Travel Guide for Visegrad, Bosnia & Herzegovina
We didn’t know about Višegrad, but we arrived here just by chance. On our Balkan road trip, we wanted to stop and sleep in the first scenic town in Bosnia-Herzegovina right after crossing Serbia. That’s how we found Višegrad, a romantic riverside town with mountains and an amazing atmosphere where I celebrated my birthday with my husband.
Višegrad is a town in Bosnia-Herzegovina that’s historic, small, scenic and lively. With its spectacular Unesco World Heritage bridge that inspired many artists, clear Drina river, and curative Spas, Visegrad shines bright due to its beauty. Of course, the mountains add an extra special touch.
The most famous part of Višegrad is its historical bridge. In fact, this small eastern Bosnian town gained international fame after Nobel Prize in literature winner Ivo Andric published the novel “The Bridge on the Drina”.
Every year, many tourists visit Visegrad and its Mehmed Pasa Sokolovic Bridge, which stands gracefully on the River Drina, surrounded by a green limestone bed and amazing nature. Still – the number of tourists that visit here is small as compared to the more famous Mostar in the country. If you like small towns, then you will find Višegrad to be a perfect niche destination to be included in your Balkans itinerary.
About the Novel “The Bridge on the Drina”- written by Ivo Andric
“Lost in his thoughts he looked out from his shop at the shining loveliness of that first day of March. Opposite him, a little to the side, stood the eternal bridge, everlastingly the same; through its white arches could be seen the green, sparkling, tumultuous waters of the Drina, so that they seemed like some strange diadem in two colours which sparkled in the sun. ”
– Ivo Andrić, The Bridge on the Drina
The world-famous bridge of Višegrad, the Mehmed Paša Sokolovic bridge owes its fame to the Visegrad-raised and Nobel Prize in Literature winner author, Ivo Andrić. His novel was originally written in Serbo-Croatian language in 1945 and is called Na Drini ćuprija. Its English title is The Bridge on the Drina and it features Visegrad’s splendid stone bridge.
This impressive novel not only introduced the gorgeous bridge to the world but shared a story about its tragic role in World War II.
Things to do in Visegrad
Višegrad is only 10 km away from the border with Serbia and in total 27 kilometers from Mokra Gora, a little mountain paradise village. This lovely small town in eastern Bosnia & Herzegovina was once a natural border between the Western and Eastern Roman Empire.
Visegrad is tiny, but it offers many amazing things to do. From monasteries to boat tours and famous thermal baths in the Thermal Valley, Visegrad should be experienced once in a lifetime. If you are interested, here are some things to do in Visegrad.
Walk on the Bridge on the Drina – Mehmed Paša Sokolović Bridge
Mehmed Paša Sokolović Bridge is to Višegrad what Charles Bridge is to Prague. Walking on this bridge is an experience in itself. I will talk about the history of this bridge later, but let me share my personal experience first.
It was a warm summer night when San and I decided to explore Visegrad and we were thrilled how everything was just a quick walk away. One of the most romantic things we did was walking over the bridge on the Drina river. Time stood still as we stood gazing at the river while standing on this bridge. That was our loveliest Višegrad experience.
Being the most famous landmark of Visegrad, Mehmed Pasha Sokolovic Bridge spans the glorious Drina River. This glorious 11-arch bridge was built in 1571 by the chief architect of the Ottoman Empire, Mimar Sinan. Thanks to Nobel Prize winner author Ivo Andrić’s classic novel called Bridge on the Drina, this masonry bridge gained international fame. And today, people are still fascinated by its beauty and significance as a piece of architecture.
The Mehmed Pasha Sokolovic Bridge also has a Unesco World Heritage site status since 2007. In 2010, the bridge was fully restored to show its unique beauty once more. Due to fluctuations in the Drina river level, which might cause danger of collapse, the bridge is closed to traffic.
Witness the glory of the Drina River
Being an important battleground for centuries, the glorious Drina River divided the Eastern Roman Empire from the Western Roman Empire, and later the Austro-Hungarian Empire from Serbia. And today, this central Balkan river flows through southeastern Europe and acts as a border between Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
With its beautiful emerald-green waters and limestone bed, the Drina River carries strong waves that create amazing nature for every taste. Whether you want to fish in its splendid lake Perućac while enjoying its glorious scenery or camp on the Drina river banks while sleeping under the clear night sky and enjoying the fresh air, you will find something for everyone.
