Lisa Owen

Bosnia and Herzegovina is one of those countries I immediately fell in love with. The Old Town streets were easy to wander, the mountain roads were full of picturesque views, and I couldn’t get enough of Bosnian coffee and hearty traditional meals.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

But you can’t visit Bosnia and Herzegovina without coming away with a head full of historical events. The country’s capital of Sarajevo was a town under siege for nearly four years between 1992 and 1995 and the city still bears the scars more than 20 years on. The Bosnian War is a key part of the country’s history and learning about it helps you understand the country and its people. Here’s seven things to do in Bosnia to learn about the history of this city, as well as make the most of your stay.

Walk through the War Tunnel

Sarajevo’s War Tunnel – also known as the Tunnel of Life – is located near the Sarajevo Airport.

war tunnel

The tunnel was a lifeline for the Sarajevo people while they were under siege. It enabled essential supplies such as food and medicine to reach Sarajevo. The tunnel was carved out by hand and reached into Bosnian free territory. During your visit, make sure you take the time to watch footage of the tunnel in use as supplies were carried in and out.

Wander the Old Town streets of Sarajevo

During your stay in Sarajevo, the Old Town – or Baščaršija - is a must see. Wander through the cobblestoned streets filled with colourful scarves, woven purses, and all sorts of delicious treats ranging from baklava to Turkish Delight.

Old Town streets of Sarajevo

To learn more about the Old Town and its history under Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian rule, you can go on a free walking tour. The tour is held twice daily and guides work on a tips basis. No trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina is complete without a Bosnian coffee – or two or three a day. It is good coffee! They serve it in little copper pouring jugs and cubed sugar. The coffee is designed to sip and also dip the cubes of sugar in. Yum!

bosnian coffee

For a place to eat in the Old Town, I loved Nanna’s Kitchen. From cabbage meat rolls and stewed veal – it was all hearty and delicious.

Take in the view from the Yellow Fortress

For an expansive view of Sarajevo’s Old Town and beyond, head up to the Yellow Fortress Lookout. It’s a short but steep 15 minute walk to the lookout from the Old Town.

Yellow Fortress

Understand more about Bosnia’s history at the Srebrenica Gallery

I won’t lie – you will leave the Srebrrenica Gallery feeling a little depressed, but it gives you a better understanding of what happened during the Bosnian War. The Srebrenica Gallery tells the story of the July 1995 massacre by Bosnian Serb forces of Bosnian Muslim men and boys in the eastern town of Srebrenica.

Srebrenica Gallery

The gallery is filled with powerful images and plays two documentaries showing what daily life was like when Sarajevo was under siege, and shares known details and footage of the Srebrenica lead up and massacre. The gallery is not for the faint hearted. During your stay in Sarajevo, it’s also possible to organise a tour out to Srebenica.

Take a walk down the abandoned Olympic Bobsled Track

The abandoned Olympic Bobsled Track is one of the iconic landmarks of Sarajevo. Located on Trebevic Mountain near Sarajevo, the concrete bobsled runs down through the mountain and is now covered in moss and colorful graffiti.

abandoned Olympic Bobsled Track

The bobsled track dates back to the 1984 Winter Olympics. During the Bosnian war, it served as one of the frontlines. It’s best to take a taxi up to the top and walk down the track as there may still be landmines in the mountains. The bobsled track has amazing acoustics. Test it with someone by standing several feet apart and whisper into the walls. It will sound as if they’re standing right next to you. On your way back from the bobsled, you can pay a couple of dollars to take a ride on the Sunny Land Alpine Coaster.

Visit the Bosnian town of Mostar

There’s more to Bosnia and Herzegovina than the capital. From Sarajevo, it’s only a two hour drive to the beautiful town of Mostar, near the Croatian border. The Old Town of Mostar was destroyed during the Bosnian War but has been rebuilt to mirror its old self. The Old Town is beautiful with its cobblestoned streets and lantern shops, as well as its best known asset, Stari Most – or the Old Bridge. The original Stari Most dates back to the 16th century from the Ottoman period. Unfortunately it was destroyed in 1993 during the Bosnian War but was faithfully rebuilt in 2004 to replicate its former glory.

mostar

You can get great views of the bridge from the Old Town or from the river below. For the brave, you can also organise to jump from the bridge. To do a jump, you need to sign up with the Mostar Diving Club for a fee. They will then make sure you are able to jump from a height by testing you from a series of differing heights and ensure you will hit the water ok. Then if you’re deemed ok, you make the jump from Stari Most into the river below. Depending on the water level, the jump is between 65-75 feet high. Another sight in Mostar is the so called Sniper Tower. The Sniper Tower has a dark past and was where the snipers sat during the Bosnian War as it was one of the tallest buildings in Mostar at the time.

The Sniper Tower

The building is now abandoned and covered with graffiti. If you do make it inside, be careful as there is glass and other dangerous objects littering the floor. Make sure you wear good shoes. The Sniper Tower is due to be demolished in coming years.

Venture out to the Dervish Monastery

The Dervish Monastery is located near Mostar, and is a popular tourist destination because of its location built into the side of a mountain. The picturesque location is beside a cave and you can take a quick boat trip inside for a few dollars – or you can just take in the view from the bridge of the blue river. You can reach the Dervish Monastery by bus or take a taxi. It’s located about a 20 minute drive from Mostar’s centre.

dervish monastery

Things You Should Know:

  • Bosnia and Herzegovina has good bus networks around the country and into the neighboring countries of Montenegro or Croatia. Buses leave several times a day for Dubrovnik, Zagreb and Kotor. To get to Belgrade in Serbia, it’s best to organise a transfer which can be organised by your accommodation as buses are a similar price but take a lot longer. The transfers leave twice a day and only cash is accepted.
  • The currency is the Bosnian Mark. 
  • Buses run regularly between Sarajevo and Mostar and the journey takes about two hours. It’s a beautiful journey through the mountains so try and take the trip during the day. Buses in Bosnia and Herzegovina charge extra on top of your bus fare if you need to stow luggage in the bus hold.
  • While it’s unlikely you will stumble onto a landmine, it’s is highly recommended you stick to hiking trails if you’re exploring the outdoors in Bosnia. The Bosnian mountains are a great place for hiking, but ask locally about the best hiking trails and any areas to avoid.

 

Lisa Owen is a pint-sized Australian following her dreams to travel to as many places as she can, and loves to share her photography, travel hacks, hiking adventures, and food discoveries along the way. At last count, she has travelled to more than 40 countries in between working in public relations and discovering hidden gems in Australia's great outdoors. Instagram: @thelittleadventurer Facebook: The Little Adventurer Australia

The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not reflect the opinions of Cover-More Insurance. You should always read the PDS available from your travel insurance provider to understand the limits, exclusions and conditions of your policy and to ensure any activities you undertake are covered by your policy.