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T/R: Weekend Dubrovnik, Mostar, Sarajevo (or “attempts to get coffee”)

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Feb 14th, 2011, 03:31 AM
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T/R: Weekend Dubrovnik, Mostar, Sarajevo (or “attempts to get coffee”)

This is a Trip Report on our trip this weekend from Dubrovnik to Mostar and Sarajevo. It’s been years since I’ve done this, and as it was pre-war, we wanted to see how the area had been restored and understand Sarajevo’s value and practicality as a potential overnight destination from Dubrovnik.

It’s about 4hrs 30 min driving time from Dubrovnik to Sarajevo – 270km. Dubrovnik to Mostar is about a 3 hour drive.
We used the classic route Dubrovnik, Metkovic, Mostar, Sarajevo both ways. It’s the best road and you’ll see different scenery each way. There are five distinct areas/regions on the route between Dubrovnik and Sarajevo:
1. Dalmatian coastal highway to Metkovic
2. Agricultural Neretva Delta
3. Spectacular Neretva river gorge to Mostar
4. Wild limestone pass over the mountains
5. Bosnian Alps down to Sarajevo.

We loved the Adriatic coastal scenery as we drove north from Dubrovnik along the E65 – great views of the Elaphite Islands and the Peljesac peninsula. It’s a two lane highway so ia pain for local traffic but a delight for sightseeing. On the way out, stop at the famous gardens at Trsteno if you have time (it’ll probably be later in the day on your return down this road). There is only a small section that actually leaves the ocean as we cut over a peninsula, so lots of pretty villages such as Slano and great photo shots of the islands.

As you near the Delta area, you enter and leave Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH) – borders on this road can be more than a little confusing.
For me, the least interesting piece is the Neretva river delta which is the critical agricultural areas of this part of Dalmatia.

At Opuzen turn off the road to Split and onto the E73 towards Metgovic, entering BiH again here as you start to head into the mountains in the direction of Mostar. This area of the Neretva river gorge is a Herzegovinian region that still has close allegiances to Croatia, so don’t be surprised at the Croatian flags flying and the willingness to accept Croatian Kuna - probably the only place in this country so remember to get BiH Marks at the ATM or foreign currency change counter. We used a bank ATM shortly after entering BiH.

Decide now if you want to take a diversion off the road to the town of Medjugorje. Since 1981, it has become a popular site of religious pilgrimage due to reports of apparitions of the Virgin Mary to six local Catholics. It’s about 30 mins off the road. Watch out for signs. If you go to Medjugorje, you will be signposted to Mostar via a different (slower) route and not come back on to the E73.

If you stay on the E73, on the way through this “Heregovinian Croatian area” of BiH, stop at the quaint old town of Pocitelj, with its beautifully restored Hadzi-Alija Mosque, Sisman-Ibrahimpasina madras and the Gavran Kapetanovic house, all of which are open to visitors. The most striking object in Pocitelj is the Sahat-kula, a silo-shaped fort that towers from the top of the hill above the town. A half an hour later you’ll enter Mostar.

We liked Mostar and its famous 16th century (sadly restored) ottoman bridge and bazaar. Follow the signs for “Starimost” (old bridge) and leave the car at the car park there. It’s a very short walk down into the old town and the bridge. Walk over the bridge to the other side for more great photo opportunities, restaurants, some nice stalls and the mosque. The photo from the Mosque grounds is a classic.

This part of BiH is clearly into “Turkish Coffee country”, and I struggled throughout to get a decent milky coffee (cappuccino, late, flat white etc whatever you call it in your brand of English). My limited Croatian normally manages this important request easily, but this was different. I got some lethal, very short espressos, with/without cream, dodged the Turkish coffee in the copper pots as I’d tried that in Egypt and Turkey – even got a hot chocolate once : ). Not the most successful aspect of this trip.
If you’re journeying on to Sarajevo as we did, get back on the E73 into the mountains. Sarajevo is well signposted – in two alphabets of course.

A great potential stop for food or drinks is the Restaurant Zdrava Voda (means healthy water) at the top of a mountain pass on route between Mostar and Sarajevo. They specialize in roast lamb which comes highly recommended. Great views here too.
After the final mountain pass, you’ll notice a dramatic change in scenery as you drop down into a very alpine landscape on the road down to Sarajevo. We stayed at the Hotel Michel, about 200 yards on the hill above the old town.

In Sarajevo, some recommended stops:
• The old town (Stari Grad) and Bazaar, a large pedestrian area of old shops, crafts, food and mosques to wander around:
o The Copper workers guild has an area in the Bazaar full of various copper a nd metal crafts with artisans working there
o There is also an indoor Bazar within the main area of the Bazaar itself with some neat architecture, impressive old metal doors, barrel ceiling etc.
• Svrzo house: a wooden house owned by the Sarajevo museum, showing how a Bosnian nobleman lived in the 18th century. Self guided tours
• Coffee or drinks at the Viennese Café “Becka Kafana” in the Europa Hotel for Austro Hungarian grandeur and people watching on the street - this is Chris “the Coffee” writing  so what would you expect on this list?
• The Sarajevo War Tunnel under the airport runway that connected Sarajevo to freedom during the siege
• Eat Baklava – with lots of water or coffee
AbsolutelyDubrovnik is offline  
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Feb 16th, 2011, 04:09 AM
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I enjoyed reading your report since you took the same basic trip we did last fall only in reverse. I agree that the range of different types of scenery you encounter between the coast and Sarajevo is amazing.

