I have a thing for abandoned places. There’s something to be said about the thrill and wonder of walking through them, picturing what they would have looked like before time, death and decay ruined them. Abandoned buildings tell so many stories through their peeling paint and dusty interiors, but we rarely stop to hear them.

On our final day in Dubrovnik, we picked up our hire car and headed East towards the abandoned resort of Kupari. The 16 minute journey offered breathtaking views of the Adriatic Sea, before we turned off the motorway, onto a dirt track and navigated our way between derelict buildings and trees the the sea front.

The small village of Kupari is situated just 10 km away from Dubrovnik and is home to every urban-explorers dream ; The Bay of Abandoned Hotels. This abandoned luxury resort first welcomed tourists in 1919, with the opening of the aptly-named Grand Hotel. Situated on the waterfront and surrounded by stunning landscaped gardens, the Grand Hotel hosted tourists in ultimate exclusivity.

[Postcard from 1928 showing the Grand Hotel in Kupari | Photo from adria forum]

[The entrance of the Grand Hotel in the early 1920’s / Photo from here]

That was until the early 60’s, when five more hotels were built on the grounds surrounding the Grand Hotel, and the place was re-imagined as a holiday resort for Yugoslavian military officials and their families. Kupari became so popular among the military elite, welcoming thousands of guests through its hotel doors each month, that an additional Camp was built along the main road leading to the resort to accommodate a further 4,500 guests at a time. Even the Yugoslavian President Josip Broz Tito opted to holiday at Kupari, where he hosted guests in a private villa on the outskirts of the resort where it could be more exclusive (and secure!).

By the 80’s, with the arrival of the Winter Olympics in Sarajevo, it was time to put Kupari on the map. The hotels welcomed foreign tourists for the first time in decades and the resort was buzzing with life, showing signs of a promising future.

Alas, it didn’t pan out that way. In the early 90’s, the Yugoslavian onslaught on Dubrovnik during Croatia’s war of independence emptied the hotels of their final guests. A Croatian police force set up base at the resort to protect it, until the Autumn of ’91, when Yugoslavian naval ships targeted the resort from the sea.

Over the months and years that followed, the hotels of Kupari were subjected to shelling, missiles and artillery fire – the scars of which remain very visible up until today. The very same Yugoslavian military officials who had once basked in Kupari’s beauty had all but destroyed it. As a final parting “gift”, the interiors were ransacked, stripped bare of anything of value. From the marble staircases and copper piping to the furniture and fittings, it was wiped clean. Phosphorous bombs torched the hotel interiors and ensured they wouldn’t be hosting guests for a long, long time.

For the past 25+ years, the hotels haven’t welcomed a single paying guest. Today, locals come here for a dip in the gorgeous turquoise sea without the hassle of swarms of tourists and hotel formalities found further along the road in Dubrovnik. The sea is so inviting in Kupari, perhaps even more so set against a backdrop of empty, abandoned buildings.

Unfortunately we only had a couple of hours to spare at Kupari meaning we didn’t get a chance to explore all of the hotels. It was also impossible to access upper floors in most of them thanks to the extensive damaged caused to the staircases and roofing in some of the buildings.

Despite being the oldest of the lot, it was the Grand Hotel that left me speechless. Even today, with chipped paint, broken windows, faded wallpaper and bullet holes puncturing its walls, the hotel still oozes an air of opulence. Its wide-set arches, faded shuttered windows and symmetrical entrances still paint a picture of luxury and class. The marble staircase is long gone, as is much of the roof, allowing sunlight to pour through the building, illuminating every remaining detail.

I believe this may once have been a rather fancy dining room!

At the back of the Grand Hotel you’ll find an over-grown garden and these pretty little balconies.

The Croatian government is keen to restore Kupari to some of its former grandeur and capitalise on its close proximity to Dubrovnik. The resort was recently privatised, and it looks like it’s set for redevelopment in the not-so-distant future. All of the hotels are likely to be demolished, with the exception of the Grand Hotel which has secured a listed status. According to the Dubrovnik Times, the Marriot will be building a luxury hotel on the site.

If you’re into urban exploring I highly recommend a visit to Kupari before it’s gone for good! It’s a short drive away from Dubrovnik – just follow the signs for Kupari. You can park on-site between the hotels or along the shoreline. Don’t forget to take swimming gear so you can enjoy the beach too!

