Rumoured to be one of the oldest countries in Europe, with evidence of having been settled since the Stone Age, Bosnia and Herzegovina is a country that is set to surprise you.
No doubt, when first hearing the country’s name, you already have your expectations. Bosnia’s war-torn history including being the site of Franz Ferdinand’s murder that kick-started the First World War, and more recently having gone through the longest siege a modern European country has seen.
The most important part in referencing these is that while traces of the war-torn country can still be seen, Bosnia and Herzegovina is ready to come out the other side. As soon as you set foot in the capital, Sarajevo, locals will be ready to tell you the country is set to progress.
Unexpectedly the waterfall capital of the Balkans, Bosnia and Herzegovina has beautiful spouts of waterfalls tumbling into national parks, arguably some of the beautiful in Europe. So much so that ‘Bosnia’ is an Indo-European word for water.
The country is jam-packed with natural vistas, national parks, verdant forests and one of the oldest jungles in the world. Quaint villages like Jajca even have a waterfall in the middle of them.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is ready and waiting to surprise you with its creative culture and mind-blowing scenery! Read on to find out what you could find;
Best Time for Bosnia and Herzegovina Travel
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a bit of a year-round country. There are four distinct seasons to enjoy starting with spring and autumn. Hikers will enjoy mild temperatures and flowers in bloom and, in autumn, a burst of reds and oranges.
To visit Bosnia and Herzegovina and not experience that much rain, it’s best to travel from June to September when the mountain regions are at their warmest and driest. There is a small portion of the country that is Mediterranean, stretching towards the coastline.
If you are more of a winter traveller, the skiing season starts in December and runs in February when Bosnia and Herzegovina travel turns to winter sports.
Best Places to Travel in Bosnia and Herzegovina
There’s nowhere quite like Sarajevo. The city stands as a historical reference point: where World War I began, and most recently where the Yugoslavic wars were centred.
After the longest siege in modern European history, Sarajevo has its scars; however, locals will happily tell you that Bosnia is no longer a war-torn country, and rightly so. The energy of this vibrant city inspires progress as you’ll see in this 10-day essentials of the Balkans tour. Sarajevo has an urban edge and is a little rough around the edges, yet quirky and modern in its own way.
The city is a cacophony of religious backgrounds, all of which have been adopted by the city at one point. Muslim, Catholic, Orthodox, Jewish and Muslim religions are present throughout the city and have all left their mark. Mix that in with its beautiful positioning between the mountains and you have a city to remember. Sarajevo travel is an experience to live through.
The Dervish Blagaj Tekija
Nestled at the foot of a cliff face, Blagaj Tekija is a 600-year-old monastery that sits next to the turquoise waters of the River Buna.
Founded in the midst of Ottoman rule, Blagaj Tekija belongs to the Dervish fraternity of the Sufi sect of Islam. The monastery is still active today and is a popular day trip from Mostar to explore a different part of Bosnia and Herzegovina. As you’ll see on this 5-day private Balkan essentials tour, you can explore the river and go inside the monastery for a small fee. The area is raw, untouched and beautiful, so much so you can drink the water straight from the river in parts!
As the largest waterfall in the country, Kravice is not one to disappoint. With several gushes of water tumbling down to one large natural pool, Kravice Waterfall is a favourite swimming spot among locals during the hottest months of the summer, so be sure to get in there early!
The waterfalls appear as if they are slipping through the forest canopy, dramatically changing the landscape in all their misty beauty as they drop 25 metres down. The waterfalls are well facilitated by several restaurants sitting close to the pool as well as a picnic spot.
The quintessential Ottoman town of the country, Mostar has a charming old town with architecture that will blow you away with its European-style charm of which Stari Most, the old bridge introduces you to this historic area.
It hasn’t always been a riverside charm and architectural bounty for Mostar. During the Yugoslavian war, Mostar was the most heavily bombed due to its proximity to Croatia in 1992 and 1993, events that completely destroyed Mostar’s iconic symbol. The old bridge was rebuilt in 2004 using some of the original pieces that were found in the river.
A tour in Mostar will introduce you to the complexities of this charming town’s history, as a former multicultural hub and Ottoman frontier, just like in this day trip to Mostar from Dubrovnik. The town is very much still recovering from its very recent past.
Nestled high in the mountains, Tito’s Bunker is a nuclear hideout turned modern art space that is worth the journey.
