The one thing that sticks out in my mind when I think of traveling in Bosnia and Herzegovina is the people. They're so kind, welcoming and sincere, and it’s unimaginable how their country got torn apart during the not-so-distant Yugoslav Wars.
The city of Sarajevo was at the edge of complete and utter destruction in the 1990's. But some 20 years later, this Bosnian capital has been largely restored and is a fascinating stop on any Eastern European itinerary.
The mixture of Ottoman, Yugoslavian and Austro-Hungarian architecture is a combination you won't see anywhere else in the world, and the still-visible bullet holes dotting the city are harsh reminders of the horrors the Bosnian people endured just over two decades ago.
Where to Travel in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Things To Do in Sarajevo
1. Free Walking Tour of Sarajevo
This tour was quite unique because the guide actually lived in Sarajevo throughout the war. She told us stories of running through the streets and praying that you would not get shot by a sniper.
2. See the spot of the "shot heard around the world"
The tour took us through the main walking street that stretches along the center of the city. The guide brought us to the exact corner where Franz Ferdinand, the archduke of Austria, was assassinated, forever known as the "shot heard around the world" and thus starting the first World War.
3. Stroll between cultures
As you walk along the walking street, you can travel from Christan area around the Sarcred Heart Cathedral to the Muslim quarter all within half a kilometer.
4. Visit Sarajevo's Abandoned Bobsled Track & Learn the History of the City
The bobsled track is surely an Instagram worthy spot, but it is just one stop on the Under the Siege tour run by Hostel Franz Ferdinand. (Note: There are a few tours like this, so you don't have to go through the Ferdinand Hostel).
This day-long tour takes you to specific locations around town that were affected by the war, including the snipers perch and a portion of the tunnel that allowed citizens to escape under the airport.
It is utterly fascinating to see these important parts of history and to learn about this country's troubled past.
One of the major highlights of the tour is visiting the abandoned (and graffitied) bobsled track that was used in the 1984 Sarajevo Winter Olympics. And if you don't want to do the whole tour, you can actually hike to the Sarajevo bobsled track independently.
5. Srebrenica Genocide Museum in Sarajevo
If you only have a day in Sarajevo, we would highly recommend visiting the Srebrenica Genocide Museum called Gallery 11/07/95. It walks you though the day where more than 8,000 Muslim Bosniaks were killed, mainly men and boys in the small town of Srebrenica during the Bosnian War in 1995.
It's a very somber experience, but it tells the history of the country that not many people outside of Bosnia know about.
6. View of the City
Our favorite sunset viewpoint of Sarajevo is east of the city, up on the Yellow Bastion lookout. You could even bring a picnic dinner and watch the sunset from one of the many picnic tables.
Hotels in Sarajevo
Couple Stay/Mid-range: Old Town Hotel - In the center of old town, rave reviews perfect for couples.
Budget Friendly/Social Atmosphere: Hostel Franz Ferdinand - great beds, good tours, very helpful staff. We stayed here and loved it.
Bonus adventure near Sarajevo
If you want to get your adrenaline pumping, check out this article about whitewater rafting on the Tara River Canyon, located 90 km (56 miles) from Sarajevo.
Traveling from Sarajevo to Mostar
Trip from Sarajevo to Mostar is beautiful. We took a bus so we could not stop and get out, but if you have time hire a car. That way you can stop and take pictures of the Lake Jablanica valley. None of our pictures do it justice because we have the bus window in the reflection, but it is GORGEOUS -- trust us. Or Google-image it!
If you are traveling through Eastern Europe by car, be sure to check out this road trip through the Balkans.
We actually heard about this town before we even thought of going to Eastern Europe. One of our friends we met traveling told us about this tour that we HAD to go on. In fact, when we took the tour, nearly everyone had heard of it from a friend or family member who persuaded them to sign up.
It's one of those tips travelers pass down, and once you've been on this tour, you feel the need to tell others about it. So consider yourself in on the secret.
Things To Do in Mostar
1. Bata's Crazy Tour
The tour is called Bata's Crazy Tour and is guided by (you guessed it) Bata. And yes he is crazy and he would be the first to tell you. This tour is an entire day and is part sightseeing, part history lesson, part adventure and part food tasting.
2. Splash around in Kravice Waterfalls
Swim under the rushing Kravice Waterfalls on the tour away from Mostar. There is a restaurant onsite, so if you get hungry you can pick up a bite to eat (and if you're part of the tour, they provide a traditional (meat-heavy) lunch).
3. Explore the medieval town of Pocitelj
The next stop on the tour was the tiny old medieval town of Pocitelj. We got to climb up the watchtower (picture above) and gaze from the archer's platform. It was a nice stop to have Bata explain the history of this people. After this we visited a local woman's house to sip Bosnian coffee, which was a pretty fun experience.
4. Visit the Blagaj Dervish House Monastery
The last stop of our tour was to the Blagaj Dervish House Monastery at the foot of a cave. Legend has it, that naturalist don't know the source of the river that flows beside the monastery.