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Kupari, Croatia,



Sarajevo, the city that drifted in and out of the headlines on our TV screens for years on end during the early 90’s, always reminding us that somewhere, not so far away, something terrible was happening. Reminding us that children just like us (at the time), were suffering immeasurable pain and growing up amidst devastation. The images of empty streets with makeshift barricades, families desperately scurrying across the main street in Sarajevo under sniper fire, and the burning remains of the Council building remain imprinted on my mind so vividly, even now, some twenty something years later.

We landed on the tarmac at Sarajevo airport early in the morning and were instantly struck by an air of calm. The stunning backdrop of mountains in the distance, coupled with a lucky bright blue cloudless-sky greeted us. As we journeyed our way towards the hotel in the old city, we were struck by the many contrasts of this city.

Small traditional houses with terracotta rooftops nestled amidst lush green mountains in the distance, modern sky scrapers standing next to abandoned buildings bearing the scars of sniper fire, grand Hungarian-inspired buildings, set against a backdrop of traditional Ottoman architecture, with minarets towering in the sky . Through a single road, Sarajevo will tell you it’s history, all you need to do, is to look out for it.

We ventured into the old town of Baščaršija as coffee shops and stalls opened their doors for their first customers. For the next hour, we sipped on Bosnian coffee and watched the old town go about it’s day. There was an Istanbul-esque vibe about it, the Ottoman mosques dotted about, always reminding you of the city’s Ottoman ancestors. But Baščaršija was far calmer, even by mid-day, when tour groups arrived, walking tours commenced, and locals went about their day picking up bread from local bakeries and catching sips of coffee on their way; there was a calmness. A calmness we loved.
















It’s hard to forget what this city has endured, not so long ago. After the fall of Yugoslavia and a Bosnian independence referendum, Sarajevo was besieged by the Yugoslavian People’s Army. The siege lasted a total of 1425 days, up until February 1996. The city was encircled, snipers nestled themselves on vantage points on the outskirts of the city, shelling and fighting bought chaos to the city. Streets became war zones. Starvation was rife, with no proper way in or out of the city, the population were trapped with no supplies. Many who attempted to cross the makeshift borders into neighbouring towns were killed instantly.

The not-so-distant bloody history of Sarajevo is still very visible today, from burnt-out buildings to bullet-ridden walls. I could not help but wonder how the siege had affected all those we conversed with. Those my age were just growing children at the time, today, many are heads of households.

[The Kovaci cemetery is home to some of the victims of the war, alongside the grave of Bosnia’s first president Alija Izetbegovic, who died in 2003]

There are so many signs of recovery here. The modern part of the city connects itself so seamlessly with the old town. As the cobblestones give way to pavements, you’ll find streets lined with shops, glossy malls, and young Sarajevans hanging out in hip cafes – a sight almost unimaginable some 20 years ago. The Olympic bob-sleigh/luge tracks built for the ’84 Olympics are finding new life and becoming a canvas for the local art scene. International brands have set up shop and international investors have set sights on the city, the tourism industry is steadily growing, mainly through support of investors from Gulf countries. Outside the national Library sits a replica of a Cable Car compartment – part of a new cable car service due to arrive in Sarajevo in the near future. It will bring the cable car back to Sarajevo (another piece of history destroyed by the war), transporting passengers to the top of Mount Trebvić.

There is no rush to forget what happened here, Sarajevans are preserving their history, still determined for the world to know their story. The “Tunnel Of Hope” – the only lifeline for this city under siege still stands today, you can walk through part of the original underground tunnel to understand it’s role in the cities survival. Through an assortment of Museums and Galleries, Sarajevo’s recent war history is being told.

There’s something so special about Sarajevo, I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I know so many other people feel the same way. Perhaps it’s an air of simplicity? The kindness of it’s people? The untouched natural beauty spanning miles and miles in the distance? Or perhaps it the knowledge of what this city has been through in it’s lifetime? Power struggles, a mixed identity, independence, war and ultimately recovery? An endless journey to pick up the pieces.

We fell in love with the city, so much more than we thought we would. I was so much more excited about Mostar when we set out for our trip, but after just a few hours in Sarajevo, I never wanted to leave. We said goodbye with a heavy heart and a vow to return to the beautiful city once again. Hopefully soon.

