Mostar is our most favorite city in Bosnia and Herzegovina because it combines all the characteristics of an exciting destination: a diverse culture, significant history, plenty of nature and tasty local food.
Traveling Bosnia and Herzegovina feels like immersing yourself in different cultures all the time. And that for a reason. The country is home to three main ethnic groups: Muslim Bosniaks, Orthodox Serbs and Catholic Croats alongside smaller communities of Jews and Roma people. This vibrant mix of cultures, traditions and languages is what captivates visitors from all over the world.
In the past, the atmosphere was often described as a peaceful coexistence with mixed marriages and friendships across ethnics. This came to an end when the war broke out in the 1990s. Suddenly ethnicity became the dividing line between territory and people, resulting in ethnic segregation and population displacement.
Mostar itself became a divided city – the west bank of the Neretva river is mainly inhabited by Croats, the east by Bosniaks. This contrast between the two different cultures is best experienced when crossing the old bridge from one side to the other. Today both sides foster a peaceful relationship, yet reconciliation is an ongoing process.
In general, the city is safe and especially the old town and center became quite touristic in recent years. This is what attracts most visitors. However, Mostar has a lot more to offer. The splendid surrounding nature makes it suitable for all kinds of outdoor activities.
In this article we want to show you the perfect balance between sightseeing, historical context, nature and recommended trips to nearby places.
Visit the old town and bridge
The bridge is what gave the city its name in the first place. It translates to “bridge keeper” and from early history on has been a symbol of union between the different ethnics. The bridge is the linchpin of all attractions. In fact, almost all other landmarks are centered around the iconic bridge.
Crossing the bridge from one side to the other is often referred to as where East meets West. In fact the Neretva river used to be the dividing line between the two ethnic groups: Croats and Bosniaks. Which side is which can be easily answered by looking out for religious symbols. The east side is where the mosques are whereas on the west side if you gaze in the distance you will spot a cross on a mountain.
Cool down at the Neretva banks
There are many angles from which you can take in the view of the bridge. Like from the banks of the Neretva river below the bridge. Especially on hot days this is a great place to cool down. If you don’t mind ice-cold water you can dip your feet. No matter the season, the water is always freezing.
Learn about the recent history
Mostar offers many ways to educate yourself about the breakup of former Yugoslavia which led to the different conflicts on the Balkans. If you want to absorb more information about this topic read this comprehensive article. It contains an outline of the historical events and shares some personal thoughts.
Enjoy traditional cuisine
Bosnian cuisine reflects the multicultural heritage of the country at its finest. The dishes are mostly meaty and hearty. The most popular snack is a pie which comes with different fillings. Depending on the filling it is labeled as pita (vegetarian like cheese, spinach, potatos) or burek (meat).
Explore the street art scene
The street art scene in Mostar has come a long way since recent years. Whenever we visited there were new murals popping up. We have dedicated an entire article to Mostar’s street art that we try to keep up to date.
Visit the Partisan memorial
Not many people know about the partisan memorial in Mostar. It commemorates the partisan soldiers which have fallen during the liberation of Bosnia in Herzegovina in the events of World war II.
The memorial symbolizes the collective efforts of people from the Yugoslav army which fought side by side against the fascist oppression.
At the time we visited the monument appeared neglected with broken stones lying all over the place. We investigated and found out that he memorial is a frequent target of vandalism committed by citizens that have strong nationalistic beliefs.
Most of the monuments in the city are dedicated to the Bosnian war. The partisan memorial was a good opportunity to learn about another historical period.
Besides, it’s a secret viewpoint offering panoramic views of the mountains.
Climb up Mount Fortica
Mount Fortica is another name for mountain Hum. You can easily spot the mountain if you look out for a cross on a summit.
As the name Fortica suggests, a fortress can be found on the hill which dates back to the medieval period.
To reach the summit you can either walk or drive up the winding road. The curves are steep at times so be cautious while driving.
Once you reach the observation deck you will be captivated by scenic views of Mostar’s skyline and the surrounding nature. The skywalk has a glass floor which adds to the adrenaline rush.
