Bosnia and Herzegovina will always be home to me, even though I have called Sydney, Australia “home” for most of my life. I was just four years old when I became a refugee, leaving everything but a few belongings behind, and escaping the war with my family. As I grew older, I wanted to find out more about where I was from. In 2013, my mum and I went back home for the first time in twenty years.

Since then I have gone back four times, having spent almost three months last year in Mostar, working in a hostel, and travelling on my days off. The reason I started my own blog was to change people’s view of a country, in which civil war had raged not too long ago. The older generation knows Bosnia & Herzegovina from what they saw on TV, much like what we see about the Syrian refugees now. Some of the younger people though, couldn’t even place it on the map.

The heart-shaped country is located in South Eastern Europe and is highly underrated as a travel destination, but this former Yugoslavian country which is healing from the horrific war two decades ago, has a long and rich history. From the Illyrian tribes, Slavs and the Ottoman Empire, each new generation left a mark in Bosnia’s culture. From lush green landscapes to rocky mountains, emerald coloured rivers and a diversity of cultures and traditions, I will show you why this country should be next on your list.

Here is a list of the top 10 places I have visited in Bosnia & Herzegovina – I’m sure they will steal your heart as well!

1) Sarajevo

10 Places in Bosnia & Herzegovina that Will Steal Your Heart
photo by Michał Huniewicz, via Flickr

Sarajevo, or the “Jerusalem of Europe” as it is sometimes dubbed, has always been known for its cultural and religious diversity; Islam, Orthodox, Judaism and Catholicism had traditionally coexisted there for centuries. This sadly changed with the war in the 1990s. The city was under siege by Serbian forces for 1,425 days, with so many losing their lives. Two decades later, though the scars of the war are still visible, Sarajevo is now buzzing with locals and tourists. The city has soul once again, the people are so welcoming and friendly, and don’t even get me started about the food!

With its east meets west ambience, prepare yourself to be blown away by this ethnically diverse city which hosted the 1984 Winter Olympics. It may feel like you are wandering the markets of Istanbul one minute then walking through Vienna the next street over. Bosnia was influenced by many cultures, the Ottomans from the late 1400’s to the Austrian-Hungarians in the late 1800’s. I would definitely recommend taking a stroll through the Old Town Bascarsija, cross the Latin Bridge (which is where Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and his wife Sofia were assassinated by a Bosnian Serb and this started WWI), watch a sunset from the Zuta Tabija (yellow fortress) and try the Bosnian food, sweets and traditional coffee!

2) Mostar

mostar

With it’s historic Old bridge connecting the two banks of the ice cold Neretva river, streets paved with cobblestones and pretty stone houses, and the brave young men who jump from the bridge, one would think they have stepped back in time, into a magical fairytale disney book. Though there are still many visible signs of the war here too, it is easy to forget this city suffered so much just two decades ago due to the generosity of its people, who despite having lost so much, give so much back.

Dip your feet in the ice cold river as you watch the men jump from the bridge, a tradition as old as the original bridge itself, walk through the colourful old town streets, and enjoy a cocktail at the Turkish styled summer garden “Oscar”. Having lived here in the summer of 2015, this place will always have a piece of my heart and I believe no trip to Bosnia & Herzegovina is complete without visiting this gorgeous city.

3) Pocitelj

10 Places in Bosnia & Herzegovina that Will Steal Your Heart, Pocitelj
photo by Milo van Kovacevic, via Flickr

Počitelj, a small town about 30 minutes’ drive from Mostar, is said to have been built by Bosnia’s King Stjepan Tvrtko I in 1383. During the middle ages, the town was the administrative centre and its westernmost point, which gave it major strategic importance. The old town sits on a rocky hill sloping steeply down on the left bank of the Neretva River. Winding stone cobbled streets, a gorgeous mosque, houses built into the hill, a fort with ruins, surrounded by stone city walls- this picturesque town is a window to a forgotten era. For the best views of the town and the river, head to the top of the fort tower. While it is a bit of a hike up, it is well worth it, trust me!