Behind the doors of your average countryside house is a horseshoe of accommodation and meeting rooms that make up a nuclear bunker that would have safe-housed Josip Tito’s entourage in the event of a nuclear strike. The bunker was ready for use in 1979, taking a total of 26 years to complete, it had enough food for six months of hiding for up to 350 political and military personnel.
It may not seem like much to have a nuclear bunker as a political leader, however, the extremities that were taken to keep this bunker a secret demonstrate its importance. The bunker was spared when it was found and now serves as an eerie contemporary art space in a military unit more or less in the exact same condition it was found in.
Waterfalls are always better with a little added adventure – Skakavac Waterfall delivers this!
Sitting on the outskirts of Sarajevo, to get to Skakavac Waterfalls you’ll have to walk seven kilometres on one of two well sign-posted routes; one that takes you up above the waterfall and another that takes you below. No matter what route you take, the smell of fresh air and the calm of the waterfalls will satisfy your longing for nature!
Skakavac Waterfalls are among the tallest in the country; albeit not being the most powerful – it’s truly spectacular!
Famed for its Ottoman architecture and wine, Trebinje at first glance is your typical European hillside town. Charming, old, and easy-going, the town itself is a day out to remember, every corner seems to present a photo opportunity to capture the magic of the town.
Once at the centre of the Serb-Herzegovina, Trebinje is an easy day trip from Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia; a worthy journey when you see the vine-to-glass culture of their wine production. In fact, cultivation and agriculture sit at the heart of local activity, witnessing this traditional, simple means of life creates ease and grace that you can’t help but take on yourself.
Once you’ve finished exploring this charming town like in this 7-day Balkan essentials trip, sitting down for a glass of Bosnian wine is essential to complete the tour!
Visegrad and the Bridge over the Drina
Tours of the Balkans cannot miss the Bridge over the Drina, the lasting picturesque representation of famed writer Ivo Andric who dedicated his life works to Bosnia’s 15th-century Ottoman rule. The bridge connects Visegrad town to Andricgrad like in this 4-day UNESCO world heritage sites from Split tour. It is an open-air museum-cum-old town that takes you back to the days when Ivo Andric’s characters walked the streets.
Outside of Andric’s dream world, Visegrad’s story does not get much happier. Visegrad is famous for the siege that took the city from Roman rule to Ottoman rule, of which traces of both empires can still be found. Prior to the 1990s, Visegrad was a predominantly Muslim town whose people became victims of a campaign that would kill over one thousand people in the town. Today, Visegrad is predominantly Serb.
Jajce Pliva Waterfall
A quaint picturesque town that introduces you to a more rural lifestyle, Jajce is your ideal Bosnia and Herzegovina travel destination as you’ll witness in this 16-day grand Balkan tour. However, Jajce tops the rest with Pliva Waterfall, tumbling into the confluence of the Vrbas and Pliva rivers, and creating a natural centre for a town in a way that you’ve probably never seen before.
Named one of the 12 most beautiful waterfalls in the world, Pliva doesn’t boast a mighty roar or lofty height. It complements its surroundings in a fairytale-like fashion, creating an oasis of calm for a laid-back Ottoman town along with gentle terraces and lush green forests. You won’t believe your eyes.
How to Get Around Bosnia and Herzegovina
As some of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s public services are limited, if you are travelling for a short period of time in the country, hiring your own driver or a car by yourself may be the easiest way to tick all your boxes for the country. If you are looking to continue travelling from Mostar into Croatia, this will also open some avenues for you in terms of tours in the Balkans. The roads in Bosnia and Herzegovina are well maintained.
For budget travellers, your best and most convenient way of getting around is to use the local buses. You can book local buses in advance with our Local Experts in Bosnia and Herzegovina which will save you a considerable amount of money.
There is a train service available in Bosnia and Herzegovina, however, the service is unreliable and outdated, it is much more convenient to take the bus or drive.
Where to Stay in Bosnia and Herzegovina
To experience Sarajevo in all its glory, staying in the centre, Marijin Dvor, is highly recommended. Marijin Dvor is the alternative centre to the city, which was deliberately built away from the old town by the Austro-Hungarian former rulers.
If you are looking to be in a more bustling centre, the old town, Bascarsija will put you at the centre of Sarajevo’s history and is also where most of Sarajevo’s thriving nightlife scene is found.
Although a must on all who are looking into Bosnia and Herzegovina travel, Mostar has just one area to stay in which is the city centre.
While high-end accommodation options will edge closer to Mostar main attractions, budget options will take you out of the Stari Grad. Not to worry – you’ll always remain within walking distance to the most beautiful parts of this city.
