Why Bosnia is Europe’s Best Kept Secret

Bosnia Herzegovina, in the Balkan Peninsula, seems largely forgotten by the tourist industry and truly seems like Europe’s best kept secret. Compared to its popular neighbor Croatia which has literally exploded with tourists in the past few years, Bosnia still feels undiscovered and finding places like this is such a joy.

bosnia Europe's best kept secret

Yes there was a nasty war in the 90’s among the former Yugoslavian countries with Bosnia taking the brunt of it. Their economy has not recovered with a staggering 45% unemployment rate. While this is unfortunate for the residents of this country, for tourists this means affordability and a growing tourist industry will help their country greatly.  The beauty of the country is still dazzling and the warm hospitality of its people even more dazzling. I hope to show you why you need to move Bosnia way way up on your bucket lists before the secret gets out!

I had only four days but it was enough for me to be completely smitten. 

Mostar

I took the bus from Dubrovnik to Mostar. The ride is about three and a half hours, depending on traffic and how long you are at the border. Many companies offer day trips to Mostar and I felt sorry for those people because they only got to enjoy this special little city for a few hours. I spent two nights here and it wasn’t enough.

This is a typical pedestrian street for shopping in the old town

Mostar Street

The old city is full of Ottoman style architecture and cobblestone streets

mostar town view

Many Arabic/Turkish style items are sold here

Bosnia Europe's Best Kept Secret

There’s a little restaurant here that was recommended by a local. It’s called Konobo Taurus and has two lovely terraces

Bosnia Europe's best kept secret

I stayed at the Hostel Goa in a private room that had a balcony with this view. (I had to take pics of this bridge at every time of day so bear with me. It was that amazing)

Bosnia Europe's Best Kept Secret

Stari Most (Old Bridge) was built in 1556 by the Ottomans and destroyed in the Croat-Bosnian war of 1993. Eventually it was rebuilt and re-opened in 2004. It was considered one of the most exemplary pieces of Islamic architecture in the Balkans.

It is traditional for the young men of the town to leap from the bridge into the Neretva and the first recorded jump was in 1663! I was lucky enough to witness this jumping. You can see it in my video diary below.

Here’s the bridge at night. So beautiful every time of day!

Bosnia Europe's Best Kept Secret

Herzegovina

There’s another hostel close by called Hostel Nina and I would recommend staying at either place. I somehow found out about the Herzegovina tour that Hostel Nina runs and they invited me to come along, starting with breakfast at the hostel. Zika and Nina, a married couple, run the hostel and Zika does this tour almost every day. There were seven of us, four in his car, three in his father’s. Very personalized and awesome. It was honestly one of the best tours I have ever done.

First we went to a site that is probably not on other tours. Zika showed us a hidden tunnel complex from the Yugoslavian era, built by Tito as an emergency bunker in case Yugoslavia was attacked. Nobody knew about these until the war in the 1990’s when a false stone wall was destroyed, revealing the bunker. It was fascinating.

Next we visited Blagaj which is a village situated on the Buna River. There is a historical tekija or Dervish Monastery. This Blagaj Tekija was built around 1520 and has elements of Ottoman architecture. It is considered a national monument.

Bosnia Europe's Best Kept Secret

After this we visited Pocitelj, a fortified village on the Neretva River that was partly built during medieval times and part during Ottoman rule in the 16th century. Sadly much of it was damaged by Croatian forces in the 1993 Bosnian War.

Bosnia Europe's Best Kept Secret

It was beautiful to hike and walk around, explore the old mosque and the tower. Pocitelj View

Bosnia Europe's Best Kept Secret

Next we marveled at the Kravice Waterfalls which literally popped out of nowhere.

Bosnia Europe's Best Kept Secret

At the waterfalls, there are two scenic restaurants to have traditional Bosnian food and beer. The water is  very very cold but inviting all the same. Bosnia Europe's Best Kept Secret

A Sobering History

Finally Zika took us to this hill where we looked down on Mostar. We had a sobering history lesson here. I don’t intend to repeat everything but I think it’s important to know what has happened in a country I’m visiting. Especially something as big as the war here which was the bloodiest conflict Europe has seen since WW2. The Balkans war was incredibly complicated and who was on what side was not clear-cut and changed often. This hill is where both Croatia and Serbia could siege Mostar.

