Arguably Bosnia and Herzegovina’s most popular destination, Mostar is not a city to be missed. It may be small, but it has some grand views. I stayed in Mostar for a few days and enjoyed its laid-back vibe, stunning natural beauty, and the Turkish feel of its Old Town. It is as budget-friendly of a destination as it gets, and you can enjoy life as a backpacker quite easily here. With great restaurants, affordable hostels, and a decent nightlife scene, a backpacker can thrive in Mostar. Compared to neighboring Dubrovnik just a couple of hours away, you’ll be living large here.
How To Get To Mostar
Mostar is located in the south of Bosnia, close to the Mediterranean Sea and the border of Croatia. Its proximity to Dubrovnik, arguably the Balkans’ most popular destination, makes it a pretty popular detour. Bosnia is one of the most underrated countries in Europe, and Mostar is one of the country’s premier destinations.
Mostar has two bus stations, as well as a train station and a small airport. The small airport has flights from a very select-few international destinations, so I wouldn’t bank on coming to Mostar by flight. I got to Mostar by train from Sarajevo, and it was a beautiful train ride. The other option is bus, but buses in the Balkans always end up taking much longer than planned. Train is the best way, if you can swing it. If you’re coming from Dubrovnik, it’s pretty easy to get here by bus or by private transfer. Just note that you will cross the weird Bosnian and Croatian border a few times. It can be a bit like Russian Roulette. Sometimes, they’ll let you through without any trouble. They didn’t even check my passport when I crossed over from Montenegro to Bosnia. Other times, the entire bus has to get off and get their bags searched. There’s no rhyme or reason to it, so just hope for the best if you’re planning on visiting Mostar from Croatia or another country.
Things To Know Before Going to Mostar and Bosnia
Mostar was miserably hot during the summer. I went in early August and I could not do a damn thing during the day. Compared to Sarajevo which was often quite cool, Mostar was punishingly hot. Thankfully, you can go for a dip in the river to cool off, but adventuring around during the day can often suck. Mostar is also quite crowded during the summer holidays, so if you get a chance to visit outside of the summer months, it’d probably be better.
If Mostar is your first or only stop in Bosnia and Herzegovina, here are some other tidbits to know. The currency is the Konvertible Mark (KM) which has a value of about half a euro. Basically, cut all the prices in half to know how much it is in Euros. A 20 KM dorm bed will be 10 euros, for example. Bosnia has some of the most welcoming people I’ve met throughout my travels. I found Bosnia to be very safe overall. If Mostar is your only stop in Bosnia, I definitely encourage you to reconsider, even if you only hop up over to Sarajevo.
As far as COVID restrictions go, Bosnia hardly has any. If you want to enter Bosnia, you will have no trouble. Coming from Montenegro, they didn’t even check my passport or vaccination card. It might be different if you’re flying in, but I found Bosnia to be among the most relaxed of the European countries. Masks are very lightly encouraged indoors, but that’s about it. Even the locals hardly wore masks anywhere. The Balkans in general were quite lax, outside of the more Western countries like Croatia and Slovenia.
Where To Stay in Mostar
There are a few hostels in Mostar, although none of them really stood out to me. I stayed at Taso’s House and then got a private room at Hostel Miran. The prices are great, and you get great value. However, Bosnia is still relatively new to the tourism scene. Don’t expect swimming pools, fancy bars, and modern aesthetics. The hostels are simple, but the people are welcoming, friendly, and will do whatever it takes to make sure you have a great experience in Mostar and Bosnia.
This hostel is located about a ten minute walk away from the Old Town. It’s in a quieter location, but still just steps away from everything you’d need. Taso’s House hostel itself is small and cozy, but comes with free breakfast. It’s a great deal with shared dorms starting at around 10 euros per night. It’s part of the I Travel Balkans network of hostels which I’ve come to trust during my Balkan backpacking adventures. It’s called Taso’s House because it is literally Taso’s house. He’ll be around to check you in and welcome you to Mostar.
Akin to Taso’s House, Hostel Miran belongs to a dude named Miran. He’s a very cool dude and he’s usually hanging around the hostel to talk to guests. I stayed in a private room here with a friend and it was absolutely amazing for how cheap it was. The bathroom was shared, but the room was comparable to a nicer hotel room. Hostel Miran is a great location close to the train and bus station, so you don’t have to walk too far with your bags once you arrive in Mostar. It’s a little further away from the Old Town, but still not a bad walk. They also organize trips and tours for travelers, so be sure to ask if there’s anything going on.
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The Best Things To Do in Mostar
Mostar’s Old Town
No shit, right? Obviously you’re going to do this, but let me just warn you to wear shoes with decent traction. The cobblestone roads here are no joke, especially as they’ve become very smooth and polished over the years of tourist traffic. I was practically slippin’ and slidin’ throughout my time in Mostar since I refused to wear anything but well-worn Birkenstocks.
