Backpacking in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Countries  »  Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina – or more commonly known as ‘Bosnia’ – is filled with a fascinating mix of cultures that separate it from other Eastern European countries. Hosting a combination of Iranian heritage from the Ottoman Empire, medieval charm, and a mix of Bosniaks, Croats, and Serbs, Bosnia offers impressive cuisine and architecture.  Bosnia and Herzegovina really has it all.

Things to do

In the capital city, Sarajevo, you can crawl through an underground tunnel and learn more about the Bosnian war of 1992 – 1995 at the Sarajevo Tunnel Museum. The Sarajevo Tunnel was constructed to link the city of Sarajevo with Bosnia-held territory after the city was cut off by Serbian forces. The once-secret tunnel was used for food, war supplies and humanitarian aid which were delivered to the city and was occasionally used to get people out of the city as well as into it. The tunnel was built by hand using shovels and picks for 24 hours a day, with each worker being paid in cigarettes for their hard work. At the museum you can learn more about the war, showcasing photographs, military equipment, flags and uniforms. It won’t be a pleasant day out, but it definitely makes for an insightful one.

If you’re an outdoors type, hiking in Rakitnica and visiting Bosnia’s last remaining mountain village should be on the itinerary. The hiking trail offers amazing views from great vantage points as you make you way to the medieval village of Lukomir. In this quaint location of basic living, you can walk in between white stone houses with red roofs, dodge cattle and sheep and take in amazing mountain views. Only a handful of people live here, but the elders of the village will happily share their stories of the war and what life is like living high up in the hills caring for farm land and their small community.

For a more exciting adventure in Rakitnica, you can take on the fast flowing streams of the Rakitnica Canyon, with just you, a tour guide and a one-person rubber dinghy. This adventure sport is called Canyoning, and unlike the classic definition of the sport, in Bosnia it is all about diving into the tight spaces between the streams and lime stone cliffs.  You put on your helmet, jump on your dingy and soar through the fast-flowing rapids head first.  

To get even closer to the nature of Bosnia, near Neretva Valley in Mostar, you can find the beautiful Kravice Waterfalls and a pool where locals go for a swim. Surrounded by woodland, these 82ft falls look like they belong in SE Asia – although the chilly water will remind you otherwise. They can be a difficult to find so it might be worth charming some locals to get the details on this secret location, and if you’re travelling there by car it’s more than likely you may have to go some of the way on foot. That said, it can get pretty busy here, but hey a few more people won’t hurt.

Things to See

Sarajevo’s Old Town, known as Stari Grad, offers a glimpse in to what life was once like in Bosnia. Turkish influence, small cafes, shops and open squares make this is the perfect area to walk around and get some envy-inducing photos. In the centre is the Bascasija, the old town market which is where the city was founded in the 15th century. Here the mix of Turkish, Bosnia and Austrian culture all thrive alongside a Serbian Orthodox church, Sarajevo cathedral and the Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque, each within walking distance of each other. For a challenge, you can have a go at the massive chessboard – extra points if you can win against a local!

Arguably one of Bosnia’s most iconic landmarks, the stunning Old Bridge of Mostar looks like it fell out of a Disney film. Built in the 16th century, this Bridge is the centrepiece of this small, charming village in Bosnia, connecting two parts of the city on either side of the turquoise Nerevta River.  Okay, so there may be a white lie there; although the bridge was originally built in the 16th century and did stand there for almost 430 years, it was destroyed in 1993 during the Bosnia war. Since then it has been rebuilt, mimicking the same techniques and materials which were originally used in order to make an identical structure.  

If you’re into eerie and seemingly haunted places, the abandoned tracks of the 1984 Winter Olympics in the hills of Sarajevo will definitely give you a chill. You can try to imagine the crowds and atmosphere at the now emptied and graffiti-covered bob sled track, peaking in between overgrown forest. Walk under the ski slopes, look up at the ski lifts and stand above first place on the faded medal podium.

For more historical endeavours, The Srebrenik Fortress is a truly awesome sight. Built in 1333, this incredible fortress – arguably the coolest word ever – is Bosnia’s best-preserved medieval castle. Located on a hillside on the out skirts of Srebrenik, this great fortress has different size turrets, winding walls and steep stairs. The only catch? You have to cross a wooden bridge to get across.