Secret Dalmatia Blog - Travel Experiences in Croatia

Sacred places of Illyria

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Illyria is probably not the best name for the region that is still so mysterious as we struggle in getting answers to even the basic quastions about the ancient inhabitants that lived here. It encompasses  Dalmatia and it’s hinterland including Hercegovina in modern day Bosnia and Hercegovina as this region shared a lot of history despite the artificial divisions. So, studies on the Illyrian tribes, ancient cultures and traditions in Dalmatia,  is never complete without stepping into beautiful Hercegovina.

This past weekend, I joined my friend Domagoj and his wife Sanja for a journey to some of the most mysterious and most sacred places in this beautiful part of the Balkans.

The stećci of Radimlja
The stećci of Radimlja

Our first stop was one of the very special places in the entire region: stećak monuments necropolis near Radimlja. I wrote about stećak monuments earlier so I will not go into too many details. This particular necropolis is considered to be the most special of them all as it has all stećak forms and 5 writings as well as some of the most wonderful carvings.

Hello! From the pastures in heaven...
Hello! From the pastures in heaven...
Another beautifuly carved stećak
Another beautifuly carved stećak

The necropolis has been divided in two when the Austrian government built a road. Same as in Cista Provo necropolis, someone decided that the road must go through the necropolis… There are 63 stećak monuments in Radimlja and it is not the biggest as there are 500 grouped monuments in Cetina and there are about 70 000 in the entire region. Some are very ancient and some are not. Some are carved and many are just big blocks of stone…Nevertheless, they are all very impressive. I always pictured this place with dark and gray stone monuments but the local archaeologists decided to clean them thus making them appear brand new. Not sure if that was the right decision but Radimlja monuments are definitely amazing!

And then we moved to another very special place: Daorson.

Entering Daorson
Entering Daorson

After you pass the recently restored old city of Stolac and into Ošanići, we headed up a steep hill to a natural plateau. At the very western edge of the plateau, a megalithic walls of Daorson appeared in front of us as a storm clouds were forming in the distance.

Today, Daorson is badly damaged site and we know very little about it. The name was given to this place by the archaeologists after they have found several coins with the name DAORS within the walls. It is assumed that there was a mint in Daorson as well. But, one thing puzzles me… This is supposed to be a city? It is tiny! And has no logic of a city being on this very spot and having this huge wall on some places just 10 meters from the edge.

The megalithic blocks
The megalithic blocks

According to the older drawings, just after the entrance, there was a pyramid. However, the archaeological campaign in 1960s leveled it! But one pyramid survived the total destruction…

The pyramid by the dry creek
The pyramid by the dry creek

Daorson is still very impressive and the theory saying that this place was a very important temple is more believable than saying this was a city. Read more on Daorson on Domagoj’s great blog: and definitely mark it as a must see spot if in the region! We spent over an hour just soaking the energy of this amazing place and trying to understand the logic of building it at this very spot.

Next we drove to picturesque Blagaj village where small river Buna starts it’s journey from the depths of Earth. This is one of the largest and most beautiful springs in Europe producing, at times,  about 30 m3/sec. of very clear and very cold water!

Buna spring
Buna spring

Next to the very spring is a famous  Blagaj Tekija (a sort of a Muslim monastery) and it was built in 1520s or so by the Turks when they conquered the region. We could not get to see it as there were some construction works but that is something to look forward to next time when I am here..  A boat ride to the cave if offered and there are several restaurants on both banks serving authentic Turkish-Bosnian specialties. And that is something not to miss!

The local specialities
The local specialities

This was simply delicious although these restaurants are famous for their trout.

So we returned late that afternoon full of impressions. But that did not prevent us from making plans for next day.

Red Lake of Imotski
Red Lake of Imotski

Next morning we took a hike around the lakes of Imotski. Both beautiful and both very unusual geological phenomena. We also wen to see so called “Dry Lake”  – a hole in the ground resembling the Red and Blue lake but with no water. We also visited several stone structures and unusual formations but everything pales next to the big mound next to the Red Lake. It is most likely the burial mound of a high official or even a king as it is on a very special place.

The mound next to the Red lake
The mound next to the Red lake

And next to it we found even more interesting and more peculiar traces of ancient civilization.

Eyes of the guardians?
Eyes of the guardians?

Resembling eyes in the petrified heads, this is something strangest I have seen in stone walls anywhere in Croatia!

So, plenty of questions still unanswered in the hills of Illyria!


7 Replies to “Sacred places of Illyria”

  1. Everyone coming to Dalmatia are amazed with so much history!! Archeologist still have so much to do…
    You are great PR!!

  2. @ Rada – lotta hard work :)) You are doing your part, too! ;))
    @ Dalmacija – nema nista organizirano ali ja sa Domagojem mogu dogovoriti obilaske. Imotski već radimo i nevjerojatna je povratna informacija!Ovo su mista koja bi tribala imati stotine ljudi na dan ali mozda je i bolje ovako…

  3. These are nice photos of major historic sites, but you are wrong to say they are in Dalmatia or anywhere in Croatia. The Radimlja site, the town of Stolac, and Buna source at Blagaj are all in the Herzegovina region of Bosnia and Herzegovina. If you came from Croatia (and returned to it to see Imotski) you crossed and re-crossed an international border. Please post a correction. Bosnians have valued these site for centuries.

  4. @ Jim – I never said this was in Croatia! This is, of course, Hercegovina and you are right that I was not specific enough. I am also referring to times of the past when this region was not artificially divided by “Croatia – Bosnia” border as the monuments were created much further in the past. These sites don’t belong to Bosnia and Croatia but to all of us.

  5. tuzno se kititi tudjim perijem :)))
    isti ti Dalmati izadaose Daorse Rimljanima…Daorsi su bili strah i trepet za Dalmate ali nikad nisu dirali njihovo…
    Dalamcija nikad nije bila na prostorima koje opisujes na gornjim sta se moze…mi Bosanci, potomci Ilira smo i navikli da se hvalite nama samima 🙂
    ako vec nemate svoje dobrodosli u susjedstvo, mi imamo i za sebe i za vas i vase goste 🙂

  6. Nigdi nije napisano da su Daorson i Radimlja u Dalmaciji!
    Vrlo jasno se zna gdje su oni po današnjem određenju granica a ja samo govorim da je to dio prastarog teritorija gdje su zivjeli Iliri. E sada, tko su tocno Iliri, koje pleme je zivjelo gdje znamo samo iz pera stranaca pa sam ja vrlo fleksibilan iza interpretacije i sl. Takoder, po tim starim piscima su i Dalmati i Liburni ilirska plemena a to je sve dosta diskutabilno. A o tome kome Vi osobno pripadate, moze samo utvrditi DNK analiza ali onda se vraćamo na ono “naše i tako balkansko – u negativnom smislu” prebrojavanje krvnih zrnaca i spontanog čišćenja djedovih pušaka ili posezanja za tetkinom sjekirom u štali… 🙂 Zato, još jednom – u tekstu jasno piše da se odlazi u Hercegovinu, dio pradavne Ilirije a bilo bi bolje da mi se javite na mail pa da odemo vidit još koji lokalitet da predstavim na stranicama jer je sramota da takvi veličanstveni spomenici imaju tako malo posjetitelja!

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