A little further off of the tourist trail, Travnik caters to a mid-range to high-end budget where simplicity and comfort are paramount. With a range of options in and out of the centre, it’s worth booking accommodation as close as possible to attractions that you are interested in as local bus services can be limiting.
Although famed for its history and bridges, Visegrad remains quiet with just a few hotels to choose from that accommodate a mid-high range budget. During peak seasons, it’s highly recommended that you book your spot in advance with one of our Local Experts.
What to Eat on Your Bosnia and Herzegovina Travels
Cevapi and Somun
If you know anything about Balkan food, you’ll be well acquainted with cevapi. A kind of stubby sausage, cevapi is minced beef or mutton deep-fried. In Bosnia, it’s served as around eight pieces that fill a somun bread along with onion and sour cream.
Somun is essentially pita bread, although the texture is a little chewier. As it came from the Ottomans, there are discrepancies there!
A speciality of Mostar, sogan dolma is not your typical leaves stuffed with rice. This is a much meatier version where onion is packed full of mince and roasted with tomato-based juices for a long time. To finish the dish, you’ll often have sprinklings of parsley and a lemon or garlic dressing.
The Ottoman influence continues! The Ottomans occupied this region for over 500 centuries and brought all their tasty treats too. Baklava is a flaky sweet treat filled with almonds and pistachios, there are many different combinations of baklava, however, the traditional ones typically have an aromatic flavour from rose oil and orange blossom.
More pastries! Burek is popular around the Balkans and is one of Bosnian’s favourite snacks. The pastry is filled with meat, cheese or spinach, you’ll also find a combination of any of the three.
Burek either comes as a slice or a pie that hides layer upon layer of your chosen fillings. This is the cheap and cheerful street food that will keep you going on long walking days.
This is perhaps the best example of the local love for all things slow-cooked. Bosanski Lonac is a hearty one-pot dish filled with meat and vegetables and cooked at an easy pace. The slow-cooking process naturally creates a tasty broth with sealed flavours at the bottom that is drizzled when served.
Festivals to Look Out For in Bosnia and Herzegovina
As Sarajevo is home to the country’s largest population, you’ll find most festivals are centred around the capital.
Taking over June, the Kid’s Festival aims to bring out and embrace children’s creativity and willingness to learn new things with workshops, games, dancing and music adding a little fun to the summer.
International Sarajevo Winter Festival
The one that everyone looks forward to, the International Sarajevo Winter Festival brings creativity to the city in February where artists from around the world come to compete for a grand prize. With no limit to what they can do, the city becomes transformed and walking around is like a game to see them all.
Another to bring people to Sarajevo, Bascarsija Nights is a cultural celebration of between 40 and 50 cultural events ranging from opera to literary discussions and film showings. One for the art lovers, Bascarsija Nights is a chance to delve deep into the creative side of Bosnia’s culture in all its forms.
Summer on the Vrbas
Making the most of the hot weather, Summer on the Vrbas aims to bring out the athlete in you with a variety of sporting competitions, alongside cultural exchanges, to bring people together around the Kastel Fortress. Fun for all the family, this traditional event is all about exchanging skills and ideas through activities and workshops.
Things to Know Before You Go to Bosnia and Herzegovina
Visa: As Bosnia and Herzegovina is not part of Europe or the Schengen zone, visa rules are very different here. Most passports will get you 90 days, however, it’s best to check before you go.
Currency: The official currency of Bosnia and Herzegovina is the Bosnian Convertible Mark. At the time of writing, 1 USD is equal to 1.65 KM. Close to the Croatian border, you may be able to use the Kroner.
Language: The official language is Bosnian, which is a southern Slavic language. Due to the mixed population, Croatian and Serbian are also official languages.
References: Bosniak refers to an ethnic Muslim, Bosnian refers to people from Bosnia, Bosnian Bosniak is a Bosnian Muslim. Post-war, this is very important.
History: Due to the heavy shelling of the country, there are an estimated 200,00 land mines that are still to be removed from the country, only trek or hike on designated paths.
Dreaming of Your Bosnia-Herzegovina Travels?
If this guide has left you eager to see Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Balkan peninsula, Tripfuser is here to lend a hand. For city-hopping, natural explorations and endless waterfalls, browse our fully-customisable Bosnia and Herzegovina trips to see what is on offer.
For a more tailored experience, click on ‘design your own trip’ and answer some simple questions about your travel preferences and budget and our Local Experts in Bosnia and Herzegovina will create a trip to match your requests and see that they come to life!
There are so many possibilities with this gloriously underestimated country, start exploring today!