• Bosnia and Herzegovina
    © Marin Veraja / 123RF
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
    © iStockphoto.com / Leonid Andronov
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Bosnia and Herzegovina

By Dmitry Petrounin Dmitry Petrounin Section editor Profile
This small Balkan nation knows all too well the devastating effects of conflict. But whilst it retains some scars from the civil war of the 1990s, even the briefest of trips to Bosnia and Herzegovina will fill your memory bank with quaint mountainside villages, Ottoman history and smiling faces.

Travel guide

Introducing BiH

Travel in the Balkans is like time travel. Whether you're there for several months, a couple of weeks or a quick weekend, you'll discover a region entrenched in its mythical past. It may be one of the smaller contenders, but Bosnia and Herzegovina packs just as much of a punch as its neighbours. Journey into the craggy mountains, get lost in the once war-torn streets of Sarajevo and wonder at the mosques of Travnik, the rewards are endless.

Sarajevo

It's impossible to take in Bosnia and Herzegovina without a trip to Sarajevo. Devastated by constant bombing throughout the civil war, today the city is steadily reinventing itself. A reflection of the rest of the country, the capital is also a fascinating mix of West and East - from its flamboyant skyscrapers to the intricate mosques, markets and bazaars in the old Turkish quarter of Bascarsija.

Mostar

Once you've exhausted the streets of Sarajevo, point your feet in the direction of Mostar and its famous bridge, destroyed by Croatian artillery during the war but painstakingly reconstructed in homage to international cooperation. Right at the heart of the city hides its old Ottoman town, with cobbled streets and slate-tiled roofs, perfect for getting lost and sampling the deliciously thick Turkish coffee served by many of the cafes along the river banks.

Travnik

It's another popular Bosnian option with travellers and you'll soon see why. This ancient city used to be the capital of Ottoman Bosnia and its mosques, mausoleums and tombs are a fascinating glimpse into the region's past. You'll find plenty of museums too, which will take you through its history in a little more detail.

Monastery madness

The centre of the country holds endless ruins of castles and forts. The orthodox monastery of Liplje is one of the most splendid, along with Banja Luka to the west. Ancient Ottoman citadel, it once played host to forty mosques until it was destroyed by earthquakes and war. You'll find ancient roman monuments to explore, as well as churches, the National Museum and Banski Dvor - home to the President of the Srpska Republic.

Adventure centre

Those looking for a holiday to satisfy their thirst for adventure often come to Bosnia and Herzegovina to try its fabled rafting and canoeing. The country is home to some of the most notorious rapids in Europe, whose difficulty increases during April and May. Una is one of the country's most beautiful stretches of water and also one of the most challenging. Real fans of the sport should also try their chances at the waterfalls of Strbacki Buk, though beginners may struggle.

Active holidays

It's also possible to ski during the winter months, notably at Jahorina and Bjelasnica. Though not a vastly popular option, the regions also attract hikers during the summer months for the gorgeous mountainside villages. If you want wilderness, head east where you'll find unexplored mountains and forests, along with the Sutjeska National Park - popular with mountaineers and nature lovers.

Our Editorial team's advice

The civil war which ravaged the country during the 90s is still fresh in the minds of its residents. Sensitivity to the issues surrounding the conflict is essential for all visitors but educating yourself on sympathetic conversations with locals can give an important insight into one of Europe's most horrific periods of recent history.

To give yourself enough time to explore the country as a whole, we'd recommend taking at least a week for the top sites. Once you've arrived in Bosnia and Herzegovina, travel between cities and sites can be a little complicated so prepare yourself with information in advance.

Spring and summertime are the best seasons to fully make the most of the Bosnian climate. Temperatures are at their peak, though those wishing to sample the country's skiing opportunities would be better off aiming for January - March with the best snowfall occurring over those months.

Some of the country's roads, especially those in rural areas, remain prone to accidents. Night-time driving is not advised, as is driving in winter when roads are very rarely cleared or de-iced. Certain areas have been subjected to heavy flooding and landslides in the past, especially around Posavina, Zenica and Doboj so be sure to stick to sign-posted routes in these places.

pros

  • +A country enriched by very different cultures - art and architecture bear witness to this.
  • +The population is always warm and sociable.

cons

  • -The atrocities which still haunt people's memories can occasionally provoke conflict between locals.
  • -Some infrastructure needs continued work, though progress is quickly being made.

Traditions

The majority of the population of Bosnia and Herzegovina is Muslim (a little over 40%), with Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism making up a significant minority. In and around the capital, you'll mostly find Bosnian Muslims; whilst to the west and the south Croatians have a larger presence.

Depending on your program, you will perhaps have the chance to see a traditional Bosnian house with its walls made of cob, its roof made of wood and its one floor: the only living space. You will find the nicest traditional Bosnian houses in central Bosnia, even though there are some which still remain in other parts.

Food

Like many Balkan countries, Bosnian cuisine is strongly influenced by Turkish cooking, as is often the case in the Balkans. If you're looking to try a true local speciality, look no further than bosanski lonac - a delicious meat stew - and top up on baklava (Turkish influence) for dessert.

Different varieties of pastries are always on offer: burek (cheese-based), pida (meat-based), or zeljanica (spinach-based) are all recommended recipes to try, and you'll find that the local population is particularly enamoured of yoghurt either with their meals or as a base for their mealtime drinks.

Greek moussaka is also often on the menu, with African influences creeping in through dishes such as bamija - a mix of veal and vegetables. You'll find plenty of fish dishes, including trout, carp and seabass and sides of Greek-influenced salads and hearty Balkan soups.

Souvenirs

If you're catering for alcohol aficionados, the local plum brandy, slivovica, won't last long once it's made it through baggage reclaim. Craftwork, which is not very widespread, includes items in wood and copper, as well as textiles such as blouses and embroidered tablecloths. Shops are open from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm, Monday to Friday, and from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm on Saturday.