Central Bosnia Road Trip: A Journey Through The Country's Medieval History​

  • Bosnia and Herzegovina is a country on the Balkan Peninsula in southeastern Europe. Its countryside is home to medieval villages, rivers and lakes, plus the craggy Dinaric Alps.
  • Road Trip Adventure
  • Travel at your Own Pace
  • Weekend Getaway
Written By

Emina Osmandzikovic

Emina is an aspiring researcher with a global exposure to most acute social issues and a resourceful scholar who strives to apply quantitative methods in the field she is passionate about - Political Science and International Relations.
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About this Itinerary

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Trip Duration

3 Days/ 2 Nights
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Best time to Visit

May, June and early September
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Level of Activity

Enjoy at your own pace

Here's Everything you Need to Know

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Things to Do

You decide it all. We show you what you can fit in a day
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Getting There

Everything you need to get there
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Places to Stay

Some of the local places you can stay at
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Places to Eat

The most fantastic local eateries around the city
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Getting Around

The most convenient and fastest ways to reach your next spot

Day One

Drive – Sarajevo to Vranduk

The day starts with a car ride from Sarajevo to Vranduk
where we have an hour of museum visit.

Explore Vranduk

We started our journey in the old town of Vranduk in central Bosnia. Dating back to the 14th century, the magnificent fortress that has settled its nest above the city of Vranduk has historically served as a strategic point for trade. Its location has kept its importance towards northern Bosnia (and Croatia). 

 

The citadel and the accompanying tower host a petite museum that serves to show how Bosnian kings ate in medieval times. The quitte chatty guide greeted us at the entrance to the fortress and happily took us around the historic complex. For all nature lovers to note, the view on the surrounding hills and mountains was quite breathtaking. On a general note, my head has defined Bosnia as extremely green with wild, pristine nature that is breathtaking. 

The old Vranduk fortress rises immediately above the town as a flower would blossom right above the pettal. Although the complex is not great in size, it has plenty of authentic history and local schmeck to offer.

Drive – Vranduk to Gracac

This is followed by a car trip from Vranduk to Gracac taking an approx. time of 2 hours.

Explore Gracac

The next location was the royal city of Gradacac in northeastern Bosnia, the home of the Dragon of Bosnia. Would you happen to know the story of a young captain who led an uprising against the Ottomans in the 17th century? They say he - Husein Kapetan Gradascevic or the Dragon of Bosnia - was quite handsome, in addition to all the strategy and military skills he possessed. However, the only remaining potrait of him lies in Istanbul where it was taken during his captivity. Yes, the uprising failed. And yes, it failed because of treason from one of the captains of a neighbouring town.

 

The city of Gradacac served as a military holding before and during the era of the Ottoman Empire in Bosnia. The old tower that overlooks the city is set on such a strategic location that, during a clear day, one can see towns in Croatia from it. The central tower has been reconstructed to house a humble gallery and a cosy restaurant that provides a truly magnificent view of the city. The historic complex had a young guide who went over the city’s history with us and showed us the royal catacombs where the military men hid during attacks. The layers in the construction of the fortress can be seen in almost any wall, which is what really gave me a good sense of historic value of the place. One thing I truly appreciated about this fortress is the lack of crowd that allowed for a deeper inspection of the history of the place. Without attempting to repeat myself, history lovers can truly relate to the strategic value of the complex.

Visit to the Franciscan monastery in Plehan, Northern Bosnia

Our next location was a Franciscan monastery in Plehan, northern Bosnia, which housed one of the largest libraries in the area before the 1991-1995 war. Although I am Muslim, I find it key to building my identity as an aspiring scholar in a globalized world by tackling multiple heritages that make Bosnia unique. One of these heritages in the Franciscan catholic heritage of northern Bosnia, the country’s area where my father is originally from. 

The monastery itself is placed next to a small village and almost hidden behind a gorgeously placed row of trees that give out such a serene feeling. The once famous library has been moved to what was once a farmhouse for horses. Franciscan monks in Bosnia were historically known for good knowledge of wine, incredible book collections and rare horses. One of the priests came to greet us and gave us a peek into the library storage, otherwise inaccessible to the general public. I found it sad that such great art has been doing nothing but playing with dust until the new library space is completed. Even then, however, the new library will be smaller than the original one due to the war damage. 

Day Two

Drive – To Jajce

Today we start the day with a 3 hour road trip to Jajce. Jajce is a city located in Central Bosnia.

