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Countries that don’t often make the big travel lists are often the most rewarding. Why? Because they are untouched, they are not geared up for mass tourism, making them more traditional, cultural, and authentic. This is real travel!
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a safe country to visit – it’s important to point out that fact. Yes, there was a war after the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 90s, which devastated the country and its people. Since that time, however, Bosnia and Herzegovina has been slowly recovering and is now a peaceful and beautiful destination to visit.
The varied landscapes are breathtaking, with high mountains and rolling valleys, and exciting cities, such as the capital, Sarajevo. The unique culture which different rulers over the centuries have influenced is evident everywhere you look. If you want to enjoy a little beach time, Bosnia and Herzegovina has a small stretch (20 km) of crystal clear Adriatic coastline.
In short, there are so many beautiful places to see in Bosnia and Herzegovina you could spend weeks immersing yourself in this fascinating country in the heart of the Balkans.
Where Is Bosnia And Herzegovina?
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a Balkan country, formerly part of Yugoslavia, which gained its independence in 1992. It has a population of 3.8 million and is almost entirely landlocked, with the exception of its 20km Adriatic coastline.
Its neighbors include stunning Croatia, Serbia, and Montenegro. The capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina is Sarajevo, and it has a population of just under 300,000. This lively city is very welcoming and has been restored since being destroyed by the war. Sarajevo is where you’ll find many of the top Bosnia tourist attractions, from museums to historic sites.
For those who like to strap on the hiking boots and explore, the country is a nature lover paradise with some fantastic national parks, including Sutjeska and Kozara.
Right, let’s crack on with the best things to do in Bosnia & Herzegovina:
Start With Sarajevo
The capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina is a city rich in history and culture. The heart of Sarajevo is its charming Old Town. Baščaršija is the Old Town market, which has somewhat of a Turkish vibe and is the perfect place to get a feel for the city and to pick up a little trinket to take home with you!
The city is made up of a mix of Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian architecture with a picturesque skyline. While building watching on a Sarajevo Walking Tour, you’ll notice bullet holes in buildings which are Sarajevo’s scars from the war. For a true understanding of what happened here at the end of the last century, these scars of war are a must-see in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Watch The Divers In Mostar
One of the best things to do in Mostar is to find yourself a cafe, which has a view over the iconic Stari Most (old bridge), and watch the local divers take the plunge into the Neretva River.
The bridge is one of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s most recognizable symbols, and it, along with the adjoining area, was inscribed onto the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2005. It’s one of the most iconic places to visit in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Mostar is a beautiful city in its own right, and wandering around the Mostar old town with its Ottoman architecture, walking over little streams, and browsing the stores with their local wares is a good way to see what Mostar is all about. For the best view of Stari Most, head up to the Koskin Mehmed Pasha Mosque and climb the minaret. Don’t forget your camera!
Head To The Tjentiste War Memorial
The striking thing about this monument is that you have to walk through it. It’s a giant angular concrete structure and was built to commemorate the loss of life in the Battle of the Sutjeska during WWII.
Explore Vrelo Bosne
15 km from Sarajevo, you’ll see the spectacular natural wonder, Vrelo Bosne. Spanning 603 hectares at the foot of Mt Igman, Vrelo Bosne has been a natural retreat for Sarajevo’s city dwellers for centuries. The park is the source of the River Bosna and is packed with lakes, streams, and endemic flora and flora.
This is a great place to take the family, where you can take a horse and carriage ride, frolic in the park’s playgrounds, feed the ducks and swans and walk the park’s many trails. It’s one of the best places to visit in Bosnia and Herzegovina for a revitalizing getaway in nature.
Discover Modern Art In A Former Nuclear Bunker
Burrowed 663 feet into a mountain near Konjic, you will find a nuclear bunker that Tito built from 1953-1979, which has been repurposed as an art gallery.
Numerous exhibitions take place all year round, and while there, why not take a tour of the rest of the facility and explore the bunker beyond the gallery and learn about its history.
See What Started World War 1
Located in Sarajevo is the site where Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated, an event that kick-started the events leading up to World War 1. There is a memorial plaque where the assassination took place: a little creepy but a good landmark to visit for war history buffs.
Head Back In Time At Jajce
You’ll take a step back in time when visiting the walled city of Jajce. The town boasts and stunning waterfall and a collection of small wooden mills. The huge waterfall for which the town is famous is undoubtedly awe-inspiring, with some of the falls measuring 65 feet.
While in town, explore the old town walls and head for the Jajce castle ruins where Bosnian Kings were once crowned. Jajce was the last fortress to resist the Ottoman takeover and has proven to be very resilient throughout its history.
Visit The Sarajevo War Tunnel Museum
One of the best museums in Sarajevo is the Sarajevo War Tunnel Museum. During the war, Sarajevo was under siege, with much of the city under Serbian control.
