Delta of the Croatian river Neretva – An agricultural and kitesurfing heaven
Long sandy beaches, hot surfers, goluptious tangerines, and mystical trstika (Giant reed) – this scene perfectly evokes the refined vibes of the delta of the Neretva river in Croatia.
If you adore the feeling of your feet sinking into the sand and a jazzy sunny atmosphere, go to the Neretva paradise. It is a world full of small pleasures, and there are no doubts about why people call it “Croatian Brazil”.
Neretva is the ideal spot in Croatia for kitesurfing, where adrenaline sports lovers can satisfy their addiction. Imagine riding the waves of a glorious maestral wind and watching the sunset after the sea takes your last atom of energy.
In this article, we cover:
The facts are these…
Kitesurfing and wealth of Neretva estuary in Croatia
The source of the river of Neretva is situated below the Zelengora and Lebršnik mountains in Bosnia and Herzegovina at 1.095 meters of elevation. Neretva is 225 kilometers long, out of which 205 kilometers pass through Bosnia and Herzegovina and only 20 kilometers in Croatia.
Neretva is a fast river that flows through valleys, canyons, and narrow riverbeds. It occupies a total area of about 5.580 square kilometers. The river enters Croatia near the city of Metković (view map), where its widest area begins.
The river of Neretva flows into Jadransko more (Adriatic sea), where it forms a delta – a mouth of a river that branches into several backwaters. Neretva is the only Croatian river that has a delta. The area of Neretva’s delta covers 196 square kilometers.
The area around the river of Neretva in Croatia has several names:
- Delta Neretve (The delta of Neretva)
- Dolina rijeke Neretve (Neretva river valley)
- Neretvanska blatija (Neretva muddy area)
- Donje Poneretavlje
The area from Metković to its mouth, including the delta of the Neretva river, has been under UNESCO protection since 1992. It originally consisted of 12 backwaters, but now it looks different due to the cultivation. The swamp lost 8 backwaters and was turned into agricultural land.
In recent decades, the delta of the river Neretva has experienced the most intense transformation. Once, it was a swampy area with hydrophilic vegetation and various bird and fish species.
You can learn about the best places to go fishing in Croatia and the rules you must abide by in this guide.
Nowadays, drained swamps create the delta. The land is cultivated with modern and commercial crops. The cultivation impacted the plant and animal world, so the future should be based on the protection of nature. Main Croatian highways, railways, and maritime traffic pass through Neretva’s area.
When traveling to Dubrovnik from the northern part of Croatia, you will pass through – and inevitably get distracted by – the basin of the delta. It looks nothing like the rest of Croatia.
The old settlement of Narona
Neretva has been an important connection between the sea and inland from the beginning.
Its area has been inhabited since the prehistoric period, 11.000 years B.C. In the 4th century B.C., the Greeks founded a settlement in the Neretva valley called Narona, today’s Vid.
Narona was an ideal location for traffic and trading. Its size was twice the size of today’s delta area. Nowadays, Arheološki muzej Narona (Archaeological Museum of Narona) is situated there. It is the first museum in Croatia built on the site itself.
In the 7th century, Croats arrived in this area and founded the Principality of Neretva. Neretvans were very skilled sailors, so they were called Neretva pirates. They were the fear of the Adriatic Sea for a long time. Their most famous leader was the Croatian prince Domagoj.
Neretva pirates used boats very similar to the ones locals use nowadays. The boat is called lađa or neretvanska lađa, and it is a traditional Neretva vessel. It was used for the transport of goods and people, and now it is used only in tourism.
Lađa was created by increasing the dimensions of another Neretva vessel called trupa or Neretvanska trupica. Neretva farmers would use them in the fields and transport smaller loads.
Fortresses Kula Norinska and Fort Opus
Neretva was under rule by the Turks and Venetians from the 15th to the 18th century. The Turkish fortress Kula Norinska, and the Venetian fortress Fort Opus, represent this period.
It is assumed that Kula Norinska tower once had 7 floors, not visible nowadays because they sank into the swampy ground. Some believe that two floors were demolished due to the danger of sinking.
After the fall of Venice, the Neretva area was ruled by Austria. The first schools and cultural societies were opened at the time. During the 20th century, the Neretva valley followed the fate of Croatia until its independence in the early 1990s.
Modern agriculture of Neretva
The Neretva valley has three major cities: Metković, Opuzen, and Ploče. Metković is the largest of the three cities, and Ploče is the youngest urban settlement. The town of Opuzen was named after Fort Opus.
The valley of the river Neretva, which was once a swamp, is an important Croatian agricultural area. The most significant produce of the Neretva is Neretva’s tangerine called neretvanska mandarina. In addition, the ground is ideal for the cultivation of lubenica (watermelon), šljiva (plum), nektarina (nectarine), rajčica (tomato), salata (lettuce), and krastavac (cucumber).
