Travelers’ apprehension about visiting Bosnia and Herzegovina, a small Balkan country in southeast Europe, is understandable. After all, what’s there to see in a war-torn landscape of scarred towns, poor or damaged transportation and villages riddled with landmines?
When the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia disintegrated, it led to the devastating civil wars here in the 1990s. Bosnia and Herzegovina gained its independence when a peace treaty was signed in 1995. The fighting ended, but the rebuilding process has been painstaking, with mine clearing and complete infrastructure rehabilitation. It will take years before the country’s tourism sector can return to its former glory.
You should know that despite the mines, Bosnia and Herzegovina is very safe, with violent crime a rare occurrence. You can safely walk around such cities as Sarajevo, with its new hotels and buzzing nightlife. The 500 years of Turkish occupation left its imprint on the capital; the colorful bazaars are reminders of Sarajevo’s Ottoman heritage.
The country offers two climates: alpine (Bosnia in the north and central) and Mediterranean (Herzegovina at the southern tip). Bosnia’s mountainous region gets very cold January to March and has substantial snowfall. Sarajevo, host site of the 1984 Winter Olympics, offers excellent downhill skiing facilities at Bjelasnica and Jahorina. Vlasic Mountain near ancient Travnik also has an established ski center.
Herzegovina has a 12 mile strip of coast along the crystal clear Adriatic, with warm, sunny and dry weather, centered on the beach resort of Neum. Swimming and watersports are available. Nearby is Mostar, whose 16th and 17th century mosques and ancient Turkish bridge were destroyed in the war. The stone bridge was recently reconstructed. If you’re seeking a rural mountain hiking or trekking adventure, hire an ecotourism guide to safely escort you across the highlands for a look into the ancient lifestyles that persist here.