Cliffs of Moher are Ireland’s number one natural tourist sight, attracting more than 1.5 million visitors annually. Reaching the maximum height of 214 meters below the O’Brien’s Tower, they are truly a beautiful natural spectacle.
We were recommended to reserve half a day for exploring several walking trails on the cliffs which was fun.
On our way back we popped into a visitor centre where we were positively surprised by a dynamic and interactive exhibition, offering plenty of information for adults and children alike.
Nature conservation is a big topic there. Local conservators brought it to a very high level. Together with tourism service providers they are committed to making the area a premier worldwide destination for responsible tourism. They are effectively managing and communicating information about waste recycling, energy and water usage per visitor, promoting and educating about “leave no trace” ethics. Even the toilets are showcasing eco facts!
However, traveling to western Ireland only for a couple of hours of cliffs’ experience sounded a bit limiting to us. We were looking for a more authentic experience which would allow us to get beneath the surface of the destination.
And here comes the Burren! Together with the Burren, Cliffs of Moher were awarded UNESCO recognized Global Geopark status seven years ago. As they say, it’s about people, place, learning and livelihood.
The Burren Smokehouse was the place where we tasted delicious cold smoked organic Irish salmon with seaweed and a honey-glazed variation with whiskey and fennel. Mouth-watering!
The Burren Perfumery makes perfumes inspired by the local landscape. And there are many more inspirational stories in the Burren, such as: the Moher stone, the Doolin Chocolate Shop, Linnalla Ice-Cream, several exhibitions and thematic events etc.
Our beautiful planet is full of amazing natural sites. Memorable authentic travel is only possible when people and places go hand in hand together, treating each other with respect. This proves to be the critical link between authentic and responsible tourism.
Greening Ethiopian Manufacturing (GEM) project has been launched in Addis Ababa!
Inoa is partnering with Ethiopian Chamber of Commerce and Sectoral Associations (ECCSA) and Precise Consult International on this EU funded Switch Africa Green project. Over 100 Ethiopian micro, small and medium enterprises will be supported throughout the next 3+ years in seizing ‘green growth’ opportunities.
Ethiopia is one of the fastest growing economies in Africa.
Photos by ECCSA
Upper Egypt Local Development Program
We are collaborating on the Upper Egypt Local Development Program (UELDP). By launching this program, the World Bank Group is aiming at supporting economic and social development of the two lagging governorates Qena and Sohag (US$500 million will be dedicated for this purpose). Our expert is being involved in the identification of clusters and in the design of the Program Operational Manual.
7 Half-Day Trips from Podgorica
Though a small country, Montenegro has been blessed with cultural richness and immense natural beauty. Its capital Podgorica is rarely chosen as a primary tourist destination, however its central location can be a good base for exploring the country.
Whether you’re visiting on your own or with family and friends, here are my picks for 7 half-day trips. You can either take them in the morning, or in the afternoon and still be back early enough to attend your meetings or experience the buzzing nightlife of the Podgorica city. No ranking here, each of these trips has a charm of its own.
Skadar Lake and Rijeka Crnojevica
Skadar lake is an ancient tectonic lake. Numerous scientific studies have revealed that several European freshwater animal species originate from there. Skadar lake is also one of the largest bird reserves in Europe and, among other birds, pelicans can be spotted there.
Skadar Lake boat trips, lasting from 2 to 6 hours, are bringing a new dimension to out-of-town getaways. Silent boats, sliding over the beautiful lake, covered with waterlilies and other aquatic plants, are circling tiny islands, called Gorice, Mala & Velika Čakovica, Andrijska Mountain and Grmožur, the latter also known as the Montenegrin Alcatraz. Yet another trip will take you to the magnificent Kom Monastery, built between 1415 and 1427. In hot summer days you might want to combine a boat trip with a short hike to the waterfalls in nearby Poseljani and jump into fresh waters. Birdwatchers will enjoy Dodosi, delta of the river Morača and above all, Manastirska Tapija, an ornithological reserve.
Biodiversity protection is of vital relevance to the lake and we recommend a trusted nature-sensitive boat operator Skadar Lake Boat ‘Milica’.
