Steeped in history and packed with extraordinary landscapes, Herzegovina — the southern half of Bosnia and Herzegovina — is an unsung Mediterranean escape. Strolling through the cobbled streets of its regional capital, Mostar, feels like stepping back in time, with its gushing streams, medieval towers and enchanting stone buildings. Stray beyond this, however, and the region’s bucolic charms unfurl, from fragrant hillside trails just begging to be hiked, to see wild horses up close in the Dinaric Alps.
1. Go wild swimming in the Kravice Falls
The Kravice Falls, just outside the city of Ljubuški, forms a natural amphitheater of water, 30 meters high and 120 meters wide. They’re at their most ferocious — and photogenic — in spring, when they churn up a rolling fog of vapor. They’re calmer in summer; the shallow pool is ideal for swimming in cool, blue-green waters and plenty of rocks on which to bask. A series of narrow wooden walkways pass over the basin and there’s ample opportunity to hire kayaks further downstream. Slake your thirst with a beer at one of the poolside bars.
2. Zipline over the historical city of Mostar
Located in the heart of Herzegovina, Mostar is the country’s fifth largest city and is home to a unique melting pot of cultures. Most striking of all is the UNESCO-listed Old Bridge (Stari Most), completed in 1566 by Ottoman architect Mimar Hajruddin. With a history as staggering as its engineering, it’s best viewed from the minaret of the Koski Mehmed Pasha Mosque. For a more unique perspective, take an adrenaline-fuelled zipline from the top of Fortica Hill, located just outside the city. It glides for 1,000 meters over the beautiful rocky hills and the city itself, before ending at the riverside beach which sits directly underneath the bridge. What’s more, locals are known to make the death-defying leap from Stari Most into the waters below for sport; there’s even an annual bridge-jumping festival in July.
3. Climb Međugorje’s sacred Krizevac mountain
According to local legend, in 1981 the Virgin Mary appeared to six children in the town of Međugorje, conveying messages of peace and prayer. Although this supposed miracle was never officially approved by the Catholic Church, word of the apparitions spread and now around one million pilgrims journey to Međugorje every year. Whether you’re a believer or not, the three-to four-hour scramble up rocky Krizevac (aka Cross Mountain) is worth the spectacle. Crowds of pilgrims praying at Stations of the Cross dispersed at intervals and, at the top, there’s a giant cross dating back to 1933 and excellent views over the town and the surrounding Adriatic coast.
4. Mountain bike in Blidinje Nature Park
Blidinje Nature Park, located just north of Mostar, is a monumental landscape of mountains and endemic Bosnian pine forests, best experienced on a mountain biking tour. Various companies offer a variety of routes suitable for all fitness levels, including plenty of stops to admire the views. Highlights include the village of Masna Luka, with its geometric church and drinking water springs, before leaning onto Blidinje Lake and the stećci (medieval tombstones carved with figures and symbols) necropolis at Dugo Polje. Together with 27 other similar sites across the Balkans, the Dugo Polje stećci comprise a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
5. Take a wild horse safari
Seventy years ago, farmers working across the Dinaric Alps of western Bosnia and Herzegovina turned working horses loose as mechanization took over. They thrived and multiplied, and now these majestic creatures number around 800. Take a wild horse safari at the foot of the Cincar Mountain and you’ll see herds of them thundering by or gathering to drink from the troughs left by dairy farms. Best of all, they’re generally guests and will often approach tourists. Some tours include a stop at a viewpoint overlooking the Glamocko valley, where the silence is profound. Pair your experience with a picnic and eat lunch with the horses all around you.
6. Explore the underworld of Vjetrenica Cave
Vjetrenica Cave — just six miles from the Croatian border — is Bosnia and Herzegovina’s largest cave system, with just over four miles of tunnels discovered thus far. A guided walking tour explores almost 2,000 feet from them, taking in cave lakes, waterfalls and canals. The name Vjetrenica means ‘wind cave’: due to a difference in pressure between the cave interior and exterior, a strong wind blows at the cave entrance year-round. While bracing yourself against the breeze, admire the 15th-century tombstones at the entrance, carved with hunting scenes and a knights’ tournament. Inside, many of the fascinating rock formations you’ll see have acquired nicknames over the years. the Tursko groblje (Turkish cemetery) stalagmites resembling Islamic tombstones, and the vilino guvno (fairy house) — according to ancient texts — was the home of nymphs who danced and played music. Afterwards, be sure to explore the churches and monasteries in the surrounding Ravno municipality, many of which are national monuments.
There are one-stop flights from London to Sarajevo. From there, public transport is the best way to navigate around Herzegovina. Alternatively, fly into Mostar or nearby Dubrovnik and Split in Croatia. For more information and inspiration — including accommodation, restaurants and activities — visit tkh.ba