Okay, now that we’ve got that out of the way, what is there to do in Old Town? This is the main tourist hub, and where you’ll find most of the restaurants, souvenir shops, bars, and other attractions. What sets Mostar apart from other European destinations is that it often feels less European and more Middle Eastern. There is definitely a Turkish feel to Mostar, and it shows in its hookah bars and unique souvenirs. Lamps, lanterns, rugs, and a few other things will surely catch your eye. You won’t see these in any Western European country, that’s for sure. The old town and tourist hub centers around the Stari Most, or the Old Bridge. Y’know, the iconic one that everyone knows Mostar for.
The Bridge (Stari Most)
At the end of the day, this beautiful Ottoman bridge is in fact, just a bridge. You can cross it, you can look at it, and for the more adventurous, you can jump from it! It’s a popular thing to do actually. But wait, not just anyone can jump from this bridge. At 24 meters high, it is a pretty long fall. Before you jump off this one, you’ll be required to do a few practice jumps from shorter distances to prove that you can handle this one. I’ve heard some horror stories about injuries that have occurred from unprepared bridge jumpers. This ain’t one for the faint of heart.
Make sure to have good travel insurance handy if you decide to go jumping off bridges. I’ve been using SafetyWing to keep me covered throughout my travels.
The Kravice Waterfalls and Pocitelj Castle
One of the most popular day trips from Mostar is a visit to Kravice Waterfalls. Bosnia has some incredible nature, and Kravice Waterfalls are a can’t-miss if you’re in Mostar. It is about 40 kilometers south of the city, so you’ll either need your own car or you can book a day trip through your hostel or a tour agency. The day trips usually lump together a bunch of activities and destinations. If you’re booking through your hostel, the prices are always pretty reasonable. The best time to visit Kravice (or Kravica) waterfalls is during the spring when the water is flowing at its fullest and the landscapes are a lush green. However, you can’t go wrong with a visit at any time of year.
The Village of Blagaj and the Dervish House
About a 20-minute bus ride away from Mostar, you’ll find the scenic village of Blagaj. There isn’t much to do here besides the iconic white building situated under a cave/cliff thing. It’s called the Dervish House, and you can actually go inside! Other than seeing it and going inside, there isn’t too much to do in Blagaj. It is a quiet and peaceful town. I’d recommend having a beer or a meal along the river and enjoying the views before heading back to Mostar.
Catch a View of the Bridge from the Mosque
Okay, back to the bridge. I mean, Mostar is named after a bridge, after all. I think. If Most means bridge, then I’m using Mostar literally means something to do with a bridge. Anyway, if you want the best view of the bridge, there is a mosque a few blocks away where you can catch a stunning view of Stari Most. You do have to pay to go inside, but if you want your killer pics, then you’ll want to shell out a couple Euros.
Eat Byrek and Cevapi and Bosnian Coffee
Mostar has some of the cheapest food I’ve found in Europe. And it was good, too. I would almost exclusively eat at the bakeries (pekaras) because you could get a big ass byrek for about half a euro. It’s a meal in itself. I’m a huge fan of the spinach and cheese ones, although they have them in just cheese, and then cheese with various meats. I usually don’t eat meat, but I’ll usually try everything deemed culturally significant at least once, so I also had their dish called a cevapi. I think the word is related to kebab, because it’s quite similar. It’s meat and veggies (mostly meat, minimal veggies) and a pita, and a couple of sauces you can soak it in. It’s not quite a kebab, but it is worth trying out. They’re usually pretty cheap, too. Most places will sell them for between 6-12 Konvertible Marks, or about 3-6 euros.
I was not expecting to party in Mostar. A friend and I were settled at a rock bar having some drinks and I kind of resigned to having an early night. On the way back to our hostel, we overheard some music and decided to follow our ears. As we expected, we ended up in a nightclub inside a cave, because obviously. I didn’t find Bosnia overall to have great nightlife, partially because it is a majority Muslim country. However, with Mostar being a popular destination for tourists, you will have options for bars and nightlife.
Where To Go After Mostar
Mostar is worth visiting, but I personally wouldn’t stay for longer than two days. Honestly, you could see all of it, plus the neighboring village of Blagaj, in just a day if you wanted to. If you aren’t a city person, it might make for a better base to explore Bosnia than Sarajevo, but I personally liked Sarajevo more.
A few hours away from Mostar is arguably the most popular destination in the Balkans. I say a few hours because honestly, who knows how long it will take you to get there. If you’re going by bus during the high season, you might find yourself stuck at one of the several border crossings. Realistically, it should take no more than four hours, but this is the Balkans. Few things will work the way you expect them to. Croatia, especially Dubrovnik, is much more expensive than anywhere in Bosnia, but there are still ways to experience Dubrovnik on a budget.
The capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina turned out to be one of my favorite small cities in Europe. It has a great vibe to it. It’s not your typical European capital, but it has a unique charm of its own. It has an alternative feel to it, and is absolutely oozing with character. It is beautiful in many ways, and is one of my favorite destinations in the Balkans. You can catch a train up to Sarajevo from Mostar.
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