Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Mostar is a place waiting to be discovered, a snapshot of Europe's multicultural past. The medieval city is an assortment of Ottoman, Mediterranean and western European architecture with mosques, churches and synagogues peacefully jostling together at every corner. Nestled in a valley at the foot of the Velež mountain, the old Turk-style houses are huddled against a dramatic backdrop of sky rocketing peaks. Wandering through Mostar's streets you'll be struck by ancient architectural beauty juxtaposed with shells of buildings peppered with bullet holes - scars of the Croat-Bosniak War of the 1990s. This war is the reason that, until now, Mostar has pretty much stayed off the tourist route. However, visitors are starting to return in search of a new Balkan gem; this is the road less travelled and the drama of the region's recent history give Mostar some extra bite.
When to go?
Spring is the time to visit, when days are long and warm but evenings are cool. There is also a great bustle about the city as the locals come out from hibernation following the cold winter months.
Most likely to bump into…
Locals lining the streets enjoying rich Bosnian coffee and burek, a crispy stuffed pastry.
Who to bring with you?
The mountainous backdrop, cobbled medieval streets and picturesque bridges makes for a romantic destination, especially after sundown when the city quietens and gently glows with streetlights - perfect for couples wanting something a little different.
The Stari Most or 'Old Bridge' is Mostar's namesake and most famous site. It stood for 427 years before being destroyed in 1993, reopening in 2004 after many painstaking years of restoration - watching the sunset over the bridge is a view not to be missed. Climb to the minaret at the top of Koski Mehmed Pasha Mosque. Looking down at Mostar below makes you feel like you've been transported back to the 16th century. Venture 30KM out to the Kravica Waterfalls where the water stretches over 100M across and drops down 25M into a crystal-clear natural lake. Brave the ice cold waters if you can!
An essential to bring with you
If you are tempted by the Kravica Waterfalls then swimwear is a must. The more daring can join those who jump in from the Stari Most, a tradition which has been going on for centuries.
How to get there
Admittedly not the easiest of journeys, fly to Sarajevo then make the two-and-a-half-hour train journey to Mostar, on which you can appreciate the natural splendour of Bosnia for just £4.