With a Muslim population of over 50%, Bosnia is one of Europes most unique destinations for halal-friendly travel. Combining a harrowing history, a rich culture, unique cuisine, and quite beautiful scenery, visitors to Bosnia come back with memories well past their expectations.
Bosnia has a very rich culture and historic heritage dating back to 12,000 BC. The country has seen it all. Roman period; Middle Ages; the Muslim Ottoman period, Austro- Hungarian period and the period between the two world wars. During the aggression war on Bosnia & Herzegovina in the period 1992 until 1995 the cultural heritage suffered extensive damage and a large portion of it was destroyed. Some very important monuments were demolished.
Here are 24 places in Bosnia for you to explore. The country is quite small, but it packs so much along with friendly locals, Muslim communities and some quite beautiful landscapes.
Sarajevo, the country’s largest city, has a population of about 400,000. The city was founded in 1462 by an Ottoman commander Isa-bey Ishakovic. Since its inception, Sarajevo had its ﬁrst water supply and a public bath. In 1885 the ﬁrst horse-drawn tramway started operating in the city and 10 years later the electric tramways. Just goes to show how forward-looking the city was.
Sarajevo is surrounded by mountains. Namely, Jahorina, Bjelasnica, Igman and Trebevic. These mountains are places of popular resorts for the citizens of Sarajevo and were also the location for XIV Winter Olympics.
When in Muslim-friendly Sarajevo, a walk through the Old Town is an absolute must. It’s a travel through time, taking you back to the old world charm – cobbled streets, narrow alleys, souvenir shops, chevabi places, baklava (dessert delights) stores, sheesha-smoking joints, kahva houses and of course the mesmerizing landmarks – the Bascarsija, Gazi Husrev-Bey’s Mosque, the Sebilj, Sacred Heart Cathedral, the Orthodox Church and not to forget the Clock Tower that shows time according to the lunar calendar.
Around the Old Town are other famous buildings and monuments. Notably, the City Hall, the Library, Academy of Fine Arts, National Museum, National Theatre, Army House, Principov Bridge, Latin Bridge and the Sarajevo Museum. And for the shoppers in you, there are some malls too.
Set on the banks of River Lasva, Travnik was the capital of the Muslim Ottoman viziers from 1699 to 1851. After the conquest, the Ottomans continued its constructions to convert the town into a strong defensive fort from which they could control the passage in the Lasva valley. Today the Travnik Fort offers panoramic views of the town below and the mountains beyond.
Travnik is the birthplace of the Noble Laurate Ivo Andric. His house is now a museum that showcases Bosnian furniture, various photographs, Travnik chronicles and a library.
Vlasic is a mountain in the very centre of the country. Its highest peak is Paljenik with an elevation of 1,943 metres. The region is famous for its pastures, cattle- breeding and cheese. It is believed that the Romans, around 1,000 years ago, got the cheese recipe into Vlasic. Basically, it’s made from sheep’s milk and then left to ripen for two to three months.
In addition to the cheese, there are two other trademarks associated with Vlasic – the Tornjak dog and Pramenka sheep. The Tornjak is believed to have existed for more than a millennia, bred to guard from wolves and bears. I did have the opportunity to interact with a shepherd and pat a 2-month old Tornjak.
The mountain is a major center for winter tourism due to its excellent accommodation for skiing, snowboarding, and other winter sports. It is also a popular destination for summer and eco-tourism with many hiking trails and pristine wilderness areas.
Tourist settlement – ethno village Cardaci is located in Vitez. With unique surroundings on the banks of the River Lasva, it covers an area of 6 hectares, and includes rich summer and winter offers, as well as hospitality facilities. It’s built exclusively from natural materials, in ethnic style and modeled on the old Bosnian house. Overall the location gives great importance to the past, tradition and family values.
The history of Mostar begins with the Neolithic Age as attested by various archaeological sites. The Old Bridge built in 1566 is today a UNESCO world cultural heritage. It was constructed by the order of the Muslim Sultan Suleyman the Magniﬁcient. The bridge is surrounded by the old town and its bazaars attract thousands of visitors almost every day. Interestingly, there’s a Curved Bridge on the River Radobolja which was built before the Old Bridge and it is considered that it inspired its creation.
Mostar is a picturesque city in Bosnia and Herzegovina that is quite literally split into two religions—Islam on one side of the river bank and Catholicism on the other. The bridge pictured here, for which the city is named after, is a great example of Islamic architecture in the country.
