Bosnia and Croatia have been at the top of my travel bucket list for a few years now. I grew up hearing tales of Bosnia’s breathtaking beauty and lush greenery, Croatia promised crystal-clear waters, breathtaking nature & historical cities. Living in London, both countries were never really “far away” from us, but the amount of planning involved always made me procrastinate, until this year.
At the start of the year I moved the countries onto my 2017 travel goal list (really just a fancy page in my Bullet Journal!) and we decided to plan a pre-Ramadan getaway for mid-May.
The most challenging part of planning the trip was working out how to route our travels. Bosnia and Croatia are so close (and intertwined in parts) that it seemed only logical to visit the two countries on one trip. Unfortunately, finding the most efficient way to do this can be a little challenging when so many travellers only seem to visit Bosnia on day trips from Croatia. We were eager to get a good sense of both countries, and see so many different places within them – so a day trip to either of them just wasn’t going to cut it.
Ultimately, after a few weeks of research and lots of help on the TripAdvisor forums (great place for getting feedback on your suggested itinerary!) & friends – we decided to begin our trip in Sarajevo, make our way down to Croatia, then back up across the coast of Croatia, before heading home. Here’s a guide on how we got around for any of you planning a similar trip and in need of pointers like we were – stay tuned for the city guides next!
There are no direct flights from London to Sarajevo anymore (boo!) meaning we only had a choice between German Wings (with a 5 hour transit in Hamburg) or Turkish Airlines (with a 7 hour transit in Istanbul). Being a Miles & Smiles member, TA was the more logical choice – it also meant free luggage! TA operate a few daily flights to Sarajevo meaning we were able to extend our transit and catch a flight the next morning, giving us time to leave the airport and slip in a little dose of Istanbul magic.
We booked a cheap & cheerful airport hotel for £28 (YES £28!) for our 5 hour sleep before our next flight. We’d originally planned to spend the evening enjoying tea in Eminönü but unfortunately the 2-hour long passport queue upon arrival at Ataturk meant we left the airport at 8pm and the idea of trekking it across the city wasn’t so appealing anymore. Instead we explored the local area and called it a night.
The next morning we flew into Sarajevo super early, where we spent two nights and fell head over heels in love with the beautiful city. From there we caught a coach to Mostar – the scenery along the journey was absolutely breathtaking. This route is served by a train that has many times earned the title of “most beautiful train journey in the world” sadly the train was out of service during our visit.
After two nights in Mostar, we hopped on another coach and made our way into Croatia, by way of Dubrovnik. We spent two days in Dubrovnik, then picked up our hire car for the rest of our trip. After a quick trip to the village of Kupari, we drove onto Split where we spent another two nights, before we made our way to our next base, Zadar! We stopped by the beautiful city of Sibenik, on our way to the KRKA national park where we spent a few hours hiking before finally driving onto Zadar and checking into our Air B’n’b. The next day we headed to the Plitvice Lakes where we spent most of the day. The following morning, after a brief walkabout Zadar, we hopped into the car for the final time and made our way back to Split for our flight back to London!
[ Split, Croatia ]
Here’s our Google map of the route starting from Sarajevo:
Needless to say, it was an exhausting trip. We spent countless hours on the road (I drove a total of 527 miles, all on the “wrong” side of the road!), packing up and moving every two days got a bit tedious and the sudden burst of extensive exercise we were doing was physically exhausting (did I mention the stairs everywhere?!). But, despite it all, the itinerary allowed us to see so many amazing places and fit so much into the short trip, it was all so, so worth it.
We booked one-way flights back to London from Split – it was the cheapest city to fly back from at the time and the 2.5-3 hour drive from Zadar (where we spent our final night) wasn’t too bad. We arrived back in London shattered but awestruck by these hidden gems in Eastern Europe.
Some last minute practical tips & info :
– Both Bosnia and Croatia are well served by coach routes which are relatively inexpensive compared to the UK
– Map your route according to your needs. You could start in Zagreb and work your way down the Croatia then up into Bosnia, or you could zig-zag between the countries.
– We had an option to fly back to London from Zagreb (which was closest to Plitvice), Zadar or Split. Despite us staying in Zadar, we flew back from Split as the tickets were most affordable there. Compare prices at all the airports near your final destination and make your decision from there.
– We were very reluctant to hire a car (inexperience with driving abroad!) but ultimately decided to do it for the Croatia leg of the journey as there were so many places we wanted to see in such a short amount of time. You can still get to all these places without hiring a car so if you don’t have that option, don’t be put off! We do recommend car hire if it’s an option for you, and plan to share more on that later. You can find Bus Tickets at Get By Bus.
– We did not hire a car in Bosnia but will do so if we are lucky enough to return. You can still get around without one, but a car will give you a lot of flexibility to explore.
– The train between Sarajevo & Mostar has now reopened, you can find the schedule here.
– Bus tickets can be bought in the large bus stations, even when the route/timing may appear as “Sold out” online.
– Stowing luggage on the coaches in Bosnia costs €1 – €2 per bag depending on the bus you get on. You don’t need to pay for hand luggage you keep with you.
– There are so many amazing tiny islands in Croatia easily reachable from Dubrovnik & Split – we just didn’t have time to see them all!
Any questions? Just ask! I’d love for everyone to have the opportunity to experience these countries.
Stay tuned for the city guides 🙂