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.
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.
While walking from the Tehnička škola tram stop to the Sarajevo bus station, we walked by the US Embassy in Sarajevo.
The Sarajevo bus station was larger than expected – but this makes since because there are very few international passenger trains running currently.
The bus station was surprisingly calm. We bought our tickets (17KM each) at a ticket window and then walked out to the platform area.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
We finally arrived in Mostar East bus station at 12:06am.
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.
As we walked around, it was interesting and a real reminder of the Bosnian War to see new construction right next to damaged buildings.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We had the pleasure of seeing two of the diving club members jump, as well as one visitor.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The church tower provided interesting views and we had a good conversation with a guy from a nearby town.
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.
We enjoyed the views for about 30 minutes before walking slowly to the train station on the east side of Mostar.
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).
There are only four passengers trains that pass through Moster each day – two in each direction.
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).
Once on board, the officials said we could sit anywhere we wished – making the mandatory seat reservations rather pointless.
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 scenery was nice – we recommend sitting on the right side of the train from Mostar to Sarajevo.
The sun set earlier than we had wished, since the scenery for the second half of the ride likely would have been scenic.
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.
The Sarajevo train station is not used much yet, but it seemed nice enough. Hopefully passenger services continue to return to Serbia.
We decided to walk back to Sarajevo’s Old Town from the train station – it was about a 40 minute walk.
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.