Long overlooked by tourists, Bosnia and Herzegovina is finally getting its moment in the spotlight. Travelers are finally catching onto what a beautiful country Bosnia is: a country of mountains cut through by beautiful rivers, of minarets and churches, bridges and old towns.
Bosnia’s history is tragic, and we urge you to learn it so you can see what this country has overcome. At the same time, also remember to stop and enjoy its beauty and the resilience of this country and the people who have rebuilt it from darker times. Despite the events of the past century, Bosnia is still a place of ethnic, religious, and linguistic diversity – you’ll find cathedrals and mosques, Cyrillic and Latin alphabets, and Muslim and Slavic influences all side by side.
Places to Visit in Bosnia & Herzegovina
For the purposes of this article, we’ve included everything that falls within the borders of Bosnia & Herzegovina in this article.
However, note that Bosnia’s political system is quite complicated, composed of two constitutional and legal entities: the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Srpska. Some of the cities here are part of Republika Srpska; others are part of the Federation of Bosnia & Herzegovina. We recommend traveling to both regions to get a sense of the diversity and beauty of Bosnia!
Sarajevo is the capital of Bosnia & Herzegovina and possesses a rather infamous place in 20th-century history. The spark that set off the tinderbox leading up to World War I, Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination, took place right in the center of Sarajevo on the Latin Bridge. Later, in the 1990s, Sarajevo would be under siege for 4 years, one of the longest sieges of a capital in modern history.
As such, the city is marked with reminders of the war, from bullet holes in the walls from sniper fire to “Sarajevo roses”, indentations left from exploded mortars that have been painted red in remembrance. But Sarajevo is a resilient city. The famous Sarajevo Film Festival literally started running on generators in the middle of the siege, to give residents something to live for and not just merely survive.
These days, Sarajevo is perfectly safe and welcoming for tourists. We recommend taking a walking tour, which will give you a great overview of Sarajevo’s history – before, during, and after the war. This tour will get you introduced to Sarajevo’s most emblematic architecture, from the yellow-and-red city hall to the Latin Bridge to the Old Town (Baščaršija – theoretically pronounced bash-char-shi-ya, though no one will fault you if you can’t get that past your tongue!). Afterwards, we recommend the excellent Srebrenica Gallery 11/07/95, which can help you further understand what Bosnia has faced and is in the process of overcoming. By evening, you should visit the Yellow and White Forts for excellent sunset views over the city.
Finally, get out of the city for a day trip to Mount Trebević, where you can find the remains of the abandoned Olympic bobsled track in Sarajevo, which was the host of the Winter Olympics that took place in former Yugoslavia in 1984. You should also be sure to visit the excellent Tunnel of Hope museum, a remaining 25-meter section of an underground tunnel built by Bosnians trapped by the siege over the course of a few months in 1993. This tunnel is a testament to the endurance that would allow people to survive one of the deadliest sieges in modern history.
But Sarajevo isn’t all war history and sadness – be sure to allow time in your schedule to explore the vibrant nightlife, to sit down and enjoy a cup of Bosnian coffee, and explore the beautiful, still-thriving mosques in town.
Mostar is perhaps the most photographed city in Bosnia, famous for Stari Most, which means “Old Bridge.” Ironically, this bridge is not old at all, having been reconstructed in 2004 after being destroyed on purpose in the 1990s to separate the Muslim side of Mostar from the Croat and Serb side.
Now, Mostar’s bridge stands tall and proud once again over the Neretva River, bringing Instagram pilgrims from all over the world who want to photograph this beautiful piece of history. The Old Town on one side of the Stari Most sells beautiful handicrafts (and quite a bit of Chinese-made souvenir kitsch) while serving up delicious Bosnian food and coffee.
Meanwhile, the Ljubljanska Banka Tower (more commonly known as the Sniper Tower) stands in ruin as a brutal reminder of the hardship this city faced. Graffiti promoting peace and togetherness lines the boarded-up entrance to this building. Monuments stand around the city urging residents and visitors to “Never Forget ’93”, the year where violence swept through Mostar.
Still, like Sarajevo and elsewhere in Bosnia, life goes on. Eat the most delicious example of Bosnian food I’ve ever tried at Restaurant Tima-Irma, and stop for a coffee at Café de Alma, where it is prepared with love and soul. Visit the Koski Mehmed Pasa Mosque and climb its minaret for stunning views over Mostar. Use Mostar as a jumping off point to other beautiful places in Bosnia, such as Kravice Waterfalls and Blagaj (both described in further detail below).
