Part of the unassuming Balkans, Bosnia & Herzegovina’s appeal is often overshadowed by neighbouring Croatia. Yet, this generally uncrowded country is blessed with spectacular landscapes that remain largely untouched, making scenic drives a norm here. More importantly, this European country has a wealth of culture and history stemming from its complicated past — the country was afflicted by war until as recently as 1995 and played a major role in the outbreak of World War I.
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Although commonly visited on day trips, Bosnia & Herzegovina’s attractions extend well beyond a single day. Swim relaxedly beneath a beautiful waterfall, lay eyes on monuments such as the Stari Most bridge and a 600-year-old Dervish monastery or just spend time wandering the old towns. You might just be surprised by how much you enjoy your visit here!
Photograph the symbolic Stari Most
A rebuilt 16th-century Ottoman bridge that arches over the blue-green Neretva river, Stari Most is one of Bosnia & Herzegovina’s most iconic landmarks. Symbolic for uniting the two sides of the city Mostar, the current Stari Most is actually a reconstruction of the original, which was destroyed in a 1993 war with the Croatians. Feel a thrill when you look down from the 24-metre-high bridge to the waters beneath; although officially discouraged against, the UNESCO World Heritage Site is commonly used as a diving spot. On a clear day, the reflection of the bridge appears on the lake to form a circle that frames Mostar, making for a pretty picture.
Swim beneath Kravica Waterfall
Regarded as an under-the-radar alternative to Croatia’s Plitvice Lakes National Park, the Kravica Waterfall is about 120 metres wide and cascades into a clear blue lake from the height of 25 metres. The “mini-Niagara falls” is a popular site amongst both locals and travellers especially during the summer, where you can swim or row a boat right up to the waterfall. If you’d like to admire the waterfall from above, head along the longer route circling the site instead of the stairs leading directly to the falls and you’ll come across several lookout points that give you a vantage view of the waterfall nestled within the forest.
Immerse in different cultures and history at Sarajevo
The capital of Bosnia & Herzegovina, Sarajevo is the single best representation of the country’s rich culture and history. Stroll around its old town and bazaar Bascarsija and you’ll get a sampling of the city’s Muslim, Jewish, Orthodox and Ottoman-style buildings such as the Emperor’s Mosque and the Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque. Sarajevo also has a total of 24 museums, including the Gallery 11/07/95 where you can learn about the genocide of 8,000 Muslim Bosniaks and the Museum of Literature & Performing Arts. The corner where the “shot around the world” thatkilled the Archduke of Austria and started the first World War was fired remains till today — stand at the spot to immerse yourself in a bit of history.
Visit the one-of-a-kind Blagaj Dervish house
There’s one thing you might not notice about the ordinary looking building located at the base of a cliff at first glance — it’s actually a 600-year-old Dervish monastery that’s regarded as one of the country’s most mystical places! Inside the spiritual complex, you’ll find a turbeh or mausoleum, a hamam or Turkish bath, a courtyard and a tekke or prayer room furnished with plush Persian rugs laid out all around. Besides visiting the monastery, travellers can also enter the nearby cave on a boat ride and learn more about the Buna River’s source.
Transport back to the past at Pocitelj
The medieval town of Pocitelj might be small but it’s also full of charm. Located atop a hill overlooking the Neretva River, the national monument’s landmarks include the 15th-century kula or fort that used to guard against possible intrusions into the valley, the reconstructed 16th-century Hadzi-Alija Mosque and the 17th-century sahat-kula bell tower. Interestingly, the Gavran Kapetanovica houses in Pocitelj are also where one of Southeastern Europe’s first art colonies were born and approximately 2,000 works of art are still displayed there. The town is currently sitting on the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage sites but still remains more authentic and quiet than its counterparts, making this an opportune time to pop by before the crowds descend.