Discovering Another Side of Bosnian and Herzegovinian Landscapes

Photo: Facebook page “Azimuth 135”

The association Azimuth 135 promotes hiking with the slogan “Walk the Right Path,” offering a diverse range of activities for people of all ages.

Thematic, nocturnal, and high-altitude mountain hikes are just some parts of their program, which allow you to explore the mountains of Central Bosnia, which boast many endemic plant species and fascinating biodiversity. Additionally, you can learn about regional history, including the first king of Bosnia and Herzegovina, all while working towards a healthier lifestyle.

Afan Abazović is a certified mountaineering and tourist guide from Zenica, who founded an association in 2017 called Azimuth 135. He says that the diverse ecosystem of the mountains in Bosnia and Herzegovina is a rare find. He explained that the terrain in the region, while hilly and mountainous, varies from north to south, including rocky and forested areas as well as farmland. Furthermore, the woodlands comprise both coniferous and deciduous forests.

While some hiking trails are already well known, Abazović says he takes great pride in discovering new ones. Azimuth 135 has found and marked several such trails around Zenica.

“The Zenica region has eight mountains, with over 450 kilometers of trails […] If we consider the fact that there are 52 weeks in a year, we come to the incredible conclusion that we would need more than a year of weekly hiking to explore the entire mountainous area of the city of Zenica, including Mahnjača, Hum, Tvrtkovac, Lisac, Smetove, Čolan, Zmajevac, and Kuber,” remarked Abazović. 

He emphasizes that his love for travel and mountaineering came from his parents, who took him on his first hike when he was just six months old, on Mount Vranica. After the war ended, his parents organized day trips for him and his sister, sparking their passion for exploring their homeland.

Afan Abazovic founder and president of the Azimuth 135 Association (Photo: Facebook page “Azimuth 135”)

As a student, he got a part-time job as a tour guide, traveling around Europe with thousands of tourists from Bosnia and Herzegovina and providing them with valuable information.  However, realizing the potential of his home country, he decided to dedicate himself to domestic tourism, in order to “introduce foreign tourists to Bosnia and Herzegovina, especially Central Bosnia.” 

By 2009, he had obtained his certification as a tour guide from the Ministry of Environment and Tourism of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Later, in 2017, he became certified as a mountaineering guide through the Mountaineering Association of Bosnia and Herzegovina. He has also completed several prestigious courses, becoming a tour guide for the Adventure Travel Trade Association, the world’s largest adventure tourism organization. He continued his education at the Political Science Department of the University of Sarajevo, where he earned a master’s degree in international relations and diplomacy. He describes this experience as especially rewarding, because every tour guide is also an ambassador of their country.

Hikes for Everyone 

In addition to being the president of Azimuth 135, since the end of 2022, Afan Abazović has also been the owner of a mountaineering tour guide company called Afantour in Zenica.

From the outset of his mountaineering experience, Abazović had the desire to create unique hiking tours which would be based around specific themes. 

“In Bosnia and Herzegovina, our perception of mountaineering has been that it’s mainly pursued by people in their later years, spending time in mountain lodges. However, mountaineering combines several seemingly unrelated disciplines, including botany, meteorology, photography, psychology, geography, history, organization, and other fields,” Abazović explains. 

Azimuth 135 organizes hikes for children and their parents, nocturnal hikes, hikes for beginners, educational lectures from prominent figures in the world of mountaineering, and high-altitude excursions for more experienced hikers.

“The highlight is the themed tours, such as walks to iftar during the month of Ramadan, hiking tours to explore the endemic species of the Bosnian lily, hikes to Bobovac on the anniversary occasion of the coronation of Tvrtko I Kotromanić as the first king of Bosnia, and many others,” said Abazović. He added that they also offer hikes for foreign tourists in the mountains of Central Bosnia, such as Vlašić, Vranica, and the mountains around Zenica, which boast exceptionally fascinating biodiversity.

Engaging New Hikers

Over the past year, Azimuth 135 has organized 20 activities, with nearly 1,500 participants taking part, averaging around 75 participants per tour. After each tour, participants provided feedback through surveys. The hike on Mount Vitorog near Šipovo received the lowest rating at 87.5 percent, while two hikes, one to Hum and the other to Tvrtkovac near Zenica, received the highest ratings of 100 percent. The average rating for all activities was 95.8 percent. 

Mountaineers on the Dinaric mountain Maglić (Photo: Facebook page “Azimuth 135”)

“An unusually large number of novice hikers participated throughout the year. This was recognized by the Mountaineering Association of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which awarded us with a plaque for being the top promoter of mountaineering in 2022,” said Abazović, adding that the majority of participants were between the ages of 19 and 30.

Regarding promotional strategies to get ahead in the tourism industry, Abazović emphasized the role of social media, stating that “depending on the users and content creators, it can serve as both a tool and a weapon.”  In the context of mountaineering, he explained that social media is an extremely useful tool for facilitating the exchange of information.

“We have to admit that we have only heard and seen many hidden and beautiful locations in Bosnia and Herzegovina through social media. So, I believe that this form of media is crucial for promotion. With just two or three clicks on our cell phone screens, we can find instructions for visiting these places. Fortunately, many of these places are easily accessible by vehicles, but some are not and remain untouched, which is even better. It’s a delight to see them in such a pristine state.” Abazović believes that the average human lifetime is too short to visit all the natural, cultural, historical beauties Bosnia and Herzegovina has to offer.

Elma is a trained Balkan Diskurs correspondent from Zenica. She is a student at the Faculty of Economics at the University of Zenica, in the Department of Management. She is a longtime activist and volunteer. Recently, the focus of her activist engagement has been on human rights, gender inequality, marginalized groups, and war issues.

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