From Sarajevo airport, a 20 minute road transfer brings you to the heart of the old city. Once settled into your hotel room, enjoy a Bosnian coffee and patisserie in the celebrated Vienna Café, once the haunt of the city’s spies and intellectuals. Setting off on foot with your specialist local guide, you are soon in Baščaršija, the centre of the old Ottoman town and a good place for an introduction to the city’s complex history. Amongst the highlights are the 16th century Gazi Husrev Begova Mosque, generally considered the finest example of Ottoman Islamic architecture in the Balkans, and Morića Han, a renovated caravanserai, noted for its Persian carpet shops.
Your guided walking tour begins at Sebilj Square, famous for its traditional craftsmen, such as silversmiths and makers of fine leather goods, and includes the frescoes and icons of the mid 16th century orthodox church. Continue to the spot where Gavrilo Princip assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand, thus launching the First World War, and visit the small museum dedicated to Austro-Hungarian rule in Sarajevo (1878-1918). A short drive out of town brings you to the moving and memorable Tunnel Museum, which documents the lifeline that saved Sarajevo during the 1,200-day siege. The remainder of the afternoon is free for individual explorations, perhaps in the Brusa Bezistan, the six domed covered market designed in 1551 by Rustum Pasha, Grand Vizier to Suleiman the Great, that now houses the Museum of Sarajevo, or people watching from a traditional coffee house, whilst partaking of a Bosnian coffee accompanied by rahatlokum (Turkish delight).
A 2 hour drive through the scenic Herzegovina countryside brings you to Mostar, arguably the country’s most beautiful historic town and famous worldwide for its iconic high arched ‘Stari Most’ spanning the Neretva river. Built in 1566, it was destroyed in the conflict in 1993 and restored in 2004 with the re-opening being televised around the globe. In the nearby village of Blagaj, we visit the early 16th century Dervish tekke, a monastery constructed at the base of a 200-metre cliff to protect the source of the River Buna. We return by private transport to Sarajevo. At dinner, you may try Bosnian specialities such as grilled lamb or spiced beef and peppers cooked slowly in a clay pot, accompanied by very palatable Bosnian red wines.
B, L included
After an hour and a half drive through the Bjelašnica range in a 4WD, we arrive in Lukomir, Bosnia’s highest and most isolated mountain village at 1,469 metres. The medieval traditional lifestyles of the Dinaric highlanders are still practised here, providing a unique window into old Europe’s past. Traditional dress, the occasional turban and fez are still worn and go hand in hand with more contemporary everyday life, electricity and running water. On the edge of the village, we walk to see views of the 800 metre deep Rakitnica Canyon and of neighbouring Obalj and Visocica mountains before returning to Gornji (upper) Lukomir for a traditional homemade lunch prepared by your hosts. Learn about the difficulties and rewards of earning a living as shepherds in such a challenging environment.
Depending on your flight, there may be time to visit the Jewish quarter, established by Sephardic Jews expelled from Spain in the 15th century, or Svrzo’s house, the museum home of a wealthy 18th century Ottoman family, or do some carpet buying before a transfer to the airport.