Visiting the Heart-Shaped Land: 16 Experiences Every Traveler Should Have In Bosnia and Herzegovina

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What is the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of Bosnia and Herzegovina? People of a certain age might remember the brutal war in the ‘90s, but reducing this magnificent country to memories of tumult and violence is doing a huge disservice. Located in southeastern Europe bordering Croatia, Serbia, and Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina is a stunning land of sweeping valleys, historical cities, tangible culture, and some of the most delicious grilled meat one could hope to devour.

There is a lot to love about Bosnia and Herzegovina, from the echoing streets of Sarajevo to the centuries-old fortresses that dot the countryside. This list could easily run into the hundreds, so consider this your entry point into the magic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Not sure where to go this summer? Bosnia is calling.

1. Investigate History in Sarajevo

Latin Bridge Sarajevo
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The name of Bosnia’s capital rings through history like an echo. In Sarajevo, Gavrilo Princip assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand, setting in motion a chain of events that led to World War 1. The city has lived under different empires and ideologies over the centuries, creating the magical breadth of culture it shimmers with today. The city’s attractions each tell a chapter of the story, from the stalls of the Baščaršija to the towers of Dobrinja and beyond.

2. Paint the Town Red in Banja Luka

Banja Luka
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Banja Luka is the second-largest town in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but it might come top of the list regarding nightlife. The city is packed with cafes, bars, pubs, and restaurants in various settings, each offering something different depending on what you are after. Banja Luka knows how to party.

3. Admire the Waterfalls in Jajce

Pliva Waterfal, Jajce Waterfalls
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Jajce is famous for its waterfalls, and gorgeous cascading waters that lend an exotic sight to the center of the city. Yes, you read that correctly; waterfalls in the city’s center. The Pliva Waterfalls plunge 22 meters all year round and are arguably the most picturesque sight in the country. Jajce’s attractions are numerous (Jajce Fortress, the Museum of AVNOJ, catacombs, and the Pliva Mills), but the waterfalls are the main event.

4. Gorge on Food in Travnik

Travnik Grilled Meat
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If you like grilled meat, you are in for a treat. Every town in Bosnia and Herzegovina claims to be the best regarding ćevapi (traditional grilled minced meat), but everyone knows that Travnik is in a league of its own. Once the capital of the country and the birthplace of Nobel Prize winning-author Ivo Andrić, Travnik is a gorgeous town packed with history, culture, and restaurants that will change how you feel about grilled meat. When it comes to ćevapi, Travnik is king.

5. Conquer the Fortresses

Srebrenik castle
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Most people don’t know it, but Bosnia was once a mighty kingdom that covered much of the region. Many fortresses remain from that period, incredible castles in stunning locations serving awe-inspiring views. Srebrenik and Ostrožac (near Cazin) are the most beautiful, while Blagaj, Bobovac, and Sarajevo’s Bijela Tabija are the oldest. All are gorgeous in their unique way.

6. Embrace Nature in Una National Park

Una National Park
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Bosnia and Herzegovina is a land of sweeping valleys, blue rivers, imposing mountains, and majestic views. All the National Parks in BiH are must-visits, but Una National Park is the best. The Štrbački Buk and Martin Brod waterfalls are the stuff of photographic dreams, while the river deserves its name (‘‘One’’). Japodski Otoci (Japodi Islands) is as romantic as it gets.

7. Run With Wild Horses in Livno

Livno Herzegovina
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Have you ever dreamt of running with wild horses? Livno is the place for you. A small town in Herzegovina, Livno is best known for the herds of wild horses that roam the nearby hills. Plenty of tour operators working in and around town focus on visiting the horses, throwing in a bit of Livno history and heritage along the way. If you love horses, you’ll love Livno.

8. Take It to the Extreme in Foča

Sand Pyramids Foča
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Foča is the undisputed adrenaline adventure king of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The East Herzegovinian town is surrounded by rafting camps guaranteed to get the heart pumping, with various adventures available for intrepid explorers. Sutjeksa National Park is nearby, a gorgeous expanse of nature packed with historical significance in this part of the world, not to mention one of the country's most arresting World War 2 monuments.

9. Explore Mostar’s Famous Bridge

Mostar
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It might be the most photographed attraction in the country, but Mostar’s Stari Most (Old Bridge) is more than just a bridge. The original stood for 427 years before being obliterated during the war, only to rise from the ashes in 2004. The bridge defies structural logic, is jaw-dropping in its beauty, and is arguably the great symbol of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

10. Experience Heritage at Ajvatovica

Ajvatovica
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The largest Islamic traditional, religious, and cultural event in Europe, Ajvatovica transforms Prusac from a sleepy central Bosnian village into the beating heart of seven centuries of history. Ajvatovica (named after Ajvaz-dedo, a Sufi Dervish whose prayers ended a severe drought in 1510) takes place at the end of June and attracts thousands of pilgrims. For reference, Prusac has a year-round population of around 1,200.

11. Cross the Latin Bridge

The Latin Bridge with rolling hills covered in homes in the background
Image Credit: Tumi-1983, CC0, via Wikipedia Commons.

This Ottom-era bridge crosses over the Miljacka River and is quite an important piece of history. On the north end, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated, launching the First World War. The bridge isn’t some visual wonder, and it would be easy to mistake it for just a common river crossing, but the surrounding area is beautiful and it offers an opportunity to connect with global history.

12. Get Sweaty While Hiking

Mostar, Bosnia and Hercegovina
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No matter your level of ability or experience, Bosnia and Herzegovina has the hike for you. BiH is gaining serious traction as a hiking destination, thanks to the fascinating trails that lead the walker to idyllic spots like the Hajdučka vrata (Hajduk’s Gate) on Čvrsnica. One stunning hike is the one that leads to Lukomir, the highest village in the country.

13. Find Peace at Trebinje’s Monasteries

Trebisnjica River,
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Trebinje is one of the most charming towns in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The view of the Old Town from across the Trebišnjica River is simply stunning. The town is a brilliant base for exploring many fascinating Orthodox Monasteries in the surroundings, such as Tvrdoš (which also makes delicious wine), Duži, and Zavala. A walk to the hilltop Hercegovačka Gračanica in Trebinje itself is a must.

14. Get Spiritual in MeđUgorje

Medjugorje, Bosnia and Herzegovina
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Despite not officially being accepted by the Vatican, Bosnia and Herzegovina is home to the third most visited pilgrimage site in all of Catholicism. In 1981, a group of teenagers claimed to have seen an apparition of the Virgin Mary near a small village called Međugorje. That village has since grown into a commercial center a million pilgrims visit annually, with churches, spas, Irish pubs, and others.

15. Discover the StećCi in Stolac

Stećci Medieval Tombstones
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A memorable part of culture and heritage in Bosnia and Herzegovina, stećci are found nationwide. These fascinating medieval tombstones erected between the 14th and 16th centuries come in seven different shapes and are adorned with various decorations. An important necropolis is at Radimlja, just outside Stolac, a gorgeous town in its own right.

16. Bathe in the Salt Lakes of Tuzla

Pannonian Lakes Tuzla
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Tuzla is Bosnia and Herzegovina’s third-largest city, but it tends to get overlooked by tourists. This won’t last forever, especially once visitors start to hear about its proud history and myriad attractions. The most impressive of these is the Pannonian lakes in the city center, which become a beach area during the summer. Tuzla is the only city in Europe with salt lakes, a unique setting around which a curious town spreads.