Day-tripping from Sarajevo

With only one week of holiday, I didn’t have time to explore Bosnia and Herzegovina on my normal slow pace and so I opted to do some day tours from Sarajevo. After exploring Tuzla for a day, I took an early bus to the capital. As we drove into the city, it felt like coming home. I love this city so much! I spent the rest of my day wandering its streets, sipping Bosnian coffee and taking in the atmosphere. It was almost sad that I spent the rest of my days going out of the city, but it was so great to be back in the evening to revisit my favourite restaurants.

I stayed in a brilliant little hostel, way up the hill, hostel Kucha. Every morning they cooked a huge breakfast, with bread, hot food, cakes… unfortunately I left so early every day that I only saw them cook it! With 8AM departures several days in a row, it didn’t much feel like a relaxing holiday. In the end though, it’s so worth it! Bosnia has loads of great places to explore, so I started with a day trip to Jajce and Travnik. It’s a 3 hour drive, mostly over what looked like a brand new highway and then though some towns.

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Simply mesmerizing!

When we arrived in Jajce we immediately headed to the best view of town. This is the 13th century fortress, which was once the fortress of the Bosnian kings, before the Ottomans entered the scene. All that’s left is thick brick walls and a small, dark building in the center. But the views! Breath taking! Walking around the walls you have 360 degree views of the surroundings. Only some industry spoils the picture on one side. The old bricks, the town and the backdrop of mountains create a truly magical scene.

But Jajce has more to offer. The catacombs were never a burial place, but it’s a church carved out of the granite. It’s fairly small, but you can visit the two underground levels. But what all the tourists really come for, are the Pliva waterfalls. These 17 meter high waterfalls are located right in the city center. Water is a major drawcard to Jajce. Not far from the city are the Pliva lakes, where you can jump in to cool down or head out in a kayak. And just a little bit further are the traditional watermills.

I got there at a terrible time of day for photos. Just off the road you can walk onto a wooden boardwalk. You can’t enter the small buildings anymore, but you can still see how it used to work. The water’s power would turn a wheel so that wheat could be ground inside the huts. It was built in the time of the Austro-Hungarian empire, but it looks like it belongs in a book of fairy tales. the setting is quite scenic, with the water still flowing underneath the houses and past the green meadows.

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I really enjoyed seeing Jajce, but I wish I would have had more time to explore it, to walk to other viewpoints of the waterfalls and to swim in the lake. But we had another city on the itinerary: Travnik. First we had lunch with a view of yet another fortress. With full bellies and new energy, we climbed up the slippery steps to its entrance. We had more beautiful views and also saw a small exhibition with old photos and traditional clothing. We only had a little time to explore the town of Ivo Andric. We tried to get into the mosque, but arrived right at prayer time. Then we went to see Plava Voda, a spring that creates a shallow river, with restaurants and souvenir stalls all along it.

Another day trip took me past the highlights of Herzegovina. Again there was a fair bit of driving involved, but I was happy I could just sit back and relax. We made a few short stops, for example to see the beautiful bridge in Konjic. This town is in a beautiful location. with the clear river and the mountains in the background. Then we continued to see a rather interesting site; the railways bridge at Jablanica. This bridge is hanging off of one side, nearly plummeting into the river. But the thing is, this isn’t the original bridge! A bridge was blown up here during WW2, but that one is gone. Afterwards Tito made a very expensive movie about it and what you are looking at now, is the movie set.

In Počitelj we were driven up to the top of the town and, after admiring the views down the valley, I wandered down over the old steps. We were in a very different part of Bosnia now. We’d driven through the beautiful valley and left the land climate behind us. We were now in a truly mediterranean environment. The landscape looked very different. We were much closer to the border with Croatia and the border is the reason there is a fortified town here at Počitelj. This Unesco world heritage site lies right on the Neretva river. People were selling fruits and frozen pomegranate juice everywhere. It was so refreshing in the scorching heat.

Before finishing in Mostar, we visited the Dervish house in Blagaj. First we entered the house itself. This used to be a Muslim monastery, but now it’s developed into a tourist hotspot. The house is right at the spring of the river Buna. The water used to be pure enough to drink and they even had bucket hanging, but unfortunately tourism has spoilt this. Loads of people now throw coins into the water, to the frustration of the locals. It wasn’t the only frustration. The keeper of the house showed us around, but couldn’t show us the most beautiful room. Some women went in to pray and closed the door behind them. Our guide got quite irritated by it. There were other rooms for that. I really liked the hamam. It had beautiful, colorful stars in the ceiling, letting in the light from outside.

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The Dervish house

Because the Buna river is so clean, Blagaj is also a great place to try trout. So of course we didn’t move on until we’d tried some. Then we went to Mostar, our last town on the list. I’d already been several times, but I was pleasantly surprised by our visit. Our tourguide told some interesting stories and took us into a museum where she explained more about the regions history and different people. It was very interesting to see the city from a different perspective.

Overall I loved my day trips from Sarajevo. The best by far was my hiking trip to Lukomir, but I’ll save that for later. I managed to see many new places in Bosnia and Herzegovina and I can’t wait to see more!

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