The tunnel was constructed to link the neighborhoods of Butmir and Dobrinja and passed underneath the Serbian-controlled aircraft runway. The tunnel was hand-dug under challenging circumstances. The museum is located at the Dobrinja entrance to the tunnel displays war relics, weaponry and allows you to take in a small section of the tunnel.
View The Bobsleigh Track Of The 1984 Winter Olympics
Sarajevo was host to the Winter Olympics, and its massive bobsleigh track was famed, with a staggering 13 turns. Since the war took place, the bobsleigh track fell into disrepair, and mother nature reclaimed the course.
Read Lunar Time At The Old Clock Tower In Sarajevo
Built in the 16th century and standing at 30m high, this clock tower doesn’t seem like anything beyond the typical old town clock tower. But this clock tower is the only public clock on the planet that keeps lunar time. The reason it keeps lunar time as it aligns with daily prayers.
Sample Natural Viagra In Kladanj
The natural spring waters in this part of the country are said to harbor natural powers, ones which men may find rather useful! The small town of Kladaj is undoubtedly picturesque, sitting at the base of the Konjuh Mountain, and its spring water is said to be a natural form of Viagra.
Visit The Jungle At Kravice Waterfalls
The Trebizat River runs through a jungle landscape before moving towards the thundering Kravice Waterfalls. Here you can enjoy lots of outdoor activities, such as swimming, walking, climbing, etc. The falls themselves are awe-inspiring, at around 83 feet high, surrounded by stunning green forest. In terms of natural beauty, this is among the best Bosnia and Herzegovina has to offer. It’s amazing!
Kozara Memorial Monument
Dera is home to the Kozara Memorial Monument, which was erected in 1972. It’s a tower that stands 33m high and is a somber reminder of those who died in Dera during World War II.
Wander The Old Jewish Cemetery In Sarajevo
This pretty Jewish cemetery, surrounded by thousands of interesting old tombstones, was cut off for a long time (mainly because landmines surrounded it), but it was reopened in 1998. It is a great place to visit, not only for those of Jewish descent but anyone interested in Jewish history.
See Bosnia-Herzegovina’s Answer To The Pyramids
Pyramids in Bosnia, I hear you say! Head to Visoko and check out the Pyramid of the Sun and Moon, thought to date back to around 12000BC.
Well, that’s what a Bosnian amateur archeologist claims. While some experts are dubious about the claim, many believe it to be true. Investigations into the claim are ongoing, but if proven to be true, that would make these pyramids the oldest and largest in the world.
Visit The Site Of The Apparition Of The Virgin Mary
In 1981 the Virgin Mary appeared to 6 local children of Medjugorje, sending messages to the world through them. Since that time, the town has become an important Catholic pilgrimage site, and the apparitions have continued to this day to those same six people.
While there, walk the stations of the cross up Mount Podbrdo, which is the site where the Virgin Mary is was said to have first appeared.
Take your pick from numerous hiking trails across the rugged Bosnian and Herzegovina. Try the hike to Bjelasnica summit, Lokvanjsko Lake, or Rakitnica canyon.
WARNING: Always stick to trails as there are areas in Bosnia where land mines are yet to be recovered.
Go Skiing In Sarajevo
The winter months bring plentiful snow, which means slipping on the skis or snowboard and carving up. The 1984 Winter Olympic site, on Jahorina Mountain, is fantastic for skiing and snowboarding and having a vibrant nightlife.
Cross Mehmed Pasha Sokolovic Bridge
Straddling the Drina River in the east of the country, you will find this famous bridge built in a classic Ottoman style. Aside from its beauty, there is a rather morbid side to this bridge as it was one of the sites of the Visegrad massacre.
Enjoy A Guided Mountain Biking Tour
There are many trails across the Bosnian highlands. However, a guided tour is your best bet. The best trails are in the Central Dinaric Alps, offering stunning vistas and a challenging ride.
The bonus is the trails are within close proximity of the capital, making for a great day trip.
Explore The Čolina Kapa Fortress
During World War II, the Austro-Hungarians constructed a fortress perched upon Mount Trebevic to provide a bird’s eye view over Sarajevo. After years of being unused after WWII, in the 1970s, the fortress was converted into an astronomical observatory where much of Bosnia’s star gazing research was conducted. During the most recent war, the observatory was destroyed; however, the lookout still serves as a popular destination for urban explorers.
Blagaj Dervish House On The Buna River
Just 12km from Mostar is one of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s hidden gems, Blagaj Dervish House. Located in Blagaj, this 16th century Dervish Monastery has served many Dervish orders over its long history.
Today for a small entrance fee, you can take a Monastery tour and learn about the history of this Monastery. Be sure to take some time for reflection on the terrace, which overlooks the stunning source of the Buna river, which is the largest karst sing in Europe.
The place is truly magical. If you get hungry, visit one of the restaurants that line the river and try some delicious local trout.
