Dubrovnik is very well known as the city of culture, unique architecture and lovely beaches. But some 80 km northwest of the Pearl of the Adriatic the one can find an absolutely idyllic rural area which includes some of the most fertile land in the whole region: the delta of the Neretva river. The Neretva river stretches from Metković all the way to the harbour town of Ploče on the Croatian side. It also runs through the neighbouring Herzegovina, which makes the total length of the river about 260 km.
The Neretva valley – a collectivity of smaller and bigger settlements squeezed between the mountains, where almost everybody still works on the land, growing oranges, mandarins, lemons, kiwis and many other types of fruit and vegetables. This is the reason why Neretva is often called „the Croatian California“.
The main and most impressive part of the valley which can be observed from several view spots right on the main road, is crisscrossed by irrigation channels. The Neretva delta offers some spectacular vistas of dramatic mountainous terrain lush with tropical vegetation and expansive views of the fruit and olive trees which seem to grow on every corner.
The average temperature during the summer months here is among the highest in Europe, even in the winter the temperature rarely drops below 10 degrees Celsius contributing to the agreecultural diversity of the region, where you can literally grow anything.
Despite being a little off the main touristic paths that lead to popular destinations like Dubrovnik and Makarska, the valley is often visited on the way to Mostar in Bosnia-Herzegovina, in order to provide the real rural experience to the guests. It often involves at least a short stop for getting some delicious local fruits. Every month brings something different: May – June is the season of aromatic strawberries and sweet cherries, July brings us fresh melons and watermelons, August is the time when locals harvest figues, September is the right time to taste some sweet ripe grapes. But once October rolls in – the real festival of citrus fruits begin, turning the whole delta into the „mandarin valley“.
The whole day trip to the Neretva valley can also be organised on request, usually it involves some nice boat ride along the wetland channels in a traditional vessel called „trupica“, followed up by picking your own fruits and a substantional lunch right in the middle of the wetland at the end - a fun and different type of experience for the whole family. It really allows us to feel how different these eco-grown domestic products are from the ones we usually buy in a supermarket!
History wise this particular region is actually of great importance: it was once a thriving Roman market town called Narona, which had excisted long before the Slavic tribes started to settle down in this area. Narona is now partially preserved beneath the Archeological Museum in a small settlement called Vid.
The area is also a great destination for all nature lovers: the reedy wetland of the delta provides the perfect habitat for many types of birds: the one can find crakes, bitterns and marsh harriers nesting here. Frogs and eels are plentyful in the Neretva channels as well and play an important role in the local cuisine: the famous specialty of the Neretva valley is „brudet od žaba i jegulja“ (fish stew with frogs and eels). In addition to that, different types of sweet rakijas are brewed here, so locals sure know how to eat and drink well!
In conclusion this lovely fertile place is just perfect for eco-tourism which is so much in trend right now.