If there is one unique and beautiful place that I could suggest everyone to explore, it’s definitely Bosnia and Herzegovina. Bosnia is a diamond in the rough. The thought of visiting Bosnia never crosses one’s mind because the image of the civil war and genocide in the early 1990s still haunts the minds of many.
But little do people know that 20 years later, this hidden gem has so much to offer. What makes Bosnia so unique is that it has all the great things a traveller would want – beautiful untainted scenery, cheap accommodation and scrumptious food!
Let me break it down to you why Bosnia and Herzegovina should be your next travel destination.
1. Rich Islamic Heritage
Although it is well-known by the locals that the country is rich in Islamic history, this is a well-kept secret outside of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Mosques that date back to the early Ottoman era are still in use today, such as the Koski Mehmed Pasha mosque in Mostar. In fact, Mostar’s Old Town is like a living and breathing museum with its cobblestone streets, quaint market stalls and minaret-dotted skyline.
Up north in Sarajevo, you can admire the world’s last public lunar clock tower. What makes this clock so distinctive is that it appears to tell the incorrect time, when in fact it tells (highly accurately) the time for each salaat. Nearby is the largest and most important historical mosque in all of Bosnia Herzegovina, the Gazi Huzrev Beg complex, which is still the heart of the Islamic community in Sarajevo– and even the 400-year old marketplace – to this day.
2. Sarajevo is also known as ‘The Jerusalem of Europe’
Sarajevo is the only major city in Europe to house a mosque, Orthodox church, Catholic church and synagogue within the same neighbourhood. For centuries, people from the three monotheistic religions have lived side by side. This centuries’ old coexistence has generated a rich, unique and enchanting culture. The country also boasts a fascinating history of Ottoman rule, an Austro-Hungarian Empire and, more recently, Communist leadership.
What is even more impressive is that Sarajevo continues to be a centre of Islamic learning. The Gazi Husrev-Beg Madrasa has been in continuous operation since it first opened on 8th January 1537, and to this day, muftis and politicians alike have studied at the madrasa.
3. Stari Most in Mostar
Apart from Sarajevo, there are so many other interesting places in Bosnia. Mostar is another must-go place for visitors, especially if it’s your first time. Here you can find the historic Old Bridge or Stari Most, which was built by a great architect Sinan during the Ottoman Empire. Sadly, during the Bosnian war, the bridge was destroyed. It took them several years to rebuild the bridge as money was a challenge after the war. Many organizations contributed to rebuilding the bridge and it has been rebuilt and since then, it has become a symbol of reconciliation.
4. Yummy and super cheap halal food!
These three words aren’t enough to describe the food in Bosnia. I mean, can you really find delicious, halal and affordable food in the Balkans? For most Muslim travellers, finding great halal food is a challenge – so visiting Bosnia is truly like food heaven!
One of the most popular food dishes is cevapi. Before I tell you what it is, people in the Balkans generally eat more meat like beef, veal or lamb than fish. But don’t worry, the way they cook their meat is the bomb! Most of the time, they bake it in an old school oven – filled with either wood or charcoal, so it gives that smoky delicious flavour. Anyway, this dish is kind of like tender kebabs but way better! It is eaten with soft, homemade bread and sour cream and onions. Most of the time, the kebabs are a mix of lamb, beef and veal (it’s so good, guys! Once you’ve tried this, your expectations of kebabs will no longer be the same). They don’t serve chilli sauce, so if you’re a picky eater, you might want to bring your own chilli or chilli sauce 😁
5. Everything is so cheap!
It is possible to travel like a king in Bosnia, but without the hefty price tag. Enjoy a night at the Muslibegovic House, an excellent hotel-museum designed in classic Ottoman style, from as little as £62/night!. Dine by candlelight next to a gushing waterfall in Blagaj, where you will be spoilt for choice with a selection of fresh fish and meat dishes, for a fraction of the price you would pay in London, Paris or Istanbul.
Getting around is also highly affordable, whatever your preference. The most common way to get around Bosnia is by bus. There is a large intercity network that will take you up and down the country, and even across the border, with relative ease. It’s also pretty affordable to get around by taxi within the city.
Top tip: If you find a good taxi driver, take his business card. You could agree on a fixed-fee for your trips and save the hassle of hailing down a taxi with a meter.
6. Enchanting castles and fortresses
If you grew up with Disney cartoons and always wanted to be a princess, then you should visit the castles across Bosnia. Okay, let’s get real – we’ve all grown up and are not interested in being princesses anymore 😂 But who says we can’t relive our childhood? On a more serious note, the castles and forts in Bosnia are distinct due to the influence of the Ottoman Empire.
7. Breathtaking scenery
Jade green rivers, glorious mountains and evergreen valleys…Bosnia-Herzegovina boasts spectacular scenery. It is the perfect destination to relax, unwind, and be blown away by nature.
Honestly, summarizing the reasons to travel to Bosnia is more challenging than what I had initially thought. It’s really hard to describe with words what this diverse country has to offer. The natural landscape and untainted cities and villages are beautiful yet haunting. After my trip to Bosnia, I did not just have a lot of fun but I was inspired by the people’s kindness regardless of pain and hardship that they had to go through during the genocide. My trip to Bosnia has changed how I see the world. It has forced me to be empathetic towards people who were ridden by conflict and makes me want to help them, whether it’s by buying their local crafts or promoting their country to invite more tourists. And this, is why you should visit Bosnia and Herzegovina.
*Pictures that are not credited were taken by HalaalQuest team when visiting Bosnia in 2017 and 2018.