General Information (currency, climate, population, religion, history, etc.)
Beautiful Bosnia and Herzegovina is a country situated in the western Balkan Peninsula of Europe, where the cultural influences of the East and the West intersect. Bosnia and Herzegovina is a country of ravishing nature, hospitable people, and tasty food.
Most iconic places of Bosnia and Herzegovina are the historic center of Sarajevo and Mostar. They offer splendid architectural sights and lively streets full of relaxed street-terrace cafes and delicious restaurants. In historical streets, you will see craftsmen in small stores, surrounded by colorful rugs and shiny copper artifacts.
Although many people call it Bosnia – the real name of the state is Bosnia and Herzegovina. Bosnia occupies the northern and central parts of the country, while Hercegovina occupies the south and the southwest.
Country General Information
Bosnia and Herzegovina is located in the western Balkan Peninsula of Europe and bordered by Croatia, Serbia, and Montenegro. The surface of the country is 51,197 km².
It has only about 20 kilometers of coast around the town of Neum.
The country is mostly mountainous, encompassing the central Dinaric Alps. North of the Bosnia reaches into the Pannonian Plain, and on the south, it borders the Adriatic. The highest mountain of Bosnia is Maglić at 2386 m. The most famous mountains are Kozara, Grmeč, Vlašić, Čvrsnica, Prenj, Romania, Jahorina, Bjelašnica and Treskavica.
Forests occupy more than half of the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The climate supports the pine, beech and oak woods, fruits – grapes, apples, pears, and plums
Sarajevo is the capital and largest city of Bosnia and Herzegovina, with a population of 275,524. The metropolitan area and nearby municipalities are home to 555,210 inhabitants. It is surrounded by the stunning Dinaric Alps and situated along the beautiful Miljacka River.
Since Sarajevo is a place of religious and cultural diversity, sometimes people call it the “Jerusalem of Europe” or “Jerusalem of the Balkans.” Only a few major European cities besides Sarajevo have a mosque, Catholic church, Orthodox church and synagogue within the same neighborhood.
Although inhabited from prehistoric times, a city was established in the 15th century by an Ottoman Empire. In 1885, Sarajevo was the first city in Europe and the second city in the world to have a full-time electric tram network running through the city, following San Francisco. Sarajevo was the site of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, which sparked World War I.
Bosnia and Herzegovina’s 2019 population is estimated at 3,301,000 people in mid-year, according to UN data.
Two geographical regions (Bosnia and Herzegovina) are divided among three entities – Bosniacs (Muslims), Croats (Catholics), and Serbs (Orthodox Christians). Bosniaks constitute 50.11% of the population, Bosnian Serbs 30.78%, Bosnian Croats 15.43%, and others 2.73%. Nationalistic tensions exploded in the devastating civil war of the 1990s.
Climate and weather in Bosnia
Bosnia has three climatic zone – warm, moderate and cold (the Mediterranean, Continental, and Alpine)
The temperate zone is dominantly in the south – near the Adriatic coast and in lowland Hercegovina. The summers are very hot, and the winters are very mild. Mean winter temperatures are usually above 5°C and summer temperature can reach 40°C. Mean annual temperatures are above the pleasant 12°C.
Moderate zones include hilly and plain areas in the central and northern Bosnia. Summer is warm (up to 35 °C) and winters are moderately cold- around 0°C and summer temperatures reach 35. The mean annual temperature ranges between 10°C and 12°C.
Sarajevo, although it is in a moderate zone, has unpredictable summer weather. It can get very hot and very cold below 10°C – within only a few days.
Even if you travel in Bosnia during summer, having at least a fleece is the right decision.
Recent climate changes visibly influenced the weather, and now it is tough to predict temperature range or other weather features.
Cold regions are in mountainous areas where summers are fair (days moderately warm and nights chilly), and winters are freezing. During almost six months of the year, these regions have a mean temperature lower than 0°C. Winds often reach hurricane strength. This alpine type of climate is present in the highest mountain terrains of the high Dinarics above 1700 m. Bjelašnica Mountain (2,067m) is a typical area with this climate type.
