Samuel Turner

The people of Bosnia & Herzegovina have had a turbulent, violent and for the most part devastating history. As recent as just twenty years ago they’ve faced civil wars, religious oppression, genocide, political instability and years of constant attack from all sides. They’ve seen their country torn apart and cities destroyed, but somehow throughout all the destruction, loss and suffering the resolute people of Bosnia & Herzegovina show no signs of giving up – they’ve come this far after all. Their country emanates this spirit with confronting relics from the recent past, intertwined with a celebration of their history and optimism looking into the future.

mostar bridge

With a long lineage combining Slavic and Ottoman ancestry, the people of Bosnia & Herzegovina have no shortage of influence. You’ll see this everywhere from their food and architecture to culture and social structure. One of the most striking is in cities such as Mostar, where you will see a plethora of unrepaired remnants of the war. This contrasting image is confronting – crumbling buildings next to a newly renovated apartment block or restaurant. It serves as a stark reminder of what their people went through, but unfortunately for the most part is a reflection of their economic climate. Mostar also boasts a tall unfinished bank which was used as a sniper tower in the war and now abandoned and falling into disrepair, is a popular (albeit spooky) tourist hotspot.

sniper tower  bosnia

However it isn’t all doom in gloom, Bosnia has plenty of beautiful and breathtaking sights to see. The city of Sarajevo is known as the city in which ‘East meets West’ and there is a certain point in the city which this is plastered across the floor, as the ‘meeting of cultures’. Look towards your left and it is completely reminiscent of the Austria-Hungarian Empire and if you look towards your right, you’d swear you were smack bang in the middle of a happening bazaar in Istanbul.  Ottoman relics are spread across the country with huge castles, mosques and bazaars forever concreting the influence of their Islamic counterparts.

The Old Bridge in Mostar harbours one of the most incredible viewpoints in the Balkans, looking down at the flowing waters of the river Neretva. The bridge represents so much to the people, being originally built by the Ottomans over four hundred years ago, responsible for a lot of growth in Mostar and unfortunately destroyed during the recent war. My friend and tour guide, Bata, explained to me it’s called Stari Most or Old Bridge, but colloquially it’s known in Bosnian as ‘Old Grandpa’. It’s at the heart of a lot of those from Mostar being such an iconic part of their history but today its reproduction still commands respect and evokes awe. You can also relax down by the banks of the river on some monolithic chunks of the old bridge.

old bridge view

Bosnia & Herzegovina is also home to some of the most breathtaking waterfalls in the world. The Kravice waterfalls near Mostar are not only free of charge to enter, but arguably one of the most beautiful and unique of its kind in the world. A 100m freezing cold swim away, you’ll find yourself able to find refuge between the thundering water streams on many moss covered rocks. A lot less touristy than the Krka falls in Croatia, you’ll appreciate the nature and serenity a lot more here.


One of the highlights of my time in Bosnia & Herzegovina was genuinely the people. I had many a conversation in broken English with locals. A man donned in military attire approached me one day and was curious why an Australian would want to come to Bosnia. He was pleasantly surprised to learn I found his country and people beautiful. We continued a difficult conversation but parted ways with a warm smile and handshake that could be understood in any language.

My hostel in Mostar genuinely felt like my second home. My host, Majdas, acted like my mother bringing me lunch and dinner assuring I had been eating and was as comfortable as possible. When I was bitten by a spider she assumed the position of nurse and got to work on remedies and setting me up in a pool chair outside. Often her brother, Bata and her would share stories of their involvement in the war and how it shaped their lives today. It would be so easy for these people to be constantly depressed and bitter, never being able to forgive the atrocities that were thrust upon them. But they look forward to the future, remembering but not begrudging and with an amicable positive outlook on life.

Bosnia & Herzegovina is still relatively new to tourism. It’s incomparable to Croatia on that scale, but that is one of the reasons it is still so beautiful. It hasn’t been adulterated or warped yet and there is so much local culture to still be seen. Unfortunately this is partially because it hasn’t really recovered from the war and the cultural division that still exists. But it is real and doesn’t have the facade of a perfect coexisting nation.


I could definitely see that people could be angered at the thought of travellers passing through their country to see ‘how the other half live’. But for the most part they aren’t. They want to share their stories. They want the world to know what happened there and for it to never happen again. They want you to see the real Bosnia, their rich history and all that it offers. And they welcome travellers with wide open arms, to learn, enjoy and embrace all the beauty that is Bosnia & Herzegovina.

Don’t forget:

  • Try the cevapi, a Bosnian speciality. It’s a type of rissole/meatball served with raw onion and fluffy bread.
  • Bosnian coffee (almost exactly like Turkish coffee, but don’t tell them that) is a must try, especially for the avid strong coffee enthusiast.
  • Avoid using the word ‘cheap’. Bosnia is incredibly affordable for the Western tourist, but remember this is the everyday cost for their people.


Samuel Turner is an Australian journalist with a passion for adventure, travel and food. Follow him on Instagram @turnernator and Facebook Samuel Turner.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not reflect the opinions of Cover-More Insurance. You should always read the Policy Documents available from your travel insurance provider to understand the limits, exclusions and conditions of your policy and to ensure any activities you undertake are covered by your policy.

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