Mostar: A backpacker’s paradise

I just spent five days in Mostar and it almost immediately became one of my favourite places I’ve been on this trip. I do kinda say that about most places I visit, but Mostar stood out from the rest. I stayed in an amazing hostel, met great people, did some incredible hikes, ate delicious local food, drank Bosnian coffee, and wandered around the incredibly interesting city. It helps also that it’s SO CHEAP. A meal is less than $6AUD, and accommodation was about $12. If you’re travelling around the Balkans, please add Mostar to your list. Even if you’re just planning to visit Croatia, it’s only a quick three hours from Split – perfect for a couple day’s stay.

I won’t go too much into it here, but Bosnia was pretty much ruined by war in the ’90s. Nearly 80% of Mostar was destroyed, and there are still so many shells of buildings in the main area of the city, with bullet holes visible in cement. Most locals lived through the war, and it’s crazy to walk around somewhere that was so recently a war zone. Mostar’s residents are still really affected by it. There’s a lot of segregation that still goes on today, and the city is split into two sides: Bosnian and Croatian. I really suggest reading up about it before you visit, or doing a tour that’ll give you a basic history.

Here’s a little lowdown of my fave spots and things I did while in Mostar, so you can enjoy it as much as I did!

Where I stayed

Majda’s Hostel, right near the main train and bus station, is one of the best hostels in the world – I promise I’m not exaggerating. It’s cozy and has a big outdoor section with tables and couches. Every morning Majda cooks a DELICIOUS breakfast. Honestly, I can’t even describe how good it is. It had such a good vibe, everyone was so friendly and there was always someone there to hang out with. One evening I was just sitting there doing some work and Majda came over with some homemade cake for me to try 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 It was just like staying at my aunt’s house.

If you stay there, make sure you go on the tour offered by Majda’s brother Bata. He’s a crazy Balkan dude, with amazing stories. The tour goes for 11 hours and goes all over Mostar, then to a nearby waterfall and fortress. We had coffee and sweets at a local grandma’s house, and then a giant dinner all together at the end. It was one of the funnest days I’d had in a while, Bata is such a character. The tour cost 35Euros which seemed a lot for my broke ass, but its SO SO worth it.

Wandering around the town

Every evening at 5pm there’s a free walking tour that is a great intro to the city. It goes about two hours, and starts and ends near the Old Bridge

The Old Bridge, built in the 1400s, was destroyed in the war and then rebuilt a few years later. For the last couple of hundred years, it’s been a tradition for local men to dive off it, into the river 25 metres below. They mainly did it to show off and impress girls. Now tourists come from all over to join the “Mostar Diving Club”. It can be pretty dangerous – you have to do a few lower practice dives to prove you’re capable On a sunny day, go down to the little park that has a great view of the Old Bridge, and watch people dive off. We grabbed fresh fruit from the farmers market and chilled here eating cherries for an hour or so.

There’s a building right near the street that used to be the frontline during the war zone that is now referred to as the Sniper Tower. It was built to be a bank, one of the tallest buildings in Mostar. But during the war it was overtaken by the Croatian army and used as a vantage point to basically shoot at Bosnians. Now it’s abandoned and full of street art and graffiti, and you can pretty easily get in and climb to the top. Go around to the back, where you’ll see a little hill made of gravel. From there you can boost yourself up and over the wall, where there’s a step on the other side to climb down. Make your way up the stairs, and on the top floor you’ll find a ladder to get to the roof. It’s SPOOKY, definitely come during the day (and don’t come in sandals and a dress like I did – we had to go home and change before jumping the wall).

Food and drink

If you want to try Bosnian coffee, you really have to go to Cafe De Alma. It’s in the Old Town, and the owner is this amazing guy who is super passionate about coffee. He only serves it in one way, and will sit down with you and explain how to make and drink it. It comes out on this cute-ass tray, with a square of Turkish Delight. Oh, and it was less than $2.

We asked the guy at Alma for a good food recommendation, and he pointed us to Aščinica Demirlija. The food was made by the owner’s mum, as local and authentic as you can get. Be sure to try the vine leaves, and the bean stew was delicious as well. They’ve got burek – the Bosnian meat or cheese-filled pastry – which is a good option for a snack.

Speaking of burek, you can get it from any bakery and it’s delicious. I tried one filled with potato and WOAH. I have no idea how they can make something so rich and flavourful just from pastry and potato. Look for signs for “pekara” which means bakery.

If you want an easy local dinner, Delicata just off the main street has cheap delicious meals. The bread they brought out at the beginning of the meal was basically a mini cheeseless pizza and oh man it was YUM.

Hiking

I did two hikes while I was here. One was just to the top of a hill behind my hostel. If you’re in town, you’ll be able to see it from anywhere. It’s the hill with the flag, on the other side than the hill with the cross. You walk behind the train station, through a tunnel, then follow a winding road to the top. It took about an hour and a half up, and an hour to get back down. You can also easily drive (or find a local to drive you lol). There’s ziplining you can do at the top.

The other hike we did was about a 20 minute bus ride from town. Catch the 10 or 11 bus to Blagaj, the end of the line. From here you can walk up to a 15th century fortress which is open to just explore. Follow the road around past the parking lot, for about 20 minutes uphill. You’ll come to a clearly marked path up to the top of the hill. (We spent ten minutes bushbashing trying to figure out where to go, before we came across the very obvious path. Don’t do that.)

Day trips

If you don’t do the tour through the hostel, there are some cool places you can visit on your own. Počitelj is a historical walled village with a fortress and many lookout points. You can walk around the little city, which now only 12 people live in. It’s an easy bus ride from Mostar.

Kravika waterfall is beautiful and worth a visit. The only way to get there is by taxi or an organised tour, unless you have a car. You can swim in the falls, though it’s FREEZING.

NOTE: IF you catch a Flix Bus to/from Mostar, they don’t stop at the main bus station. Learn from my mistake and don’t go there and wonder where tf your bus is. Whoops.

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