Bosnia and Herzegovina was inhabited since prehistoric times. Illyrian tribes were sovereign rulers of the area until the late 1st and 2cn centuries BC when the region became part of the Roman Empire. During the 6th and 7th centuries, Slavs invaded the East Roman Empire.
Ban Kulin, one of the most prominent figures of Bosnian history, ruled over Bosnia in the late 12th and early 13th centuries. During his rule, the Bosnia flourished in peace and stability.
In 1463 Bosnia was conquered by the Ottoman Empire and Herzegovina in 1463, which drastically changed the cultural, political, and religious circumstances of Bosnia.
After it was a part of the Ottoman Empire for more than 400 years, Bosnia fell under Austro-Hungarian rule in 1878. At the beginning of the 20th century, south-Slavic countries of Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia, and Bosnia united first in a kingdom and after World War II into the Socialistic Republic of Yugoslavia. Finally, in 1991. Bosnia and Herzegovina declared independence, which was followed by a tragic Bosnian war. After the war, the country is divided into three relatively independent national/religious cantons.
Currency and payment options
The Bosnian Convertible Mark is the currency of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The currency code for Convertible Marks is BAM. The currency symbol is KM. 1 USD is approximately 1.789 KM. All major foreign currencies can be freely purchased and sold in exchange offices. Many banks have ATMs, enabling you to withdraw money easily.
Both credit and debit cards are widely accepted in cities, while in the rural area, sometimes it is better to have some cash. Visa, Visa Electron, Master, and Maestro are commonly accepted cards.
Wall outlets in Bosnia and Herzegovina are Type C Type F (CEE 7/4 Schuko). They supply electricity at 230 volts AC / 50 Hz frequency.
Tap water and the water from a traditional drinking fountain are safe to drink.
Airport sand connections with EU and USA
Bosnia has four airports, but none of them offers direct lines from the USA. There are some connections to cities in the EU (Belgrade, Zagreb, Istanbul, Brussels, some German and Scandinavian cities). Sarajevo Airport offers seasonal flights to Dubai, Bahrain, Gassim, Jeddah, Kuwait, Riyadh, Aman, Doha, etc.
The busiest airport is Sarajevo Airport (IATA code SJJ), located 3,8 miles southwest of Sarajevo railway station. It is connected to the Sarajevo-Zenica-Mostar highway. The bus that stands outside of the arrival area in the main terminal drives to Baščaršija. You can also reach the city center with trolleybus number 103. The taxi ride to the city center costs around 10 Euro.
1. Belgrade, Vienna, Zagreb, Berlin-Tegel, Cologne/Bonn, Stuttgart, London-Luton, Dubai, Munich, Stockholm–Arlanda, Istanbul, Doha, Budapest.
Sharjah, Bahrain, Gassim, Jeddah, Kuwait, Riyadh, Monastir, Jeddah, Riyadh, Amman, Copenhagen, Gothenburg, Oslo–Gardermoen, Zürich, Antalya, Tunis.
2. Tuzla Airport (IATA code TZL) is the second largest airport in Bosnia, located 14 km southeast of Tuzla center. There is a shuttle bus to Tuzla, Sarajevo and Banja Luka. Taxi to the center of town costs around 10-12 Euros.
Direct flights: Basel/Mulhouse/Freiburg, Berlin–Schönefeld, Billund, Cologne/Bonn, Dortmund, Eindhoven, Friedrichshafen, Gothenburg, Hahn, Malmö, Memmingen
Seasonal: Karlsruhe/Baden-Baden, Stockholm–Skavsta, Växjö, Vienna, Antalya
3. The airport in Mostar is located 7.5 km south/southeast of the city center. Airport bus: Mostar Airport does not have organized bus transport to Mostar. You can get a taxi, but it is essential to agree on the rate before entering the cab. Private transfer or rent-a-car is the best way to reach Mostar.
4. Banja Luka Airport (IATA code BNX) is the smallest of the four international airports. The airport is located about 25 km northeast of the town center. The direct bus lines are not available, but the public bus station is 800 m from the terminal. Taxi is available.
Direct flights: Belgrade, Vienna (begins March 30th, 2020), Berlin–Schönefeld, Charleroi, Memmingen, Stockholm–Skavsta
Seasonal charter: Antalya, Athens.
