Top 5 Things to do in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Given that I listed it as one of my favourite countries I visited in 2015 here, I thought I would expand on why I enjoyed Bosnia and Herzegovina so much and share my favourite sights and moments from my visit. Bosnia and Herzegovina had never really piqued my interest before, but it’s proximity to Montenegro and Dubrovnik ultimately led to its inclusion in my plans last year. Little did I know how much I would come to enjoy this country seemingly neglected by tourists.

Interestingly, I had some European family friends asking me whether it was safe to visit, both before and after my trip. Honestly, these questions perplexed me as the country’s years of turmoil are long past, even commemorating 20 years in December since the war ended. I found it odd that it still seemed to holds some sort of stigma. But let me assure you, Bosnia and Herzegovina is perfectly safe to visit and most definitely worth it.

With that, here were my top 5 things to do in Bosnia and Herzegovina from my time there. I hope in time I can return and make it a top 10.

 


5. View from Hercegovačka Gračanica in Trebinje

When it comes to travelling blind in Bosnia, the small city of Trebinje in the southernmost corner of Bosnia and Herzegovina was my biggest unknown. I had no idea what to expect, what there was there or to do. But as I arrived into the city over the crest of one of the mountains that overlook the city, one thing became apparent. Just near the centre of town I spied a hill, covered in forest and a church at the top. My inner mountain goat kicked in and I knew I had to be king of the hill; I had to see what the view from up there was like.

Trebinje, Top 5 Things to do in Bosnia

 

Leaving the bustling old town in favour of the quieter suburbs below the hill, I wandered about until I came upon the clear route to the top. From there it was a walk in solitude, winding my way up, away from houses and into woods. Once at the top, I could admire the ornate Orthodox church of Hercegovačka Gračanica that sits almost alone up there. Unfortunately for the church, it had to compete with the view and it lost. From the hilltop you can see the entire city and how it sits dwarfed by the surrounding landscape, plus its many masterful and historic bridges that cross the river. It was from up here that I also spotted a ruined tower that I would spend several hours attempting to find on the city’s fringes.

Trebinje Church, Top 5 Things to do in Bosnia


4. Watching the Stari Most Jump in Mostar

Mostar is the darling of Bosnia and Herzegovina tourism and with good reason. It’s home to a stunningly gorgeous old town set along the Neretva river, with picturesque spots and intimate streets. Of course, Mostar is also home to the famous Stari Most bridge, an elegant, reconstructed bridge that spans the two halves of the city’s old town. The bridge is generally the reason that tourists come to Mostar, quite often on day trips from elsewhere in Bosnia and nearby Croatia.

Mostar Old Town

 

Now while the bridge is beautiful in its own right, the real highlight is watching the local’s take a nerve-wracking plunge into the river below. You may have to wait a while, standing on the banks of the river and looking up as the men tiptoe along the bridge’s precipice. You will watch the crowd swell around you and atop the bridge, every few minutes thinking that they’re about to leap. It may be a pain to wait in anticipation, but eventually, one by one off they’ll go into midair before hitting the water. Truly quite the sight and not something I’m particularly keen on experiencing firsthand.

Mostar Bridge


3. Sehidsko Kovaci Cemetery and Yellow Bastion in Sarajevo

Sarejevo wears its history on its sleeve. I distinctly remember coming in from the airport and spotting building after building riddled with bullet holes. This is matched up with what I had been told from a friend who had been there; the city doesn’t shy away from the gritty reality of its past. It’s not just markers of the city’s recent history that you’ll come across though. The Eternal Flame memorial to the victims of World War II; the corner where Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in 1914; the extensive old town reflecting the city’s Ottoman lineage. When you walk through Sarajevo you walk through its history.

None of these spots though, had the impact that the Sehidsko Kovaci Cemetery had on me. This hillside cemetery is home to those fallen Bosnia soldiers from the conflict in the 90s. Walking through the cemetery and looking at all the alabaster headstones really got to me. It’s not often where you walk through a cemetery where the year of death is the same grave after grave, and the dead you’re age or younger.

Sarajevo Yellow Bastion

 

This sombre, late afternoon walk through the cemetery eventually took me up to the Yellow Bastion, a ruin of the old city walls. Atop the bastion, teens sat around chatting on the benches or sitting on the walls and looking out over the city. After the gravity of the cemetery below, the atmosphere here was a bit more uplifting and the views truly spectacular. I remained up on the hill to watch a dazzling, fiery sunset.

Sarajevo Sunset


2. Visiting the Blagaj Tekija

Were it not for a small Dervish monastery, I would have never heard of the small village of Blagaj, just south of Mostar. To be honest, the town of Blagaj itself is nothing fascinating, just some simple houses by the Buna river. However, it happens that the Buna river flows out of a cave in a sheer rocky mountainside and at the entrance to this cave is a small tekija. A tekija is a monastery for those of Muslim faith that believe in a simple way of life and rejecting wealth. So while those that lived in the Blagaj Tekija may have lived a poor and frugal life, they were certainly rich in scenery.

Blagaj Falls, Top 5 Things to do in Bosnia

 

What makes this monastery worth seeing for tourists is its flawlessly preserved Ottoman architecture and its position, tucked squarely between the huge rocky cliff and the gentle rapids of the river. You can also sit riverside and eat one of the many restaurants that line the banks of the Buna river. The Blagaj Tekija makes for a perfect photo opportunity with some breathtaking scenery. I know I spent a good while taking photos of the monastery from all different angles, taking in the charming elegance of the building and its raw, earthy backdrop.