Visit Andrićgrad – the “Stone Town” dedicated to Ivo Andric
Andrićgrad, which means Andric’s town in English, is a little town within Visegrad that is dedicated to the famous writer Ivo Andric, the Nobel prize winner that we have been mentioning in every section of this post.
Also known as the Stonetown, Andrićgrad was actually a project of a famous film director Emir Kusturica. Yes, the same film director who built Drvengrad, the bamboo village in Mokra Gora which is just 27 kilometers away in Serbia. We ended up visiting all these places without knowing anything about Emir Kusturica or Ivo Andric but found out during our visit.
The construction of this town started on 28 June 2011, and it was officially opened to the public on 28 June 2014. And since then, every year on Serbian slava Vidovdan, Andrićgrad celebrates its anniversary.
Here you can check out the Ivo Andric’s institute with a center for Slavic languages, Fine Arts Academy, Townhall, the Church of Saint Lazar, renaissance theatre, multiplex cinema, and of course, accommodation options with several cafes & bars, and souvenir shops. Yes, it is a little like Drvengrad but is all in stone instead of wood.
Besides its mixture of Byzantine, Ottoman and Renaissance styled buildings, you can also find images of Serbian heroes like Andrić, Tesla, Njegoš, and Princip all scattered around the town.
Eat in Anika, a lovely riverside restaurant
We asked one of the locals to recommend a place to eat and he said his favorite restaurant is Anika. Honestly, we were expecting a casual noisy restaurant with loud chatter of locals with kids, but it ended up being a romantic restaurant along the river. No, it isn’t right next to the water but it on the other side of the street but yes, you can see the river and an incredible view of the Mehmed Paša Sokolović Bridge
Our dinner in Anika ended up being our most memorable one in our entire Balkan trip. We ate a fresh salad, trout and the locally famous cevapcici. San also drank the local beer and I drank lemonade since I was traveling during pregnancy. I’m a picky eater and did not have a good experience with the traditional Yugoslav food but Anika won my heart.
Anika riverside restaurant is definitely a must-visit restaurant in Visegrad for those who want to try the traditional food with an excellent service and view of the famous bridge on the Drina.
We loved Anika so much that we drove back to Visegrad all the way from Montenegro, just to eat a lavish meal here. With its great location which is very close to the town of Andrićgrad, to Mokra Gora and Mecavnik Ethno Village, you can have breakfast, lunch, and dinner here. And if you would like to stay overnight, you can book one of four rooms in the restaurant as well.
See the Ivo Andric House and Monument
Thousands of tourists visit the town Travnik every year to see the birthplace of the literary Nobel Prize winner Ivo Andric and also his native house, which was converted into a memorial museum. In this memorial museum, you can see the birth room with furnitures, a library with the writers works in various languages, a room dedicated to the novel “Travnička hronika” and copies of drawings of Zuka Dzumhur as an illustration for a short story “Priča o vezirom slonu” in the corridors, and many more. You can also check out the photographs taken during the writer’s last visit of Andrić to Travnik and photos from the Nobel Prize award ceremony.
On Mehmed Paša Sokolović Bridge’s southeast, you’ll see a large marble monument of the famous author Ivo Andric. Designed by Sarajevian sculptor Ljupko Antunovic, this statue honors the author, which made this small town a famous tourist attraction with its well-known novel. It is definitely worth photographing for its importance.
Relax in the curative waters of the Visegrad Spa
Surrounded by thick pine forest, the Višegrad Spa offers an incredible experience to all the health lovers. Located just 5 km away from Visegrad, the health resorts thermal waters is used for the prevention and curing purposes of many diseases, no matter the age. With its radioactive carbonated water, the Visegrad Spa has been visited for many centuries.
Due to its radioactivity and the main element radon, the curative waters of this spa is capable of diminishing pain, increasing the resilience of body, and it is also used for the treatment of rheumatic diseases, neurological disorders, orthopedic disorders and deformities, gynecologic diseases, diseases of respiratory organs, and geriatric diseases.
