Day Trip to Bosnia & Herzegovina
"I am hopeful that no one will forget what happened in Bosnia"
- Fatos Nano (prior Prime Minister of Albania)
There are many day trips that you can take while staying in Dubrovnik (click here for my post on Dubrovnik). We had planned for trips to several of the islands surrounding the city, however, we still had one more day allocated for another tour but were struggling to decide between a trip to either Montenegro or, Bosnia and Herzegovina. We were so torn between both that we still hadn't booked either of them by the time we arrived in Dubrovnik!
We came across a local tour guide who was very helpful and advised that, while Montenegro is very beautiful, its environment is quite similar to Dubrovnik and Hvar. He noted that Bosnia and Herzegovina would make for an interesting change in scenery as it is still a semi-developing country going through much change following its years of War. We agreed that a change would be good and so we chose to visit Mostar - with a stop off at Kravice Waterfalls along the way. Many tours from Dubrovnik also offer the option to visit Mostar with a stop off at Medjugorje instead of Kravice Waterfalls.
I must admit that I was never much interested in history while in school, however, nowadays I have much more of an interest and appreciation for it; especially while traveling. It is quite moving to hear the history of an area while visiting it - particularly when the history is still quite fresh and thus very close to the hearts of the people in the area. This was definitely the case in both Croatia and Bosnia & Herzegovina. For example, our tour guide told us a story of how her husband was one of the soldiers who made their way to the top of Srđ Mountain and raised the Croatian flag during the War of Independence - even being caught in gunfire several times during this expedition. It is quite emotional to hear these stories from the locals and it is especially admirable to see how much the countries have grown and moved forward since such recent times of upheaval.
Our tour guide provided a great insight into the history of the war, agriculture and the way of living for the people of the areas that we traveled through. Much of the landscape that we traveled was in the countryside. We passed by large vineyards and our guide noted the popularity of wine production in the region. We sampled some Bosnian wine at Kravice Waterfalls and it was really good...and cheap! While traveling through one particular area, where it was composed of old houses, barns, and farmland quite isolated from any nearby town, our tour guide advised that this community was fully self-sufficient and prevailed through local agriculture and cattle breeding. Nowadays, for those living in modern society and a world of social media, it is hard for us to remember that areas still exist quite cut off from the rest of the world and this, for me, was a stark reminder.
Many of the day trips to Mostar offer either a stop off at Medjugorje, or, Kravice Waterfalls. We chose Kravice Waterfalls and were not disappointed! There is something about the tranquility and sereneness of this area that can not be captured in photos...assisted by the nice glass of wine that you can enjoy while sitting alongside the waterfalls! 😊 It is located about 43 km south of Mostar and is a much needed stop-off point along the long journey from Dubrovnik to Mostar. Kravice Waterfalls are roughly 25 meters high and separated into about 20 waterfalls. The water is very calm and so it is a nice spot for a dip in the water if you so wish. It is interesting to note that there is a no praying sign as it is considered a place of natural beauty with no place for religion.
If you enjoy swimming and paddling then it is a very nice area for both tourists and locals to travel to for a day of relaxation. There is no need to pack a picnic as food and alcohol are served alongside the waterfalls. We enjoyed a glass of wine while sitting by the water and found it extremely relaxing to enjoy the sun and the sound of the water gushing down around us. There are floodlights in the evenings and the restaurants and bars stay open late - so you can spend a lot of time here if you wish (note that the restaurants shut during winter). Again - the wine was lovely and very cheap!!
There are inexpensive boat trips available here too; you can either pay for a small trip to get closer to the waterfalls or, during peak season it is possible to get a boat down the river towards Little Kravice (smaller waterfall) and back. Admirably, it is a very eco-friendly and clean area - with all construction either metal or wood (constructing with plastic is not allowed).
The sense of calmness and tranquility while sitting here was the highlight of my trip to the waterfalls. Note that the area shuts for Winter months.
After our stop off at Kravice Waterfalls we traveled another 43 km to Mostar. One of the most popular attractions of Mostar is that of the Old Bridge:
Old Bridge (Stari Bridge)
This bridge is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it was originally a 16th-century Ottoman bridge. The Old Bridge was only recently rebuilt (2004) after the conflicts of the 1990s when it was destroyed - much of the Old Town was destroyed at this time too. It is about 24 meters in height and I was shocked to hear of the traditional yearly dive, Stari Most diving, from the top of the Bridge! It occurs in the middle of Summer and it is mainly locals who compete though some tourists are reported to have too. It has reportedly taken place 477 times as of 2013.
Crooked Bridge (Kriva Cuprija)
We stumbled upon this bridge while wandering around Mostar and it is another really pretty bridge - it is actually a miniature version of the Stari Bridge.
Except for a trip to the Turkish houses or Mosques, there was not much else to see in the town - though it was pleasant to wander around some of the colorful streets and market stalls in the area. Especially as a tourist, it is important to keep an eye on your pockets and bags while here.
The Turkish house (Kajtaz) is one of the main attractions for tourists to Mostar. Our tour guide had recommended this as one of the things to do while here (as well as visiting a Mosque), however, we were happy enough with our trip to the Old Bridge and a Mosque. We used the remainder of our time to wander the town and to dip our feet into the river flowing under the Old Bridge. The Turkish House consistently receives great reviews on TripAdvisor and so may be worth a visit if you are interested in this. The house is a perfectly preserved late 16th-century Ottoman nobleman's mansion built behind high walls to protect the women of the family from unwanted attention, and so, it is a great way to gain insight into the lifestyle of that time period.
Dating to the 17th century, this Mosque is worth a trip to while in Mostar (unless you are claustrophobic, or, afraid of heights!). The view from the top of the minaret is breathtaking. This view overlooks the river, the Old Bridge and Mostar town. The tight walk up the stairway of the minaret may be difficult for those who are claustrophobic as there is not much space and it is quite a long walk up. I suffer from claustrophobia and I had turned back at one stage as I started to panic. However, once it was a little quieter along the passageway, I pushed myself to continue as I was aware of the spectacular view at the top and I did not want to miss out on this! There is a small entry fee.
This is another mosque that was refurbished (2002 - 2004) following its damage during times of War. It is a 16th century Ottoman mosque with a big dome and high minaret making it the largest in the region. It is also possible to climb the minaret for a small fee too.
Overall, except for the Old Bridge and the spectacular views from the Mosque, there was nothing else hugely popular to see in Mostar. However, it was a really enjoyable and relaxing day (especially by Kravice Waterfalls) and we gained a great insight into the history, agriculture, and environment of Bosnia & Herzegovina. It was very contrasting to the scenery of Dubrovnik and, though I still really want to visit Montenegro at some stage, I'm glad we decided to visit Mostar during our trip.
Thanks for reading,