Blagaj Tekija, Top 5 Bosnia


1. Exploring the Plivska Lakes from Jajce

My favourite spot and moment in Bosnia and Herzegovina was a quiet one, a simple one. I had come to the town of Jajce to see its unbelievably gorgeous waterfalls rushing just outside of its town walls. I wrote about my love for this town here as one of 5 towns in Central Europe I’ve come across that look like they’ve been pulled from a fairytale. But my favourite spot wasn’t in Jajce itself.

After seeing many of the sights in Jajce and looking at a map, I saw that several lakes lay a few kilometres upstream from the town. On a whim, I decided to grab some some supplies from the supermarket and to have a picnic lunch up by the lakes. I followed the river north, passing several small falls until I reached the first of the Plivska lakes.

Pliva Lake

 

At the edge of the first lake I came across a friendly old fisherman who was keen to chat despite the language barrier. We eventually settled on a mix of German, Italian and English and we talked for a little while. Seeing my camera in hand, he indicated that there were better spots further along the lakes and I’m so glad he did. I had already walked a while, had no idea how much further I should go and may have missed out on seeing some blissfully quiet and stunning natural scenery if not for my chance encounter.

Other than the occasional cyclist and fisherman down by the lake, I had the roads along the Plivska Lakes to myself. After a while I found a bench and stopped for lunch, basking in the wonderful surrounds that I found myself in. I eventually made it to the falls that led from the upper lake to the lower lake, where school kids were playing sports and families having picnics. A little further I came across the charming historic water mills that once benefited from the trickling streams that fed from one lake to the next. All in all, I’d say the whim to wander paid off that day in Jajce and let me see some of the astounding natural beauty on offer in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Pliva Lakes


So those were my top 5 things to do in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Have you been to Bosnia and Herzegovina? If so, what were your favourites sights and places? Share in the comments below.

Why Not Pin It for Later

Located in the Balkans of Southeast Europe, Bosnia Herzegovina is slowly growing into a more popular tourist destination. Given all its historical, cultural and natural charms it's no wonder, so to help here are my Top 5 Things to do in Bosnia Herzegovina, via @travelsewhere

19 Comment

  1. Wow! How amazingly beautiful Bosnia is – it’s almost like a fairytale! I don’t know anyone who has visited here but your story makes me want to visit, especially as it is close to other amazing countries I want to see, they can easily be visited on one trip 🙂 Your post has shown that this country should not be “off the beaten track”, more people need to see it’s beauty so thanks for sharing.

    1. David says:

      Thanks for reading Angie. BH is definitely a beautiful country and places like Sarajevo and Mostar are starting to get some notice. And yeh, it’s surrounded by other great countries so one big trip through the region is well worth it.

  2. Awesome I’m heading there later on in the year so good to know 😍

    1. David says:

      Awesome Georgina, hope you find this useful then. Have fun!

  3. Becki says:

    Bosnia looks magical! All your photos are just stunning! The monastery in Blagaj has always been on my bucket list, but reading this has again made me want to go there even more! Thanks for sharing!

    1. David says:

      Thanks Becki, Blagaj really is peacefully beautiful. Well worth keeping on your bucket list.

  4. Lisa says:

    I have always been told Bosnia is beautiful, your pictures certainly show that. I would love to explore all those areas, the monastery and church are beautiful. I like that it’s not so touristy. Looks like plenty places to hike too!

    1. David says:

      BH definitely has a lot of natural beauty, the landscape of Trebinje is a good example of that. Sadly hiking is a bit limited as there is still the potential for land mines so you ought to stick to tracks. Cheers Lisa.

  5. Garth says:

    I would really love to visit B&H soon! Before others discover it’s beauty, your photos are stunning as always. I’ve only heard and seen Mostar in magazines, it must be a really popular day trip option? The monastery has an absolutely stunning backdrop! thanks for sharing!

  6. David, love your list and it brings some great memories of my trip a couple of years back. Unfortunately it was all too fleeting and I have only managed to make it to Mostar and Sarajevo. Absolutely agree that history is everywhere you look/step in the capital and it’s a place I really want to visit again. It was fascinating. I clearly need to explore Bosnia better next time!

    1. David says:

      No worries Lex, glad to hear you’ve visited a few of these. Sarajevo has to be one of my favourite balkan cities and agree that is really fascinating. Hope you get a chance to return.

  7. Jenn says:

    This is beautiful! Not at all how I imagined it might be. It is so picturesque and the photos are full of charm! Thank you for sharing your great photos and tips!

    1. David says:

      Thanks Jenn, glad I could show you a little of this wonderful country.

  8. Kevan says:

    Absolutely amazing photography. I hate to admit that I know very little about B&H except for its troubled past. The only one of these that I had previously known about was the diving bridge in Mostar. I plan on visiting Dubrovnik in the not to distant future and will have to include a trip here with it.

    1. David says:

      Thank you Kevan. I think the country’s past is generally what people tend to know about but not so much how it is now. If you’re visiting Dubrovnik then Mostar is a very common day trip from there.

  9. Just amazing. Your photos are beautiful. There are so many countries I though little of in terms of travel. My eyes are being opened daily to new and exciting places I MUST visit. Bosnia in now on that list. Thank you it looks like a fascinating place.

    1. David says:

      Thanks Kelly, glad to hear it’s made your list. I really enjoy finding those countries where I know little about them and getting to see what makes them special.

  10. Barry says:

    How good are these pictures!? I haven’t visited Bosnia yet but spend most of this week in Slovenia, which is not that far away. The old buildings look to be just as impressive in Bosnia and Herzegovina – I’m seriously considering planning a trip to visit shortly. So many places to visit in the area of the world.

    1. David says:

      Cheers Barry. There’s definitely a wealth of destinations in this part of Europe, including Slovenia. It’s interesting how BH’s neighbours like Croatia and Slovenia have faired so well with tourism but it hasn’t as much.

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