Recently I went for a 36-day awesome trip to the Balkans and I spent 5 days in Bosnia. Before coming to Bosnia, I did not know what to expect because I really didn’t know much about it besides the terrible war that happened during the 90’s. Now that I’ve spent a good solid 5 days in Bosnia, I can tell you it’s an amazing country to visit, in terms of gorgeous scenery, cultural aspect, history and of course food ! Here is my 5-DayBosnia Itinerary !
Day 1 – Arrival in Mostar (I arrived from Dubrovnik)
Mostar’s Stari Most is one of Bosnia’s most iconic landmark. The arched bridge was built by Mimar Hajrudin. Mimar Hajrudin was the apprentice of Mimar Sinan, who was the chief Ottoman architect that built many notable buildings in Turkey. The shape of the bridge was thought to be inspired by the shape of Mimar Hajrudin’s lover’s eyebrows. It took him 9 years to build, using 446 different type of stones. When the bridge was completed in 1566, the architect never went back to see the bridge because he was afraid that the bridge would collapse. The bridge in fact, stood strong until 1993, before the war broke out and destroyed the bridge.
If you are lucky enough, you might be able to catch young folks jumping off the bridge, which is a sign of courage. However, the act of jumping today is becoming more of a performance, and the jumpers would only jump once they have collected enough donations from the spectators. Red Bull also organises a yearly cliff jumping event from the bridge in September.
If you are looking to buy Bosnian coffee sets, Mostar would be a good place to get them because things are cheaper in Mostar than Sarajevo, and you get more choices for design as well.
Day 2 – Visit Blagaj Dervish Monastery
The monastery is not too far from Mostar with a 30 minutes bus ride. The monastery is built by the cliff and stands over the green Buna River. Did you know that you could drink the water from the river directly ? There are stairs from the back of the monastery that leads you directly to the river if you would like to try the water but just be careful especially during rainy days as the steps get slippery.
The monastery is still functional today where the Dervish community uses it regularly to read and pray. Weekly ceremonies take place and every year on the first Sunday of May, Dervish from all over the world gather at the monastery to pray.
My German friend Alex whom I met on the road has also mentioned to me that the tours organised by Miran Hostel is exceptional, as it brings you not just to Blagaj, but also to other smaller towns nearby like the Krevic Waterfall and the village of Pocitel, so it’s something you could consider as well for a day out from Mostar.
Day 3 Travel from Mostar to Sarajevo
Sarajevo is a city of east meets west, which is perfectly illustrated in its old town, also known as Baščaršija. Having been ruled by both the Ottoman Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, you would not only see two distinctive type of architecture, but also a meeting of civilizations. Furthermore, Sarajevo is also known as “European Jeurasalem”, as within Baščaršija, you’ll found Orthodox Churches, Jewish Synagogues, Muslim mosques and cathedrals.
The ottoman part of the old town starts at the Baščaršija Square, where the wooden Sebilj fountain is located. “Sebilj” is an Arabic word which means “open for everyone”, “free for everyone” and it is synonymous with Sarajevo.
Besides the typical magnets and Bosnian coffee sets that you would see in the old town, you would also find unusual souvenirs that are made of empty bullet shells. You can imagine how terrible the war must have been when there are enough empty bullet shells to make pens, key chains and aeroplanes. Think twice though before buying them because some countries don’t allow them to be brought back (like Malaysia ! I bought these keychains but in the end I had to leave them in Sarajevo :()
If you notice, some buildings still have bullet holes on them as the owners don’t want to repair it as they want to remind people of what had happened in the past.
This is the Austrian part of the old town. If I didn’t tell you where this photo was taken, you would have guessed it’s somewhere in Austria right ? There’s also signage on the floor that indicates the point where the east meets west.
