A warm hearted welcome awaits in Bosnia & Herzegovina

By | Category: Travel destinations, Travel tips & opinions

There are few remaining secret destinations in Europe still to be discovered by the leisure traveller, yet just a few hours from London is a new, highly affordable holiday choice – Bosnia and Herzegovina. This heart-shaped Southern European country, facing the Adriatic, is perfect for city and cultural breaks, winter sports and seasonal outdoor activities focusing on its mysterious mountains and fast-flowing rivers. CD-Traveller tells you all you need to know

Bosnia and Herzegovina’s rich blend of Mediterranean, Byzantine, Ottoman and Central European heritage dates back close to 2,000 years. Impressive castles, monasteries, churches, temples, shrines and illuminated manuscripts make the country a real treasure-trove. Perhaps its most legendary symbol is the medieval tombstone, called a stećak. Mostar’s Stari Most (Old Bridge) dates from the 16th century and is one of several UNESCO-protected heritage sites in this Balkan state. Current intensive archaeological research has already provided information about prehistoric customs and events, Roman life and pre- and early Christian rituals and beliefs in this under-explored country.



Arts & culture
Bosnia and Herzegovina’s capital Sarajevo boasts a wide range of internationally-renowned cultural festivals throughout the year, the most famous being the Sarajevo Film Festival in July/August and Jazz Fest Sarajevo in November. There are also many contemporary art exhibitions, dance, theatre and folklore events, including a two-month long Winter Festival in February/March and the quirky Mostar Bridge Jumping Festival in July.



Get active!
When you venture beyond the city, Bosnia and Herzegovina reveals a varied and dramatic landscape, often best explored by bike or on foot. Extensive hiking trails and mountain biking routes take you into stunning countryside, with pastures, mountains, waterfalls, rivers and charming highland villages. You can even retrace old Ottoman caravan routes towards Istanbul from the saddle.

Natural treasures
Bosnia and Herzegovina boasts nature in abundance, due in no small part to its diverse landscape and ecosystems. Sutjeska National Park, for instance, is home to one of Europe’s last remaining primeval forests and Bosnia’s highest peak, the 2,386-metre Maglic Mountain. Extensive wetlands attract 240 different types of migratory birds annually, making this a birdwatching paradise. The eagle-eyed wildlife spotter may even catch a glimpse of bears, chamois, wolves or deer. The Vjetrenica cave, currently a geomorphologic natural reservation, has been a site of different research expeditions since the 16th century – fossils of eight different animals have been found here, the largest being skeletons of a cave bear and a leopard. Its nearly 6 kilometres of underground passages make it currently the second richest cave in biological diversity, according to UNESCO.



On the water
The ‘Four Rivers’ of Bosnia and Herzegovina offer some of the best fly-fishing in the world, but if you are interested in the more adventurous water-based activities of rafting, speed-river diving, canoeing and cave diving, then there are plenty of highly affordable guided trips available.

World-class wintersports
A world-class adventure playground awaits the skier and snowboarder high in the former Winter Olympic mountains close to Sarajevo. You can discover the Bijelasnica Highlands on snow-shoes, explore pine forests, glacial lakes and snow-covered peaks or take to the skies by paraglider.

Sun and sand
If it’s more traditional holiday fun you are looking for, Bosnia and Herzegovina has a coastal resort on the Dalmatian Coast with a year-round Mediterranean climate. Neum is only an hour from Mostar and Dubrovnik in Croatia, and makes a great touring centre. You can easily combine your beach stay with a visit to the Hutovo Blato bird reserve near Čapljina, or explore the Venrenija Caves and Kravica Waterfalls near the town of Ljubuški.

A unique culinary tradition
Bosnia and Herzegovina’s cuisine is shaped not only by diverse regional influences – Mediterranean, central European and Eastern – but also by religious ones, with Jewish, Muslim and Christian traditions all in evidence. There is no such thing as ‘fast food’ in Bosnia and Herzegovina, since seasonal, traditional and local are the culinary watchwords. Must-tries include ćevapi (spicy meat sausages served with Bosnian pita bread somun) and the dessert tufahija (cooked apples filled with walnut). You may be surprised to know that eight wines from Bosnia and Herzegovina picked up medals at the prestigious Decanter World Wine Awards 2012 – dedicated wine lovers should not hesitate to explore Herzegovina’s Wine Route.



Getting there
There are currently no direct flights from the UK to Bosnia and Herzegovina. However, connecting flights via Vienna, Zurich, Belgrade, Zagreb, Budapest and Munich, among other cities, make the destination easily accessible for British travellers. Budget flights to Zagreb, Dubrovnik and Split, with good quality road and rail connections (Zagreb), put Bosnia and Herzegovina’s key attractions at a reasonable distance from the airport.

Fast facts
Where: Bosnia and Herzegovina is located on the Balkan Peninsula in south-eastern Europe. It borders Croatia to the north and west, Serbia to the east and Montenegro to the south.
Area: Just over 50,000 km2 – around two thirds the size of Scotland.
Population: Just over three million.
Climate: Spring and summer are the best times to visit, with temperatures in Mediterranean Herzegovina sometimes exceeding 30 degrees Celsius. October and November are mild with beautiful autumn colours. Winters are cold but offer superb skiing from January to March.

For the full low-down on the five regions of Bosnia and Herzegovina, be sure to log onto CD-Traveller tomorrow!



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