An alternative heritage & culinary colored trip can be experienced by visiting another town on the shores of the lake: Rijeka Crnojevica – hiking or biking to a couple of traditional villages and tasting an authentic meal either at ‘gumno’ or ‘konoba’. The ‘wine route’, as well as, the ‘cheese road’ call for unique experiences. Check out Your Montenegro Agency website.
Donkey Farm Martinici
Donkeys have a special place in Montenegrin rural heritage. However, modern agricultural technology replaced them. Darko Saveljic, the ‘founding father’ of the farm, is a passionate nature lover who saved several indigenous female donkeys (jennets) from maltreatment and abandonment by opening his farm. Martinici Donkey Farm is probably one of the most nature-friendly donkey farms in the world.
Only a 20-30 min drive from Podgorica brings you to a great place for children (and adults) to see these animals, learn about beneficial effects of donkey milk, enjoy the countryside and get inspired for nature protection. Donkeys are also great ‘therapists’. Children will certainly enjoy touching and combing them and designing funny hairstyles from their hair. Free hippo-therapy can be individually arranged for children with symptoms of autism.
The farm is open every Sunday 10.00-13.00, entrance fee is 1 kg of donkey feed, such as: apples, carrots and similar. Group visits can also be arranged.
Panoramic Route ‘Krug oko Korita’
Stellar natural spots with amazing vistas over the river Cijevna, Podgorica and Albanian Alps are to be experienced on the designated circular path ‘Krug oko Korita’. By walking only a section of this panoramic route for about 1.5-2 hours, you reach spectacular Falcon’s Throat (Grlo Sokolovo). Kucka Korita, the starting point of this hiking tour, are located 38 km from Podgorica. Maps are available on the Tourism Board Podgorica web site or at the visitors’ centers.
Lipa cave, located 35 km east of Podgorica, near the historic capital Cetinje, is the youngest member in the family of renowned world show caves, and the most impressive cave, open to visitors, in Montenegro. It is known that King Nikola held receptions there and Njegoš spoke of its beauty. A system of 2.5 km of passages and halls is available to visitors. Theater lighting designers have created illuminations that have a rich influence on the scene of the cave.
Lipa Cave; Photo by Tadeja L. Colnar
Families and casual visitors can enjoy a walk along the 400 m of cave corridors, admiring cave ornaments, underground lakes and majestic hallways created by nature. Adventurers and adrenaline seekers might prefer a 30 m descent from the ceiling on a rope and explore hidden corners of the cave with a professional guide. These adventures are only available, if arranged in advance. The cave is open to visitors from April till December.
River Cijevna and ‘Niagara Falls’
Taken with a pinch of famous Montenegrin humor, these ‘Niagara falls’ are much smaller than their northern American namesakes. Nevertheless, the five rivers of Podgorica are certainly an important natural asset, enriching the experience of the city. ‘Niagara falls’ on the river Cijevna are a cool out-of-the-city spot, popular among locals and less known to the visitors. On hot summer days, you can cool yourself off by jumping into calm waters. It only takes a 10 minute drive from Podgorica to Tuzi to get to the Niagara falls.
Roman Settlement Duklja
In the northern outskirts of the city, you can visit one of the best preserved ancient historical sites in Podgorica: the Roman settlement Duklja, built in the 1st century. There’s not much tourist infrastructure on the site. It is rarely crowded so you can usually explore the old ruins on your own.
While being in the area you might want to visit Zenta Winery, located above the shores of Zeta river in Rogami. What began as an experimental vineyard has grown into one of the most renowned wine brands in the country. A cozy tasting room with old ceiling beams is a great place to end the day, but arrange your visit in advance.
An alternative way of approaching Duklja is an insightful 4-5-hour bike tour from the center of Podgorica, following the river Moraca to Duklja. The biking tour continues on the banks of Zeta river all the way to Danilovgrad. Montagna Agency provides you with bikes, accompanying vehicle and guides.
Free Climbing at Smokovac
If you feel like getting some air under your feet, limestone rock formations at Smokovac are the place to go. Smokovac, located 5 km Northeast of Podgorica, is a hot spot for free climbers of all levels of experience from absolute beginners to professionals.
Climbers are supported by a guide, using safety ropes, and provided with climbing equipment. For more information contact Montagna Agency.
