With worn steps straggling up a steep and rocky cliff side on the left banks of the Neretva River, Počitelj is a warren-like, stone-built and fortified village with its origins in the late 14th century. Over the following centuries it expanded under Turkish occupation and is now UNESCO World-Heritage listed for its enchanting combination of medieval and Ottoman architecture. Počitelj is wrapped in fortified walls and entry is through a gate topped by a 16-meter (10-foot) clock tower; the soft stone townhouses and winding alleyways are overshadowed by the tumbledown medieval fortress and octagonal watchtower standing guard on the hill behind the village. The ornate minarets of the domed Hajji Alija mosque were built in 1562, destroyed during the Balkan Wars of the 1990s and subsequently restored along with the madrasa (school) and hamam (baths); from the mosque’s terrace there are unparalleled views across the rocky landscape and down the Neretva river valley.
Počitelj was at its most powerful during Ottoman occupation of the Balkans but slowly lost importance following the advent of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1878. By the late 20th century, the picturesque village was a haven for poets, writers and painters but it was virtually abandoned during the heavy bombing of 1993. Thanks to investment from the EU, an artistic community is slowly resettling there and bringing the cobbled alleyways back to life.
Best reached by the M17 road from Mostar, which is 30 km (18.75 miles) north of Počitelj.