Contributed by Sonal and Sandro of Drifter Planet
Kravice Waterfalls are in the Herzegovina part of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The blue-green river Trebizat creates these waterfalls with a dramatic drop of 25 meters. There is a natural pool at the base of these waterfalls which is perfect for swimming during the hot summer months.
Visiting Kravice Waterfalls is not free; there is a small entrance fee which changes when the season starts. During the summer months, it is around 7 euros per person. Once inside, you will find two restaurants with bars that are right next to the pools.
The best way to enjoy the Kravice Waterfalls is by swimming, so make sure you carry your swimming gear! There are changing booths inside. Carry a mat that you can sit on when you’re not enjoying the waterfalls because the ground is hard and is full of pebbles.
It is easy to visit Kravice Waterfall complex on a day trip from nearby Mostar or even from Dubrovnik, Croatia.
A popular day trip from Mostar, Blagaj is the site of a former Dervish monastery located on the banks of the brilliant turquoise Buna River spring. This white building located underneath the edge of a cliff has become popular among photographers, Instagrammers, and travelers who wish to understand one of the more curious aspects of Bosnia’s history, the Dervish.
The Dervish were a religious sect who traveled to Bosnia during the Ottoman era, bringing their interesting forms of worship with them, involving whirling dancing and chanting as a form of active meditation.
Now nearly 600 years old, this monastery is no longer in use by the Dervish but it is now a popular museum for day-trippers from Mostar. It’s been extensively restored over the years so as to look as it originally did, so it’s in excellent condition.
Contributed by Inma of A World to Travel
Halfway between Sarajevo and Mostar, Konjic is a small village that hasn’t got much attention by tourism until recently, perhaps the key of its charm. The surroundings of the town are completely green. Many of its inhabitants work in the countryside and the houses are very humble and like in all Bosnia.
Konjic is perfect for a half-day trip (the railway company ZFBH has daily trains from Mostar, with a duration of around one hour and a very affordable price, like the rest of the country) or a whole day one if you want to go rafting on the beautiful Neretva River. The journey ends at a small pebble beach at the foot of the main bridge of the town, which in summer is full of people. The water, in general, is very clean and it is a real pleasure to take a bath when the sun warms, even though the water is freezing.
Another beautiful part of this area is Konjic bridge, which connects both parts of the town and was destroyed during the war but later rebuilt.
However, as in most countries of the Balkans, it’s the hospitality and kindness of the people what really surprises its visitors. Add Konjic to your Bosnia itinerary, you won’t regret it!
Only 30 minutes from Dubrovnik and yet a world away in terms of atmosphere (and price), Trebinje is a delightful town in the Republika Srpska region of Bosnia & Herzegovina that should be on more tourists’ radars.
Trebinje is home to a beautiful Old Town, several Austro-Hungarian forts located on the hilltops with stunning views, a thriving viniculture scene with several fantastic wineries, and a beautiful Serbian Orthodox cathedral looking over the town on a hill. There is a gorgeous river that snakes through the town, as well as a few “beaches” where you can dip in the river on a hot day. There is a beautiful old bridge that crosses over the river, perfect for photographing.
While Trebinje’s center can easily be seen in a day and could be done as a day trip from Dubrovnik, I actually preferred doing the opposite. Staying in Trebinje for three days was a fantastic way to unwind and see a more local side to Bosnia & Herzegovina that most tourists rushing through the sights miss, and I was able to catch a ride with a local who worked in Dubrovnik as a day trip, just pitching in for gas. Trebinje is a town that is easy to lose time in – from shopping for fresh cheese and honey at the local market to strolling the riverside to exploring the charms of the streets, you’ll be happy you stopped by.
Contributed by Rohan and Max of Travels of a Bookpacker
Banja Luka feels like a small town but it is actually the second largest city in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the de facto capital of Republika Srpska. It’s located in the north of the country and is not really on the tourist route, but it makes a great stop if you’re crossing by car through Croatia. Banja Luka is a great example of the cultural mix present in Bosnia and Herzegovina and famous sights include an Orthodox church and a mosque.
The city has a pedestrianized area and is great for wandering. An ancient fortress lies on the river bank and is free to explore. The exterior walls are still in decent condition and there’s a nice gateway as well as city views from the top of the walls, however, there’s not much to see inside the walls. The river in Banja Luka is a popular place for a stroll and a few minutes south of the town are some small waterfalls, it’s a peaceful place to while away an hour or two.
