Three great waterway runs in the Balkans

My journey through the Balkans brought me a lot of sights, Brexit, and a homesickness for Europe that I’d forgotten. It also brought a bunch of fantastically beautiful places to run, so I’m sharing a summary of my Pick of the Trots.

Still nursing unreliable knees from last September’s half marathon, and not hitting my stride yet in the heat of the middle-east, this holiday gave me the fresh cool air to get me back out on the track by running little and often in the true spirit of runsploring each new town.

Trebinje, Bosnia and Herzegovina. 4km

Trebinje 4kmMap courtesy of Route 541319.

Trebinje was an afterthought of a stopover on my cross-Balkan holiday, and one which I’m really glad that I made. Located in the south-east corner of the country, only an hour from Dubrovnik in Croatia, and also close to the bay of Kotor in Montenegro (and high on the list of tourist bus trips from both), it’s a picturesque hideaway in the mountains. Tiny though the town is, the well-kept banks of the river Trebisnjica running right through the centre provide a great running track.

For this short run, I wanted to see a bit of the old town, the historic facades along the river, and the pool area on the south bend of the river. The town is small, and all roads quickly lead to the river so getting lost is not a concern. Head through the market square, past the Old Town and over the road bridge to get down onto the path along the riverbank. This will give you a great view of the buildings of the Old Town silhouetted on the river. Follow the banks south keeping the river on your right, and follow it around as it bends to the right. You’ll see the simple road bridge ahead of you after the bend.

This bridge is a good marker for the end of the town. Beyond it you could plan to run distance, but the path does not continue and bridges are few and far between. I crossed here and headed back up past the bus station and the big new supermarket and through the sports fields. If you end your run at the bridge, you can take advantage of the workout area and natural pool at the river bend.

For greater distance, running north-east to the historic Arslanagica bridge would provide a good circuit of the area, and in that direction the path continues for quite a way.

Arslanagica bridge

Arslanagica bridge

Lake Ohrid, FYR Macedonia. 5km.

Lake Ohrid 5kmMap courtesy of Route 541318.

The extraordinarily beautiful area around Lake Ohrid is well worth a summer visit, and the paths and roads around the lake can provide many happy kilometres of running or cycling. As the lake is bordered by both Macedonia and Albania, it isn’t possible to run a complete circuit of its 87km shoreline unless you’re running passport in hand!

For this run, I merely headed to the wide promenade on the lake’s shore at Ohrid town and ran anti-clockwise for 2.5km. This took me down a path for runners, walkers, and cyclists which is currently in the middle of construction. When it is finished, there will be at least 8 kilometres of neat, flat running track from the old town of Ohrid to a handy turnaround point at a block of quite new apartments further along the lake shore and back again, all with the added bonus of the spectacular mountainous scenery.

Zardar and the Sea Organ, Croatia. 6km

Zardar Sea Organ 6kmMap courtesy of Route 541320.

Zardar port

Zardar port

A travel tip from a hostelling encounter made it imperative for me to make a stop in Zardar to see (and hear) the famous sea organ and I was glad I did. Staying out of the old town and close to the bus station made for a great running circuit that took in the length of shady beaches along the Adriatic coast, a run into and through the historic old town and along to the Sea Organ, where I had to pause for some mid-run swimming in the evening sun, with Croatia’s beautiful islands and the yachts and ferries that line the coast in the distance.

From the Sea Organ, keep going along the sea wall and around to the port area to complete a circuit which also takes in the tranquil waters and boats in the port, lit by the setting sun. Follow the same road all the way out of town until you end up back at the bus station junction, and you’ll also run past the impressive stone walls that mark the edge of the old town.

along the Sea Organ

along the Sea Organ


These were only three of a number of spectacularly beautiful running routes during my trip. A couple of the Best of the Rest included Sarajevo, where just beyond the huge City Hall the city turns into a nature park and a trail winds through green canyons. Skopje also provided one of my favourite routes. Much derided for a number of reasons, Skopje in the summer is a bit of a treat, if you can get past the Disneyland feel of all the new development. A highlight for me was a sunset run along the river. From the new town side, run left along the river from the main plaza and you’re treated to miles of broad, green sports area along the river bank, full of people enjoying a jog, a game of basketball, a cycle, rollerblade, or workout. Just gorgeous!


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