Our home away from home has been Hotel and Restaurant Laguna, renowned for authentic cuisine that can be rarely experienced in Podgorica. Try delicious ‘priganice’ for breakfast or carp fish, eel, ‘rastan’ (green cabbage stew) or ‘japraci’ (traditional rolled green cabbage stuffed with meat and rice) for lunch or dinner. Be prepared for generous portions!
On our trips, we devoted special attention to local heritage and nature protection, thanks to our trusted and responsible tourist guide Nino M. Markovic from Montenegro Tour Guide.
Written by Tadeja L. Colnar
Prepared within the EU-funded project ‘Laguna Heritage Tourism Cluster’ (LHTC), led by the Institute for Strategic Studies and Prognosis (ISSP).
While working on the Upper Egypt Local Development Project…
Journey to the Heart of Dandara
Ancient Egyptian sights have been attracting visitors from all over the world for centuries. However, true and sustainable treasures of this land are revealed in authentic encounters with its people in places out of sight.
A two hour drive from the famous Luxor brought us to a less known gem among Ancient Egyptian temples, the Temple Complex in Dandara. First temples there date back to 2250 BC, but most of them were built in 360–343 BC. They are devoted to the Goddess Hathor who personifies the principles of joy, celebration, love, and motherhood. She is associated with the Greek Goddess Aphrodite and the Roman Goddess Venus. Historians say that more festivals were honoring her than any other Egyptian deity.
One of the major festivals took place every summer when the Goddess Hathor went on a journey from Dandara to Edfu to meet with Horus. The people of Ancient Egypt celebrated their reunion, symbolizing all that is good in life, abundance, creativity and wholeness.
Worshiping Hathor was popular both among the poor working class of Egypt, as well as the ruling elite. As the bringer of life and comforter in death, Hathor embodied the heavenly Nile as she brought the best kind of gifts from the gods to the people of earth*. She was also a goddess of poetry and dance. No wonder that Qena and Dandara are known to be the cradle of storytelling in Egypt.
Upon arriving at the temple’s entry, we were welcomed by poetic confessions of joy and pain by some local musicians. Having experienced this performance, I am only imagining how magical a storytelling festival, organized in Qena, must have been even to the visitors not familiar with the Arabic poetry.
Simple life can be experienced in Dandara village with children running around, traders of snacks, offering their products around the corner, and old men with donkeys, carrying their grandchildren.
A small community of women has been trained and provided with seed capital to sustain jewelry making. Their necklaces, bracelets and rings are shown in local exhibitions, however meeting these women is as rewarding as appreciating their products.
Back home these beautiful turquoise artisanal pieces will remain a tangible memory of my day spent with them.
Pottery makers kindly introduced us into their production process. A simple pottery kiln is positioned in the first line of the village, overlooking the Nile. Yes, the amazing river of life deserves special attention for it significantly fills the area with an unusual sense of peace. Numerous birds, overflying its shores, speak of abundant supply for life to all species.
Dandara has given me the gift of authenticity, the one whose colors and fragrances stay with you for a long long time. It is the people, who uncover the character of places and there is a certain camaraderie in such encounters which transcend our cultures.
*Sources: J. J. Mark: Hathor, 2009; and D. B. Redford: Oxford Guide to Egyptian Mythology, 2003.
Piva Lake Pearls
Embraced by mountains and enchanted by legends, Piva lake area in Northwestern Monenegro is often neglected, but well worth visiting. Piva pearls are attractive on their own and they are also a good place to make home base for exploring Durmitor and Tara.
Welcome to the Silence
We escaped the crowds and distractions of civilization by taking a half an hour boat trip from Plužine to a little lakeshore camp with appealing name ‘Ajmo u tišinu’. Talking about the trend of ‘silence tourism’, here we truly experienced it. A marked trail through the woods led us to a lookout point with a beautiful view of the lake, resembling a big star.
Later on, in the shade of oak and hornbeam trees, we enjoyed coffee and a crackling fire while our hosts prepared lunch. Trout from Piva lake, grilled together with zucchini, peppers, tomato, and onions with home-made bread and cheese – a meal to remember!
Medovina, the Mead
Quests in the Piva mountains are inspiring and fun. They brought us to monumental medieval tombstones, called ‘stecak’. There are more than 600 registered ‘stecaks’ in natural condition in this area.
