Latest posts by Philip Santos Moreira (see all)
- Bosnia and Herzegovina: One of Europe’s Underrated Treasures - February 11, 2017
- Costa Rica: 5 Places Not to Miss - February 1, 2017
- Dominica: The Nature Island of the Caribbean - January 18, 2017
In my, traveler’s opinion, I would rank Bosnia and Herzegovina as one of the most underrated countries in Europe. Frankly, I almost never hear anyone talk about this country unless it pertains to the civil war that occurred there in the 1990’s.
I never really expected to find myself in Bosnia and Herzegovina. However, Instagram does a wonderful job promoting certain parts of the World and prior to going I had seen some gorgeous photos of Bosnia circle through many travelgrams. Specifically, the Stari Most Old (Mostar) Bridge, built by the Ottomans in the 1500’s. Sarah and I agreed that it was a must see.
The country ended up becoming one of my personal favorites. Mostar of course will steal a lot of lime-light because of its magnificent bridge which stands tall as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. However, the entire country has a wealth of history, including the recent civil war that still leaves its mark on the country, its beauty, its friendly people, and its great food.
We had driven in from the South of Bosnia, from Blagaj to see a monastery (Blagaj Tekke) and prior to that we entered from Croatia. The border crossing is easy and you will be able to pay the first Bosnian highway toll by a credit card, unless you have some Bosnian currency with you. From an American perspective, I found this hilarious since you cannot pay for tolls in the USA with a credit card, unless you have one of the nation’s many highway toll passes like E-ZPass or SunPass. No disrespect to Bosnia, but if they enable you to pay with credit cards – then you should be able to do the same in the United States of America.
The Blagaj Tekke (tekija or Dervish) Monastery is located in a small town. The Monastery is of Islamic faith and because of this women and men must cover up to enter it. The building is small, old and historic. Outside the building and across the Buna River is the iconic location that you will see numerous photos taken from.
Overall there in not much to do or see here. Be wary when you are parking here as the road is very narrow and there will be other tourists. Park further away if you can in order to save yourself some trouble. There is another noteworthy sight in the town known as the Old Blagaj Fort (Stjepan grad), but we did not venture to the cliff top to visit.
The next stop in Bosnia was Mostar. Once you arrive near or in the Old Town of Mostar everything is in a relatively close walking distance. We drove from the South coming from Blagaj and stayed at Pansion Rose.
En-route to the Old Bridge from Pansion Rose you will come across a new bridge looking towards the old bridge. From here you can take some of your most incredible shots while everyone else crowds in or around the Old Bridge itself. You can also walk down to the river and enjoy the views from there.
You might even get lucky and see someone dive from the bridge into the river below. Unfortunately, this did not occur while I was there, although, a man teased some tourists for a little while, making us think he would dive in. Please note that this is actually very dangerous as there is not much room for an error. In addition, the water temperature is extremely cold and you risk putting your body into temperature shock.
I recommend wandering as much as possible because this area has little treats throughout the town. The street adjacent to the Old Bridge is also included in UNESCO, for its antique structure and originality. Quaint shops line the streets, but be warned – do your shopping early because they close early in the afternoon.
A mosque just barely further up the street is where you will have access to arguably the best views of the old town and the bridge. The view is not for free and you will be required to pay the equivalent of 5 Euros.
The other side of the bridge, where you would probably come in from, has many more shops and places to eat. If I personally enjoyed ice cream as much as most people, I would probably become overweight in Bosnia and Herzegovina because you only pay about 50 cents per scoop!
If you wander a little more in this area you will eventually come to another little bridge (Crooked Bridge) that looks curiously similar to the main attraction of the Mostar. This bridge is listed under the UNESCO area of the old town and was also used during Ottoman rule for transportation and trade.
If you are a little more adventurous you can wander outside the Old Town center. While walking around, if you pay close attention, you will notice many buildings with clear ‘markings’ caused by the war. Some houses look as though they had been sprayed with gun fire the day before, while others, are completely brand new and have not a scratch on them.