Other points of interest in the old town include :
1. Gazi Husrev Beg’s Mosque – Gazi Husrev Beg was the grandson Sultan Beyazid II’ from the Ottoman Empire. He dedicated his life to Bosnia, building libraries, implementing water systems and many notable buildings. The mosque that he built in 1530 is an exemplary example of architecture in Bosnia & Herzegovina from the Ottoman Era.
2. The Guzi Husrev Beg’s Museum – If you would like to find out more about the Guzi Husrev Beg, this is the place to be.
3. The City Hall (Vijećnica) – Take a peep inside and see its unique interior design, combining both European and Moorish elements. The building was the most beautiful Austro-Hungarain building during its time.
(Opening Hours : Daily 9 am to 5 pm. Entrance Fee : 2 KM. City Hall Official Website)
4. The Vjecna Vatra, or the Eternal Flame that has been lit 1946 and has never been out since then. The flame was lit to commemorate the people that sacrificed to protect the land during World War II.
5. The Yellow Fortress – The fortress is pretty much like what its name suggests as it was built from yellow stones during the 18th century. The fortress is a short15-20 minutes walk if you are starting off from the Sebilj Fountain and it’s an excellent vantage point to see Sarajevo from above.
6. Sarajevo Cable Car on Mount Trebević – The ultimate vantage point would definitely be the cable car. Before the siege of Sarajevo, Mount Trebević was the place of leisure for the Bosnian people; there was also a cable car system that was unfortunately completely destroyed during the siege and Mount Trebevic became sniper ground for the Serbian military Forces. Today, the cable car reopens in 2018, and it is seen as the last step to the complete restoration of Sarajevo after the siege. (Opens daily from 9am – 6 pm, 10 Euros for return trip for foreigners).
7. Latin Bridge – there are a few bridges on the Miljacka River. The Latin Bridge, in particular, has great significance because it was on this bridge that the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated, which initiated World War I.
8. Inat Kuca, or “The House of Spite” – The house was originally located at where the City Hall is today. When the construction of city hall was in plan, the owner of the house did not agree to the demolishing of his house and had his house moved across the river, brick by brick, and hence the name. Today, it is a excellent restaurant for visitors to enjoy a traditional Bosnian meal.
9. Trg Oslobođenje (Liberation Square) – The square was built during the communist era. During the era, people were highly controlled by the communist party. It was only at this square that the people had a little freedom of speech and did not have to worry about going to jail for something they said.
There are of course a lot more places than the above mentioned to visit in Sarajevo and you’ll easily find them would be on foot. But if you would like to know more about Sarajevo in depth, you could join a free walking tour or download the app Guide2Sarajevo – Sarajevo Audio Travel Guide (RM 12.90).
In terms of food, Sarajevo has lots to offer, and there are plenty of choices in the old town. Look for :
1. Burek (or pite) – In the Balkans, neighbouring countries have similarities in food and they tend to say the food from their country is the best. Burek, however, is one of those dishes that the Balkans people unanimously say “The Bosnians do it best”. Try the burek in Buregdzinica Sac as it is the best one in town recommended by the locals.
2. Bosnian Sweets & Bosnian Coffee – You’ll definitely stumble upon some sweet shops or cafes at some point when you are walking about in Baščaršija. For coffee, I don’t have a particular place to recommend because they are all so good ! I drink one every day whenever I can ! For sweets, go for Carigrad Sweets Shop as they have a great selection of traditional desserts, and plus they’ve been in operation since 1950 so they must be doing something right !
3. Cevapi – You’ll see this everywhere on the streets of Baščaršija (or pretty much everywhere in Bosnia & Herzegovina) as it is the national dish. Definitely give it a try or your trip to Bosnia would not be complete without it !
4. Bosnian Sahan – The Bosnian plate has a good variety of food with stuffed peppers, stuffed onions, stuffed grape leaves, rice and stewed meat. It’s really healthy too with a balanced portion of meat vegetables and protein.