Must see sights
A Bosnia capital is a city where East and West, Austrian, and Ottoman Empires meet, creating a one-of-a-kind blend of cultures, styles, tastes, and lifestyles.
Sarajevo’s streets are packed with open-street markets, and open-air cafes are somewhat similar to the cities of the Middle East. Yet, just around the corner are buildings from the Austrian era, reminding a visitor to Vienna, Graz, or Zagreb.
The main tourist attraction of Sarajevo is Baščaršija, dating from the 15th century. Narrow cobblestone streets with oriental bazaar and iconic fountains are lined with numerous traditional restaurants, cafés, and coffee houses.
The largest city in Herzegovina is home to an Old Bridge, the most famous bridge in the region.
In the city center as if time has stopped – on cobblestoned street coppersmiths are embossing the copper. A bit further, you are surrounded with hand-made colorful oriental rugs and different traditional hand-made artifacts. This lovely ancient town bustles with life, colorful shops, and restaurants, but the war wounds are still not healed completely.
The laid-back town of Jajce, situated next to a famous 21-meter high waterfall once was a place of Bosnian kings coronations. Today it is picturesque, relaxing place with a beautiful river Vrb’s wooden mils, ancient city walls, and stunning nature.
Stunning Tara Canyon is one of the longest and deepest canyons in the world. The dynamic and energetic river is a favorite spot for rafting.
The stone buildings of this picturesque town are hidden in the lush green vegetation, together with remnants of medieval times and the Ottoman empire. This medieval town located on a steep hill has a beautiful Hajji Alija Mosque, amazing views, and a charming river Neretva beneath.
Krvavica Waterfall is a popular attraction and a summer getaway for locals and tourists alike. One can easily spend a couple of hours here swimming, relaxing, and enjoying delicious food near stunning waterfalls. The scenery is so beautiful that you might think you’re in a Disney cartoon.
Gourmet scene (must try and about it)
Just like Bosnian architecture and culture in general, gastronomy of Bosnia is a unique blend of a Turkish, Greek, Mediterranean, and Austrian influences. Some people think Bosnian cuisine is the best cuisine in East Europe.
Typical ingredients of Bosnian diet are vegetables and fruits of the Mediterranean and central European area, such as tomatoes, onions, potatoes, onions, garlic, bell peppers, mushrooms, spinach, courgette, cucumbers, carrots, cabbage, beans, plums, milk and cream called pavlaka and kajmak – delicious cheese spread.
Meat dishes include beef and lamb due to Islamic dietary laws. Bosnian Croats and Bosnian Serbs can consume pork.
Black coffee is enjoyed throughout the day since coffee drinking is an essential social ritual in Bosnia. Bosnian black coffee is served in many cafes in Sarajevo, often with Rahat lokum, oriental delicacy. Tap water is of excellent quality, so it is not necessary to buy bottled water.
Ten best meals to try in Bosnia are:
Ćevapi are the most popular Bosnian dish and ubiquitous street food that look like small oblong sausages. Usually, they are made of ground beef (sometimes of a mix of beef, veal, lamb, or pork) and seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic. They are hand-rolled and barbecued over charcoal. Usually, ćevapi are served with a lightly grilled lepinja or somun flatbread and raw onions, sour cream, or cream cheese. In some restaurants, you will get them with ajvar, relish made of red pepper and eggplant ajvar, and raw onions.
Burek is a tasty phyllo dough stuffed with ground beef. The meal is very popular across the whole Balkans, and it can be bought in practically every bakery in Croatia, Slovenia, and Serbia. Sometimes it can be filled with potato, spinach, and cheese.
Bosanski lonac or Bosnian pot is a tasty stew. Large pieces of meat are layered with vegetables, covered with water, and simmered for hours in a big bowl. Not many seasoning is added – the aroma of the dish comes from the meat and vegetables.
Originally, this was a Bosnian miner’s meal. In the Middle Ages, Bosnian miners created a meal that could simmer while they were working so that once they finish their job, the meal would wait for them.
This popular winter and the festive dish is made of minced meat, rice, various herbs, seasonings, red pepper, paprika and tomato sauce, wrapped in sauerkraut leaves. It is usually served with mashed potatoes.
