The Soul of Bosnia and Why Every Story Matters

“Neutrality does not exist in the face of murder. Doing nothing to stop it is, in fact, choosing. It is not being neutral.” -No Man’s Land (2001)

Hello my wonderful readers, how have you been? It’s been over a month ever since I left Bosnia and I still haven’t fully processed the stories of the war that my friends over there shared with me.

You see, war changes people and their perceptions about life and death…And yes, to visit Bosnia is an experience that will definitely change the way you think too.

The Mostar Bridge, Bosnia

The Mostar Bridge, Bosnia

Writing about Bosnia has been one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done in my life and to be honest I’m still in shock over how fellow brothers and sisters shot each other over religious/ethnic divides and how the rest of the world mostly stood by to watch in a neutral position.

Here is an article with my experiences visiting Bosnia and how I found the soul of the country. Enjoy and remember to share it with your friends!

Sunset overlooking the old town of Sarajevo

Sunset overlooking the old town of Sarajevo

Understanding Bosnia and the division of the Balkans

In order to understand the complexity of Bosnia and the break up of the Balkans, it is important to analyse the main three religions of the area: Orthodox Christianity, Catholicism and Islam.

Over the course of many centuries, the countries of the Balkans started to convert to one or the other and in turn, their present-day cultural identity is partly based on the religion that they chose centuries ago.

Islamic decorations at Sarajevo, Bosnia

Islamic decorations at Sarajevo, Bosnia

At the time of Bosnia’s independence from Yugoslavia (1992), the people of Bosnia were divided in three main groups: Catholics (Bosnian Croats), Orthodox Christians (Bosnian Serbs) and Muslims (Bosniaks).

As you can imagine, both the Bosnian Croats and the Bosnian Serbs wanted to annex as much land as possible to the countries where they were a majority (Croatia in the case of Bosnian Croats and Yugoslavia for the Bosnian Serbs) instead of living as a minority in Bosnia.

War soon followed.

Sarajevo as seeon from the Olympic Mountains

Sarajevo as seen from the Olympic Mountains

Every young person you’ll meet in Sarajevo still has the mental (and sometimes physical) scars of the siege of Sarajevo, considered as the longest and bloodiest of all sieges in modern history in which Bosnian Serbs terrorised the inhabitants of the city from the many hills that surrounds Sarajevo.

In Mostar, things were equally bloody as Bosnian Croats destroyed the many bridges of the old town and used snipers to shoot at Bosniak civilians.

“It was really hard to believe that the person you went to school with is now trying to kill you from a sniper tower” an inhabitant of Mostar told me.

Panoramic view of Mostar, Bosnia

Panoramic view of Mostar, Bosnia

Eventually, after many years of watching from the sidelines and witnessing the numerous accounts of war crimes such as civilian massacres and ethnic cleansing, NATO intervened in 1995 in favour of the Bosniaks and helped to negotiate a cease fire between the warring forces. More than 30,000 Bosniak civilians died during the war.

Life hasn’t been easy for the people of Bosnia and yet, each day they wake up filled with hope and optimism for a better future. To me, that is the Soul of Bosnia: the people.

And in the end, every single story matters.

Dreams of Freedom in Bosnia

Dreams of Freedom in Bosnia

The number one reason why you should visit Bosnia

I could go on for ages about the many architectural wonders of Bosnia, including the historical Latin Bridge where World War 1 began with the assassination of Franz-Ferdinand.

I could go on for ages about the amazing food that you will find in Bosnia, including the cevapcici (grilled minced meat) which is one of my favorite dishes ever. I could go on for ages about the otherworldly vibe of Mostar and the bravery of the divers who jump from the bridge each day…

The Old Town of Sarajevo

The Old Town of Sarajevo

And yet, the number one reason why I think everyone should visit Bosnia is the Bosniak themselves. Nowhere else in the world you will find people as friendly and as optimistic as the Bosniaks.

To have a Bosniak friend is to have a treasure and that’s why I cannot wait to visit their country again.

Bosniaks are a true inspiration to people all around the world since they are the best example of how low wages and unemployment are never a justification for crimes against tourists (or against each other for that matter).

The architecture of Sarajevo, Bosnia

The architecture of Sarajevo, Bosnia

Honesty and education are the only ways to achieve progress and I wish more countries could learn from Bosnia’s example.

To visit Bosnia is to visit a country filled with hope for a better future.

And trust me, you won’t regret it.

Islamic heritage at Sarajevo

Islamic heritage at Sarajevo

Things you should know before traveling to Bosnia and Herzegovina

If you’re already in Zagreb and want to continue onwards to Dubrovnik, going via Bosnia is a cheaper option than going via Split. Trains from Zagreb depart daily at 09:00 and arrive to Sarajevo at 18:00.

Places of interest in Sarajevo include the Latin Bridge, the Historical Old Town, the Olympic Mountains and the Sarajevo Tunnel Museum located near the airport (you can take a guided tour run by the Hostel to the last two places in the same day).

The Olympic Mountains of Sarajevo

The Olympic Mountains of Sarajevo

From Sarajevo, there are many daily trains and buses to Mostar (2 hours), the most popular and picturesque destination in Bosnia by far. Each day, professional divers jump from the Mostar Bridge to earn money from travellers and locals alike.

Did you know that during the war the bridge was destroyed and yet, divers jumped from one of the edges in order to keep the tradition alive? And yes, if you’re brave enough you can jump from the Mostar bridge too!

Finally, from Mostar you can take a bus to Dubrovnik (2 hours and a half) to enjoy the pearl of the Adriatic. Here you can read all about my experience visiting Croatia during the winter.

