Look Beyond Its Recent Past to a Greener Present
The ghost of recent violent times in the Balkans still haunts the region; few people give it priority consideration as a destination of choice for their next holidays, perhaps least of all places like post-war Bosnia and Herzegovina. The mere mention of Sarajevo and Mostar conjures up memories of the human and material devastation that occurred during the 1990s.
However, over the last decade or so, easing recriminations have allowed for significant developments and improvements to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s tourism infrastructure. Intrepid travellers tempted to try something new have been thrilled to discover an incredible country of stunning and pristine nature, a fascinating blend of cultures including some of the oldest traditional practices in Europe, friendly people, UNESCO World Heritage sites and world-famous Balkan cuisine. For city enthusiasts, Sarajevo, the capital, is a cosmopolitan centre with trendy bars and cafes, while nature mavens will find in the surrounding mountains and countryside countless escapes and excursions.
Where to Begin – Sarajevo and Surrounds
The Hotel Ada, located in the heart of Sarajevo’s Old Town, is a great little city base from which to stage urban explorations. Travellers come here to experience true Bosnian-style hospitality and try some of the locally grown organic food.
More delicious Bosnian cuisine is the highlight of Dveri, a restaurant in the Old Town with local specialties like goulash, stuffed eggplant, mukalica (pork chops covered in a spicy sauce) and warm homemade bread.
A Sarajevo city tour is an excellent way to get familiar with the town and its fascinating, yet poignant history. Highlights include 16th-century synagogues and churches and the Latin Bridge where Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated, triggering World War I.
To get out of the city and enjoy some beautiful Bosnian countryside, take a rafting trip on the Neretva River and brave some of the best rapids in Europe. The river’s high canyon walls and emerald-green water are not soon forgotten.
Green Visions and Lukomir Village
Green Visions is a Sarajevo-based tour operator that offers a variety of travel experiences emphasising the nature and unique culture of Bosnia and Herzegovina. “We founded our company on the principles of balance and harmony between man and nature,” says Thierry Joubert, a managing partner. “We’ve pioneered a movement in creating alternative means of sustainable development while maintaining an eco-friendly approach to all that we do.”
Given this unique orientation, Green Visions was selected by the International Finance Corporation (part of the World Bank Group) as the local partner in a programme to promote tours and small- and medium-sized guesthouses in and around Sarajevo. In cooperation with whl.travel, the global grassroots network of travel websites, Green Visions now makes these services available online through a Sarajevo travel portal.
One particularly meaningful tour is the Lukomir Village Highland Walk, a hike to a secluded Bosnian settlement. The residents of this highest village in Bosnia and Herzegovina maintain one of the oldest traditional lifestyles in Europe, wearing authentic dress and living without contemporary comforts like electricity or running-water. Sadly, the Balkan hostilities of the 1990s were devastating to remote highland communities like Lukomir and are in great need of sustainable support.
Working with the Ministry of Trade and Tourism, Green Vision has embarked on a programme to preserve traditional highland practices and the local environments on which the villagers depend. Through tours, awareness of the villagers’ plight is being increased and reason provided for several families in Lukomir to receive both support in equipping their homes with traditionally crafted guest beds and furniture, and basic hospitality training. Admiring old farming methods and a lifestyle long since forgotten in Europe, travellers can now rest in a unique environment while also providing economic support to the villagers. Lukomir tours are only run during summer months, outside of which snow can stymie road access.
Green Visions has been involved in other development projects throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina, including starting Bosnia’s first ecotourism and environmental protection agency and leading ecotours (over 2,000 so far) to even the most remote areas of the country.