Creamy, rich and hearty Bey’s Soup is made of slow-cooked chicken, carrots, potatoes, okra, and celery and thickened with an egg. It is served with a cream sauce in a clay bowl, often as a festive appetizer.
Similar to sarma, japrak consists of a minced meat filling wrapped in leaves of raštika, an ancient ancestor of the cabbage as we know it today. For a better taste, smoked meat is often added to a pot of japrak. It is a meal that is best when slow-cooked for hours. The dish is served with mashed potatoes and sour cream.
Tasteful dolme consists of a vegetable, filled with meat or rice. Dolma can is made of eggplants, zucchini, or bell peppers. Sogan-dolma, with blanched onions stuffed with a mix of meat, rice, and a bit of carrot, is the most popular variety. They are slow-cooked in an oven. When they are almost done, a bit of cream is smeared on top.
Popular TurkishTurkish cake is long domesticated in Bosnia, where is made with thin layers of phyllo dough filled with grounded nuts, honey, and rich and viscose syrup. Super-sweet baklava is a perfect add-on to a cup of a strong Bosnian coffee.
Tufahija is an apple, boiled in sugar, stuffed with grounded walnuts. In Bosnia, it is usually served with whipped cream and syrup.
Uštipci are a taste of childhood for many Bosnian people. They are small balls of fried, crispy dough, filled with sweet or meet and fried in deep oil. Sweet uštipci are filled with jam or honey.
Most productive vineyards of Bosnia are located in the south of the country, in Hercegovina. They are planted predominantly with Žilavka variety. Although the country has reasonably a lot of vineyards – there is not too much wine. The reason? Žilavka had excellent properties for distilled beverages, so most of the grape ends up in brandy and loza – a clear brandy spirit somewhat similar to Italian grappa.
Žilavka is a delicious white dry wine with fruit notes, while most popular red wines are complex and velvety Blatina and Vranac.
The most prominent wineries of Bosnia
Brkić winery, located in Čitluk near Mostar, is the only biodynamic winery in Bosnia Herzegovina. They produce amazingly delicious Mjesečar wine, Čitlučka Žilavka and Plava Greda, made with 100% Blatina, a variety indigenous to Bosnia Herzegovina.
Anđelić Winery is famous for organically grown Žilavka and Vranac, red wine of Macedonian origin.
Andrija Winery, established in 1954, is one of the oldest wineries in the region. Besides delicious Žilavka, Blatina, and Vranac, they produce Syrah Rose and several types of brandies.
National parks to visit
Sutjeska National Park
Sutjeska National Park is one of the oldest parks in Bosnia and Herzegovina and an amazingly beautiful piece of untouched heaven on earth. National Park is one of the most diverse ecosystems in Bosnia and Herzegovina and one of the most interesting in southeast Europe. Sometimes it is referred to as a “Yosemite of Southeastern Europe.”
In the National Park is Perućica, the largest and one of the two preserved primeval forests in Europe.
Zelengora mountain abounds with adorable mountain lakes, beautiful forests of oak, black pine trees, beech, and alpine meadows. Maglić, the highest peak of Bosnia (2386 m), is a steep and sheer mountain with an adorable heart-shaped heart at its bottom.
Lush, green woods of the National Park are home to bears, wolves, chamois, deer, and dozens of other animals. From idyllic meadows and crystal lakes to rugged mountains and steep canyons – Sutjeska provides its visitors incredibly a lot of beautiful things to see and experience.
One of the landmarks of the Sutjeska is Tjentište, the famous socialist monument that commemorates the fighters and soldiers of the Battle of the Sutjeska, which took place in 1943.
At the moment, for a hike in a Sutjeska National Park, you must hire a guide.
Kozara National Park
Kozara Mountain is a low, “island mountain,” situated between the Pannonian Plain in the North and the Dinarics in the south, bordered by the rivers Uva, Vrbas, Sana, and the Sava.
The lovely and pleasant landscape is welcoming for all outdoors enthusiasts.
On the top of Mrakovica (804 m) is perched Memorial Monument, commemorating killed warriors, and the population of this region deported to Nazi concentration camps during the Second World War II.
