Bosnia

7 Reasons I Fell So Hard for Bosnia

Mar 06

Mostar Bosnia
I fell in love with the Balkans hard and fast. Every country in the region blew me away, each one more astoundingly beautiful than the next.

But if I had to choose a single favourite, I’d choose Bosnia. From the moment I stepped foot in Mostar, I knew it was a special place. Yes, the country is absurdly beautiful and ridiculously cheap, but there’s something else about Bosnia, something I can’t quite articulate.

I’m aware there are a shocking number of superlatives in this post, but I couldn’t help myself – Bosnia really is that fantastic. Here are a few of the (many) reasons I fell head over heels for Bosnia & Herzegovina.

1. The natural beauty

Bosnia’s natural beauty floored me. Driving through the countryside left me speechless (and it wasn’t because I was in a car with a Montenegrin man who drove 150 kilometres per hour along some seriously sketchy roads).

Everywhere you look, dramatic mountain peaks give way to lush valleys and emerald-toned rivers course alongside picturesque villages. It’s easily one of the most scenic countries I’ve ever been to.

Kravice Waterfalls Bosnia

2. The history

Delving into Bosnia’s tumultuous history was a sobering experience. Scars of the country’s past are still apparent – shrapnel holes mark Sarajevo’s streets and dilapidated, bombed-out buildings lie scattered around Mostar.

I listened to several firsthand accounts from locals who lived through a horrific war that took place only twenty-odd years ago. I came face-to-face with buildings destroyed during the siege of Sarajevo. I learned about the tragic genocide at Srebrenica.

It was heartbreaking and infuriating and left me feeling dumbfounded again and again. But the sentiment that stuck with me most after I left Bosnia wasn’t pity or despair. Instead, I felt incredibly humbled and awed by the resiliency and spirit of Bosnia and its people.

Sniper Tower Mostar Bosnia

3. The food

Bosnian food is delicious. We’re talking smoky meat cooked to perfection, flaky pastries brimming with tangy cheese, organic vegetables bursting with flavour – I’m drooling all over my keyboard just thinking about it.

I ate my body weight in filled up on two of the most popular dishes: burek (phyllo pastry filled with cheese, meat, or vegetables) and cevapi (minced meat sausages served with grilled flatbread and raw onions).

Bosnia also has a ridiculous condiment game – every dish tastes even better slathered in ajvar (a roasted pepper and eggplant spread) and kaymak (a rich, creamy cheese similar to clotted cream).

Cevapi Mostar Bosnia Burek Sarajevo Bosnia

4. The affordability

The prices in Bosnia are so cheap, I regularly forgot I was still in Europe. I stayed in a fantastic hostel for €9 per night, paid €3 for a heaping portion of cevapi, and spent less than €1 for a cup of coffee.

It’s a place where you can indulge and treat yo’ self without weeping at the sight of your credit card bill later.

Stari Most Mostar Bosnia

5. Sarajevo

I didn’t expect Sarajevo to be so, um, cool. The city is home to a thriving café culture and a burgeoning craft beer scene. By day, I found myself lost among the serpentine alleys of a traditional Ottoman bazaar; by night, I was sipping cocktails in quirky and contemporary bars.

Simply walking down the street is an experience in this city: Sarajevo has a fascinating mix of Ottoman and Austo-Hungarian architecture, communist-era buildings and modern skyscrapers. It’s entirely possible to find a mosque, a church, a cathedral, and a synagogue all within a few hundred metres of each other.

Sarajevo is also home to my favourite museum in the world: The War Childhood Museum. The concept of this museum is simple, but its impact is incredibly profound.

The exhibition features one personal item and an accompanying story from 50 children who lived in Bosnia during the war. Told from the perspective of the children, the narratives offer insight into their lives, their losses, their hopes and tragedies. Some stories were sweet and moving, others were utterly devastating. It was the most unique, immersive, and emotional museum experience of my life.