If you have more time to spare you should consider a day trip to the village Blagaj. It’s famous for the so-called Blagaj Tekija, a 600 year old Dervish monastery that sits at the base of a massive cliff right next to river Buna. To be precise, its source.
This is where the Sufi, a type of Muslims, gathered for spiritual rituals, prayer and to welcome other Sufi travelers. It’s easy to understand why this was the ideal place.
The emerald water of the river Buna nestled within green lush nature will soothe your body and soul immediately.
For the best view you need to go behind the restaurant area where you will find a pathway leading uphill. Follow this way until you reach the lookout platform opposite the monastery.
The ancient village of Počitelj is a place you don’t want to miss while in Mostar. It’s only 30 km away and adored by many visitors.
During the Ottoman rule the village of Počitelj was a vibrant cultural center located on a hillside with a medieval fortress crowning the top.
A winding stairway made from rock connects the lower floors with the top ones. Be aware that the rock is slippery so consider shoes with a good grip.
On the way you will pass some interesting buildings all made from the same white rock: a bell tower, a mosque and traditional residential houses.
Once you reach the top you can enjoy the panoramic view of the Neretva river embedded in lush green hills.
Take a trip to some waterfalls
The country side in Bosnia and Herzegovina is full of natural wonders like incredible waterfalls.
The most famous ones are Kravica waterfalls, around 40 km away from Mostar.
It can become pretty crowded there, especially during summer peak. If you’re looking for a more secret alternative check out Koćuša Waterfall.
We visited both as they’re not far away from each other. We preferred the smaller Koćuša waterfall as it’s more local and thus calmer. They can be described as a miniature version of Kravica waterfall.
Before you go, inform yourself about entrance and parking fees.
Soak up the city at sunset
Mostar’s magic at sunset is a unique experience. The old town is less busy and the air more refreshing, especially at the end of a hot summer day.
We like to stroll around the alleys and enjoy the panoramic view while the sun paints the sky in all colors. You can also sit on the terrace of a nearby cafe.
Say hi to Bruce Lee
The statue of Bruce Lee has become a popular sight over the years. It’s not a coincidence that the city decided to put up a statue of the martial arts legend and philosopher Bruce Lee.
In 2005 an organized group of young people came up with the idea to install a bronze statue of Bruce Lee in the city park. Despite the differences of the three ethnic groups they all share the same respect for Bruce Lee. This is why the statue can be seen as an unofficial symbol of reconciliation.
Learn about traditional life
To get a closer look of the diverse culture in Bosnia and Herzegovina we visited the Bosnaseum. It’s a small museum in the old town that showcases designs of traditional households, folklore costumes and handcrafts from all three ethnic groups.
Further, you can get a good overview of the historical events from the Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian rule to the break-up of the Yugoslav republic and the aftermath.
Admire local handicraft
The bazaar in the old town makes for some great treasure hunt. You will see plenty of traditional handicrafts like pottery, ceramics, mosaic lanterns, embroidered tablecloths and ancient coffee pots and cups.
Go on a roadtrip
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a big country with long distances between the major towns. Renting a car will allow you to be independent and explore some interesting places in your own pace.
The country side has a unique vibe due to the change of scenery. At times you will drive past deep river canyons or in between massive mountain ranges.
Embrace the emerald green rivers
The rivers in Bosnia and Herzegovina are characterized by pristine emerald green water. There is an explanation for this mesmerizing phenomenon: the rivers meander through mountainous landscapes and carry some of the sediment and minerals on their way.
Depending on the sunlight, the depth of the river and the mineral content, the water appears sometimes less sometimes more emerald green.
Adapting to new environments, cultures and set of rules is an essential part of traveling. Speaking of Bosnia and Herzegovina, a country that was heavily destructed by war, it will leave another impression on you than a country which never had any major conflicts.
Bearing this in mind, there is no denial that Mostar is still coping with many challenges on a social, ethnic, economical and political level. Nevertheless, Mostar is an exciting travel destination with a unique multicultural heritage, wild nature and warm friendly people. Best time to visit is all year long, just try to avoid summer peak season.