Culture

Bosnia And Herzegovina Is The Underrated European Country To Visit Now

Croatia, France, Greece and Spain – they’re the countries you’re most likely to visit on your Euro-trip. Bosnia and Herzegovina? Perhaps not.

Because despite the fact that the country is as stunning and has as many sights to see as its more popular European counterparts, Bosnia and Herzegovina still manages to remain under-the-radar. But here’s why it’s worth a visit.

#1 It’s relatively unknown…

With travel now more accessible than ever, there are fewer and fewer corners of the planet that still remain unexplored. Bosnia and Herzegovina however, to some degree, is one. Say you’re going there, and you’ll most likely be met with blank stares and a “sorry, where?”

Most people know very little about it.

#2 …but predicted to get really popular

But all that will soon change. According to an estimate by the World Tourism Organisation, the country has the third highest tourism growth rate in the world right now and will continue to until 2020. So, if you have even the slightest urge to go, go now. It’s only going to get more crowded.

#3 Bosnia and Herzegovina played a key role in Europe’s history

Whether European history is of interest to you or not, it’ll always be something worth knowing. And in Bosnia and Herzegovina, you’ll inevitably learn plenty of it. The country is where the assassination of Austrian archduke Franz Ferdinand, the event that sparked World War I, took place, and where the Siege of Sarajevo, the longest siege of any capital city, occurred. Spend some time in it, and you’ll no doubt leave a whole lot more knowledgable.

#4 It has a sad story to share

There is one slice of the country’s history however that many find particularly confronting, and that’s the Bosnian genocide. Taking place over two days in 1995, the tragedy saw an estimated 8000 men and boys killed in what was deemed to be the biggest war crime since World War II. Not a happy thing to ponder, but something worth remembering.

Today, the story is told at the Srebenica Genocide Memorial. It’s a truly tragic one to hear, but an important one to know.

#5 It has a historic underground tunnel…

With all that history comes more than a few unique sights. The most interesting among them is the Sarajevo War Tunnel. Also known as the Tunnel of Hope or Tunnel of Rescue, it’s a 25m preserved section of the hand-built tunnel used during the 1992 to 1996 Siege of Sarajevo. The tunnel was the only connection the city had with the outside world and was used to bring in food, oil supplies and electric energy. Crouching through it will give you a glimpse at how difficult life was during the siege.

#6 … and an abandoned bobsled track

Another impressive sight to see in Bosnia and Herzegovina (OK let’s call it B&H for simplicity’s sake) is Sarajevo’s other big attraction, an abandoned bobsled track left over from the 1984 Winter Olympics. Like most other facilities built solely for the Olympics, the track was used for a few months and then left to deteriorate.

These days, it’s covered in graffiti and has become an Instagram hotspot. To get to it, take the newly-built, scenic cable car up to the top of Trebević mountain, and from there, it’s a short stroll away.

#7 It has a picturesque, old bridge to jump off…

The country’s most photographed site however is the Stari Most or “Old Bridge”. It’s in B&H’s other big town, Mostar, 72kms from Sarajevo, and is a striking stone structure that swoops over a teal-coloured river.

Jumping from it used to be a rite of passage for boys in the village, and today, you can experience it too. Local divers charge about €25 (AU$40) for mandatory training, and then you’re on your own for the 20 to 24m freefall.

#8 … and a beautiful waterfall to swim under

The second most photographed spot in B&H would have to be the Kravica waterfall. Tucked in the heartland of Herzegovina, 40kms south of Mostar on the Trebižat River, the nature spot is often called the mini-version of world wonder Iguazu Falls.

Because it’s tricky to reach, it’s much less crowded than many of the other swimmable waterfalls in Central Europe, though it gets its fair share of locals in the warmer months. Win-win.

#9 It has great food…

For the foodies, you’ll be pleased to know B&H is known for its tasty cuisine. There are street food staples like Burek, oily pastry stuffed with meat or cheese, and Ražnjići, grilled, juicy meat on skewers, to try. And restaurant meals like Đuveč, an oven-baked meat and veggie stew not unlike ratatouille, Klepe, Bosnian minced meat dumplings, and Grah, traditional Bosnian bean soup, to order. Whatever your pick, you certainly won’t go hungry in B&H.

#10 … and drinks

And you definitely won’t go thirsty either. The country’s long tradition of coffee drinking can be embraced to kick-start a morning or jolt an afternoon slump, and Bosnian beer can be sipped at pubs and breweries all across the country. And, after a day of soaking in all that B&H has to offer, it’ll be exactly what you need.

How to get to Bosnia and Herzegovina

  • Fly Qantas to London via Perth or Singapore
  • Take a connecting flight to Sarajevo
  • Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

The writer travelled as a guest of Topdeck on the Balkan Explorer tour.

(Lead image: Michal Jarmoluk / Pixabay. All other images supplied by the writer unless otherwise noted.)