The town of Plužine is famous for tasty medovina, the mead, and Zvono’s specialities cooked in it. Legends say that the mead used to be the drink of the Gods and was considered to be the elixir of youth and immortality, the source of spiritual power and physical strength of ancient heroes.
Piva Monastery and Secluded Villages
An early morning stop at the remarkable Piva Monastery filled us with peace and reverence. The Monastery was built in 16th century at the spring of Piva river and although it was Christian religious center, its construction was approved by the Ottoman rulers. As a result, the church in the monastery contains a fresco depicting Savatije Sokolović (the Serbian Orthodox patriarch) and Sokollu Mehmed Pasha (Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire), which is an unusual rarity.
In 1982, The Piva Hydro Electric Project created a vast water reservoir. The water covered the old Plužine village, two thirds of the area’s agricultural land, and several natural hot and cold springs. Only the Piva Monastery was saved, as it was moved to a new location stone by stone together with 1,500 square meters of frescoes. Preserving this monastery was a huge undertaking for ex-Yugoslav historical conservationists.
We continued our journey to the nearby farm of Željko Mitrić, the renowned honey producer, for a delicious breakfast. His farm is overgrown with fragrant flowers and embraced by aromatic meadows. His special pear orchard contains an endemic variety of pears, called “mrkaljuša.” Some of the trees are over 100 years old. The “Mrkaljuša” is a small fruit that can be eaten fresh, but is primarily used for the production of high quality brandy and “pear water” made by a process of dipping the fresh fruit into water and aging the liquid. This bitter “pear water” is believed to be very healthy.
Hiking Durmitor Ring: Thrilling Legends and Amazing Vistas
A new day in the Piva region started with preparations for our hiking escapade in the Durmitor mountains. While approaching our starting point in the mountains, our legendary guide Mirko revealed the legend of Todor whose unfortunate love for Ružica caused the jealousy of fairies and eventually gave name to the mountain Prutaš (2.393 m.a.s.l.) – the highest peak on our hiking expedition whose rock formations resemble “fairies’ hair.”
Experienced local mountaineering guides share deep respect for the mountain, never underestimating its power and always admiring its breath-taking beauty. Beautiful vistas filled our spirits, but we certainly deserved a good breakfast at the top of Prutaš. For most of us, breakfast at the 2.393 m doesn’t happen very often in our lives.
On our way back to the valley we crossed the border between the regions of Piva and Drobnjak and heard about another legend of a wise old lady Baba Kruna who put an end to the endless fights about where the border should be placed. She performed a ritual with stones and said that she is standing with one foot on the Piva territory and with the other one on the Drobnjak soil. On that place people put a stone wall which still exists and is called Prespa.
Our next stop was Nedajno village, a hidden gem often neglected by tourists heading towards the regional tourist centre of Žabljak. This picturesque village has maintained its traditional appearance with houses with steep roofs and small entrances. Though we visited the village several times before, we never miss a legendary local dish, called ‘cicvara’, made of wheat, corn flour and ‘skorup’ cheese. Our host’s mother used to be the most famous shepherdess and cheese maker in the Piva region.
More Pearls to be Discovered…
We heard so much about Nevidio canyon. Tucked away and hidden in inaccessible terrain, the canyon had attracted attention and curiosity for decades. Endless strange and fantastic stories used to circulate about the last unconquered canyon in Europe. Finally, in August 1965 a band of poorly equipped adventurers from the Javorak Mounteneering and Skiing Club of Niksic successfully passed through the canyon and became the first to introduce the world to the canyon’s long hidden, wild and stunning beauty.
At the end of the Komarnica river valley at an altitude of 935 m.a.s.l. begins the canyon Nevidio or Nevidjbog as is called by locals (which means “God didn’t see” in Montenegrin). As it enters the canyon, the Komarnica river suddenly disappears through a strangely carved entrance and becomes invisible to human eye. Most of the canyon is in a perpetual shadow – due to the height of its vertical cliffs, sunlight does not reach the bottom. The canyon is a gem of rugged nature that has fascinated visitors since its discovery and this is where we are headed on our next trip to Piva region.
Tadejin blog z naslovom ‘Najboljših 5 doživetij Boke Kotorske za ljubitelje narave’ je bil izbran kot eden od 20 najboljših zgodb o zahodnem Balkanu na cenjenem Balkanvibe portalu.
