Banja Luka

Banja Luka is beautiful town on both sides of the Vrbas River, the second largest city of Bosnia and Herzegovina, surrounded by rolling green hills of the north-western Bosnia and Herzegovina. Banja Luka is the capital of Republika Srpska /one of two entities of Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina/, and the second largest town in Bosnia and Herzegovina, with population of 250000, economic, financial, cultural and tourist center of Republika Srpska.

Illyrian tribes had settled in the fertile valley of Vrbas River since the prehistoric time. Banja Luka was established during the Roman era, when the first fortifications in the region have been built in order to supply and protect the important trading route passing through, of which the most significant road led from Split /Salona/ to Gradiska /Servitium/. On the territory of the  present day town of Banja Luka there was the Roman military camp from the 1st til the 3rd century. Market and production center was developed here, where the trading roads were passing. The Romans had already been using the famous surrounding thermal springs of the Gornji Seher /nowadays Srpske Toplice/, Slatina and Laktasi Spas. After fall of the Roman Empire, Slav tribes have settled here in the 6th and the 7th century. Slav fortification of the 9th til the 12th century was discovered during excavations on the present day Kaštel Fortress in Banja Luka. In the Middle Ages along the Vrbas River numerous strongholds have been built.

After Turks occupied Bosnia, Banja Luka experienced the same fate in 1582, when it was burnt to the ground to be restored later, when the settlement of Oriental style was developed. Banja Luka became the seat of the vast Bosanski Pashaluk /district of the Ottoman Empire/. During that historical period numerous public structures and Islamic monuments have been built as the Ferhadija Dzamija /mosque built by Ferhad Pasha Sokolovich/, the Clock Tower, mills, bridges as well as karavan saray /stations for changing horses and rest/, wheat storage, the new bazaar /market/ with about 200 artisan workshops and trade shops … Gazi Ferhad Paša Sokolović, relative of the Vizier Mehmed Paša Sokolović was the founder of Banja Luka which was named Donji Seher at that time. The Ferhadija Mosque in Banja Luka was built in 1579 in the architectural style of the famous Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan, and used to be one of the most significant and valuable cultural-historical monument of the oriental cultural in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Ferhadija mosque was demolished in 1993 during the civil war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and its reconstruction, under the original design lasted from 2006 til recently. Orthodox Christian Monasteries of outstanding beauty and value were established in the wide region of Banja Luka during the 16th and the 17th century, which testify on the Serbian Medieval construction. Gomionica Monastery in Zmijanje was founded in the style of the Raska school of architecture, and legend has it that it was endowment of the Zmijanje prince Obrad. Moštanica Monastery, located in the triple junction between Banja Luka, Prijedor and Kozara National Park, was built in 1562 in the Morava architectural style. Liplje Monastery is situated on the slopes of the Borja Mountain, in proximity of Maslovar. It was built at the end of the 15th and the beginning of the 16th century and features distinctive elements of the Raska school of architecture.

When Austrian forces quickly entered the town in 1688, the historical core of the Seher was burnt to the ground. Destruction of Banja Luka continued by number of battles, fires and plaque, which totally destroyed population at the end of the 18th century. After the Berlin Peace Congress in 1878, Banja Luka become significant artisan and industrial center under the protectorate of the Austria-Hungary. Within the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes Banja Luka experienced true prosperity when schools, roads, bridges, factories, administrative buildings, Theater, hotel and other structures have been built. Banja Luka suffered its worst destruction after the Second World Was in catastrophic earthquake in 1969, after which, thoroughly restored the town got its entirely new appearance. During the most recent civil war in Bosnia Banja Luka was not under the direct attacks, but the structure of its population changed significantly.

