Population: 3.5 million
Language: Bosnian, Serbian, Croatian
Currency: Convertible Mark (BAM) but Euros accepted in some places
Location: Balkan Peninsula, southeastern Europe
Climate: Hot summers and cold winters
Why does Bosnia and Herzegovina have two names?
It’s all a bit confusing, I know. Get ready for this geography and linguistics lesson all rolled into one! Still a single nation, Bosnia occupies most of the country while Herzegovina occupies the small triangle in the southern portion. The word Bosnia comes from a river while Herzegovina originated from Germany.
Formerly part of Yugoslavia, the country gained independence in 1992. B&H looks landlocked, but take a closer look at the map. Bosnia actually has a teeny tiny bit of Adriatic coast that you could walk across in a single afternoon. When Yugoslavia broke up in 1991, the twelve miles of Bosnia-Herzegovinian coastline separated the Dubrovnik region from the rest of Croatia to the north, and the Neum corridor gives Bosnia and Herzegovina a shorter coastline than any other nation on earth aside from Monaco. Craziness!
Crossing the Border
The event of crossing from Croatia into Bosnia and Herzegovina was so uneventful that I forgot it even happened…until someone from Instagram DM’d me to ask questions about it. Here I am, a day after publishing, adding this section in. Entry into Bosnia from Croatia literally looked like this: rolling my window down and showing the Customs guy a green slip of paper I received from the car rental company stating something along the lines of “let this girl through.” Exit from Bosnia into southern Croatia was just as easy…and actually SO uneventful that I don’t even remember it so I’m going to end this section here.
Where to Stay
Go with Neum or Mostar. Neum occupies a few miles of beachfront making for some epic sunsets….but the city of Mostar has more going for it. Whatever you do, don’t stay at the Grand Hotel Neum. What a dumpster fire of a hotel…(we booked at 4pm the day-of, so we were asking for it. Not my finest moment).
What to Do
- Rent a car – you won’t get far unless you have your own vehicle. I rented with Sixt in Zagreb, Croatia, and made my way down the coast to Neum.
- Drive to Pocitelj – This stop was a spur-of-the-moment, pull-over-on-the-side-of-the-road because it was such a pretty scene. The historic fortress village has come crazy picture-perfect architecture. Although damaged in the Bosnian War of ’93, lots has been restored including the stunning Hajji Alija Mosque from 1563. I reallyyy wanted to hike up to the Ottoman Clock Tower, but we didn’t have enough time.
- Blagaj Tekija – You know when you’ve viewed a landmark so many times online or on Instagram and you wonder if you’ll ever get to see it in real life? Cue ALL THE FEELS when I laid eyes on this beauty for the first time last month. This 15th century monastery is situated at the base of a cliff next to the Buna river and waterfalls. Note that you’ll need to pay for parking and entry if you want to see the inside of the monastery. There’s also a boat that will take you into the cave for a short visit, but we opted to go across the river to see it from the other side. Lots of restaurant options here, too!
- Mostar – I loved this town so much! We ate lunch here and wanted to do so much more that what we actually accomplished. Within an hour of arriving, a monsoon came over the city…a sign to get on to the next spot! We were able to see Stari Most, the 16th century Old Bridge destroyed by the Bosnian Coat Army on November 9th, 1993. It took about 5.5 million USD to reconstruct the bridge which is now an UNESCO world heritage site (that lots of daredevils jump off of and into the Neretva River below!) serving as a reminder of the rich history of the area and of a violent (recent) past.
- Kravice Waterfalls (Studenci) – On the loop back towards the main highway/Croatia, our last stop was Kravice where the sun came out to play! You can get in the water here, but we chose a cute lil boat to get closer to the falls. Cafes are near the waterfront and note that there’s a small entrance fee of KM 10 ($5-6) to enter, and you may want to bring a swimsuit 🙂
- Dubrovnik is 2.5-hour drive away from here, so get some coffee and a good podcast going!