Day 4 – Continue with Exploration in Sarajevo, outside Baščaršija – National Museum, Tunnel of Hope and Velro Bosne (Sarajevo Water Source) . You could get to these place by tram, but the trams don’t stop directly in front of these places so be prepared to do some walking.
Start the day at the National Museum. The museum exhibits the traditional way of life of Bosnians through textiles, costumes, interior design and crafts. There’s also a myriad of artefacts from the prehistoric ages, Roman times and the medieval era.
(Opening Hours : Tuesday to Friday 10am – 7pm, Weekends 10 am – 2 pm, Closed to Sundays. Entrance Fee : 6km. Official Website : National Museum of Bosnia & Herzegovina).
Visit the Tunnel of Hope Museum – The museum documents the 4-year-siege of Sarajevo, which is the longest siege in modern history, resulting in the death of more than 10,000 people. The tunnel was the hard work of 300 people that worked day and night for 4 months, using only very basic tools to dig. One side of the tunnel is built by using wood while the other side was built by using metals as the people could only built with whatever material they had in hand. The tunnel allowed food, water, people and humanitarian aide to come in and out of Sarajevo as Sarajevo was completely blocked out by the Serbian forces. The tunnel is 800 m long, but we only get to see a small section of it today. (Opening Hours : April to October 9 am to 5pm, November to March 9 am to 4 pm. Entrance Fee : 10 KM. Tunnel of Hope Official Website).
Take a stroll at Vrelo Brosne – Vrelo Brosne is located just 15km from the center of Sarajevo. The 603 hectares of park is full of pristine ponds and rivers, and it is also the main source for drinking water supply in Sarajevo. The park is easily accessible via trams to Ilidza, an area well know for its thermal waters. (Entrance Fee : 2KM)
Day 5 – Take a Day Trip out of Sarajevo, visiting Pilva Lakes, Jajce and Travnik (about 55 Euros per person, joining tours).
It took us about 2 hours 45 minutes to the Pilva Lakes. There are two Pilva lakes, the Great Pilva Lake and the Small Pilva Lake. The waters on these lakes are “heavy waters”, meaning that the composition has a higher density of hydrogen than your normal H2O, making these water very suitable for water sports. European kayaking and canoeing championships have been held at the Great Pilva Lake.
The Small Pilva Lake is intriguing with many wooden mills and mini waterfalls. These mills were used to make flour, powered by hydropower. They were built during the 15th century, and they were pretty iconic during the Austro-Hungarian times as the mills were a popular subject on postcards. Today the mills are mostly not functional anymore but if you really wanted to make flour from scratch, there is one mill left for you to do just that !
Jajce town is about 5 km away from the Pilva Lakes. The name of “Jajce” came about as the town was built on an egg-shaped hill, and “Jajce” means egg. There’s another saying that because the town walls were built with egg shells and hence the name.
Jajce has its own very waterfall that’s just right outside the city walls – the Pilva Waterfalls. My photo of the waterfall doesn’t do it justice as it was raining on that day so we couldn’t get to the base of the waterfall to get a better angel of the waterfall.
The Jajce town was a quaint place to walk around. Some notable places in town include Mary’s Church, which began as a church but was turned into a mosque during the Ottoman era; and the catacombs of Jajce.
Lastly, before heading back to Sarajevo, we stopped at Travnik blue waters, to see the ferocious water that flows around the town.
Things are so much more affordable if you compare with Western Europe. Tram rides are 1.6km; great eats like burek are just 5km/2.5 Euro, dorms are are around 20km/10 euros per night and you could even get a room to yourself for just 38km/ 19 euros.
Here are the breakdown of costs (estimate)
Local Tram Rides = 5 Euros
Tours (Optional) = 55 Euros
Food = 40 Euros
Intercity/Intercountry Transport = 27 Euros
Accommodation ( 5 nights) 19×5 Euros (single room) = 95 Euros
Entrance Ticket = 20 Euros
5 Days Total = 242 Euros