Cemetary Sarajevo Bosnia Sarajevo Bosnia Architecture

6. It’s still largely off-the-beaten-path

Apart from groups of Dubrovnik day-trippers who descended on Mostar’s Old Town from time to time, Bosnia felt delightfully un-touristy. Dubrovnik and Kotor are regularly inundated with hordes of cruise ship passengers, but Bosnia remains a hidden gem, a place where you can get an authentic taste of Balkan culture without the unbearable crowds and inflated prices.

I travelled to Croatia after Bosnia, and let me tell you: the transition was a shock to the system. Dubrovnik felt like Disneyland (AKA my definition of hell) compared to the comfortable streets of Sarajevo.

Pocitelj Bosnia

7. The tour guide from Hostel Majdas

Bosnian people are incredibly friendly and warm, but Bata deserves a special shoutout because he’s one of the most charismatic and hilarious human beings I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.

A little context: if you stay at Hostel Majdas and take a day trip to Kravice Waterfalls and Počitelj (and I HIGHLY recommend you do both if you’re visiting Mostar), Bata will be your guide.

Bata is not your average, run-of-the-mill tour guide. He is absolutely crazy – in the best possible way, though. He regularly utters phrases like “move your ass,” “you digging my vibe?,” and “up yours, European Union!” I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard on a tour.

He’s also incredibly engaging and passionate, a natural-born storyteller. From shocking personal stories and anecdotes to heartbreaking facts about the war, he managed to convey the country’s turbulent history in such an informative and captivating manner.

I read guidebooks, visited museums, and went on multiple walking tours, but it wasn’t until Bata’s tour that I truly felt I had a genuine understanding of the war – and of present-day Bosnia & Herzegovina.

Pocitelj Bosnia

Bosnia is hauntingly beautiful. It’s a destination that left a lasting impression on me, a place that captured my heart – and I haven’t been able to shut up about it since I left.

Have you been to Bosnia? What destination can you not shut up about?


Practical info:

Just in case you had any doubts, Bosnia is safe to visit.

Some people may still associate Bosnia & Herzegovina with devastation and tragedy, but present-day Bosnia is a complete departure from the war-torn image you might hold in your mind. The country has endured unimaginable tragedy, but it’s constantly transforming and continues to establish itself as one of the most unique and underrated destinations in Europe.

Where to stay in Sarajevo and Mostar:

Mostar – I stayed a Hostel Majdas in Mostar and it was one of the best hostel experiences of all my travels. From the delicious home cooked food to the unmatched hospitality, this hostel feels like a home.

Sarajevo – If you want to justify eating your body weight in burek and cevapi, stay at The Doctor’s House in Sarajevo.

It’s a short walk from the city centre, located at the top of a steep hill (extra calories burned = a good reason to eat more Bosnian food). Plus, it has a fantastic balcony with amazing views of the city.

Getting around:

Buses in Bosnia are cheap and frequent, with various connections around the country and throughout the Balkans.

I used Balkan Viator to search for routes and prices, and then confirmed the information at my hostel before heading to the bus station. (One tip: always leave yourself more time than you think you need when travelling by bus in the Balkans.)


Bosnia blew me away with its natural beauty, delicious food, and mind-boggling history. Here are a few of the reasons it captured my heart, and why you should visit this Balkan gem.

17 Comments

  • Reply Hayley Simpson Mar 12 at 6:54 am

    Damn that food looks delicious! I have so much more to see in Europe.

    • Reply ashleywanders Mar 19 at 11:39 pm

      I know, right?! SO much.

  • Reply Victoria @TheBritishBerliner Mar 13 at 7:52 am

    This post about Bosnia & Herzegovina is great!

    I’m a huge fan of Eastern Europe and went to two Balkan States last year, with more in the months to come. I’m really sad that you weren’t impressed by Croatia. I absolutely loved it!

