Day Trip to Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Katie stumbled across Mostar when deciding what to see while in Sarajevo. The train ride between Sarajevo and Mostar was widely said to be one of the most beautiful in Europe, so Katie was sold on visiting before even looking at what to do in Mostar. Turns out, there is plenty to see and do in Mostar on a day trip.

There are only two train each day in each direction between Sarajevo and Mostar – one in the morning and one in the evening. The train schedule was supposed to reduce to one train per day in each direction for the winter, but apparently demand has surpassed expectations and they decided to continue with two trains per day.

Announcement on The Railways of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (ŽFBH) website.

We had planned to take the 7:01am 1723 train, but a 1 tram never passed by our stop. We switched to our backup plan and took a 3 tram (1.60KM each) to a 9:15am bus instead.

A 3 tram in Sarajevo.

While walking from the Tehnička škola tram stop to the Sarajevo bus station, we walked by the US Embassy in Sarajevo.

Tehnička škola tram stop

The Sarajevo bus station was larger than expected – but this makes since because there are very few international passenger trains running currently.

Leaves changing in the hills over the Sarajevo bus station.
Entrance to the Sarajevo bus station.

The bus station was surprisingly calm. We bought our tickets (17KM each) at a ticket window and then walked out to the platform area.

Ticket windows at the Sarajevo bus station.

We saw a coffee machine, so JT was happy to get hot coffee for 0.5KM – until we noticed that multiple cafes on the platform sold fresh coffee.

There were a variety of passengers waiting on the platform for different departures. Buses arrived and departed frequently.

Passengers waiting for our bus to Mostar.

Our bus did not originate in Sarajevo, so it arrived shortly before it’s 9:15am departure time. By the time everyone boarded, the bus was surprisingly crowded.

Boarding the bus in Sarajevo.

Assigned seat numbers were ignored, so we sat on the right side of the bus since Katie had read the views were best on the right.

The leaves were changing near Sarajevo.

The views were indeed best on the right, and we enjoyed them for our entire ride. We saw mountains, lakes (which were very low), rivers, and dams.

As we got closer to Mostar, the scenery became mountainous desert.
Interesting piles of hay. Apparently this is a winter storage method in the Balkans.

We stopped many times – it seems passengers would just tell the driver if they wished to exit at the next road-side bus stop. At one stop, where we stayed for a while, we saw a stray cat being friendly to some passengers at the bus stop.

Sweet cat at a bus stop.
JT hopped off the bus to give the kitten some cat treats. It happily ran off after finishing the treats.

We finally arrived in Mostar East bus station at 12:06am.

The bus terminated in Mostar.

We walked from the bus station to the adjacent train station and found that the afternoon train to Sarajevo departed at 4:56pm as expected. We left the station and wandered towards the Old Town.

Neretva river runs through Moster.
Based on signs, Moster is installing new sewers right by the river.

As we walked around, it was interesting and a real reminder of the Bosnian War to see new construction right next to damaged buildings.

In a residential area
This damaged building seemed to have a few units renovated and inhabited on the upper floors.
This must be prime property by the river, yet it is currently abandoned.

We walked by the Sniper Tower, which was a tall, glass bank building that turned into a sniper tower by whichever side controlled it during the Bosnian War. For various reasons, the tower has not been torn down or renovated. Some locals, adventure travelers, and graffiti artists trespass in the building to make art and enjoy the views.  We strongly considered it, but eventually opted against it due to safety and legal concerns.

The Moster sniper tower, which was a bank building before the Bosnian War.
Graffiti near the Sniper Tower

On our walk to the Old Town, two stray dogs started following us. They weren’t begging from us or bothering us,  but just walking with us. They left us once we reached the Old Town in favor of a more promising tour group.

Most stays in BiH look similar to this dog.

Our free walking tour guide in Sarajevo said many dogs were abandoned during the Bosnia War in the 1990s. People feed and care for the strays, so most that we’ve seen look relatively healthy.

Once in the Old Town, we found Tima-Irma restaurant. Tima-Irma came highly recommended online and we weren’t disappointed. We ordered a chicken kebab platter and a beef shish kebab platter – and ending up each trading a kebab so we could try both meats. Both smelled wonderful, tasted great, and were very filling. Our lunch cost 29KM total.

Katie’s chicken kebab platter at Tima-Irma
JT’s beef shish kebab platter at Tima-Irma.

After lunch we walked through the Mostar Old Town on the way to the famous Stari Most bridge. This area is by far the most touristy area we’ve seen in Serbia or BiH.

The crowds of tourists on guided bus tours was overwhelming at points in the Old Town.

As we were approaching the Stari Most bridge, we first noticed a shirtless guy collecting money and then we noticed another guy preparing to jump from the bridge. We figured the guys were collecting beer money, but supposedly at least part of the money they collect goes towards maintenance on the bridge. For every 25 they collect, one of them jumps.