Višegrad spa is the first listed spa by the level of its radioactivity in all of Bosnia and Herzegovina, but don’t worry, because the level of radiation is completely safe for medical therapies. Since there is no accumulation of radioactivity, you can enjoy the thermal waters of the Visegrad spa with a temperature of 34º C, without worrying about the side effects of the radiation.
Check out the beautiful frescoes at Monastery Dobrun
Surrounded by a lush valley, this historic monastery that sits on the Rzav river’s edge welcomes its visitors by its theatrical location. Just 12 km away from the town of Višegrad, Dobrun Monastery was built by a Serbian duke called Duke Pribil and his sons Stefan and Petar in 1343. The monastery is dedicated to the Dormition of the Virgin. Sadly it was destroyed several times but restored before taking its present-day form.
Still working as an active monastery, you can ask the current residents to unlock the door for you to check out this historic monastery beautiful chapel and its impressive frescoes. These gorgeous frescoes were painted on a very rich annex by a monk called Jovan in 1383. The most famous frescoes that is preserved until the present day are the ones with Tsar Dušan with his wife Jelena and son Uroš, and the fresco of the monastery founder of the monastery Duke Pribil with his sons and son in law Stan. It is said that these impressive frescoes survived a devastating fire by a restless intervention. Later, Dobrun Monastery was reconstructed by despot Stefan Lazarević and Princess Milica.
Boat trip down the Drina River canyon
If you are looking forward to spending some time gazing through amazing scenery and enjoy the fresh air, you have to take a boat tour on the Drina river, which shaped the third-largest canyon in Europe! Being a very fast river, in the past, the canyon of the Drina was known for its large streams and whirlpools. Since the dam of the hydroelectric power plant at Bajina Basta, the Drina river turned into a peaceful lake that offers many splendid river cruises.
Sailing through 52 km long the Drina river, you will witness some breathtaking scenery including the mouth of river Žepa, small springs and rivers, medieval fortifications, and of course, a great mix of different historic buildings from the Byzantine and the Ottoman era!
How to Reach Višegrad?
I have said this before in most of my posts but here I go again. The easiest way to travel in Europe is by to renting a car. It can turn out to be more economical than taking public transport if you’re 2 or more. Višegrad can be reached very easily by driving on the M5 road after 120 km from Sarajevo.
If you are planning to fly to reach the town of Visegrad, the nearest international airport in Bosnia and Herzegovina is located in Sarajevo, which is 120 km away from the town. If you are planning to use the railroad, the nearest railway station is also located in Sarajevo.
After arriving at Sarajevo, you can take a few daily buses to Višegrad from the Eastern Sarajevo-Lukavica station. If the bus that you took terminates in Visegrad, make sure to get off somewhere in the city center. Otherwise, since the main bus terminal on the south edge of town, you might have to walk to the city center by yourself. If that happens, don’t worry because the Mehmed Pasa Sokolovic Bridge is only 1 km away from there. So make sure to ask which direction you are heading to.
If you want to reach Visegrad from other towns, there are lots of daily bus departures also from Banja Luka, Trebinje, Belgrade, Novi Sad, Niš, and Užice. From Belgrade, Višegrad can be reached by the road M5 via Čačak and Uzice, after driving 280 km in total. But you can always use daily buses during your visit.
Where to Stay in Višegrad?
The cute town Visegrad offers an improving high-standard accommodation with its many luxurious hotels, as well as private accommodations for its visitors. Honestly, I am not a fan of resorts or big star hotels but I love booking apartments. They’re budget-friendly and you have your own kitchen, sitting area apart from just a bedroom and toilet.
If you seek to accommodate at the heart of Visegrad, you can book an apartment from Harmony apartments. Just a few minutes away by foot from historic Mehmed-Pasha Sokolovic’s bridge, you can have both a pleasant stay and easy access around Visegrad. That’s where we stayed while we were here and we were amazing at how clean this place was.
Our apartment was exactly what we needed after a hard day of driving. We relaxed here, used the surprisingly fast wifi and showered before heading off to the town. The owner was super helpful, he actually came and picked us up because we were a little lost. He also recommended us a few excellent places to eat and told us interesting stories about Visegrad. All this for just 20 euros per night – it was a steal.
Did follow our travel recommendations for Visegrad?
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