    We were there for almost 2 weeks and I could happily have spent much longer! We went to Slovenia too – marvellous. I’m going to Romania in a few weeks and looking forward to visiting Bulgaria, Albania and Serbia, later on in the year!
    Victoria @TheBritishBerliner recently posted…A first time beginners’ guide to the ITB Berlin: 10 tips to help you prepare. Bam!My Profile

    • Reply ashleywanders Mar 19 at 11:44 pm

      Don’t get me wrong – I enjoyed my time in Dubrovnik and Croatia is gorgeous, but Dubrovnik is just too crowded for my liking! I’d love to explore other areas of the country in the future, though. I’m dying to visit Slovenia – it looks incredible! Enjoy Romania 🙂 I might be in those three countries later this year as well, funnily enough!

      • Reply Victoria @TheBritishBerliner Mar 20 at 5:36 am

        Not at all. I can understand that. Dubrovnik is tiny. All their towns are! We went in April, so it wasn’t crowded, but I can certainly see the potential. It would be deadly in the summer certainly! 😉

        Slovenia was fantastic. We spent a week in Ljubljana with day trips here n’ there. You’ll love it!
        ‘Hope we bump into each other in Bulgaria, Albania and Serbia! 😀
        Victoria @TheBritishBerliner recently posted…Ryanair – A no-frills budget airline. Is it worth the plunge?My Profile

  • Reply Allison Green Mar 16 at 1:58 pm

    I love Bosnia so much!! It is one of my favorite countries in Europe for sure. Though to be honest, after spending so much time in the Balkans and moving here, the sight of burek and cevapcici turns my stomach. Ajvar is life, though 😛 I likewise didn’t enjoy Dubrovnik, but fell in love with Trebinje, a small town in the south of Bosnia (Srpska autonomous region) just 30 minutes away from Dubrovnik — I actually visited Dubrovnik as a day trip from Trebinje. If you go back to Bosnia you should definitely check it out!

    • Reply ashleywanders Mar 19 at 11:47 pm

      Same here! 🙂 I can imagine a prolonged exposure to burek and cevapi would be a bit sickening haha. So sad I missed Trebinje – I almost ended up visitng while I was in Bosnia. Next time! Also love that you visited Dubrovnik as a day trip from Bosnia instead of the other way around!

  • Reply Emily Mar 18 at 10:11 am

    Great post! That food looks (dangerously) delicious! Bosnia and Herzegovina is high on my list—I can’t wait to visit.

    • Reply ashleywanders Mar 19 at 11:49 pm

      Thanks, Emily! 🙂 Hopefully you make it Bosnia soon!

  • Reply Riana Ang-Canning Mar 22 at 8:50 pm

    Wow, Bosnia sounds amazing! I love the look of the towns. Definitely will be adding Bosnia to my list!

    https://teaspoonofadventure.com/

    • Reply ashleywanders Mar 25 at 9:00 pm

      It is an incredible place 🙂

  • Reply tea Mar 25 at 10:39 am

    I love seeing more and more post about my neck of the woods. I need to plan another visit to Sarajevo soon as I would love to check out the War Childhood Museum

    • Reply ashleywanders Mar 25 at 9:02 pm

      Your neck of the woods is pretty awesome 🙂 I’d highly recommend visiting The War Childhood Museum if you get a chance!

  • Reply David Jun 28 at 12:11 pm

    Bosnia looks and sounds like an awesome destination ti visit. Thanks for the inspiration.

    • Reply ashleywanders Jun 29 at 10:09 am

      It is an incredible country!

  • Reply Marni Jun 28 at 9:15 pm

    Looks beautiful!! It’s nice to hear about different locations over there. I’ve been trying to work out an Eastern Europe trip for awhile now, so maybe I’ll have to add Sarajevo to that dream list. Great post!

    • Reply ashleywanders Jun 29 at 10:17 am

      Thanks, Marni 🙂 I’d definitely recommend adding Sarajevo to your itinerary if you have the chance! It’s such a fantastic city.

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