Blagaj Tekke – a place where history, architecture and natural environment blended and created one of the most unique and mystical sites in all of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
But, let’s introduce Blagaj first. It is a populated place south-east of Mostar. Located on the edge of Mostar basin, you’ll enjoy a mini road trip through wide road along vineyards to reach it. Blagaj is one of the most valuable rural and urban structures in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Throughout history, Blagaj was sort of an oasis amid Herzegovinian karst. A traditional belief is that how it got its name – Blag Gaj, meaning „mild grove“. In this area there were several fortified towns since antique and Byzantine time. Name Blagaj was mentioned in Constantine Porphyrogenitus’ work De Administrando Imperio as Bona.
In the period of the Ottoman Empire, Blagaj was the seat of the Blagaj Vilayet, and was divided into several neighborhoods. During that period, seven mosques were built in it, two inns, a madrasa and many other buildings. The most famous mosque is Sultan Suleyman’s Mosque. Also known as Emperor’s Mosque, it is the largest mosque in Herzegovina by size, together with Karađoz Bey Mosque in Mostar.
Later, in 1893, during Austro-Hungarian period in Bosnia and Herzegovina, an Orthodox Church was built. Roman Catholic church too, in 1908. So on small area, Blagaj has religious structures of all three religions in Bosnia and Herzegovina. A mosque, a roman catholic and orthodox church. It is what this country, and Mostar especially, are well known throughout history – differences coexisting with each other for centuries.
On top of Blagaj there is an old Blagaj Fort (Stjepan grad) standing on the edge of the karst hill with magnificent view on surroundings. The fort was the seat of herceg Stjepan Vukčić Kosača, a member of the Kosača noble family. After him the whole region was named Herzegovina. Old Town of Blagaj was also the birthplace of Bosnian queen Katarina Kosača-Kotromanić.
On the bottom of the hill, there is a historical tekke („tekija“ or Dervish monastery). Tekke was built around 1520 with elements of Ottoman architecture and Mediterranean style. It was founded by dervishes of Bektashi order. Although it became a known tourist attraction, Blagaj Tekke still kept its original purpose, as holy and religious place. For centuries now, dervishes from Sufi brotherhood pray and perform services. Sufi brotherhood is known by its asceticism and by preaching one of the most mystical dimensions of Islam. You can go inside the Tekke, get to sea each of the rooms, but you’ll have to be respectful of the rules.
Biggest karst spring in Europe
What gives Tekke its special charm is s a spring of river Buna flowing next to it. This karst spring is one of the strongest in Europe. And one of the most beautiful, too. Its source is in the cave underneath the 200 meter high cliff. In the summer time, when the water level is lower, you can go even inside the cave with special boats. Spring is well known by his extremely cold water. It is so clean you can drink it, and it tastes better then bottled one. You can also enjoy rafting on river Buna.
Although a small town, Blagaj has 7 national protected cultural monuments. Besides Blagaj Tekke and Sultan Suleyman’s Mosque, those are: Blagaj Old Town, Velagića House, Karađoz Bey Bridge, Karađoz Bey Hamam and Kolakovića House.
Besides beautiful natural spring in karst environment, historical buildings like Tekke and Blagaj Fort, that attract many visitors, there are also some great restaurants alongside the river. There you can enjoy stunning view on Tekke and the cliff, and try delicious fresh trout from Buna river, among other traditional Herzegovinian dishes. Along the way, you can also buy fig jam, pomegranate juice from the locals, as well as other homemade products and fruits.
Blagaj is also a habitat of almost 170 bird species. Most known one is endemic griffon vulture („bjeloglavi sup“). Unfortunately, only one specimen of griffon vulture has left remaining.