The eastern side of Mostar Old Town from Stari Most bridge.

We had the pleasure of seeing two of the diving club members jump, as well as one visitor.

Mostar’s Stari Most bridge.

Anyone can jump from the bridge after receiving training and approval from the diving club.  Right now, it seems to be 10 for training and 25 more if you decide to jump.

A guy training to potentially jump from Stari Most.

The jump is about 24 meters. Different reports provide different accounts of deaths and injuries from jumps – but honestly it seems like a terrible idea unless you have experience and feel 100% confident. We’d never do it – our health and mobility means too much to us.

We relaxed below Mostar’s Stari Most bridge for a while.

The visitor we saw do it first trained at a lower platform. He jumped about 6 times from the lower platform while receiving advise from a local diving club member. He looked very comfortable jumping and swimming, so we assumed he was an experienced swimmer or cliff diver.

Practice jumps for a shorter training platform.

He decided to go through with the jump, so we soon saw three diving club members beneath the bridge prepared to help rescue him if he landed wrong. Amazing, the visitor didn’t hesitate much at all and jumped quickly. He quickly put a thumbs up after landing, but his girlfriend didn’t believe he was actually okay until she saw him climb out of the river and walk. We talked with him shortly after his jump – he was really chill about the entire experience and claimed to have no prior experience.

Leaving the bridge, we decided to wander Mostar for a while until our train. We’d considered climbing the Sniper Building, but decided to take the elevator and stairs up the tall Franciscan Church Bell Tower instead.

Franciscan Church and Bell Tower

The man selling tickets (3 or 6KM per person) and operating the elevator warned us that the bells in the tower ring every fifteen minutes. He said they wouldn’t damage our ears, but they could scare us.

Bells in the Franciscan Church Bell Tower

The church tower provided interesting views and we had a good conversation with a guy from a nearby town.

The stone Old Town was pretty from the tower.

It was interesting how different the two sides of Mostar looked from above. The front-line – the large road in the picture below – separated the Croats from the Bosniaks. Even today, the west has many churches while the east has many mosques. Supposedly, schools and buses still don’t cross between the east and west.

This large road was the front-line in Mostar during it’s siege in the 1990s.

We enjoyed the views for about 30 minutes before walking slowly to the train station on the east side of Mostar.

Mostar train station – although the upper floors of the building are abandoned.
Entrance to Mostar train station.

Buying tickets for the 4:56pm train from Mostar to Sarajevo felt like a flash from the past.  The man at the ticket window painstakingly wrote out and stamped a ticket receipt and two mandatory seat reservation cards. We ended up paying 23.80KM in total for our two tickets (10.90KM each) with seat reservations (1KM each).

Tickets and mandatory seat reservations for our train ride from Moster to Sarajevo.

There are only four passengers trains that pass through Moster each day – two in each direction.

Platform at Moster train station.

There was a small crowd of passengers waiting on the platform by the time the train arrived. It seemed to be mostly tourists though.

Conductors checked everyone’s tickets while boarding – multiple people had to return to the ticket counter to buy a second ticket (since it seems they originally only purchased a ticket for one person).

Boarding the train to Sarajevo in Moster.

Once on board, the officials said we could sit anywhere we wished – making the mandatory seat reservations rather pointless.

The seats on the train between Moster and Sarajevo were comfortable.

We chose seats in mostly empty car 6. We were very impressed by the trains – they are new Talgo trains with fresh interiors, calm music, free wifi (which never had any internet connection during our ride), clean bathrooms, and a bar car. The train provided a comfortable ride that took about as long as the bus but at a cheaper price than the bus.

The new Talgo trains on the Moster-Sarajevo route

The scenery was nice – we recommend sitting on the right side of the train from Mostar to Sarajevo.

Views from the train shortly after leaving Mostar.

The sun set earlier than we had wished, since the scenery for the second half of the ride likely would have been scenic.

Sunset was pretty on the train from Moster to Sarajevo.

We very much enjoyed our ride on the new Talgo trains. We saw an older train departing to another destination shortly after we arrived, and we’re sure out experience was more comfortable.

New Talgo train at Sarajevo station.

The Sarajevo train station is not used much yet, but it seemed nice enough. Hopefully passenger services continue to return to Serbia.

Lobby in the Sarajevo train station

We decided to walk back to Sarajevo’s Old Town from the train station – it was about a 40 minute walk.

Overall Thoughts

Visiting Mostar left us with many lingering questions and emotions about the Bosnian War. After returning to Sarajevo, we watched the BBC documentary below about the siege between June 1993 and April 1994. It features excellent reporting and gives a look into the siege – we highly recommend taking the 45 minutes to watch it.

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