Beautiful Bosnia: The Balkans’ Hidden Gem

I just got back from Bosnia and I was absolutely blown away by everything about it. I visited as part of a 2 week trip around the Balkans, beginning in Split (Croatia) and ending in Budva (Montenegro). I spent six days in total in Bosnia, arriving and departing by bus via Split and Budva. I stayed 2 nights in Mostar and 4 in Sarajevo and took a bus (2 1/2 hours) between the two destinations.

It was a great country to travel to for someone like me who is on a budget, enjoys the outdoors, wants to get a taste of culture, don’t want to venture too far from home (limited time off work) and if you like to party in the evenings.

 

Some Background

beautiful scenery in bosnia from mostar to sarajevo

Bosnia and Herzegovina is a country of about 3.5 million people, making it one of few countries smaller than my home country Scotland! I found the people to be absolutely lovely and very interested in current affairs and the world outside of their own state. In a way, this is very humbling as it has not been long since the country was victim of a civil war.

Bosnia’s currency is the Mark, which is the equivalent to 2 Euros. Things are cheap there; you can get a good quality dinner and a drink for 2 for about 10-15 Euros and taxis are 1 mark per kilometre. However, it’s maybe not the best place to visit if you are a veggie – meat is a big part of the diet and the main feature of meals when eating out in restaurants!

 

Where to go

Mostar

mostar view of old bridge from bazaare

Mostar is a beautiful town, a bus ride away from Split, and even closer, Dubrovnik. Take a wander around the Old Bazaar and have a few drinks down by the Old Bridge. I’d recommend having dinner in one of the traditional restaurants which serve up a meat platter for two. It’s a great sample of traditional Bosnian cuisine and great value for money. This is not for the faint hearted; it includes naan, 6 types of meat, accompanying sauces and often, rice and fries. Check it out our food at National Restaraunt Irma Mostar!

 

traditional bosnian meat platter

 

Sarajevo

Sarajevo was the favourite part of the Balkans trip as it provided such variety in terms of activities. From hiking, to enjoying local nightlife, it absolutely has it all. It is also very affordable for budget travellers like myself, which I think always makes you see more of the city as you don’t have to hold back.

As I so often do, I decided to use Airbnb for value for money and to get a good feel for the city. We struck a pot of gold with this one. We rented a rooftop apartment, which was very close to the city centre and boasted fantastic views of the city. Check it out below!

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Our host was very helpful; he had even created a Welcome Pack for his house guests, where he recommended various things to do in Sarajevo, as well as his favourite restaurants and bars. We took him up on some of his suggestions and they definitely didn’t disappoint. We visited the street party around the corner which is every Sunday in Sarajevo, as well as his favourite Italian, which served up a bargain Seafood Pasta, which was the best I’ve ever had!

You can really see the effects of the 1992-1995 civil war in Sarajevo. Bullet holes remain across the city in many buildings and bridges. We decided we wanted to learn more about the war whilst we were there and chose to take a tour of the Tunnels. To be completely honest, I normally avoid going on a tour unless I make a last minute trip or only have a short period to explore somewhere. You tend to spend more than you would visiting the site yourself and often waste time waiting on other travellers.However, in some places they are almost obligitary (Machu Picchu, Taj Mahal etc.) and otherwise, they tend to be a good way to find your bearings.

We opted for Insider Tours and I was absolutely overwhelmed by the tour. Our guide worked as a policeman during the war and talked us through the background leading up to the war and told detailed stories about his experience during it. He gave us a real insight to the way things were back then and the feelings of resentment that remain towards international organisations such as the UN amongst some of the population.

On our final evening we decided to visit the famous Bobsleigh track. This was a really interesting place to visit as it showed how quickly the war tore apart the lives of people here. The 1984 Olympics in Sarajevo symbolised prosperity and less than 10 years later, Bosnia was nearly destroyed by a brutal civil war. The Bobsleigh track was damaged during the famous Siege of Sarajevo. The track was used by Bosnian Serb forces and, like many sites in Sarajevo, you can see the war wounds and bullet holes. It is now covered in graffiti and used for bicycling, but as you can see below, provides second to none views of Sarajevo.

hike sarajevo sunset

 

The Verdict: Do I Stay or Do I Go?

Bosnia completely exceeded all expectations I had of the country. The culture was unique with the mix of Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats and the history is both fascinating and touching as it is so very recent. I found it cheap, the climate was warm and it was pretty easy to get around. On top of this, the people couldn’t have been any friendlier.

Now, when are we going to get some cheap return flights to Sarajevo? My advise is to go now before it inevitably changes forever!

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