Banja Luka is a big city so it offers plenty of eating options including Balkan favorites as well as a variety of foreign food. The city is also a popular base for rafting and canyoning further down the river; the very helpful visitor’s center will provide information about booking.
Contributed by Maria and Rui of Two Find a Way
Počitelj is a fortified medieval town located on the left bank of the Neretva river, in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Its origins date back to the 14th century, and the unique construction style is a result of both medieval and Ottoman influences.
This once thriving city was partly destroyed during the Balkan wars, but has since been reconstructed, and is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today, it seems more like an open-air museum for visitors, and less like an actual town, as only a few people remain. Nevertheless, tourism has certainly been a motor of development in the region, and upon your visit you can help support the locals while enjoying some delightful Bosnian delicacies. Along the street, you can find some stalls selling souvenirs and local products – try the delicious organic and local-grown fruits, and especially the pomegranate juice!
You only need a few hours to explore Počitelj: walk to the fort to get a stunning view and visit one of the structures that best survived the war. On your way, you’ll pass through some of the most relevant buildings in the area, such as the Mosque and the Medresa of Sisman Ibrahim-Pasa.
To get to Počitelj you can either rent a car or book a transfer or tour. It is a very easy day trip to do from Mostar, and if you are short on time you can visit famous attractions such as Počitelj, Blagaj and the Kravice Waterfalls all in the same day.
Contributed by Ben of The Sabbatical Guide
Stećci is the name for the medieval gravestones that are found throughout the countryside of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, and Serbia. Of the 70,000 that are thought to be out there, 60,000 are in Bosnia and Herzegovina, so this is a great place to see them. The oldest stećci have been in place for nearly 900 years, so they are an incredible slice of history, with their carvings depicting scenes from medieval Europe.
Whilst most stećci are in small groups for individual families, there are much larger necropolises which are like our modern day cemeteries. One of the best examples of these can be found less than an hour from Mostar. The necropolis at Radimlja contains over 100 of these headstones, with nearly half of them having incredibly preserved engravings. Unlike a lot of the other stećci sites, there is information here to teach you more about them, and a small visitor center. The cost of entry was only 8 marks (about 4 euros).
This site with around 4,000 of the medieval stećci was given UNESCO heritage site status in 2016, further proof of what a valuable piece of history they are.
Contributed by Lisa of TheHotFlashPacker
Lukomir (pronounced Luke – oh – meer) is the highest village in Bosnia and is easily visited on either a day or overnight trip from Sarajevo. This ethnic village has several unique features – it was largely unaffected by the war in the 1990s, unlike most villages in Bosnia.
Lukomir is the home to a few of the 60,000 stecci (medieval tombstones that pre-dated the Ottoman era). These stecci are found throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina and the ones in Lukomir are just beyond the modern cemetery.
Lukomir is the starting point of some hikes in the canyon, where you will see more livestock than fellow hikers. There is so much snow in the winter that the residents and their livestock move elsewhere for the winter. Although farming is still a large part of life for Lukomir, ecotourism is growing. There are several guesthouses and a café in the village for those who wish to stay for a few days. The village is a 2-hour drive from Sarajevo and can only be visited by private vehicle or by foot as there is no public transportation to the village.
Contributed by Ellis of Backpack Adventures
Sarajevo and Mostar are getting more and more crowded and Bosnia is no longer the unexplored country it once was. But getting off the beaten path in Bosnia is not difficult. The little town of Olovo sees few tourists. There is also not so much to do in Olovo itself – if it wasn’t located in the middle of Bosnia’s beautiful mountains! Olovo is a great place to do some hiking and experience a bit of Bosnia’s countryside.
Olovo is part of the Via Dinarica, a long distance hiking trail through the Dinaric Alps spanning several countries in the Balkans. From Olovo you can take several shorter hikes, though. Follow one of the trails up one of the mountains and enjoy the beautiful views. It is absolutely safe to walk here, but it is important to stay on the marked paths because unexploded landmines might still be a problem in some parts of Bosnia.
Olovo is in the Kravija river valley, and there are also several thermal springs in the area. The water has a unique chemical composition and is believed to have healing properties. The spa in the center of town is believed to cure rheumatic and neurological problems among others. The amazing nature and landscapes remain the main draw of Olovo.
Luckily, it is easy to visit Olovo as a day trip from Sarajevo. The bus takes about 1.5 hours. There are not many accommodation options, but there are some mountain huts available.