BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA TRAVEL GUIDE
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a mountainous playground that is quickly becoming a popular tourist destination. This long-forgotten jewel of southern Europe is now third in the world in terms of tourism growth rate, and it is easy to see why. Stunning landscapes combined with historical and cultural heritage make it one of the most fascinating countries to visit in Europe.
In the capital of Sarajevo, you will find cobblestone streets lined by an intriguing mix of religious edifices and lively cafés. Away from the city are many other delights, such as the medieval town of Jajce, with its citadel and the Old Bridge of Mostar.
Adventure-seekers will most certainly not run out of things to do in the unspoiled Sutjeska National Park. Avid skiers flock to the slopes of the Bjelasnica and Igman mountains. Water adventures are also popular, with majestic rivers crisscrossing scenic destinations throughout the country.
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BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA QUICK FACTS
Currency: Convertible Mark (BAM)
Area: 51,129 sq km
Population: 3,324 million (2018)
Language: Bosnian, Serbian, Croatian
Religion: Muslims 50.7%, Orthodox Christians 30.75%, Roman Catholics 15.19%, others 3.36%
Electricity: 220V/50Hz (European plug)
Getting your head around the divisions within Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) takes a bit of effort. Geographically there's Bosnia in the north and Hercegovina (pronounced her-tse-GO-vina) in the south, although the term 'Bosnian' refers to anyone with BiH nationality. ('Bosniak' refers specifically to Muslim Bosnians, while simplistically put, Bosnian Croats are Catholics and Bosnian Serbs are Orthodox Christians.)
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BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA
BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA PUBLIC HOLIDAYS
1 Jan New Year’s Day.
6 Jan – 7 Jan Orthodox Christmas.
15 Jan Orthodox New Year.
27 Jan St Sava’s Day.
1 Mar Independence Day.
1 May Labor Day.
1 Nov All Saints’ Day.
25 Nov National Statehood Day (regional)
25 Dec Christmas.
(Also, Christian Easter, Assumption Day.)
BEST TIME TO VISIT BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA
For a relatively compact country, Bosnia-Herzegovina has several microclimates, worth considering when deciding the best time to visit. Herzegovina is marked by temperate weather patterns of the Adriatic Sea further west, while the rugged mountains in the east give the region a decidedly alpine feel. Spring typically enjoys the most pleasant temperatures, with warm days that are not overly humid and cool nights. Autumn sees fewer crowds, while the winter months offer excellent – and relatively inexpensive – skiing possibilities.
In general, May through to October is the best time to visit Bosnia & Herzegovina as these are the warmest months but if you’re here mostly for hiking or sightseeing, the cooler spring/fall temperatures might suit you better.
April to June & October - Beat the heat, especially when exploring in Hercegovina from Mostar.
July to August - Accommodation fills up as the cities sizzle in the summer sun.
Mid-January to mid-March - Skiing gets cheaper after the New Year holidays.
SPORT & ACTIVITIES
SNOW SPORT IN BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA
The snow sports season in Bosnia and Herzegovina is from December until April. It is a relatively cheap ski destination in comparison to Western Europe.
HIKING & CYCLING IN BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA
The best time for outdoor activities in Bosnia and Herzegovina is from May to September. With 275 hikes and 4 nature trails, there's no shortage of outdoor activities!
BEACH OPTIONS IN BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA
At first, Bosnia and Herzegovina may appear to be landlocked, however, there is a short 20 km long coastline with a handful of beautiful beaches and beach resorts! The best beach weather is from May to September.
BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA TRAVEL TIPS
Most and towns in Bosnia & Herzegovina are walkable, including Sarajevo. You can expect to pay around $1 USD for a one-way ticket on buses, trams, or trolleybuses. If you need to take a taxi, prices start at about $10 USD and cost around $0.60 USD for every additional kilometer.
The main form of transportation in Bosnia & Herzegovina is by bus and you will find an extensive network of long-distance intercity and international buses. Between towns, it’s normally easy enough to wave down any bus.
Tap water within the cities is safe to drink, but not in rural areas. Our favourite combination is the Sistema reusable bottle for hot & cold liquids with the Survival Water Filter Pro. This has got to be one of our best travel buys, not only for our budget (by eliminating the need to purchase bottled water) but also for doing our part for the environment by reducing the use of single-use plastic bottles. Not to mention that it is also very handy in the case of an emergency when potable water may not be readily available.
