When it comes to European travel destinations, the usual cities get most of the attention. Paris, London, Amsterdam, and the other big cities in Western Europe receive the bulk of the European tourism market, and while there are wonderful things to see in these cities, they’re also often crowded and expensive.
Despite its turbulent past, there is another part of Europe that is beginning see an upswing in tourism and these are the countries of the Balkan peninsula. Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, and other countries in this region are experiencing a tourism renaissance of sorts due to the fascinating history, beautiful landscapes, and low costs. While they aren’t as famous as other European cities, traveling to cheaper European cities can save your travel budget and still give you the vacation of your dreams.
One of the most special and interesting of these Balkan nations is Bosnia & Herzegovina. Once the site of a terrible war and the 1984 winter Olympics, this little country is now thriving and has much to offer the intrepid tourist in search of fascinating, off the beaten path experiences.
In 1984 Sarajevo hosted the winter Olympics. Ten years later Sarajevo was a city under siege. Today this small city of just over 500,000 people is nestled in a beautiful valley and offers a wide array of activities for visitors.
Sarajevo is truly a multicultural city and this is evident in its beautiful churches, mosques, and synagogues. A simple stroll around the city center offers visitors a chance to see the beautiful architecture and the quaint shops and restaurants.
Tours are offered that give more information about the Bosnian War and its aftermath, and some of the buildings still display the wounds of the bomb blasts.
Located southwest of Sarajevo is the beautiful village of Mostar. While Mostar also suffered severe damage during the war, much of the old city has been restored and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The jewel in the crown of Mostar is its famous Stari Most, or Old Bridge.
Built in the 1500s then destroyed during the war in 1993, Stari Most was restored in 2004 using the original design and techniques. Today you’ll find the members of the Mostar Diving Club jumping off the bridge into the Neretva River. Tourists are not advised to make the jump, as the landing needs to be precise and the water is very cold, but that rarely stops those who truly want to make the jump.
The Bosnian Pyramids
Pyramids have long fascinated travelers and the ancient ones in Egypt, Mexico, and Central and South America typically receive most of the attention. However, many people don’t realize that there is a collection of pyramids in Bosnia that one scientist says are 12,000 years old.
Located in Visoko, just outside of Sarajevo, are several hills that are believed to be these ancient pyramids, but many archaeologists disagree with this claim. Whether they’re actual pyramids or not, this area is a big draw for tourists and tours are offered that take you inside some of the excavated portions and provide more information about the Bosnian Pyramids themselves.
While the region of Herzegovina is large, it’s also home to some of the country’s most beautiful areas. Dotted with rivers, waterfalls, and small villages to explore, Herzegovina is also quite culturally different than the Bosnian regions, hence the name of the country itself.
Explore the area near Jablanica, famous for its lush forests, or head further south to the country’s wine producing regions, hailed as some of the best in Europe. The sunny beaches of the Adriatic Sea are also very popular highlights of the region.
The small village of Travnik might not make it on the itineraries of most travelers, but it’s very much worth the time. Located northwest of Sarajevo, Travnik was once the center of the Ottoman Empire and its ancient fortress still stands today.
With a style and feel that reminds many people of Istanbul, Travnik is a beautiful reminder of the history of this part of Europe. A visit to the city’s castle, Stari Grad, is a must, not only for its beautiful architecture but it also provides a sweeping view of the city from its hilltop location.
Beautiful, inexpensive, and full of interesting and sobering history, a visit to Bosnia & Herzegovina is one of the best ways to explore the Balkan region. Book your flights now and see for yourself.
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La Paz, Time & Bolivars
Great article. I did a Balkan roadtrip last year and Bosnia & Herzegovina really surprised me. In Sarajevo I can definitely recommend the War Tunnel museum next to the airport. It’s called Tunel spasa (Google for it).