Here’s our traditional travelling chalkboard shot:

Some tips if you’re visiting Sarajevo :

  •  Bring comfortable shoes! I can’t stress this enough. There are plenty of hills/steep climbs/cobbled streets that make for a challenging walk. We lived in trainers and our feet thanked us for it!
  • If you are travelling with someone with mobility issues/children, stay in a hotel that is not on a hill (check on TripAdvisor). We stayed in the wonderful Hotel Aziza but it was set on a steep hill.
  • Sarajevo is safe! There’s a strange misconception that the city is still at war – it’s not. The city is safe, just exercise the usual caution you would anywhere in the world and you’ll be fine!
  • There is no Uber in Sarajevo but there is a number you can call for a taxi. Red taxis (with font on the bonnet) have meters. You can also get around by tram.
  • We found it very difficult to find a Sim card in Sarajevo – we found one shop near the Gazi Husarev Mosque in the old town that sold them.
  • Halal food : Bosnia is a majority Muslim country and Halal food is easy to find. You can confirm Halal status with restaurant owners.
  • If like us you make a pilgrimage to the land of Golden Arches every time you step foot in a Muslim country, rejoice, McDees is Halal in Bosnia (according to staff at our hotel)

    Don’t forget to check out my post on 10 things to do in Sarajevo!


When people see the excitement I have for travelling and airplanes, it can be hard to believe I had a severe phobia of flying, up until quite recently.

I’ve heard so many people say they would love to travel the world, but a fear of flying stops them. It may sound ridiculous to some people (who’ve never dealt with such anxiety) but as someone who has been on both sides of the fence; fear of flying can be a serious problem. The good news is, it’s curable.

I developed a fear of flying quite suddenly at around the age of 10, it gradually got worse and worse. I can’t pinpoint what it was that kicked it off, except that at that time, I was suddenly flying a lot, and with little advance notice. One of my siblings had moved abroad and we were regularly having to visit them. There would be days I would come home from school and find out we were flying the very same evening.  They weren’t short flights either, at 5 and a half hours, and that’s without the transit flights!

At first I just got nervous boarding the plane, felt uneasy during the flight, perhaps had some nausea, then it would all be over once we landed. This quickly evolved into being unable to sleep in the lead up to flights, I was unable to eat anything the night before, I’d wake up with stomach cramps and nausea, then proceed to throw up constantly, until we landed (seriously!). I would throw up before leaving for the airport, in the airport, on the plane, in the airport once we landed, and occasionally when we arrived at our destination.

For the duration of the flight I was unable to eat, drink, talk (seriously), read, move, look out the windows or do anything. My heart would race continuously. I was literally paralysed with fear. I missed out on so many great flying memories (and Air France’s legendary children’s packs!) because of this. Flying was a nightmare that plagued my pre-teen years and I wasn’t even going on holiday to make it worthwhile!

Despite that, I was still desperate to travel. Coming from a mixed-ethnicity family, since a young age I have always been so curious about different countries and cultures, I knew travelling was my way of experiencing them even more.

Somewhere in my teens, I decided to work on my fear of flying. There was no overnight solution, I still got bouts of panic here and there, but within a few flights I managed to hop on board a 12hr flight alone and I was fine!


Here are some of the things I did to help manage my flight anxiety, that may help you:

Understand your fear
Firstly, have a really good think about where your fear of flying stems from. Is it due to it being an unfamiliar or new sensation? Is flight safety a concern? Are you fearful of a plane crash? Does the discomfort of being in a pressurised cabin make your stomach turn? Do you have claustrophobia? Once you decipher all the reasons you are scared to fly, you can begin to tackle them one by one.

Educate yourself
This was without a doubt the most important part of “recovery” – and is in fact part of the reason I am so obsessed with planes today! To work through my fears I must better understand them, and that’s exactly what I did (p.s doesn’t work with fear of cockroaches!). My prime concern was flight safety, I was convinced any plane I boarded would fall out of the sky, fly head-on into another plane, or overshoot the runway. No matter how many times I flew and landed safely at my destination – I always told myself the next flight would be the one that killed me.

To work on this fear, I started researching planes. I read everything; how they were built, why they were built, which planes had the best safety records etc. Documentaries were great for visual references. I quickly became obsessed with Air Crash Investigation and watched every episode. This might unsettle some people, but for me, understanding how much airline safety has improved because of historical plane crashes helped me understand the advances we have made in technology and how strict flight regulations are today to avoid such accidents ever happening again.

