INTO BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA
If you’re able to extend your itinerary, then adding a day between Dubrovnik and Hvar so you can venture into BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA en route will bring a whole different dimension to your trip. Historically poorer than Croatia, and much quieter than its increasingly popular neighbour, BiH (pronounced bey-ha) is a comparatively rural backwater of fertile river valleys and limestone karst, with an intriguing cultural mix that sees Christian Orthodox monasteries rubbing shoulders with Ottoman-era mosques.
The focus of your visit should be picturesque Mostar, whose rebuilt Old Bridge has become a poignant symbol of regional reunification. The most direct route here from Dubrovnik runs up the coast before cutting inland at Neum, but it’s worth taking the slightly longer journey (it’s only an extra 15km) to travel via TREBINJE, one of the prettiest towns in southern Herzegovina. Just 28km from Dubrovnik (around half an hour, with a quick stop at the border), Trebinje feels a world away from the Croatian coast. Take a coffee break at one of the cafés on the central square or stop off for something stronger at TVRDOŠ MONASTERY [open daily from 9am], 4km west of town, where the monks make their own wine; after a look at the church’s colourful murals (and, for hardier kids, the wizened hand of a local saint, preserved in a glass box near the altar), you can sample one or two of their vintages in the cellars below.
From Tvrdoš, it’s around 110km north along the M6 and then the M17.3 (that is the road’s real name) to MOSTAR. An oriental atmosphere pervades the city’s gorgeous Old Town, an area of cobbled streets set around the showpiece STARI MOST. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the bridge has been completely rebuilt after it was destroyed in 1993, during the Homeland War, and is now the stage for local daredevils to dive sixty-plus feet into the emerald waters below. On the other side of the Neretva River, you can browse the row of craft shops on busy Kujundžiluk (the Old Bazaar) before making the dizzying climb up the minaret of the KOSKI MEHMED-PASHA MOSQUE [open daily until 7.30pm | 12KM or 48kn, under-10s free] for the town’s best views of the famous arch.
Unlike spruced-up Dubrovnik, Mostar’s renovation stops abruptly at the boundary of the Old Town, beyond which it’s not hard to find buildings that are still pockmarked with reminders of the war. Most affecting is the FORMER HOTEL NERETVA, next to Musala Most, a ten-minute walk north of the mosque. Head out onto the bridge and look back – this sombre viewpoint delivers a more powerful message than any history lesson could convey.
Mostar receives its fair share of day-trippers, especially in summer, but an overnight stay allows you to wander around the Old Town long after the crowds have gone. Come dusk, the Stari Most is beautifully lit up, and the cobblestoned backstreets west of here, particularly around the romantic little KRIVA ĆUPRIJA (Crooked Bridge), are bathed in the glow of old-fashioned street lamps.
TOP TIPS The official CURRENCY in Bosnia and Herzegovina is the convertible mark (KM), though kunas are widely accepted. As with Croatia, British, Irish, US and Canada passport holders do not require a VISA for stays of up to 90 days, but do check the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website for the latest. You’ll need GREEN CARD INSURANCE (available from your car-rental agency in Dubrovnik) to drive your rental car into BiH. The region was heavily MINED during the war, and large areas, particularly in the mountains, are still yet to be cleared; Mostar, Trebinje and the major roads linking them and the Croatian coast are obviously perfectly safe, but it’s best not to go wandering off into the countryside en route.
WHERE TO STAY
Things start well at PANSION CARDAK – the homemade lemonade and Turkish Delight on arrival will go down well with adults as well as kids – and then just keep getting better. The lovely rooms at this central B&B are boldly furnished, with bright prints covering one wall, and have surprisingly swanky bathrooms. With a single child in tow, opt for a Superior Double and ask for a balcony room for more space and memorable Old Town views; bigger families will be more comfortable in the ground-floor studios (which come with their own terraces) or the smaller quadruples, which can both sleep 4, or in a vast Deluxe Suite, which can sleep up to 5 in a double and two sofa beds. There is a communal kitchen area with a fridge and free parking nearby – the helpful owner will even park your car for you! Pansion Cardak is less than a minute’s walk from the Kriva Ćuprija and just a couple more to a cluster of excellent restaurants (try Hindan Han, Tima-Irma or Šadrvan for traditional Bosnian cuisine) and the Stari Most.
THE LIJOMA LOWDOWN
Delve deeper with our tips on what to read and watch before you go, foods your kids must try, and some key cultural advice
From traditional Dalmatian cottages to guesthouses in Dubrovnik’s Old Town – our pick of the most memorable places for families to stay in Croatia
NEED TO KNOW
A handy overview of Croatia’s weather and climate throughout the year, with recommendations for the best time to visit
Pre-trip practicalities, including getting there, visas and passports, health and safety and how to get around
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