The Man of Wonders in Bosnia

The Man of Wonders in Bosnia

Where to stay in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Accommodation in Bosnia is very affordable and in most place you will receive an amazing display of hospitality and kindness. Here’s a list of my recommendations for all types of budgets:

When it comes to luxury and boutique hotels, my best choices are the Isa Begov Haman Hotel (Sarajevo) and the Hotel Eden (Mostar). For budget hostels and guest houses I recommend The Doctor’s House Hostel (Sarajevo) and the Nina Hostel (Mostar).

You can make a booking for this and more properties via our Affiliate Link of Wonders!

Same price for you and a small pocket money commission for this website of yours.

Sweet deal, uh?

The Old Town of Sarajevo at night

The Old Town of Sarajevo at night

I hope you have enjoyed this travel guide to Bosnia’s top attractions. Don’t forget to subscribe in order to get more awesome updates and tips straight to your e-mail!

Have you ever been to Bosnia? Would you like to? Share your thoughts and let me know what you think!

Until next time, my friends!

Bosnia is a beautiful country with a sad history. Learn about the stories of Mostar, Sarajevo, & other areas impacted by the Bosnian war to understand the culture before you travel there via @journeywonders

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27 Responses

  1. Ana O

    War is always dreadful and heartbreaking, especially when fellow countrymen fight.

  2. Dave

    Backpacking the Balkans has been really high up on my list of things I wanna do in the next year! Mostar looks awesome!

  3. Carol Colborn

    Excellent photos and very professionally written!

  4. Meg Jerrard

    I loved my visit to Bosnia because it was a very real experience – there was nothing touristy about it, though I traveled in 2007 so I hope that it hasn’t changed in that respect. We did exactly what you’re suggesting and then headed on to Dubrovnik, so I highly recommend everyone in the area making a trip happen. Such an underrated gem in Eastern Europe. Thansk for the guide.

  5. zof

    Heading to Bosnia in September. Can’t wait to go. Thank you for your insightful post.

  6. Heather Widmer

    Beautiful post and photography! I have not had the pleasure of visiting Bosnia yet, but hope to in the near future. Thanks for the very helpful tips!

  7. Brianna

    I’m glad to see that Bosnia today is filled with hope, it is a beautiful country.

  8. christine

    I’d love to visits here one day. Great photos as well, it really helps sell the country.

  9. Don

    Thanks for putting together such a candid post about Bosnia. Seems like such a beautiful place to visit, but many do not even think about going there because of its past. Hopefully, this article will inspire others to consider visiting the country.

  10. Jenna

    Bosnia has always intrigued me–when I was growing up, we had quite a few Bosnians relocate to our town from the refugee camps they were living in. I can’t imagine what they went through during the war and how hard it must have been to move to our small town in the middle of nowhere Minnesota! Interesting read!

  11. Alli

    Really great photos, Raphael! Awesome info for others to make the similar journey :)

  12. rebecca

    I just came across your blog and really enjoyed this read. I always wanted and was meant to get over to Bosnia and its a real shame that I didn’t. However, it is still very much on the list :-)

  13. Hannah

    Great read and tips…especially since I plan to visit in September :)

  14. kami

    I seriously think Bosnia is the most interesting country in Europe (or at least in the Balkans) yet so underrated!

  15. Teri

    Great post! I could not agree more with you that the most special part of Bosnia is the people. Some of the most welcoming, gracious and kind people in all of Europe. From Mostar, you can also visit Medjugorje (a important place of Catholic pilgrimage where the Virgin Mary appeared to several children) and in the other direction is the Blagaj Dervish Monastery on the beautiful Buna river. All of these are doable in a day and amazing to see the contrasts of religion in a small geographical area.

  16. Meg

    Such a brilliant blog, and what lovely photos! You have actually managed to bring out the soul of Bosnia with your article. There’s so much to explore in this offbeat country..i wish to visit ti someday!

  17. Julia

    Hi, thanks for writing about Bosnia and Herzegovina. Quick edit though – you talk about “Bosniaks” (being the main reason to visit the country). I assumed from the post that you actually mean the citizens of the BiH, who are Bosnians, not just Bosniaks? Bosniaks are one of the three major ethnic groups (Bosnian Muslims, just as Bosnian Serbs are Bosnian Orthodox, and Bosnian Croats are Catholic Bosnians). I wouldn’t be so picky if this didn’t matter so much to the country, past and present, and wasn’t the cause of great suffering and political stagnation. So please, think about changing this detail if that is what you mean in the post! Many thanks!

    • Dinka

      I completely agree with Julia. A for effort, but I think that you should investigate a little more history of Bosnia and Herzegovina if you want to write about war and relations in BiH. This text makes no since.

  18. Dan

    I have travelled this region extensively from Australia. I highly recommend every real avid trailer travel through Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Montenegro on a day trip. What you will see will blow ur mind and I mean more than France, Spain, Greece. Yes I said more!! This region has 1200 islands, the most indented coastline in Europe, Amongst the cleanest water in the world. numerous waterfall parks, some of best cave systems in the world, Venetian an Roman coastal towns and cities, Fjords and mountains gushing out of the ocean. Just google, postojna, Piran, Rovinj, Opatilja, Plitvice Lakes, Lake Bled, Brac island, Losinj, Hvar, Makarska,Dubrovnik, Kotor, Budva and must sees in Bosnia are definitely Mostar and Sarajevo. This is only skimming the surface.

  19. Ben

    You seriously need to edit the part where you talk about ‘Bosniaks’ being the reason to visit Bosnia.

    ‘Bosniak’ and ‘Bosnian’ are not the same thing.

  20. Jula

    Can’t wait to see all this places. Last time i was in Mostar only, this time it’ ll be a real trip around Bosnia and Herzegovina.