The reality is, flying is actually the safest method of transport. You’re far more likely to die in a car crash than a plane crash. According to the Civil Aviation Authority “There is an average of one fatality for every 287 million passengers carried by UK operators. This can be compared with a one in 19 million chance of being struck and killed by lightning in the UK or a one in 17,000 chance of being killed in a road accident.” Those are staggering figures. As I type this, there are currently 17,306 airplanes flying the skies above us, and I can guarantee you, we won’t hear of a single plane crash by the time this post goes up.

Planes are incredibly robust structures built to do the impossible – to fly. They are packed to the bring with some of the most advanced technology in the world and they are only getting safer. This video explaining the flight process may be of help.

Eliminate stress
Eliminating as much stress as you can BEFORE you get to the airport will give you peace of mind and make you less susceptible to anxiety. Some ways you can do this:

  • Pack in advance so that you aren’t running round like a headless chicken trying to remember things at the last minute
  • Gather all your important documents the night before (or days before) and put them in one safe place
  • Keep check-lists (packing list, to do list) so that you are sure you’ve remembered everything
  • Double check for your important documents when you leave home (set a phone reminder)
  • Wear comfortable clothing that won’t restrict your movement or delay you getting through security
  • Check in online to avoid queues and to give you as much time as you need to arrive at the airport and clear security

Build a good pre-flight relaxing routine
This may sound stupid, but being relaxed in advance can really help take the edge off fear of flying. The night before you fly, take time to just relax. Have a bath, read a book or listen to classical music – anything you find relaxing. This should help you get a better nights sleep and result in better spirits in the morning. Avoid foods that give you discomfort or that could potentially flare up any conditions you have (fizzy drinks are my enemy before a flight!).

Choose your seat wisely
If sitting in a specific seat terrifies you, make sure you make a seat selection at check in. Checking in online usually gives you the best pick of seats (do it early) but if for any reason you haven’t managed to, ask at the check in desk. They may be able to accommodate your needs if there is availability. If you are likely to require access to the loos, opt for an Aisle seat so that you aren’t stressed about asking fellow passengers to move for you.

Take something to calm you down
I found the natural remedy Travella helped me immensely, you can also buy this in Boots in some UK Airports. A few drops of Lavender essential oil on a tissue or napkin can also provide relief. Consult a pharmacist if you are looking for other options.

Stay hydrated
We all know the importance of being well hydrated in our day to day lives, but it’s a thousand times more important up in the air. Cabin pressure can cause you to become dehydrated quite quickly and make you susceptible to headaches, body aches, feeling unwell etc. Stay hydrated, even if you are unable to stomach anything else. Take a water bottle with you onto the plane to ensure you always have it at hand.

Converse with fellow passengers
Conversation will distract you. If you’re flying solo, be brave and make conversation with the person sitting next to you. Some of the most profound conversations I’ve had in my entire life are with the passengers sitting next to me on flights. During one of my very first super long-hauls between Singapore and Cairo, I felt fine until we had around 3 hours of flying time left, then the anxiety kicked in. I actually moved seats to sit near a fellow traveller who looked around my age and started a conversation. We turned out to have so much in common, and I aced the landing!

Travel smart

If you are struggling with anxiety every time you board a plane but are still required to travel, travel smart. Build your journey centered around your wellbeing.

If checking in and clearing airport security stresses you out, arrive at the airport extra early.  If you are terrified of being on a plane for long periods of time, book a transit flight to give you a break from being up in the air. If you’re terrified of landings and find a single landing difficult enough – don’t book a transit flight. If cabin pressure and noise sets you off, invest in noise-cancelling headphones or try to fly on a different plane. I was surprised at the lack of cabin pressure and noise when I flew on the Airbus A380 (aka my favourite plane of all time!) – of course the A380 doesn’t serve all flight routes, but I would always pick it on a route if it’s an option.

The important thing is to make the journey less overwhelming so that you have the mental and physical energy for situations beyond your control that may arise.

And finally…

Don’t be defeated. Fear of flying is extremely common, perhaps more than you may think. Give yourself the time to work through it, at a pace that is right for you. There is no single solution that will work for everyone, but I hope some of the tips listed above may be of use to you.


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 🙂