Situated in a basin 164 meters above sea level, where the Dinaric Alps from the south descend into the Pannonian Basin in the north, Banja Luka features temperate continental climate with the prevailing influences from the Pannonian plain. Vrbas River features blue-green waters and beautiful landscapes, along its course from the Zec Mountain through the rocky terrain up to the Sava River, and belongs to one of the most beautiful rivers of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Tributaries of the Vrbas River – Pliva, Ugar, Krupa, Rekavica, Svrakava, Suturlija and Vrbanja rivers add to the beauty of the Vrbas River. Cutting its way through rock formations from Jajce to Banja Luka, the Vrbas River has created a fascinating canyon, with number of natural rarities. Rapids, waterfalls, cascades, beaches, surrounding rocks, and the wealth of flora and fauna make this region specific. The Vrbas Canyon is the habitat of numerous relic and endemic plant and animal species that represent the specific ecosystem of the canyon. Vrbas River is also very suitable for numerous water sports on its wild waters – kayak, canoe, rafting, fly fishing, as well as ride of the specific boat called dajak, after a special pole used to push it move through the water. The Vrbas River canyon was protected in 1955 as the Reserve of natural landscapes. It is set between Jajce on the south and Banja Luka in the north. Actually the Vrbas River canyon comprises two smaller canyons – the Podmilačje canyon and the Tijesno canyon. The Vrbas River had created a canyon where under specific conditions that are applied in the canyon ecosystem, the variety of endemic and relic plant and animal species had developed. The Tijesno canyon is ideal for adventurous sports as kayak, canoe, rafting, aplinism … The Tijesno canyon is used in its whole length of 31km for water and adventure sports. The Tijesno canyon on Krupaon the Vrbas River is only 12 km away from the center of Banja Luka. It features crystal clear water of 2nd category, rich and varied flora and fauna and cultural and historical monuments and attractions. In regard with man-made infrastructure, there is the night rafting infrastructure that provide rafting during night, being the illuminated rafting trail as the world rarity.

Banja Luka belongs to the Central European Time zone (GMT +1). The average annual temperature in Banja Luka reaches 10,7°C, the average January 0,8ºC, whereas the average temperature in July reaches 21,3ºC. Due to many of its green surfaces – parks and tree-lined roads, Banja Luka is also known as the city of greenery. It is also called a city of young people, sport and culture. Banja Luka is famous and renown for beautiful girls, banjalučki ćevap /cevap – minced grilled meat from Banja Luka/, “Nektar” Beer, “trapist” cheese and specific dajak boat.

Banski Dvor in the city center is one of the most famous cultural symbols of Banja Luka. The building of the cultural center was built in the 30s of the 20th century, and is one of the few that was preserved despite the natural disasters and public unrest. Today, this cultural center of Banja Luka has a concert hall, several exhibition rooms and special rooms for academic activities. Many activities that are held here are open to the public.

An architectural landmark of Banja Luka is the amazing Orthodox Cathedral, situated in the city center, in a small but pretty square surrounded by neat grass lawns. The Banja Luka Cathedral is built in a classic eastern Orthodox style in the 1920s. It suffered damage during the Second World War, and has recently been refurbished. The internal decorations are exquisite, full of gold detailing and intricate painted decorations, while the outer tower is grand and imposing.

The Museum of Republic of Srpska in Banja Luka contains rich collections of the local heritage and history, including the section for Archaeology, the Section for History, the Section for Ethnography, the Section for Art History and the Natural Sciences Section. The collections of the Museum of Republic of Srpska include 106.364 artifacts and some 14300 books, that introduce visitors on the distant past until the end of the Second World War, including graphic presentation of suffering of the Bosnian Serbs in the Ustasha concentration camps during the Second WW. Of extraordinary importance is the Zmijanje Embroidery Collection that represent works of associations that practice the Zmijanje Embroidery in the 21st century, that is part of the UNESCO Heritage.

Places to see in Banja Luka : Kastel – Castle with the altar dedicated to the Jupiter, Museum of Republic of Srpska, Canyon of Vrbas River /12 km away from Banja Luka, featuring steep sides and whirlpools that are premium white-river rafting location or nature exploration and rare species watching/, Ferhadija Mosque, Krajina Square, Gospodska street Promenade, Banski dvor /Residences of the Bosnian Bans/, Petar Kocic Monument /distinguished fighter for freedom and a voice of truth against the Austro-Hungarian authorities/, springs and mills on the Krupa River, Medieval town of Greben, Gomionica Monastery, Krupa Monastery, Monastery of Saint Elijah, the Trappist Monastery /Franciscan monks of the Trappist monastic order established Monastery and were devoted to the special vow of silence and thus dedicated to work and prayers/, Medieval fortress of Bocac /15th century, 30 km away from Banja Luka, on road to Jajce/, Laktasi and Slatina Spas, Bardaca Reserve with 11 lakes between rivers of Vrbas and Sava, very suitable for hunting and fishing, rock climbing and hiking along the canyon of the Vrbas between Banja Luka and Jajce,…