Mostar received the most shelling of any city during the war and still shows these signs both emotionally and physically. You can see bombed out hollow buildings if you walk a few blocks beyond the pretty old town. Houses are neglected. There is still animosity today with a divide in the city between ethnic Croats who are Catholic and Bosnians who are Muslim. It seems that the war and resulting tension has less to do with religion and more to do with nationalism. It will take generations for people to truly move on.

Bosnia Europe's Best Kept Secret

Obviously we needed to drink after that emotional part of the tour. That evening we had a lovely dinner with a view at Restaurant Legaro,  recommended by Zika and conveniently across the street from his bar were we went after dinner.

Just Come for the Food

Let’s talk about Bosnian food. The food has a strong Ottoman Turk influence still today, which is awesome. Lots of kebab, eggplant and something called burek, which is a delicious pastry filled with cheese or spinach or both. Pizza burek is the latest craze. I stopped by the Pekara, or bakery, quite often. The national specialty is called Ćevapčići and is found throughout the Balkans but apparently is the best in Bosnia. It is a skinless meat sausage. The type of meat varies from country to country but no pork used in Bosnia. It is grilled on a coal-fired grill and served with flat bread, onions, tomatoes, Ajvar (a roasted garlic red pepper sauce) or Kajmak (a creamy buttery cheese-like product similar to clotted cream). I am still thinking about this stuff!!

Bosnia Europe's Best Kept Secret
This is the view from the terrace at restaurant Legaro. Yes, another bridge picture!

Sadly I had to leave Mostar before I wanted to. I actually would like to go back and explore beyond the touristy part of the city since I am a history nerd.

Sarajevo

I took the bus to Sarajevo which was two and a half hours and a beautiful scenic ride. I was torn between gawking at the scenery and sleeping. There is usually a train that is popular, but was not running at the time.

Read More:  Sarajevo, The Most Interesting City in Europe

It is often called the Jerusalem of Europe because there are Mosques, Catholic Cathedrals, Orthodox Churches and Synagogues literally steps from one another.

Reasons Bosnia is Europe's Best Kept Secret
Baščaršija Square with the Ottoman Sebilj Monument

I highly recommend a walking history tour here because this city is incredibly rich in history and culture and worth learning about. The city where an assassination ultimately led to two World Wars shouldn’t be ignored!

This is the most beautiful city hall building I’ve ever seen. Built during the rule of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, it is a fabulous mix of Baroque and Ottoman styles.

Why Sarajevo is Europe's Most Interesting City

The Emperor’s Mosque, built in 1457. The first mosque to be built after the Ottoman conquest of Bosnia.

Bosnia is Europes best kept secret

In the middle of this frame is Inat Kuca which translates to Spite House. It is a historic house with a hilarious story which I recount in my Sarajevo post. It is now a very good restaurant for traditional food.

Bosnia Europes best kept secret

From Sarajevo I took a short flight to Ljubljana where my journey in the Balkans continues.

Read More: 4 Magical Days in Slovenia

I can’t say enough good things about Bosnia. It is a special beautiful country that really could use more tourism and I hope to have inspired some more people to visit. You will enjoy large portions of delicious food, gorgeous scenery, incredible history and warm friendly people.

bosnia europe's best kept secret

Pin it!

Bosnia

About The Author

csaradar

27 COMMENTS

  1. princeandthepear | 12th Jul 17

    Are these pictures even real? First of all.. thank you for showing another side of Europe that I honestly never knew much about. I hate to be a nay sayer… but because of the current boom in Croatia right now… I feel like I’ve kind of seen everything there is to be done there through blogging and social media. Of course I will still visit one day, but my word these photos make me want to go to Bosnia right now. Actually gonna go look up plane tickets to see if it’s possible to make it there before winter. Thank you for sharing your experiences!

