Holidays to Bosnia and Herzegovina are filled with a fascinating and exotic east-meets-west atmosphere, born from the nation’s blend of Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman history.
This intriguing Balkan country packs a punch for travellers looking for a historical destination with some outdoor adventure. Here are some of the top things to see and do in Bosnia and Herzegovina:
Since the 1990s, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s capital city has been restored to a vivacious place pulsating with busy café culture and nightlife, particularly in the historic centre. The flag-stoned 15th century bazaar, Baščaršija, gives the core of the Old Town a distinct Turkish feel while historic mosques and ancient monuments dot its winding lanes. Sarajevo’s history is fascinating too: visit the site where Franz Ferdinand was assassinated, an event that sparked World War I, and learn about the Bosnian War in the unmissable Tunnel Museum and Sarajevo History Museum.
For extra local atmosphere and revelry, you could combine your visit with the bi-annual Sarajevo Winter Festival, usually held in February or March. The city has always resolutely celebrated this arts festival even during the years of civil war.
The elegant UNESCO-listed Stari Most (Old Bridge) is Mostar’s most iconic site. Spanning the emerald green Neretva River, the bridge was destroyed during the 1990s but has since been reconstructed using traditional techniques to regain its original 16thcentury glory. Once you’ve crossed the bridge and marvelled at the views, there’s ample opportunity to linger a little longer at any of the well-positioned riverside cafes and restaurants.
Mostar also boasts several 16th and 17th century mosques and other buildings to take a look at, and don’t forget a wander around the city’s intriguing UNESCO-listed Old Town.
Rafting near Bihac
Located near the Croatian border, Bihac was the westernmost Muslim settlement in Europe and still boasts many a magnificent mosque – don’t miss the famous Fathija Mosque. The town is also a perfect base for adrenaline-filled white water rafting holidays on the Una River.
Štrbački Buk is Una River’s toughest rafting section and starts with a dramatic descent of the lower section of a double waterfall. The picturesque falls lie within the Una National Park and are well worth a visit, whether or not you’re on the water – a series of walkways has even been constructed to make viewing easy on foot.
Hiking the hills
Pack your hiking boots as Bosnia and Herzegovina provides numerous hill-walking opportunities. For combined village tourism, hiking and rafting as well as skiing, head for Bjelasnica Mountain. The hills surrounding Sarajevo are also worth trekking. You may even run into the remains of the bobsled track which was used in the 1984 Winter Olympics.
Pyramid of the Sun is another name for Visoko’s 250 metre-high Visočica Hill. This forested hill forms an almost perfect pyramid shape when viewed from most angles. To climb to the top of the ‘pyramid’, follow the tarmac lane for 2 kilometres then double back up a steep, narrow footpath for another 10 minutes. The climb is well worth it for the fine views which include the restored fortress wall reminding us of Visoko’s old, medieval role as Bosnia’s capital.
Sutjeska National Park
Another must-see is the unadulterated beauty of Sutjeska National Park. Terrain ranges from gentle valleys to dense forests and from high mountain peaks to canyons and glacial lakes. Other notable features are the trout-filled mountain rivers. The park hosts Maglic Mountain – at 2,368 metres, the highest point in Bosnia – and Perucica Forest, one of Europe’s last remaining primeval forests.
For a spot of top-class skiing, multi-piste Jahorina is arguably the place to go. Of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Olympic ski resorts, it offers the widest range of facilities and hotels, each of which lies within 300 metres of one of the resort’s seven main ski lifts.