Further still, other buildings go above and beyond and look miserably bombed. One thing I admired and became captivated by were the buildings with graffiti. Each piece of art was telling a story. All of them, which I photographed, spoke to me in one way or another; each resonated a sadness that I find hard to describe.
I want to also tell you that by the Western standards, food is very cheap in Bosnia, thus I recommend eating out. The diet is meat heavy, so vegetarians and vegans be aware!
I honestly just loved this city, and many travel guides would probably agree. Lonely Planet once listed it as the 43rd best city in the World and eventually in 2009-2010 Lonely Planet again gave it the praise and listed it in the Top Ten Cities to Visit in 2010. You will usually not see much about it in any Hollywood blockbusters but it’s definitely a top city to visit.
The central part where you will find most tourists is very walking-friendly. You can do most of your urban exploration by foot. The main attractions here are the panoramic views over the city (it is surrounded on all sides by hills), the Emperor’s Mosque, Sarajevo Cathedral, Orthodox Cathedral, Sarajevo Library, the Latin Bridge, and Sebilj (Ottoman styled fountain built in 1753).
In order to grasp the sights in conjunction with the history, I would suggest a tour, or maybe even several. My recommendation is to go with Insider. They’ll provide you with a guide that can speak in one of many languages and walk you through the city while hitting you with plenty of interesting facts.
Additionally, make sure to ask about the photographic war museum in Sarajevo. I cannot remember the exact location or name but it was one of my most favorite museums that I ever visited. I enjoy war history so I am biased when I give praise to this museum.
Another recommendation for tours is Toorico Tours with Ervin. The information shared with you on this tour is first class. You’ll be driven outside the city center and taken to visit the Sarajevo Tunnel, an abandoned hotel next to the location of the 1984 Winter Olympics, the stands of the 1984 Winter Olympics, a prime lookout over the city, and a few other details which I’ll let you to discover. Ervin was great and I insist you take the time and opportunity to go on his tour.
While I’m making recommendations, I implore you to stay at Pansion River for your overnight sleeping arrangements. I can’t speak highly enough of this place. Trust me when I say that the owners, staff, food, and accommodations were absolutely fantastic.
This is a small town which you can easily wander all around in about an hour. I would describe it as a fairly cute place nested in the hills with a splendid fort at the top. Do not expect a grand fort with impressive walls or a draw bridge. The fort is appropriate for Travnik and adds a touch of style.
Other than the fort, Travnik also has many mosques and oriental homes as well as viewing-worthy clock towers. The old section itself dates back to the 15th century. So, like many European cities, it’s worth to take a set back in time even if it doesn’t have any outstanding attractions.
When venturing to Bosnia I would say that you should try your very hardest to include Jajce on your trip. The town is perched on top a hill with a castle at its top crest. Below the castle extends its walls to hug a chunk of homes and shops within its boundaries. The town is quaint and deserves a 1-2 hours for a stroll.
One of the main sights to see here is the now 20-meter-high waterfall (before the Bosnian Civil War the waterfall was 30 meters high) at the base of the town which joins the rivers of Pliva and Vrbas.
The Countryside of Bosnia and Herzegovina
Renting a car is not expensive in Bosnia and you could actually combine a trip to Bosnia with a trip to Croatia. I would recommend renting a car in Croatia (Uni-Rent) (this article was written by me) and road tripping the two countries like Sarah Gallo and I did back in 2015.
We took the old route from Sarajevo to ultimately arrive in Bihac. Signs were telling us that to go in the direction we wanted we would have to follow them but we hadn’t yet been let down by our GPS so we stuck to the route that the GPS provided us with. Unfortunately, and fortunately it was wrong that time. Bosnia has been updating their roads and I don’t believe the GPS had been updated yet.
Our drive took us through the countryside rather than a highway. The road was rocky to say the least but the vistas were well worth the detour. If you have a similar opportunity I suggest taking it. This exact detour is done by taking the route R413b from Travnik to Jajce rather than E661. Zooming in on Google Maps will shed more clarity on the difference in route.
I would like to provide special mention to Sarah Gallo for planning this trip. All opinions are my own despite the complementary accommodation and tours while in Bosnia & Herzegovina.