6. Plivska Lakes
Only 5 kms from Jajce there are the Great and Small Pliva Lakes, between which there are watermills that are Waterfall, Jajce called Mlincici locally. Around the watermills are inviting landscaped gardens.
Another beautiful etno village just about 35 kms before Bihac. A little off the road, this ethnic village takes you back in time the way folks lived their lives. Sprawling landscapes and traditional hospitality will motivate travelers to spend a night in one of their rugged cottages. If short of time, a traditional kahva is surely a welcome.
In the 15th century, Jajce becomes a royal city where the last Bosnian king Stjepan Tomasevic was crowned. At the beginning of the 16th century the Ottomans conquered Jajce. And at the end of the 19th century, the Austro-Hungarian government establishes its rule and builds the largest hydroelectric power station in this part of Europe. The Pliva River runs through the town and ﬂows into Vrbas River. The Pliva waterfall is right in the centre of town and indeed Jajce’s most important attraction, not to forget the Jajce Fort the Esma Sultanija Mosque and St. Mary’s Church.
9. Bosanska Krupa
This mingling of faith is quite a common sight across the country. From atop the fortress witness beautiful views of the river, the watermills, the old town and the mountains beyond.
12 kms from Bihac on a mound on the left bank of River Una was built Ostrozac. Its fort from the Middle Ages is mentioned in the 13th century. In the 16th century the fort was conquered by the Ottomans and it became the headquarters of the Ostrazac captaincy.
11. Strbacki Buk
The waterfalls of Strbacki Buk can well be one most important reason to travel all the way to Bihac. Located in the middle of Nature Reserve, the water falls over several large and small cascades creating pretty formations. In summertime, it’s also a rafters’ paradise.
12. Martin Brod
A few kilometres further away in the Nature Reserve is yet another set of mesmerising waterfalls.
13. Long Alley
In the neighbourhood of Sarajevo is Ilidza which has records of being around for over 4,000 years in the fertile valley of River Zeljeznica. The greens in this neighbourhood are looked upon as being the lungs of Sarajevo. During the Austro-Hungarian period the Long Alley was created along with many other paths for walking. A walk in the Long Alley is highly recommended. For those inclined a ride in a ﬁjaker (horse driven carriage) is also a welcome.
Kravica waterfall, often erroneously called Kravice, is a large tufa cascade on the Trebizat River, in the karstic heartland of the country. Its height is about 25 metres and the radius of the lake in the base of the waterfall is 120 metres. Kravica is a popular swimming and picnic area.
Bjelasnica Mountain is situated southwest, only 25 km from Sarajevo. Beside is Mount Igman on which most of the Alpine and Nordic disciplines and jumps of the XIV Olympic Games were held. Winter, from November to May, forms snow drifts of a couple of meters in height which are a particular challenge for winter sports lovers. This season is particularly interesting because of the landscape of the mountain under snow, which is somewhat like a white desert covered with rays of sunshine.
Trebevic Mountain is located southeast of Sarajevo. Its highest point is 1,629 meters and builds on Mount Jahorina. An hour and a half hike can bring people to this beautiful mountain from the city centre! Some altitude points provide an excellent view of the surroundings. Trebevic, is an oasis of peace and greenery which makes a signiﬁcant tourist and recreational center, both in summer and in winter. No wonder, the peaks of Trebevic attracts over 3,500 hikers every week.
Jahorina Mountain is a part of Dinaric Alps. The highest peak is Ogorjelica at 1,916 metres. Summer Jahorina puts in dense grass carpet and with its climate attracts picnickers, hikers, athletes and all those who seek refuge from the summer heat. Various accommodation and sports facilities are often the reason why sports teams come to prepare for the coming sports season or for a meaningful competition. Jogging, walking or picking wild fruits and herbs will certainly be motivation enough for true nature lovers who enjoy the fact that they are surrounded by beautiful green forest, ﬁelds and fresh air.
This pretty town sits on the banks of River Neretva. The history begins with the Roman Empire, continuing to the Middle Ages and the Ottoman Empire, when it was an important station along the way. The town’s main Fly Fishing, River Neretva, Konjic attraction is the Old Stone Bridge which was built in 1682 and was considered a masterpiece even at that time. It was damaged in 1945 when the German Army was retreating and was restored in 2009 to its original look.