Crkvice: Embraced by Nature
Aromatic fragrances of the Mediterranean wild herbs are in the air as we are rising up the fragile stony stairs of an old Austro-Hungarian cinema in abandoned village of Crkvice on Orjen mountain in Montenegro. It’s amazing how nature takes over after human activities cease. Birds and other animals dwell in magnificent stony ruins.
When I was working in Suriname I first heard of so called ‘secondary forest’. I remember my imagination soaring as I was observing how the jungle overgrew old cotton plantations.
Something similar happened here, on Orjen. Except that there are no annoying mosquitoes around and the area continues to be partially cultivated by some farmers that are still growing potatoes in tiny karst fields.
Blending history with pristine nature
Some 100 years ago, Crkvice, a vivid military settlement above Risan, has been established to protect and expand the Austro-Hungarian reign in the areas, predominantly ruled by the Turks. In its peak, Crkvice had up to 10,000 inhabitants, mainly families of Austro-Hungarian soldiers. They had all the luxury one could imagine: hotel, tennis court, bowling alley, football field with stands for 1,000 spectators, cinema, brothel, church, bakery, hospital, horse stalls, funicular to drag tree trunks from the woods etc. Altogether over 150 solid buildings were built in a relatively short period.
The most outstanding are the ruins of the old bakery which used to be the largest bakery in the Balkans and the second largest in Europe. It provided bread for whole of Boka Kotor bay. Records show that over 24 tons were produced daily, using automated baking system and electricity created in a very sophisticated generator.
Nowadays, only stony ruins speak of the magnificence of Crkvice. Wildlife expanded, original vegetation regenerated along with old fruit trees, providing abundant food for birds and other animals.
Wildlife- and bird-watching in Crkvice is something unique
Our fellow traveller, Rok Rozman, ornithologist, immediately recognized some characteristic birds for Orjen and later on, along the walk, also some quite rare species. The region of Orjen is known for the biggest precipitation in Europe with the peak of it ranging from autumn to spring. Despite all, the region is surprisingly dry due to the karst surface. Limestone here reaches one of the deepest layers in the world, permitting these huge amounts of rain and snow simply vanish down into crevasses, caves and abysses only to get back to the surface, or even under the sea, in springs 1,500 meters lower in the Boka Kotor bay. This phenomenon leads to unique conditions that create very rare habitats and when combined with the forest-cowered ruins of one of the biggest settlements of its kind, you get an experience like no other.
Wildlife is abundant and especially birds are to be noticed at every step. Nuthatches, tree creepers and tits accompanied us at every step; we spotted many Mediterranean weathers, rock buntings and even black woodpecker. The place is also known to be incredible site for observing birds of prey in the nesting season as well as in migration. We saw a sparrow hawk, but golden eagle and short-toed eagle are to be expected and seen easily for someone, spending more time in Crkvice. The potential for birdwatching is simply amazing.
Non-governmental organisation Center for Protection and Research of Birds of Montenegro is raising awareness about exceptional richness of bird species in the area and about protection of their habitat.
However, local hunters do not always respect hunting regulations and bullets can be noticed around. I trust that this will change in time with the increased awareness of local people and more and more nature lovers, visiting Boka Kotor bay, admiring its magnificent nature.
Crkvice is great for hiking as well. Though easily accessible by car – less than half an hour drive from Herceg Novi – the site is a very suitable starting point for several walking trails that lead to spectacular views and are getting very popular. Local mountaineering clubs Niskogorci and Subra are maintaining mountaineering trails on Orjen and do great job in promoting outdoor activities in the area.
I certainly don’t qualify for a professional birder. But birdwatching can be such fun! Especially, if not taken too seriously. Hours pass by listening to the sounds of nature, something that can rarely be experienced in our everyday lives. And as I had been trying my best to spot nuthatches and tree creepers, another joke from our Montenegrin guides came across. Days spent in laughter!
Upon my return home, I learned that these same enthusiasts from Niskogorci club introduced a new climbing route, called ‘nuthatch’ (brgljez), named after the only European bird that can climb head down. I just love this dedication and Montenegrin sense of humour!
Special thanks to Nativa Institute and Rok Rozman!