Re cappuchino in Sarajevo: we had some at the Avlija restaurant not too far from the Hotel Michele.
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Feb 16th, 2011, 07:17 AM
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Thanks for your report. It brought back memories of my trip last year. I visited Sarajevo last September with my son. It was a nice surprise. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but I had been a little hesitant about going there. We also stayed at Hotel Michel and loved it.
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Feb 16th, 2011, 07:35 PM
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Hi Do you remember the rates of this hotel?? We will be driving from Croatia through to Athens and will do this leg of the trip. Anything we need to know about driving there??
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Feb 16th, 2011, 07:49 PM
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I think the rates were about 80-90€ per night. We had a really nice room with twin beds. We were there in September 2010. Nice breakfast room and wonderful breakfast. Free wifi in our room.
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Feb 18th, 2011, 05:26 PM
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Thanks for your report. We did a day trip to Mostar from Dubrovnik, but haven't yet gotten to Sarajevo as it was just a bit too far from DBV for the time we had. Our daughter spent last summer in Sarajevo and loved it so much that we're considering going there next year. Your directions are wonderful.

On our quick trip to Mostar, I was taken by the difference between Croatia and Herzegovina not long after we crossed the border; Herzegovina seemed much less developed; more like Kosovo. I guess that's not surprising given the fact that BIH and Kosovo suffered so much during the war and Croatia's tourism is so strong.

It's a fascinating part of the world and we're anxious to explore more of it.
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Feb 18th, 2011, 06:34 PM
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Hi Wenday,

In terms of driving from Dubrovnik-Sarajevo, the drive is incredibly easy until you get into Sarajevo. The road into Sarajevo is a typical, large-city street that wouldn't be a problem to drive on, you just need to know where you're going once you get off the main road. If you don't then you will likely get lost very quickly since street signs are either non-existent or have changed but the maps haven't been updated.

Mostar is definitely worth stopping in for a nice lunch, and make sure to stop at Blagaj, the source of the Buna river - it's a little tricky to find and just west of Mostar (the Mostar airport will be on your right once you make the turnoff from the main road. It will be so worth it to ask for directions to go to Blagaj - it's gorgeous.

Good luck on your trip!

Katie
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Feb 19th, 2011, 05:03 AM
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Re driving in Bosnia and Herzegovina: the drivers have a tendency to try to pass on blind curves which is unnerving in the mountainous areas to say the least. And in some areas there are still unexploded land mines along the sides of the roads. This is apparently especially true if you take the route from Mostar to Dubrovnik via Stolac and Trebinje. You would not encounter this last problem on the main road described by the OP.
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Apr 16th, 2011, 06:22 AM
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This has been so helpful. We are taking a trip to Dubrovnik, driving to Kotor, then Trogir, Mostar and Sarajevo in September. I am just starting my research of where to stay and what routes to take. I would love any suggestions and hints. I like Boutique type hotels. Any suggestions for each of these towns? Are there any problems driving over any of these borders?

Would also love suggestions of what to see and how long we should stay in each places. We have just approximately two weeks. Any ideas of side trips as well.

Thanks, Rhonda
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Apr 16th, 2011, 09:07 AM
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For information about Bosnia and Herzegovina I would suggest julia-t's trip reports. I also posted a trip report about our trip to BiH and the Dalmatian coast last fall. These will all pop up if you search the Europe forum under Bosnia & Herzegovina.

I think our lodging choices were simpler/less expensive than places you would be interested in. The Hotel Europe in Sarajevo looks nice and is in a good location.
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Apr 16th, 2011, 10:45 AM
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I've answered on your other thread about boutique hotels in Sarajevo.

I'd also recommend seeking out vttraveler's trip report!

And re coffee in Sarajevo, you can get excellent coffee (latte, cappucino etc) at Alfonso's, just in front of the Cathedral to the left as you face the front entrance.

Also plenty of good coffee shops on Strossmajerova, the street which leads from the square in front of the Cathedral down towards the river.

In the Bascarsija there is Belle Epoque on one of the streets running parallel to Saraci, and another place around there where I ordered a Bosnian coffee to be told they didn't serve it there! And again it is not a problem to get a 'proper' coffee at Kolabana/Kobalana which has entrances both on Saraci and Curciluk Veliki.
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Sep 28th, 2011, 11:04 AM
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Great information.. any feedback on a family travelling from Dub to Sarajevo? We are a couple, 3 kids (9,11,13yrs) and grandparents (very active). I want to take this sidetrip to our Croatia trip as a way of showing the kids (and self) something a little different culturally -- thinking of driving from DUB to Mostar.. spend most of day there.. drive on to Sarajevo to spend 2 nights. One day seeing Sarajevo and second day take train back to Zagreb for flight back to US. Any concerns anyone might have from experience? Originally were planning on just Mostar - spend the night and then head back to Zagreb.. but from what I read.. might be worthwhile to drive on to Sarajevo and train back to Zagreb. Appreciate any inputs. ( as well as good options for accomodation for 2 nights in Sarajevo.. something very central to Old town)
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Sep 28th, 2011, 11:07 AM
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oh.. one other question.. bc there are 7 of us travelling together. we'll need to be renting a "van" type vehicle.. will this be a total pain on these roads? Obviously not ideal, but other option is having to take the bus from Dub - Mostar and train to Sarajevo.. I hate buses!
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Oct 9th, 2011, 04:05 AM
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great report, thanks.
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