4) Kravice

10 Places in Bosnia & Herzegovina that Will Steal Your Heart
photo by Kevin Botto, via Flickr

If you are a waterfall chaser, this one is a must! About a 30 minute drive from Mostar, Kravice is a popular spot for locals to swim and cool off in the summer with a picnic. Though I have only been there during the summer months, each season brings its beauty.

5) Jajce

10 Places in Bosnia & Herzegovina that Will Steal Your Heart
photo by Brenda Annerl, via Flickr

Another must see for waterfall lovers. About a 4 hour bus ride from Sarajevo, this town was built in the 14th century, when at the time, Jajce was the capital of the Bosnian Kingdom. Climb the fortress, get drenched by the amazing Pliva waterfall and visit the old town’s museums.

6) Blagaj

blagaj

Untouched and hidden from the war, this little piece of paradise is just 12km from Mostar. With a historic dervish monastery perched into a 200m cliff along the bank of Buna River, a river so pure it’s drinkable without filtration, Blagaj, makes a good day trip away from the Mostar’s Old Town. Join the boat tour into the small cave, where the emerald blue waters reach up to 30m deep in one spot, and see the magic for yourself.

7) Trebinje

10 Places in Bosnia & Herzegovina that Will Steal Your Heart
photo by Zdravko Corovic, via Flickr

Though Trebinje is now part of Republic Srpska, it holds a special place in my heart. It is where I was born, where most my family was born and where I spend the first four years of my life. Despite being so close to Dubrovnik, Trebinje isn’t overcrowded. Perfect for a day away from the crowds, to enjoy a nice coffee and walk by the river. Like Mostar, Trebinje’s famous bridge is a fine of the finest examples of Ottoman architecture. It was originally built in 1574 , and then stone by stone rebuilt in the 1960’s after it was flooded by a hydro-power dam.

8) Jablanica

10 Places in Bosnia & Herzegovina that Will Steal Your Heart, jablanica
photo by Milo van Kovacevic, via Flickr

Jablanica is a town between Sarajevo and Mostar. It has an artificial lake which was made in 1953 when a dam was built on the Neretva river. Though it is man-made, one can really feel connected to nature here. It is a great spot for camping. Jablanica is known for its ‘jagnjetinja’, lamb meat. If you are driving Sarajevo to/from Mostar, stop at Zdrava Voda restaurant to sample some for yourself.

9) Stolac

10 Places in Bosnia & Herzegovina that Will Steal Your Heart

Stolac and its surroundings has a long history of settlement. It goes way back to pre-historic man, at least 15,000 years and was then home to the Illryian tribes, before the Romans, German tribes, and eventually the Slavs got there. Climb the 14th century fortress in the Old Town and if you have a hire car – visit the nearby villages of Ošanići (Daorson) and Radimlja. Daorson was the capital of the hellenized Illyrian tribe Daorsi, which today’s Ošanići. The Daorsi were an Illyrian tribe that lived from 300 to 50 BC, and used the Greek language. Radimlja is stecak necropolis is one of the most valuable monuments of medieval Bosnia and dates back to 15th and 16th centuries.

10) Vrelo Bosne, Ilidza

10 Places in Bosnia & Herzegovina that Will Steal Your Heart
photo by Rudolf Getel, via Flickr

Though this is technically in the outskirts of Sarajevo, it deserved its own spot. Just a 15 minute drive from the city centre, this green oasis is the spring of the river “Bosna”. Lush greenery, swans, waterfalls and ponds and lots of wooden bridges – this park looks like the set of a Disney film. A horse carriage tour transports you back into the Austro-Hungarian days, will take you down a long tree lined path which is closed off to motorised traffic and it is perfect for a walk or bike ride. If you are in Sarajevo for more than a day or two, definitely check it out.

What do you say – have I convinced you that there are plenty of reasons to visit Bosnia & Herzegovina? 

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10 Places to love in Bosnia and Herzegovina


This is a guest post by Ariana Kajic.

sarajevo copy Ariana was born in Trebinje, Bosnia and Herzegovina and was just four when the war started, forcing her family along with thousands of her people to leave the country. They made Sydney, Australia their new home and twenty years later Ariana went back home to rediscover where she came from. Her blog The Bosnian Aussie follows her on her trips back home as she learns more about her heritage, and shows the world it’s beauty and why B&H should be on everyone’s travel list.