The Neretva’s tangerine is a successful crop since the growing conditions are excellent. It was originally imported from Japan about 80 years ago.
Neretva food, lakes, and tourism
Neretva locals are proud of Neretvanski brudet, a traditional local meal. Brudet is a soup dish eaten with a spoon that includes some combination of eels, fish, frogs, mullet, and coots. It can be prepared in many different ways.
If you want to try a traditional Neretva brudet, visit a restaurant called Teta Olga (Aunt Olga). Its tradition seizes back to 1968 and is often visited by Croatian athletes, players of the Split football club called Hajduk, and other famous people.
If you want to prepare this meal at home, be sure to buy high-quality fish. You can view a recipe for Neretvanski brudet here.
When traveling through the delta of Neretva, visit the lakes called Baćinska jezera (view map). The complex consists of 7 lakes, and 6 of them are connected. The water in the lakes is sweet, but some springs are connected directly to the Adriatic sea. To get a full experience, take a ride on the lake with a traditional neretvanska lađa.
The delta of Neretva is also known as a heaven for kitesurfing, which we cover in a separate section.
In memory of the Neretva pirates, the traditional boat race called Maraton lađa (Ladja Marathon) has been held on Neretva since 1998. Maraton lađa is an amateur sports competition – a race in lađa. As we already mentioned, lađa is a traditional autochthonous vessel of the Neretva river valley.
Maraton lađa is held once a year on the second Saturday in August. The race sailing route stretches along the river Neretva, from Metković to Ploče, and is 22.500 meters long. Over 400 rowers participate in this boat race. The marathon has become the largest maritime sports event in this part of Europe and an important tourist event.
In addition, there is also a female marathon called Maraton lađarica, aimed specifically for women. Over the years, women joined the Maraton lađa, so the first marathon only for women was held in 2013.
Adrenaline junkies will enjoy the fact that Neretva is a true paradise for kitesurfers. The location is ideal for this sport due to Croatian winds called maestral and tramuntana.
In addition, the beaches of the Neretva estuary are sandy, and the water is flat and shallow. The sea goes from ankle-deep to deeper. The sea bottom is sandy and covered with seaweed. This location is called hrvatski Brazil (Croatian Brazil).
Maestral blows from Sveti Ilija, the largest peak of the Pelješac peninsula. It cools the Neretva and Dalmatian karst, vineyards, and olive groves, and entices kitesurfers. The season starts after May 1 and lasts until the end of September.
Maestral is the strongest in July and August, so this is a peak for kitesurfers. Once maestral occurs, which is usually in the afternoon hours, around 16-17, you can see more than a hundred kiters flying above the sea during the season.
Kitesurfers, surfers, and rowers that visit the Neretva are mostly foreign citizens. Most of them come from Italy, Germany, Hungary, Poland, and Russia. Slovenians are permanent guests. Many are experienced kiters who have already visited numerous world kitesurfing destinations. However, there are a lot of beginners, and they usually attend a kite school on Neretva.
Even if you are not into adrenaline sports, be sure to visit the delta of Neretva anyways. The swimming experience and chilling on a soft sandy beach are unique and different. You can always observe experienced surfers and learn something from them.
However, if you want to learn about kite equipment, flying technics, safety, piloting an inflatable kite, water relaunch, body dragging in the water, and self-rescue technics, enroll in a kitesurfing school.
Two following kite centers operate on the Neretva estuary, each with a private kite school.
Neretva kiteboarding kite center
In 2011, a kite center called Neretva kiteboarding was established at the mouth of the Neretva. A year later, they found a Kite School, the first school in that part of Croatia. The kitesurfing school last 3 days, and equipment is included.
This spot is ideal for beginners and learning due to less wind, more seaweed, and a slightly less flat sea.
Kiteboarding Komin kite center
Another kitesurfing center on Neretva is Kiteboarding Komin. Their kitesurfing school also lasts 3 days and is led by professional kitesurfing instructors.
This spot is special for the various ways of kitesurfing you can practice. It is a jewel for intermediate and advanced kitesurfers because the wind is strong and reliable. They also have a cafe bar where you can chill and enjoy the sea view.
View our other nature articles
- Croatia’s tradition of dry-stone walls
- Hum, Istria: Smallest city in the world
- Sinjska alka – Croatia’s annual knightly competition in Sinj
- Strict nature reserves of Croatia: Hajdučki i Rožanski kukovi and Bijele i Samarske stijene
- UNESCO monuments of culture and nature in Croatia
Ušće Neretve raj za kitesurfere by Stanislav Soldo
Jedna lađa rikon plovi by Zdravko Musulin
Delta Neretve by Bojan Todorović
Neretva spot pregled – Kitesurfing u Hrvatskoj by GlobalKiteSpots
Please note: Information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal or financial advice in any form. Croatian laws and bureaucratic rules often change, and each personal case is individual, so different rules may apply. For legal advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. For financial advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian tax advisor or accountant.