    • csaradar | 13th Jul 17

      I’m so happy to hear this! I do love Croatia too, but it’s nice to go somewhere a bit off the major tourist track. Bosnia was really a pleasant surprise and I fell in love with it. It’s hard to take a bad picture because it’s so beautiful!

  2. Ten Best Travel Moments of 2016 - WanderingRedHead | 31st May 17

    […] I saw this magical bridge picture but little did I know that the entire town, not to mention all of Bosnia,  is astonishingly charming with old world influence, hospitable people and fabulous food! I am so […]

  3. Ashlee | 22nd Apr 17

    Loved this post! I definitely want to take a trip to Bosnia.

    Ashlee | ashleemoyo.com

    • csaradar | 28th Apr 17

      Thank you. Bosnia is such a special place! I hope you go!

  4. The.Restless.Worker | 6th Jan 17

    These photos are gorgeous! I really want to visit Bosnia. Thanks for the inspiration 🙂

    • csaradar | 7th Jan 17

      You’re very welcome!

  5. Ultimate Guide to 2017's Top Travel Destinations ~ Maps & Merlot | 4th Jan 17

    […] Bosnia—Cherene from Wandering Redhead […]

  6. Leah | 1st Nov 16

    Bosnia looks amazing and your pictures are stunning! I am going to have to make this one of my next trips!

    • csaradar | 2nd Nov 16

      Thank you! Bosnia surprised me and blew me away. I hope you go!

  7. Monica Houghton | 1st Nov 16

    How cool!! I want to go there now, adding to my list 🙂 Love all your pics!

    • csaradar | 2nd Nov 16

      So glad you are putting it on your list. If your list is anything like mine it’s a bit out of control. LOL

  8. MIRIAM ROMAN | 1st Nov 16

    Woooow!!!I always wanted visiting Bosnia but now I’m dying to go. Thank you very much for all these tips and keep traveling and writing. xx

    • csaradar | 2nd Nov 16

      Thanks Miriam! I can’t say enough good things about Bosnia and I’d love to see them get more tourism.

  9. Jessica | 31st Oct 16

    Thanks for this, was just telling someone I know nothing about Bosnia! And now I do haha

    • csaradar | 31st Oct 16

      Haha well that’s a funny coincidence. Now you more than you ever wanted:) Thanks for commenting.

  10. Christine | 31st Oct 16

    Wow I really need to check this place out! It’s the one area of Europe I haven’t been but that food sounds amazing. One to add to the list for sure!

    • csaradar | 31st Oct 16

      I still think about this food! It really is a special place. Go before the secret gets out:)

  11. Arita | 31st Oct 16

    Ballkans is definitely Europes best kept secret, I’m Albanian and gosh It’s magical down there , this article makes me miss home so much 😖

    • csaradar | 31st Oct 16

      I am in love with the Balkans and Albania is high on my list. Definitely will visit next time I’m in the region!

  12. Why Sarajevo is One of Europe's Most Interesting Cities - WanderingRedHead | 14th Aug 16

    […] Read More: Why Bosnia is Europe’s Best Kept Secret […]

  13. Laura | 21st Jul 16

    Wonderful post Cherene!! Definitely makes me want to plan a trip here!

    • csaradar | 24th Jul 16

      Thank you! I hope you go someday. You will love it!

  14. Alex Cote | 20th Jul 16

    I currently live in Croatia and have spent a lot of time in Bosnia as well. You hit the nail right on the head with that Bosnia does need more tourism, and you can still feel a lot of the past tragedies in Mostar. I really love this piece because you showed both the pain and beauty of Bosnia. Thank you for a great piece!

    • csaradar | 20th Jul 16

      How lucky you live in such a beautiful region! I really appreciate your comment. I was hoping to portray it the way you described. I will be posting about Croatia soon:)

  15. Surekha paez | 17th Jul 16

    Very cool. Have to plan my next trip there

    • csaradar | 20th Jul 16

      I will help you:)

Leave A Comment

Leave a Reply