Only for archaeological divers: Bileća Lake & its underwater villages

Ljiljana Krejic | Live the World

November 23, 2022

If exploring archaeological ruins is your thing and if diving in the barely known lake in the middle of no man’s land appeals to you, wouldn’t it be great to combine those two? If you happen to be on the Adriatic coast in Montenegro or Dubrovnik in Croatia, keep in mind that in less than one hour drive you can reach an extraordinary hidden gem of south-eastern Bosnia & Herzegovina. Located only 17 from the city of Trebinje, one can find Bileća Lake & its underwater villages – a true paradise for archaeological divers. Don’t expect to see an ordinary lake. Firstly, you will be impressed by it never-ending size, which can be understood when you know that it is the second largest artificial lake in the Balkans. Secondly, the real treasure and many secrets of this place are hidden below the surface, such as the Roman site called Leusinio from the 3rd century BC.

Second largest man-made reservoir in the Balkans

Situated almost on the border with Montenegro, with even a tiny part belonging to that country, Bileća Lake has a surface of 33 km2, which makes it the second largest man-made reservoir in the Balkans, after Buško Lake. Positioned on the altitude of 400 m above the sea level in the vicinity of the town called Bileća, this lake is 18 km long and 4 km wide, and it covers the upper and central part of the Trebišnjica valley, the most fertile land in the country. A rather deep artificial accumulation, with the maximum depth of 104 m, Bileća Lake was created in 1968, when the Grančarevo Dam on the Trebišnjica River was constructed. In fact, the water of the lake is used by the hydroelectric power plant Trebinje I to generate the electricity.

Villages and a monastery that were sunken 50 years ago


Besides its grandeur, Bileća Lake hides the whole underground world below its surface. Before the dam was constructed and the water of the Trebišnjica River sank the valley, the surrounding five villages were evacuated, and numerous houses, farms, cemeteries and churches were flooded. 50 years ago, villages Panik, Orah, Čepelica, Zadublje and Miruše were sunken, including the famous archaeological site from the Roman times called Leusinio. Among many cultural and historical sites, at the bottom of the lake, one can find the original Kosijerevo Monastery, that was also flooded at that time. Curiously, the monastery was moved to the village of Petrovići in Montenegro. Actually, at the bottom of the lake exists an entire world that preserves many secrets. And there is no better way to discover it than by diving. No wonder that Bileća Lake and its underwater villages are, slowly but surely, becoming a popular destination for archaeological divers.

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