In the shadow of its Croatian and Montenegrin neighbours with their prestigious location on the sapphire-blue Adriatic, Bosnia and Herzegovina long enjoyed a niche existence. The country, in the second row near the coast, seemed too insecure – its political past too dramatic. A mistake? Mhmm, and what a mistake! Because while next door, from a tourist point of view, the premium destinations were churning out luxury hotels on a grand scale, Bosnia and Herzegovina quietly and secretly developed into the ultimate Balkan secret tip. After all, diamonds are only created under pressure. This is also the case with Bosnia and Herzegovina, which today lags behind Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro and Albania in terms of Adriatic happiness, but has its heart in the right place and charms with its inner values.
If you want to see this fascinating destination for yourself and discover why it is about to rise like Phoenix from the ashes, this Bosnia and Herzegovina blog portrait invites you to take a trip to the Balkans.
The Brake on the Bosnian War – Why Balkan Tourism was a Foreign Term from Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Dreams of the Future in the 1990s
To the present day, the political past has not let go of the modest country opposite the Italian boot. The terrible images of bullet-riddled streets, some of which are still painfully reminiscent of the Bosnian war from 1992 to 1995, are still too present.
It is the 1st of March 1992 when a referendum in Bosnia-Herzegovina decided in favour of independence from Yugoslavia, which was against the will of Bosnian Serbs. What initially turned into an election boycott turned into one of Europe’s most horrendous wars after World War II, with a record of more than 100,000 lives sacrificed and more than 2 million people displaced. Around 700,000 people were on the run and about half made it to Germany. A large proportion of the refugees have returned to their old homeland in recent decades and a vanishingly small proportion of the guilty have ever been convicted.
Dayton, an airbase in the USA, concluded a peace agreement in 1995, which, however, only froze the old conflicts instead of resolving them. The result is two entities (independent parts of the country), which include the Serb Republic (Srbska) and the Croat Bosniak Federation (Federacija). On top of that, there is the condominium of Brcko, a city that is administered by all, has a special status and is independent of the first-mentioned entities. There are also 10 cantons, each of which is charming in its own way. After the Bosnian war, billions in financial aid were provided by the EU and the USA, and a whole host of diplomats tried to restore order. Although the little jewel of the Balkans is still not at the premium tourist level of, for example, sophisticated Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina enchants with a modest attitude and an incomparable charm.
The Current Safety Situation
In terms of domestic politics, the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina is considered stable, according to the Federal Foreign Office. Should protests ever occur, they are generally peaceful. Nevertheless, you should generally be alert, especially with regard to the gathering of crowds.
Immediate danger lurks away from the paved roads, even in the catchment area of the capital Sarajevo. There are still fields with landmines as well as unexploded bombs, which is particularly treacherous during landslides caused by storms. Since the minefields may then begin to move, corresponding indications are usually no longer recognisable. Therefore, under no circumstances should you dare to experiment off the normal, signposted road.
The Climate in Bosnia and Herzegovina – it’s all about the mix
As a south-eastern European destination in the immediate vicinity of the Adriatic Sea, a continental to Mediterranean climate awaits you in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In the hot summer months, it is not unusual for the thermometer to climb up to 40 °C. In winter, however, temperatures can even drop to the minus range. In winter, however, temperatures can even drop into the minus range. If you want to explore Bosnia and Herzegovina (which is highly recommended), the transition months between summer and winter are ideal. Alternatively, a beach holiday awaits you in Bosnia’s only seaside resort – a secret pearl.
Bye-bye mass tourism, welcome Bosnian Riviera – from mysterious Bosnian beaches hardly known to anyone
You have to zoom over the map to discover that Bosnia actually has access to the sea. While its Croatian neighbour claims a considerable part of the Adriatic coast for itself, Bosnia cheats its way to eye level with a nano-piece. After Monaco, it is the world’s second-smallest coastline ever seen by the sea god, at a vanishingly small 22 km. Neum is the name of the only coastal town Bosnia has to offer. Tourists in neighbouring Croatia wave goodbye when it comes to alternative beach life on the Adriatic. But you should straighten your reading glasses now, because a real insider tip awaits you: in the seaside resort of Neum you can spend the cheapest holiday on the entire Adriatic. If that doesn’t make your piggy bank grunt with joy!
