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A Day-Trip to Bosnia-Herzegovina – Part 1 – Počitelj

By alison - March 16, 2012 (Updated: June 29, 2016)

This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series Croatia and Bosnia.
Počitelj, Bosnia Herzegovina

The citadel and mosque of Počitelj, Bosnia Herzegovina

We spent a lovely day in Bosnia-Herzegovina recently where we explored ruins, the countryside, a UNESCO site and, of course, food. It was a day we won’t soon forget.

If someone had told me 10 years ago, I’d spend a lovely spring day road-tripping through Bosnia Herzegovina, I probably wouldn’t have believed them.

Even now, few North Americans know much about the country, beyond it being the site of a horrible war, in the not so distant past. In Canada, we watched our peace-keepers head off to the cities and villages to help where they could. But since the conflict ended, Bosnia-Herzegovina has fallen off the radar of much of the world.

When Andrew and I were offered a day tour from Dubrovnik, Croatia, with our own personal guide, I jumped at the chance to explore and learn more about a country and region, I ashamedly know little about.

Surprised by Bosnia Herzegovina

My first surprise came during the research phase of our trip. Despite the country’s destruction, Bosnia-Herzegovina is already home to two UNESCO World Heritage sites (and you all know how I love to collect UNESCO sites). One of these, Mostar, was our day trip’s ultimate destination.

We met our driver and guide, the fabulous Zoran, bright and early (for us anyway) on Saturday morning. Zoran, a native of Dubrovnik, and his lovely wife Ivana, a Canadian with Croatian roots, run Vacation in Dubrovnik, a one-stop shop for tours and accommodation in the city.

Andrew and I don’t often travel with a guide, but we were so thankful for Zoran’s knowledge of the history of the area, not to mention his fantastic driving on some very twisty, beautiful coastal roads. Zoran is also passionate about good food and you KNOW where we stand on that. It was a match made in CheeseWeb heaven!

My second surprise about Bosnia-Herzegovina was it actually owns a little bit of the coastline. That means if you drive from Dubrovnik to anywhere in the northern part of Croatia, you must pass through a bit of Bosnia. The border here is pretty perfunctory (no stamps in our passport) and it was only about a 10-minute drive before we found ourselves back in Croatia.

The Croatian coastline is achingly beautiful. Picture the best parts of California’s Pacific Coast road, with a sprinkling of Greek islands and a dash of Sardinia’s rugged volcanic mountains – too beautiful for words.

And then, all of a sudden, the whole thing flattened out and we found ourselves in a vast, flat river delta. Fields of fruit and vegetables stretched out before us and farmers sold their fresh produce at the side of the road.

Croatia's lush river delta

Croatia’s lush river delta

From there, we headed inland and crossed the Bosnian border for the second time. Things began to get hilly again and we started to see some of the after-effects of the war.

Although signs of the war can be seen in the Dubrovnik area, if you look closely, Bosnia-Herzegovina hasn’t received the same cash influx from tourism dollars as Croatia, and it has taken a lot longer to bounce back.

During our day-trip, we were constantly faced with conflicting images – here, reconstruction, bright colours, people out living their lives; there, bombed out shells of churches and cemeteries full of casualties of war. Evidence of reconstruction is everywhere and hopefully, people will begin to come and explore this region, injecting it with some much needed financial support.

Visiting Počitelj, Bosnia-Herzegovina

Our first stop of the day was the lovely little hillside town, Počitelj. It is a historic site on the bank of the Neretva River and is a popular tourist stop on the way to Mostar.

Počitelj, Bosnia Herzegovina

At the bottom of our climb to the Počitelj citadel

The fortified town contains a few scattered homes and cafes, a beautiful mosque, a tower and a citadel, surrounded by the remains of a city wall. The main construction dates from two periods – medieval and ottoman.

The Ottomans erected many of the town’s public buildings and Počitelj flourished. However in 1878, Bosnia-Herzegovina was taken over by Austro-Hungarian rule and Počitelj fell into neglect. The final blow for Počitelj came in 1992, during the Bosnian War. The town was bombed and most of its population was displaced.

In 1996, Počitelj was added to the list of the world’s 100 most endangered cultural heritage sites, by the World Monuments Watch. In 2000, the government of Bosnia-Herzegovina started a reconstruction project and encouraged Počitelj’s refugees to return home.

Wandering around the town, in mid-March, we were among only a handful of visitors. Most of the buildings, including the mosque, were closed up tight.

We hiked up the uneven stone stairs to the citadel and found ourselves wandering through yet another European ruin, which would have been entirely roped off in North America. We were glad it wasn’t.

Počitelj Citadel

Inside the Počitelj Citadel
Inside the Počitelj Citadel

Inside the Počitelj Citadel

We clambered inside the citadel and were afforded some beautiful views of the town and river below. From above, at least, Počitelj and its neighbours seemed like any other quiet, rural town, unaffected by the ravages of war.

The view of Počitelj from the Citadel

The view of Počitelj from the Citadel

Once we climbed back down the many stairs to the top of the town, we grabbed a coffee to restore us and set off for our next destination – Mostar.

Read part two of our adventure in Bosnia Herzegovnia where we visit Mostar and eat our first Bosnia meal. (There is be food porn!)

Love castles, palaces, and ruins like in this article? Us too! Don’t miss the full listing of Castles we’ve visited in Europe and beyond.

We’d like to give a giant thank you to Zoran and Ivana of Vacation in Dubrovnik, who graciously sponsored our day-trip to Bosnia-Herzegovina. As always, we were free to express our own impressions of the tour. We highly recommend you look them up when planning your next visit to Dubrovnik. 

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Alison

Alison

Big Cheese at CheeseWeb
Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of Cheeseweb.eu. She is the author of The Foodie Guide to Brussels: Local Tips for Restaurants, Shops, Hotels, and Activities. Alison landed in Belgium in 2005 and, over the years, has become passionate about slow and sustainable travel, in Europe and beyond. She loves to discover hidden gems - be they museums, shops, restaurants, castles, gardens or landscapes, and share them through her words and photos. She is currently slow travelling through Europe in an RV, with her husband, Andrew, and two well-travelled cats. You can also follow her work on Google+
Alison
Today I'm sharing one of my favourite new discoveries in New Brunswick / Nouveau-Brunswick, the Jardin Botanique... https://t.co/fCt4TxYUa9 - 4 hours ago

5 comments

  1. Comment by Andrea

    Andrea March 16, 2012 at 11:26

    I had a very, very brief trip to Mostar a couple of years and would love to go back and spend more time in the region. I’m going to add Počitelj to my list of places to visit.

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison

      Alison March 16, 2012 at 11:44

      It’s definitely worth a morning or afternoon, especially when a few more things are open. We’d love to get back and spend more time in the area too. It’s really fascinating!

  2. Comment by Amy

    Amy March 16, 2012 at 13:35

    I’m so glad you were able to visit a bit of Bosnia-Herzegovina! The days we spent there remain a highlight of our travels and we speak often of going back someday. You should definitely visit Sarajevo if you ever have a chance. You will love it!

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison

      Alison March 16, 2012 at 13:49

      It’s definitely on the list! We can’t wait to get back to that region and explore some more!

  3. Pingback: A Day-Trip to Bosnia Herzegovina - Mostar and Ston, Croatia | Expat Life in Belgium, Travel and Photography | CheeseWeb

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