Western Europeans are not exactly famous for their warmth towards tourists.
Whether it’s French locals rolling their eyes at Americans astounded by the sights in Paris, or Italian waiters being a bit too blunt when taking orders, sometimes you may feel as if you’re not welcome at all visiting Europe.
That’s hardly a surprise, seeing that the continent has become overcrowded with visitors, with up to 23 cities signatory to the European Cities Alliance urging the European Commission to act on behalf of them in severely limiting short-term rentals across the bloc.
They want tourists out.
Fortunately, not all of Europe has fallen out of love with Americans: there is one destination in particular that not only encourages foreigners to visit, but where locals are actually excited to host them.
Why You Should Add Bosnia And Herzegovina To Your Bucket List
Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) would not normally rank high on your list of places to visit, unless you’re well-versed in geopolitics and you’ve heard of the Bosnian War of the nineties.
Once a part of Yugoslavia, Bosnia and Herzegovina descended into civil war following the break up of the former country, which led to an insurmountable loss of human life, and paved the way for one of the bloodiest conflicts in European soil since World War II.
Home to three major ethnic groups – ethnic Serbs, who are Orthodox Christian, the Catholic Croats, and the Muslim Bosniaks, who form a majority at 50.1% – Bosnia’s diversity and multi-ethnic character was precisely what gave rise to the conflict back then.
Indeed, the country has been through a dark period, but it’s emerged out of the ashes much more stable than it once was.
Now, it is one of the safest countries in Eastern Europe for foreigners.
It was added to the U.S. State Department’s Level 2 Travel Advisory, which means it is as safe as France or the United Kingdom, and in recent years, tourism has been growing significantly, as more visitors become aware of its historical value, beautiful nature, and most importantly, the unparalleled Bosnian hospitality.
Bosnians Will Make You Feel Like You’re Part Of The Family
Forget about the reservedness of some Western Europeans.
If you’ve ever been to the Balkans, you know the friendliness of the locals is hard to match, and being a Balkan country at heart, albeit with its internal struggles, Bosnia is no exception to that rule.
Unlike other Europeans living in over-visited areas, Bosnian nationals will warmly welcome foreigners, and they are renowned for their generosity.
It’s not unusual for residents to befriend guests and cheerfully invite them over to their family’s house for some homemade cheese and rakija, the quintessential Balkan drink, as many small towns and villages in the Herzegovina heartland have retained their centuries-old hospitality values.
As Mustafa, a local Bosniak running Bosnian Cooking Lessons since 2018 has stated in an article published by The Guardian, ‘tourism can offer us hope‘.
The entrepreneur notes that they want to ‘share’ their home, food, and country with visitors, in stark contrast with the French, Italians, or Spaniards, who have repeatedly voiced their anger at tourists and have gone as issuing fines to Instagrammers for taking selfies in certain points of interest.
Not Bosnia, though.
Still An Under-visited Gem
Last year, the country registered only 1.9 million overnight stays, up 81% from 2021, but still lagging behind the record-breaking figures posted by some of its most famous neighbors, such as Croatia, Montenegro, and the increasingly-trendy Albania.
Bosnia tends to get overlooked as a summer destination, as its Mediterranean coastline runs for a mere 12 miles.
The Neum Corridor, which it retained in the wake of Yugoslavia’s break-up, provides the country with its only access to the sea, as Croatia fences off most of its access to the Dalmatian coastline.
That’s not to say Bosnia lacks natural beauty: with its Mediterranean fauna, balmy weather, gorgeous crystal-clear lakes, unspoiled reserves, and a scenic range of the Dinaric Alps running right through its core, it is a nature getaway waiting to be discovered.
Some of the most beautiful national parks in Bosnia and Herzegovina include Sutjeska, a popular hotspot for nature lovers and History enthusiasts alike, as it provided the setting for the Battle of the Sutjeska in World War II, the vast expanse of green that is Kozara National Park, and Una, with its majestic waterfalls and aqua lagoons.
Additionally, the country has a fascinating culture and no shortage of bucket-list destinations, from the capital city of Sarajevo, where an archduke was killed, triggering World War I, to the fairytale town of Mostar, famous for its reconstructed stone bridge spanning a turquoise-colored river, and the countless medieval castles and ancient monasteries found in between.
Some also say the train ride between Sarajevo and Mostar is one of the most scenic in Europe, and we are inclined to agree.
Unlike its Balkan partners straddling the Adriatic coast, Bosnia will be a lot less crowded this summer, and there’s no better time to begin exploring its rich cultural diversity than this upcoming season.
Bosnia Is An Affordable Summer Destination
You can also expect to find far more attractive hotel deals, and comparatively low consumer prices, as Bosnia is neither part of the Westernized European Union, nor the Eurozone.
An overnight stay at the Hotel Art, a four-star listing in central Sarajevo, will cost you US$67, and if you want to go cheaper than that, nightly rates at the Hotel Grand, 2,5km from the center, sets you back by only US$29.
Additionally, young backpackers can expect to pay between a negligible US$8 to US$19 sharing a six-bed room in a hostel. There is something on Booking.com for every traveler profile, and for every budget.
As for daily expenses, you will be billed US$4.40 on average for a meal at an inexpensive restaurant, and you should also expect to pay as little as US$1.65 for a pint of domestic beer.
Learn more about Bosnia and Herzegovina – and why it deserves to be on your travel radar this year – clicking here.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com