All of the major cities in Bosnia & Herzegovina are walkable, so skip public transportation.
Bring your tent. You can pitch your tent on public land throughout Bosnia & Herzegovina.
There are plenty of free parks as well as many free hiking trails around the country.
SIGHTS & HIGHLIGHTS OF BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA
Major drawcards are the reincarnated antique centres of Sarajevo and Mostar, where rebuilt historical buildings counterpoint fashionable bars and wi-fi–equipped cafes. Fascinating Sarajevo is an architectural gem, with countless minarets amid the tile-roofed houses that rise steeply up its river flanks. Mostar is world-famous for its extraordinary arc of the 16th-century stone bridge, photogenically flanked by cute mill-house restaurants. The town is set at the heart of Hercegovina's sun-baked wine country, with waterfalls, a riverside Sufi-house, and an Ottoman fortress all nearby.
The capital city of Sarajevo's antique core has a Turkic feel, delighting visitors with narrow bazaar alleys and a plethora of 1530s Ottoman buildings. The city's north and south flanks are steep valley sides fuzzed with red-roofed Bosnian houses and prickled with uncountable minarets rising to green-topped mountain ridges. Westward, Sarajevo sprawls for over 10km through bland but busy Novo Sarajevo and somewhat dreary Dobrijna. Here, dismal ranks of apartment blocks remain bullet-scarred from the 1990s Yugoslav civil war, in which the capital’s centuries-long history of religious harmony seemed to evaporate during almost four years of brutal siege.
Mostar's world-famous 16th-century stone bridge is the centerpiece of its alluring, extensively restored old town where, at dusk, the lights of numerous mill-house restaurants twinkle across gushing streamlets. Further from the centre a scattering of shattered building shells remains a moving testament to the terrible 1990s conflict that divided the city. The surrounding sun-drenched Herzegovinian countryside produces excellent wines and offers a series of tempting day-trip attractions.
Near Mostar, you will find a few day-trip opportunities, including:
Počitelj - A steeply layered Ottoman-era fortress village that's one of BiH's most picture-perfect architectural ensembles.
Blagaj - A village, whose signature sight is a half-timbered Sufi-house (tekija) standing beside the surreally blue-green Buna River, where it gushes out of a cliff-cave.
Kravice Waterfalls - BiH's splendid 25m mini Niagara. Some tours give you several hours here to swim in the natural pools.
Ostrožac Fortress is a Gothic castle in the Una Valley and one of Bosnia’s most photogenic landmarks thanks to its brick torrents and stone wall running along the valley’s edge.
The old royal town of Jajce in the mountainous central Bosnia is known as the “city of falling water”. It has a 17m high waterfall (which connects the rivers Pliva and Vrbas) in the city centre and many historical sights.
Located near Visoko, the Bosnian Pyramids are a set of four pyramids dating back to 12,000 years ago that have perfect cardinal alignment, some reaching heights of 220 meters.
WHAT TO EAT IN BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA
The most available food in Sarajevo is Cevapi, the ubiquitous Balkan kebab. Two prominent variations exist - the "Banja Luka" Cevap, a larger kebab with a square shape, and the Sarajevo Cevap, smaller and round.
Some other favourites include:
Bosanski Lonac - Slow-cooked meat-and-veg hotpot.
Burek - Bosnian burek is cylindrical or spiral lengths of filo-pastry filled with minced meat. Sirnica is filled instead with cheese, krompiruša with potato, and zeljanica with spinach. Collectively these pies are called pita.
Hurmastica - Syrup-soaked sponge fingers.
Klepe - Small ravioli-like triangles served in a butter-pepper drizzle with grated raw garlic.
Kljukuša - Potato-dough-milk dish cooked like a pie then cut into slices.
Rakija - Grappa or fruit brandy.
Ražnijići - Barbequed meat skewers.
Sogan Dolma - Slow-roasted onions filled with minced meat.
Sarma - Steamed dolma-parcels of rice and minced meat wrapped in cabbage or other green leaves.
Tufahija - Whole stewed apple with walnut filling.
Uštipci - Bready fried dough-balls.