Visit Bosnia-Herzegovina’s National Parks
Sutjeska National Park is the oldest in Bosnia & Herzegovina and holds one of the two last primeval forests in Europe, the highest waterfall in Bosnia & Herzegovina, Skakavac, and the highest peak in the country, Zelagnora. If you decide to hike the 2,386-meter Zelagnora mountain, you’ll be rewarded with seeing some pristine glacial lakes and wildlife.
The country has two more national parks, Kozara National Park and Una National Park.
Established in 2008, Una National Park is the youngest of the three national parks in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The park encompasses the Unac and Upper Una Rivers and the source of the famous Krka River. Clearly, this is to protect the area’s extraordinary flora, fauna, waterfalls, riverbank forests, and archaeological and cultural heritage sites.
This 14th-century medieval town sits on the side of a rocky hill on the bank of the Neretva river. The town gives you an excellent glimpse into the area’s past, with its medieval stone construction and the additions to the town from the Ottomans.
Here you’ll find stone walls, homes, the Počitelj Fort, and of course, a Mosque. It’s an exciting blend of two distinct eras of Bosnia and Herzegovina. For the best views of the Neretva river and surrounding landscape, climb the fort tower. This beautiful historic town is one of the most popular places to visit in Bosnia and Herzegovina on trips to Mostar from Croatia.
If you are really missing the sea or just feel like a dip in the wonderful Adriatic head for Neum. This is Bosnia and Herzegovina’s only town on the Adriatic coastline and is absolutely stunning, as is the rest of the Eastern Adriatic.
River Una Rafting
Those who love a little adrenaline will enjoy the wild waters of the River Una, located in the beautiful Bihac region. Here you can try your hand at rafting, where you can take your pick from complex rafting stages to those more suited for novices.
If you’re brave enough, take on the Štrbački Buk – Lohovo route, where you’ll take on numerous rapids and waterfalls.
Best Accommodation In Bosnia And Herzegovina
Here is where you can rest your head on your travels.
Mostar is home to one of the best-preserved styles of Ottoman architecture, Muslibegovic House. You can simply tour to see how the wealthy would have spent their days, or you can choose to stay there for a few days too. We suggest the latter!
Hotel President, Sarajevo
It is located in the heart of the city and a stone’s throw from the Latin Bridge, Sebilj Fountain, and Baščarsija street. The hotel has views over the river and city and has everything you would expect from a 4-star hotel. The hotel is ideally located for exploring the city.
Thermal Spa Resorts
Try the healing powers of a thermal spa. The minerals waters which run through the country are said to have plentiful healing powers, dating right back to Roman times, so if you have any aches and pains, head to a natural thermal resort. Fojnica, Kiseljak, Teslic, and Banja Luka all have resorts, which are set in stunning countryside, with a modern twist.
What To Eat & Drink In Bosnia And Herzegovina
Here is what you need to order while on your travels.
This little-rolled beef sausages can be found across Bosnia and Herzegovina and are an iconic national food. Everyone has their own little variations on Cevapi and can be served with Ajvar, diced onion, amongst other things. They are cheap and super tasty, and you can’t leave the country without trying them.
This meat-filled phyllo pastry is an absolute must-try food when in Bosnia and Herzegovina. You can find it everywhere, and if you are a budget traveler, it’s the perfect cheap meal that will give you the energy to go all day long.
Begova Corba or Bey soup is a thick chicken soup with some vegetables such as potatoes, beans, carrots, celery, and Okra. Once served the Bosnian Governor, who were known as Bey’s in the Ottoman Empire, this dish has stood the test of time.
Kava In Sarajevo & Mostar
One of the lasting influences the Ottomans brought to this region in Turkish coffee. Popular in all of the former Yugoslav countries, Kava is an absolute must-try. But be warned, this stuff is strong! You can find Kava across the country, and most families will make this coffee style at home.
Key Festivals & Events In Bosnia
Sarajevo Film Festival
One of the largest film festivals in Europe, this event brings the silver screen to Sarajevo every summer. The event showcases both feature and short films from across the globe. Interestingly this festival began in 1995 while the city was still under siege and has grown exponentially since that time.
During the summer months within the Turkish Quarter of Sarajevo, the city puts on various performances in the evenings. Here you’ll see folk dancing, opera, ballet, and different arrangements to entertain you through the night.
Street Art Festival In Mostar
All year-round, you will find many of the town’s walls adorned with exciting and colorful street art. When visiting the area, be sure to wander around and take a few photos. During the annual Street Art Festival, additional performances and stalls bring the art to life – certainly an interesting time to visit!
There is certainly plenty to see and do in this small country, proving that size really does not matter when it comes to how visit-worthy a country is.
Despite Bosnia and Herzegovina’s troubled past, this is a country that is still very naturally undiscovered and one which begs to be explored.
Are you ready to explore Bosnia and Herzegovina?
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