Una National Park
Una is known as the most beautiful river in Bosnia and one of the most beautiful rivers in Europe. Her pure water, lovely waterfalls, and cascades surrounded by the idyllic nature earned her a nicknames “Bosnian beauty,” and “Bosnian most beautiful river.”
The state founded National Park to protect unspoiled Una river and its tributaries Krka and Unac, which run through it. The main attraction of the National Park is on the Una river is Štrbački Buk, stunning 40m-wide and 23.5m high waterfall.
Gorgeous waterfall Martin Brod Waterfall is a place where the famous “International Una Regatta” kayaking competition begins. Una provides prime conditions for rafting, fishing, cycling, hiking, jumping from the bridges, and camping.
The Una river area is characterized by clear and clean waters, karst formation, ancient forest, and extraordinary biodiversity. Una National Park is the most biodiverse area in Europe.
Drina National Park
Lovely river Drina, with its stunning gorge and biodiversity of its surroundings, made to a list of National Parks of Bosnia in 2017. In some places, the gorge of the Drina River has the features of canyons with steep, vertical sides.
Getting around (public transportation, rent a car, good to know)
Train service in Bosnia is still recovering from the war damages. Trains are slow and low in frequency. If you decide to travel by train, it is best to buy a ticket at the train station before entering the train. Otherwise, on the train, you might have to purchase multiple tickets for each part of the journey.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is not heavily trafficked, and the driving is pleasant and safe. There are lovely destinations worth off-the-beaten-track exploration. Still, it is essential to know that petrol stations are hard to find. Same as the mechanics who speak English.
In Bosnia, the bus services are good and not expensive. If you are traveling at peak holiday times, reservations are recommended.
In Neum, you can take a ferry to cities on the Adriatic sea, while on many rivers and lakes, there are privately run boats you can hop on for local tours.
Bosnia offers lots of stunning biking routes. But, since Bosnia and Herzegovina is mostly mountainous, some of the roads might require quite good physical condition.
Straying from the biking roads is not recommended since, in some parts of the country, there are land mines remained from the Bosnian war.
You can find international car-hire in the bigger cities and airports. Local companies might be cheaper, but do not always offer one-way hire.
The UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Bosnia are:
Mehmed Paša Sokolović Bridge in Višegrad
Old Bridge Area of the Old City of Mostar
Stećci Medieval Tombstones Graveyards
Mehmed Paša Sokolović Bridge in Višegrad
Beautiful Ottoman bridge over the Drina, Mehmed Paša Sokolovć Bridge in Višegrad dates back to 1577. It was the work of one of the greatest architects and of the classical Ottoman period Mimar Sinan. The 179.5-meter-long (589 ft) bridge was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its unique elegance, harmonic proportions, and technical properties.
The bridge is the setting for the world-famous novel The Bridge of the Drina, written by Bosnian writer Ivo Andrić, Nobel Prize-winning author.
Old Bridge Area of the Old City of Mostar
This UNESCO site is the biggest attraction of Bosnia. It includes the Old Bridge, two fortified towers, and the surrounding area. The Ottoman bridge that crosses the Neretva River was commissioned by Suleiman the Magnificent in the 16th century. The beautiful bridge is an exemplary piece of Balkan Islamic architecture.
The bridge was deliberately shelled and destroyed in the Bosnian War in 1993 and rebuilt and 2004. For reconstruction were used traditional methods and local materials.
Stećci Medieval Tombstones Graveyards
This UNESCO World Heritage site spreads across four countries (Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia) with 4000 of tombstones (stećci), made of limestone and engraved with beautiful decorative motifs and inscriptions. The stećci are associated with local folk and fairy tales, superstitions, and customs. Their epigraphy and reliefs have significantly influenced contemporary literature and other forms of art in all four countries and the region.
The biggest threat in Bosnia is land mines. Some of them are still present from the Bosnian war. Most hazardous areas are well marked, but again several people get injured or killed every year. It is essential to stay out of abandoned buildings or to enter the land-mines suspect area.
Who is it for
Bosnia and Herzegovina is the best destination for people who want to experience the beautiful nature and visit picturesque historical sites, but without the crowds and all the negative aspects of too-well developed tourism.
It is a country of fascinating history, delightful food, slow-paced rhythm, and warm and welcoming hosts.