The town of Bihac was ﬁrst mentioned in 1260 in a document of Bela IV. But, it is assumed that Bihac emerged much earlier. In the inner core of the city there exists several objects which belong to the historic heritage of Bihac. A walk in the old town shows the 19th century Antun Church; the Turbe; the Kapetan Tower and of course the Fethiye Mosque built in Gothic style which was earlier a church! A few kms from Bihac is a historic hotel Kostelski Buk, on the banks of River Una with a waterfall of its own.
Country’s national monument, Pocitelj sits on the banks of River Neretva. Atop the mountain top is the 15th century Gavrankapetanovic Tower that offers beautiful panoramic views of the town below and the Neretva River. The town is home to a hamam, madrasa with a copper dome and the Sisman Ibrahim-Pasha’s Mosque.
The town has become one of the most popular pilgrimage sites for Catholics in the world. Over 1 million people visit this little town, made famous by its Church of St. James built in 1967. In the church yard there’s a sculpture of Virgin Mary.
22. Vrelo Bosne
At the end of the Long Alley (you can also drive there directly), is Vrelo Bosne – Spring of River Bosnia. It’s in the base of Igman Mountain. The area is lush green with many pretty bridges across the streams with a pond with swans and ducks.
During the Antiquity era in the area of Blagaj there was an Illyrian fort built in the 4th century. In the 15th century it was the residential place of Bosnian rulers. Later the Ottomans conquered Blagaj and the Tekke was built next to which there’s a cave and the spring of River Buna. Throughout history, various Suﬁ orders have resided here. Today it belongs to the Naqshbandi order.
During the Bosnian War, Srebrenica was the site of a massacre of more than 8,000 Bosniak men and boys, which was subsequently designated as an act of genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the International Court of Justice.
In the 13th and 14th century the region was part of the Banate of Bosnia, and, subsequently, the Bosnian Kingdom. The earliest reference to the name Srebrenica was in 1376, by which time it was already an important centre for trade in the western Balkans, based especially on the silver mines of the region. By that time, a large number of merchants of the Republic of Ragusa were established there, and they controlled the domestic silver trade and the export by sea, almost entirely via the port of Ragusa (Dubrovnik). During the 14th century, many German miners moved into the area and there were often armed conflicts about Srebrenica because of its mines. According to Czech historian Konstantin Josef Jireček, from 1410 to 1460, Srebrenica switched hands several times, being Serbian five times, Bosnian four times, and Ottoman three times. The mines of Bosnian Podrinje and Usora were part of the Serbian Despotate prior to the Ottoman conquest.
In 1992, Bosniak villages around Srebrenica were under constant attacks by Serb forces. The Bosnian Institute in the United Kingdom has published a list of 296 villages destroyed by Serb forces around Srebrenica three years before the genocide and in the first three months of the war (April–June 1992)
More than three years before the 1995 Srebrenica genocide, Bosnian Serb nationalists – with the logistical, moral and financial support of Serbia and the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) – destroyed 296 predominantly Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) villages in the region around Srebrenica, forcibly uprooting some 70,000 Bosniaks from their homes and systematically massacring at least 3,166 Bosniaks (documented deaths) including many women, children and the elderly.
Today, Srebrenica is home to the memorial cemetery in Srebrenica. It’s a touching and harrowing account of the genocide that occurred here and probably the most important place to visit on any first time trip to Bosnia.
How to get there
From the UK there are no direct flights and you would need to fly via Europe or Istanbul. Flight prices are reasonable if booked early starting at £225 per person. Visit www.rihaala.com to book your flights to Sarajevo.
Where to Stay
There are plenty of hotels in Sarajevo and beyond to choose from. The newly opened Bosmal Arjaan by Rotana in Sarajevo is a stylish and contemporary property in vibrant Sarajevo. With 132 fully serviced one, two, and three-bedroom hotel suites that are spacious and elegantly designed featuring the latest technology, it is a home away from home for short and long-staying guests and families seeking comfort and convenience when visiting this exciting city.
The Hotel Hills, Thermal & Spa Resort Sarajevo is located in the center of the green oasis and includes 330 rooms and suites, multipurpose Congress center with modern conference technology. The Wellness, Spa & Fitness Health center, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, Adrenalin park for children is located on an impressive 2200 square meters,
The Pino Hotel is set in a breath-taking setting, amidst pristine mountain landscapes and yet within easy reach of Old Sarajevo. The resort is an alcohol-free retreat with a spa, indoor pool open to women-only at set times, and serves only halal food which is ideal for all Muslim travellers.