Bosnia interrupts the Croatian coastline with Neum. The territories were divided during the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires. Over a period of several centuries, Bosnia was under Ottoman occupation. The Austro-Hungarian rule, on the other hand, was taken over by Dalmatia and Croatia. Today, the ancient border of both empires is that between Croatia and Bosnia. Since hardly anyone has this jewel on the Adriatic Sea on their radar, you can give the neighbouring mass tourism the cold shoulder. The beaches around Neum are mainly visited by locals, so you can be alone with God and the world, especially in the evening hours. You can’t swim or want to spend a beach holiday with your children? Here you can float into the sea at a shallow entrance. Natural pebbles take over the massage of pampered bodies.
5 + 1 = WOW – these enchanting hotspots in Bosnia and Herzegovina will make your heart skip a beat.
Besides the culturally more than impressive capital Sarajevo, you will find places in Bosnia and Herzegovina that offer you a colourful bouquet of moments to marvel at. Five of them deserve their place in this short portrait. Lace up your explorers and set off on paths that break away from mass tourism.
Mostar – a gem straight out of a storybook
It is – how could it be otherwise – part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site: in the old town of the little town of Mostar, picturesque alleys merge with lazily sunken stone houses. Can you hear their murmuring yet? They tell stories from a time long gone. That life plays out in the here and now is revealed by the leisurely flow of the Neretva River. Its turquoise waters keep up perfectly with those from the South Seas. Almost legendary and characteristic for the image of the place is the bridge of Mostar. It dates back to the 16th century and fell victim to the Bosnian war in 1993. Today it has been restored with its old Ottoman aura according to the antique model.
Kravica Waterfalls – Balkan Tropical Feeling
The Kravica waterfalls in the village of Studenci descend 28 metres. They flow into a basin, which you can even bathe in. This is a real rarity considering that the falls themselves have been placed under nature protection. Here, however, you will not only bathe in the water, but also in lush vegetation around your heat-saturated body, the green of which is pure relaxation for your eyes. Speaking of heat: the water of the falls reaches a maximum of 15 degrees and will give you the refreshment you long for in the summer months. The thundering water eddies fall like a veil over a width of about 120 metres. But be careful: jumping from the waterfalls can be life-threatening due to the rocks in the basin!
Old Town of Trebinje – Mediterranean Cypress Idyll
The old town of the south-eastern city of Trebinje offers everything you need for a slow-down. Shade for your reddened cheeks and culture for your heart in the Hercegovacka Gracanica, the venerable church of Our Lady of All Saints. Sitting on a hill above the town, you can visit the fascinating monastery complex and memorise a breathtaking panorama over the roofs of Trebinje at sunset. A truly perfect place to slow down from everyday life with ice cream and a stroll through secluded alleys and ancient squares.
Sisman Ibrahim Pasa Mosque in Pocitelj – Alabaster-Coloured Jewel in the Hinterland
Wildly romantic, perched on the edge of orchards and vegetable gardens and beyond rampant wildflowers, the Sisman Ibrahim Pasa Mosque is the pride and joy of the Bosnian-Herzegovinian village of Pocitelj. On a hike along lonely paths, you will meet a friendly little people for whom you are one of the highlights of the day. In the valley, the Neretva River meanders its turquoise waters and the rocks surrounded by iridescent green are dotted with picturesque stone cottages. You’ll also find the old fortress of Pocitelj high up here, as well as an artists’ colony reconstructed after the Bosnian War in the Gavrenkapetanovic House.
Blagaj – Bubbling Buna Spring and Impressive Dervish Monastery
Rugged karst cliffs and trees that tower like giants into the sky frame the shore around the source of the Buna River in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In the midst of this area dramatically staged by nature, the Tekija Monastery hugs the rugged rock overhangs. It was founded by Dervishes some 600 years ago. If you want to know about the living culture of the Turks, you will find such a museum here today. A small part of the old monastery remains, which you should definitely capture with your camera. To get to the source of the Buna River, hop on a boat that will take you to the small cave where the river rises. Hajde!