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Bosnia and Herzegovina Travel Blog: Things to do in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Countries which 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, and that makes them more traditional, cultural, and authentic. This is real travel!
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a safe country to visit – it’s important to point that fact out. There was a war after the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 90s which devastated the country and its people. Since that time, Bosnia & Herzegovina has been slowly recovering and is now a peaceful and beautiful destination to visit.
The varied landscapes are breath-taking, with high mountains and rolling valleys, as well as interesting cities, such as the capital, Sarajevo. The unique culture which has been influenced by different rulers over the centuries is evident everywhere you look, and if you want to enjoy a little beach time, Bosnia & Herzegovina has a small stretch (20km) of crystal clear Adriatic coastline.
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 the 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. For those that like to strap on the hiking boots and explore, the country is a nature lovers paradise with some fantastic national and parks including Sutjeska, and Kozara.
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 it’s old town, and Baščaršija is the old town market, which has somewhat of a Turkish vibe, 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, you’ll notice bullet holes in buildings which are Sarajevo’s scars from the war.
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. It’s impressive! The bridge is one of Bosnia & Herzegovina’s most recognizable symbols, and it along with the adjoining area were inscribed onto the UNESCO world heritage list in 2005. Mostar is a beautiful city in its own right, and wandering around the Mostar old town with its Ottoman architecture, walking over littles 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
15km 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 parks playgrounds, feed the ducks and swans and walk the park’s many trails.
Discover Modern Art in a former Nuclear Bunker
Burrowed 663 feet into a mountain near Konjic you will find a nuclear bunker which was built by Tito from 1953-1979, which has been repurposed as an art gallery. There are numerous exhibitions which 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 which 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 certainly 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 Ottoman takeover and has proven to be very resilient throughout its history.
Visit the Sarajevo War Tunnel Museum
One of, if not the best museums in the city 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 very difficult 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 has fallen into disrepair and mother nature is reclaiming 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 certainly 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 seriously impressive, at around 83 feet high, surrounded by stunning green forest.
Kozara Memorial Monument
Dera is home to the Kozara Memorial Monument, which was erected in 1972. It’s a tower which 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 it was surrounded by landmines), 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’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, thats 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 said to first appear.
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 there are land mines which are yet to be recovered.
Go Skiing in Sarajevo
The winter months bring plentiful snow, and that means slipping on the ski’s or snowboard and carving up. The 1984 Winter Olympic site, on Jahorina Mountain, is fantastic for skiing and snowboarding, as well as 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 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, so it makes 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 1970’s 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 tour of the Monastery 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 of the delicious local trout.
Visit Bosnia’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 2386m Zelagnora mountain, you’ll be rewarded with seeing some pristine glacial lakes and wildlife. The country has one more National Park and that is Kozara National Park. Wedged between the Una, Sava, Saba, Vrbas rivers, this lush national park is easy to navigate for hikers with all levels of skill.
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. Its an interesting blend of two distinct eras of Bosnia and Herzegovina. For the best views of the Neretva river and surrounding landscape climb the fort tower.
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 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
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
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
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 its the perfect cheap meal which 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 to Bosnian Governor’s which 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 style of coffee 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 various other performances 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 which is still very naturally undiscovered, and one which begs to be explored.
Are you ready to explore Bosnia and Herzegovina?
Main photo credit: Clark & Kim Kays