you’re leaving Bosnia & Herzegovina by land, you will likely be asked by the border guard to show a police registration form that you must obtain from your hotel within 24 hours of arriving in the country.

During my travels, I had no idea about this rule, as nobody at my hotel in Trebinje mentioned anything. Later on, when leaving Bosnia & Herzegovina on a Serbia-bound bus, the border guard threatened me with a 50 euro fine for not having the documents!

But as nobody else on my bus was aware of this rule either, he eventually let us all go with a warning. It’s best to play it safe, so if Trebinje happens to be your first stop in the country, demand that your accommodation provide you with the proper forms.


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