Explore Jajce

As northern Bosnia resembles the Hungarian countryside and that flowery feeling in the air, our journey back to central Bosnia took on a new note. We stopped at the royal city of Jajce. If you can imagine movie-like scenes where fierce revolutionaries organize entire movements and plan countries, Jajce would fit right into such a scene. Tito himself occasionally hid in Jajce during WWII. The city that lies on a fountain of breathtaking waterfalls and looks like a postcard picture from every angle served Tito as an inception point of Yugoslavia. The city itself dates back to the 13th century as the capital of the Bosnian kingdom. It remained being a royal stronghold until the last Bosnian king was replaced by the Ottomans who conquered Bosnia. In a more recent historical wave, on 29 November 1943 it hosted the second convention of the Anti-Fascist Council of National Liberation of Yugoslavia. In other words, Jajce is the birthplace of Tito’s socialist Yugoslavia and it still hosts an entire museum dedicated to these historic meetings that defined unity and brotherhood for south slavs. 

 

This picture-perfect city, a bridge between the two rivers that create the waterfall it is sits on, has regained its popularity among visitors, both local and international. The tickets for the museums and the waterfall cost almost nothing when compared to the beauties that can be encountered and the lessons about history that can be learned. I personally wish that more people stay for longer to get a more intimate understanding of the remarkable nature around the city and to swim in one or both of its two rivers. 

On a general note, all rivers in Bosnia are swimmable and almost all are drinkable. If for anything other than its untamed greenery, I’d say that Bosnia overflows with its water. Not to mention that my country also hosts the only surviving tropical forest in Europe, its rivers and lakes are truly remarkable.

Drive – Jajce to Pocitelj

We spend half a day in Jajce and move on to our next destination Pocitelj.

Explore Pocitelj

The path took us to the medieval town of Pocitelj in southern Bosnia. The Mediterranean atmosphere and the familiar smell of grapes from the surrounding vineyards can almost be touched. The first records of Pocitelj date back to early 13th century and its rustic feeling that time-warps all visitors into the times of the Bosnian kingdom are a living proof that southern Bosnia is much more than the city of Mostar. Although magnificent for its famous bridge and the peculiar color of its river, Mostar is only one of many wonders that the Mediterranean side of Bosnia offers. Pocitelj is one of those wonders that sheds light into how time passed through Bosnia. Imagine that the fortified town of Pocitelj as we know it today is an amalgam of Hungarian kings, Ottoman Beys and the Venetians. Little did I know when I walked through its gates towards a mosque that overlooks its steep, narrow streets that are filled with local craftsmen. One peculiarity of the town is its closeness to the only remaining Sufi rest place in Bosnia, Tekija on river Buna. The significance of this place requires yet another day of conversation on the history of Sufism in Bosnia. 

Day Three

Drive – To Travnik

We start our final day with a 3 hour road trip to reach Travnik.

Explore Travnik

Our journey ended in central Bosnia in the old town of Travnik. Located next to one of Bosnia’s most beautiful mountains, Vlasic, Travnik gave us such a great closure to our journey into Bosnia’s history. There is some evidence that the city settlements date back to the Bronze age. In medieval times, Travnik was one of the provinces of the Bosnian kingdom. The first written mention of the city came with the Ottoman conquest of Bosnia in the 14th century, however. The old fortress raises above the city that has cosily settled itself in a valley between two mountains. The historic complex was the biggest I have seen out of all the fortresses I had previously visited. The view is, as expected, truly breathtaking. The fortress itself, however, houses a small restaurant. No museum or a guide was present to explain the significance and the history of the fortress, which I found disappointing as a young history enthusiast. Beyond the gates of the old fortress complex, the city center is famous for being the birthplace of Bosnia’s only Nobel Laureate for Literature, Dr. Ivo Andric. The two-story house he grew up in is worth seeing, especially after trying some mouthwatering local cheese that the region is known for. Once in a while, you have to sprinkle some food into history. 

Drive – Travnik to Sarajevo

We then make a trip back to Sarajevo within an hour.

Back in Sarajevo

The next 3-4 hours are free to explore more of Sarajevo and departing as and when you want.

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Getting There

Flights

Arrival Airport

You need to arrive at Sarajevo International Airport, also known as Butmir Airport, the main international airport in Bosnia and Herzegovina, serving Sarajevo, capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina. 

Departure Airport

You will be back in Sarajevo at the end of the trip. You will depart from Sarajevo International Airport, also known as Butmir Airport, the main international airport in Bosnia and Herzegovina, serving Sarajevo, capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina. 

hotel

Places to Stay