Ćiro Railroad: Zavala – Dubrovnik

by Toni Zorić


The historic narrow gauge railway with a steam locomotive passes from Mostar along the Neretva River, through Čapljina, Popovo polje, Ravno, and near Ivanica, crossing the border with Croatia all the way to Dubrovnik. The construction of the railway began in 1898 and ended in 1901. During its existence, Ćiro connected places in Herzegovina and brought them life, and today the railway has been reconstructed into a bicycle path.

The Austro-Hungarian monarchy, which ruled the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, built a network of narrow gauge railways (0.76 m wide). It built the railways primarily as strategic military facilities and they connected the southern Adriatic ports with the hinterland and Central Europe. The railways in Herzegovina were built as part of the Southern Railway, and the first section of the railway from Metković to Mostar, 42.4 km long , was released on the market on June 13, 1885. while the railway from Gabela to Zelenika in the Bay of Kotor (Montenegro), 155.5 km long, with branches from Hum to Trebinje (16.7 km) and Uskoplje to Gruž in Dubrovnik in the Republic of Croatia (16.5 km) , put into operation in 1901. The narrow gauge railway served the people, connecting countries, regions, peoples and cultures. These were the railways of salvation for the peoples of these areas, they enabled them a better life and overall progress, and they left a trace of civilization in the places through which Ciro drove, roared, beat, whistled and let off steam for decades. trains towed by soot steamers were called gemišteri (mixed trains), šnelcug (high-speed trains) and personal (passenger trains). The nickname Ćiro was imposed just before the abolition of narrow-gauge railways, but it has remained recognizable among the people even today.

The narrow gauge railway or the narrow gauge railway Gabela – Zelenika was abolished in 1976. During its existence, the narrow-gauge railway changed five state arrangements.


The excursion begins with a visit to the Vjetrenica cave, the largest and most important cave in Bosnia and Herzegovina. After visiting the cave, we cycle from Zavala to Ivanica, with short breaks at various lookouts and rest areas. We definitely recommend taking a lunch break (lunch package) in Ivanica, a small village located at the Gornji Brgat border crossing (Croatia). After you have regained your energy, you cross the border with the Republic of Croatia, from where you descend to Dubrovnik.

From Hum, the cycling route stretches towards the Mediterranean pearl Dubrovnik, whose Old Town, as well as the Old Town in Mostar, is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. On the way to Dubrovnik, the route passes through Uskoplje, from which two railways came out, which went east and south. The Zelenička railway turned left from the exit turnout below the village of Uskoplje and curved up the hill with an ascent of 17.5 per mille towards Glavska and further towards Zelenika in the Bay of Kotor. The second line exited in the direction of Ivanica, and entered the Republic of Croatia through a tunnel, so with a slope of 27.8 per mille it went down the serpentine towards Dubrovnik.



After Zelenikovac, it stretches along the edge of Popovo polje towards Ravno and passes by the old railway stations in Turkovići and Velja Međa and the stops Trnčina and Dvrsnica. After about 90 kilometers from Mostar, you come to Ravno – a tame, steeply placed Herzegovinian place built of stone with the medieval church of St. Mithras. It is a flat municipal center, administrative and cultural center of Popovo polje. In front of the Municipal Council building, a magnificent monument to the greatest Croatian scholar and priest Josip Ruđer Bošković was erected in 2011 on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of his birth. Josip’s father was born in Orahovo Do in the municipality of Ravno. There was a station building in the place, and now it is a catering and tourist facility. There were three station tracks at the station and it could receive trains with 90 axles. In addition to the reception building, the station department store building also remained.

The bicycle route descends from Ravno towards Zavala and immediately after leaving the place, the route forks into the asphalt and macadam part for the third time. The section of the macadam route descends along Mala Dubravica and the Ljuljevac hill down the longest retaining wall on the route (about 500 m), with a drop of 12 per mille. In this part there is an iron bridge / viaduct that bridges the deep cut of the canyon. From the viaduct, the trail enters the Gradina tunnel L = 340.75 m. In front of the entrance to the tunnel there is a stone sign of the 224th km of the railway from Sarajevo.


The tunnel was breached in a year, and it currently has a large bat habitat, which is why the macadam section of the route ends at the entrance. It is the same on the other side of the tunnel, from where the macadam route extends to Zavala. By the way, the entire section from Ravno to Zavala shows the spectacular landscapes of Popovo polje, which stretches for tens of kilometers towards Trebinje.

The town of Zavala is seven kilometers away from Ravno and not far from the town is the widely known cave Vjetrenica, which has been a protected natural monument since 1952. Also, in this place there is the monastery church of the Presentation of the Mother of God and the Church of St. Peter (remains of the Catholic Church). There was a railway station in Zavala. The reception building and track space was built on a high culvert sub-wall.

When the sub-wall was built, the emperor was told in Vienna that it could not be built. He answered the question “Can a kilo of stone, a kilo of gold? Yes. And it was built. All local, passenger and high-speed trains stopped in Zavala because of the “ferry” from the train to the sea in Slano in Croatia. It is interesting to mention that until the abolition of the railway in 1975, there was one tourist train from Dubrovnik to Zavala in the summer season in the afternoon.


  • Vjetrenica Cave
  • Zavala Museum
  • Zavala Monastery
  • Old station Hum
  • Many other stations along this section
  • Dubrovnik



Although the trail takes us through populated areas, we recommend taking enough water for the ride, especially in the summer. The whole section is asphalted, but it is necessary to bring a mini tool and a tool for patching the inner tubes. Due to the length of the tour, it is recommended to inform family or friends about cycling plans before going for a ride.
Helmet required!





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