Historic city centres and beautiful hiking trails, the Balkan country of Bosnia and Herzegovina holds much to interest and inspire, yet remains far from the top of most people’s must-go holiday destinations. The turbulent history of this former Yugoslavian country makes it a fascinating place to visit - capital Sarajevo is the main draw, hosting western European backpackers in the quaint cafes of the Old Town, but there’s far more to the country than this.
Bihac is the northernmost city in Bosnia and is located in the Federation - predominantly Bosniac muslims inhabit this area. When arriving overland from Croatia, the spires of churches are replaced by the minarets of mosques. Bullet holes are still visible in the buildings from the war which finished in the 1990s, yet Bihac is eager for tourists.
On first arriving in the city, explore the main square. The cafe-lined and traffic-free Bosanka is a favourite hangout of friendly locals. Stop off for a mali espresso and a chat before continuing to the ancient Fethija Mosque. Originally built as a church in 1266 before being converted to a mosque in 1592, it is the oldest gothic building in the country. It’s quiet location makes it a peaceful place to stop and think awhile.
Not far from here is the pristine River Una, the pride of the city. A view of the crystal clear waters can be enjoyed from the city centre park, or from Cafe H2O on the other side of town.
The city is attractive, but the countryside is the main reason to come. Short hiking trails start in the city to the hill-top fort, but to really see the beauty of the scenery, you need to head to the Una Sana National Park. The famous waterfall Martin Brod is an hour’s drive, but the stunning cascades of Strbacki Buk are closer and can be reached by a pleasant hiking route or by car. Just be sure to stick to the obvious trails. Warning signs for landmines are another stark reminder of the recent conflict.
If just seeing the water isn’t enough, why not get closer?! Rafting companies can easily be found in Bihac who will take care of all your needs for an exciting day on the water.
Before you set off to hike up to the war memorial in Tresnjik Park, ensure you stock up on cakes and pastries for the journey. Vegans rejoice! The fasting traditions of the Orthodox church mean that there are plenty of baked goods which are free from animal products. If you can’t see the label for Posno, just ask. Mouthwatering cream cakes with praline centres and buttery croissants are all cruelty free.
How much does this make you want to visit? It's really interesting writing from a tourism perspective like this, without a single mention of the refugee crisis.