Petnjica: Hidden Jewel of Popca

Total distance: 60.07 km
Max elevation: 1098 m
Min elevation: 631 m
Total climbing: 2037 m

GPS

Bihor area is one of the favorite destinations for bikers from Berane and Bijelo Polje. Many roads and trails, many villages, beautiful surroundings, hospitable locals. And exactly there, in Petnjica municipality, there is a hidden corner, untouched jewel of nature on Popca river, known as Bratimin vir. This is a tough to access gordge with cascades, a true oases of piece locked on each side by breathtaking beauty.

Bratimin vir is a fantastic spot for hiking, free climbing, canyoning, but also for biking, and with a little bit of effort a great circular trail could be made for MTB, leading through the forest, on the right bank of Popca, back to Petnjica.

The trail leading to the waterfall and the gordge is nicely marked and the area is properly arranged. As this trail is quite steep at the end, there is a wooden fence to provide safety, and within the gordge there are improvised bridges that will help you cross over Popca, but you need to be very cautious. When you do that, you will reach the hidden and most attractive corner in this place, beautiful oval shaped little lake surrounded by steep and high cliffs, and through the opening on one of the cliffs you will see a waterfall, which is actually a river coming out.

In spring and autumn water level can be very high, while in summer not so much, and you can cross it on foot, instead of climbing on dangerous cliffs and wooden bridges. In any case, the whole place is full of fallen leaves, so you need to be very careful not to slip and fall, since falling here could be extremely dangerous.

But, before you reach the path leading to the waterfall, you have to cross Popca river. And there is no bridge! In summer, in August when water level is low, you could jump from stone to stone to reach the other side, but in any case be ready to take your shoes off and barefoot cross through the river.

Many legends are told about Bratimin vir. They say that long ago here there was a cave with hidden treasure. The treasure was cursed, so whoever tried to reach this cave would be lost forever. There is also a story about two local families who were fighting each other, and each time they would meet there would be wounds as consequence of the meeting, and sometimes they would even kill each other. No one could help them reach peace, until one day two brothers saved a young man from the other family while he was drowning in foaming waterfall. When this young man explained to his family what happened and who saved him. his grandfather and his father sent mediators to the other family asking for peace.

How to reach Bratimin Vir?

If you bike from Berane, you will surely go hrough Petnjica, taking the main road through the Tifran gordge, and in village Bioca you will turn left and go through Ljesnica and Paljuh. 20km later you will find a yellow info board with inscription Petnjica. Another way to come is if you take TT3 route (old road Berane – Rozaje), through Budimlja and Polica (15km).

You can see that Ljesnica roue is longer for 5km, but the option through Budimlja and Polica requires more effort due to higher elevation.

From the info board till the center of Petnjica, near cafe Merak you have 1.7km more, and this is where you should take a break for several reasons – this is the last opportunity to buy snacks in the shop, in cafe Merak you can eat excellent cevapi and drink a juice, and if you don’t feel like eating, you should definitely visit a mosque which is right here. There you have a tap with drinking water, if you are thirsty.

On the cultural route info board wich is located in the court of the mosque you will find the information that this mosque is one of the highest on Balkans, with unique architecture, with wooden poles carved by hand. It has 550m2, and can accommodate up to 1200 visitors. The mosque in petnica is the signle 3-stories mosque in Montenegro. It is couple of centuries old, and its appearance has changed several times. No one knows when precisely it has been built. People believe it was constructed at the end of 16th century, when the importance and influence of Bihor town decreased, so mosques started to be built outside the town walls. Main roads at that time passed near the Popca river, so along these trails new mosques have been built. Historians believe that construction of this mosque is connected to arrival of Hajdar pasha Selim in 1689, when several buildings of oriental style have been constructed in Bihor and Lim valley. And so on, you will find more details on the info board.

Continuing our Bihor adventure we will pass the turn to Radmance and Lagatore, and start the incline that is 7km long, taking the asphalt road which is not really frequently passed by cars. Average ascent here is 6% and maximum is 18%, and you will find along this trail 2 nicely arranged taps with good water. You will also find a green info board saying ‘Izletiste Popca, Teferic, Beckova luka, and a sign showing right towards a small steep trail that leads to the river. This location we intend to explore next time.

On 25th kilometer if you go through Polica (or 5km more of you go through Ljesnica) there is a highest (1095m) and most important point on this route – you will notice unpaved road on the right going down – this is the road you need to take. If you miss this crossroad you will end up in Bor village (1190m).

You will go down for 2km, on not really good and smooth road, until you reach Popca river. On the very begining of this decline there is a tap, the last one before Bratimin vir, so make sure you get your supplies of water here, because even though you will be spending most of the time ahead of you next to the river, there will be no drinking water available.

While biking down you will notice two wooden benches: on the spot where the first bench is located there is a beautiful view of Komovi mountain, and the second bench is on a cliff where you have a view of the abyss – deep gordge of Popca river, and actually right there, beneath you is Bratimin vir, but don’t worry, there is a much easier route to lead us there.

At the end of unpaved road we will reach the bank of Popca, and there is a nice bench and table where you can take a break, just next to the river.

We are almost there. What comes next is crossing of the river that we mentioned at the beginning of this story. You could ride your bike for the next half kilometer to Bratimin vir, but the trail is often only 50cm wide, and on the right side there is not really an abyss, but a very steep cliff of the canyon. So if you are not really skilled, it is better to pass this trail on foot.

When you finally reach the wooden fence, leave your bike here, as it is impossible to take it down to the waterfall (990m) with you, and start exploring this secret place that will completely charm you with its magic, so much that you will often return here.

Since the time my friend, who is originally from this area, took me to Bratimin vir couple of years ago, I often come back here, several times a year, even in winter. Mostly as photographer, but I started visiting as biker as well.

How to reach Bratimin vir from Bijelo Polje or Rozaje is something I would leave to bikers from those areas to decide, they know better all the roads and trails of their towns, and for bikers who visit here as tourists seeking adventure, i recommend following circular trails:

From Bijelo Polje: Overview of route | Download
From Rožaje: Overview of route | Download

Whoever you are, if you are goodwilling and ecologically aware not to disrupt the beaty and piece of this hidden jewel in any way, you are welcome to enjoy absolute piece full of birds singing and the sounds of Popca river.

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