We visited all these spots in one day and got to know our van-mates pretty well. Oh, and sprinkle in a heavy dose of history and witty banter from Bata for a 10-hour experience you won't soon forget.
Even if you were only to spend one day in Bosnia, this tour would give you a wonderful taste of the country and its people.
Note: There are a few of these tours run by guesthouses in Mostar. Each has a cult following, and everyone swears the one they took is the best. Honestly, after talking to a few other travelers who did other tours, it seems that in general they are pretty similar, with a few minor differences here and there.
So whether you take your tour from Bata's Crazy Tour from Majdas Hostel, Hostel Nina's day tour, or some other day tour in Mostar, you will see most of the same things and will learn a ton about this country.
5. Walk across the Old Bridge (Stari Most)
Besides the crazy tour, the main attraction of Mostar is the Old Bridge (Stari Most). Once destroyed in the war, and built again to the same beauty, the Stari Most is one of the most iconic images in all of Eastern Europe.
Highly symbolic, the bridge literally is uniting two sides of the country. Walk across the bridge to get a view of the 24 meter (80 foot) drop to the water, and then head down to the river side and watch as jumpers collect money to put on a show for everyone as they dive into the river.
6. Tip-toe through the Sniper's Tower
Another spot to check out is an abandoned bank building that was used as a Sniper's Tower during the war. Today, it is relatively safe to walk in, you just have to avoid broken bottles and cracked stairs. It's a hot spot for street artist to tag and create incredible, thought provoking art.
Hotels in Mostar
Couple Stay/Mid-range: Apartments Solis - Beautifully decorated, spacious entire apartments, incredible value (averaging $15-18 per person), close to city center.
Budget Friendly/Social Atmosphere: Hostel Majdas - Wonderful staff, great common areas, and awesome days tours. We stayed here and had a wonderful time.
Foods to Try in Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Bosnian coffee and cakes - similar to Turkish coffee, but be sure to drink it the correct way of eating the cube of sugar and then sipping the coffee. We went to Rahatlook in Sarajevo based off a recommendation from our hostel and it was delicious. But the best one is suppose to be at Cajdzinica Dzirlo-Tea House.
- Burek - Flakey meat pastry (try Pekara Imaret in Sarajevo)
- Cevapi - Sausage fingers served with onions, spicy sauce all in a pita
- Dolma - fermented vegetables stuffed with rice and meat
How to travel around Bosnia and Herzegovina
The best way to get around is on a bus. The rail infrastructure is not there as it is in Western Europe, but the buses are fairly cheap and comfortable. We really liked Flixbus when traveling around Bosnia. You could also look into ride sharing programs like BlaBlaCar.
10 Items to Pack for Traveling in Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Durable Backpack - We carry 40 liter backpacks everywhere we go. Both of our big bags are made by Deuter and we love them.
- Packing Cubes - A backpacking staple, these cubes help keep your clothes organized in your bag.
- Microfiber Towel - Always good to carry around a fast drying microfiber towel just in case your hotel/hostel doesn’t provide them.
- Portable Battery Pack - It’s the worst when you arrive to a new city and your phone is dead. Keep it charged with an Anker Battery Pack, this one can charge your phone up to 7 times.
- Bamboo Sunglasses - Tree Tribe polarized sunglasses not only look great, but for every purchase they plant 10 trees.
- Steripen - Say goodbye to bottled water. You can sterilize your water right out of the tap with this UV light. We have used ours for years and have never gotten sick off the water.
- Kindle Paperwhite - Download all your travel guidebooks onto your Kindle. You no longer have to carry around heavy books that take up space in your bag, and the Paperwhite verison lights up in the dark.
- Collapsible Cups - If you’re like us, you will be drinking wine in Europe and these come in handy for picnic lunches.
- Lush Solid Shampoo bar - No more worrying about liquid limits. One all-natural bar will last me up to 3 months and they smell great!
- GoPro - One of the best ways to capture your travels. They are lightweight, take great pictures and video and they are waterproof up to 10 meters without a case!
Before you book your trip, think about this:
We never travel without travel insurance. It’s never fun to think about losing your stuff or the possibility of a delayed flight, missing a connection, or heaven forbid you get injured while traveling. It’s best to know that you’ll be covered if anything goes wrong.
We have a whole article dedicated to figuring out the best travel insurance for you, but one company we really like is World Nomads. Get a quote in a couple minutes by filling out your information below:
European Train Travel
How are you traveling around Eastern Europe? One way to travel around Europe is by train and the best way to save money on trains is to buy Eurail Pass.
Now to be honest, we didn’t take any trains in Bosnia and Herzegovina because the buses and ride-sharing were cheaper. However, if you are traveling to multiple countries fairly quickly or traveling to Western Europe, purchasing a train pass might be your cheapest bet. Check out the Eurail Pass prices here.
European Air Travel
Another great thing about traveling in Europe is airfare is so much cheaper than in North America. One of our favorite sites to book flight is Skyscanner.
It’s so easy to use and we found some our cheapest flights using their “Show Whole Month” feature, where you can select your route and it tells you the cheapest days of the month to fly.
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