Bihac, Bosnia and Herzegovina isn’t the most popular destination in the Balkans. Tourists mostly use the town as a base to explore all the nearby attractions in both, Bosnia and Herzegovina and neighboring Croatia. And there are many of them!
As it turns out, the town itself isn’t that bad either and there are actually a few interesting things to do in Bihac that are worth checking out. Give the place a chance and stroll around to see what Bihac attractions you can find. And then go to explore the surrounding area!
Where is Bihac, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bihac, a city of around 50.000 inhabitants, is located in the very northwest of Bosnia and Herzegovina, right at the border with Croatia. Sarajevo, the capital of the country, is 300 km away from Bihac.
Why visit Bihac
The main reason tourists decide to visit Bihac is the nearby Una National Park, the largest national park in Bosnia and Herzegovina, famous for its pristine nature and beautiful waterfalls. But the city itself also has some interesting monuments you might want to see.
Bihac was first mentioned in 1260 and only two years later it was named “free royal city” by king Bela IV. Despite the long history, not many old monuments remained until today – Bihac was destroyed a few times over the centuries. Today you will find most of the old remnants right in the center of the city.
When I was there I encounter another interesting aspect of visiting Bihac – it was the first place where I encountered the migrant crisis. There were tens of people from the Middle East who tried to get to the European Union (Bihac was their last stop before entering Croatia through the mountains). They were polite and didn’t bother anyone but the number of migrants around was really noticeable.
How to get to Bihac
The best way to get to Bihac is by car which also gives you the freedom to get around all the attractions in the area (some of the best places aren’t available by public transport). If you travel by bus you can get here directly from Sarajevo or Zagreb (Croatia).
Where to stay in Bihac
There are plenty of accommodation options to choose from in Bihac. Here are the recommended ones:
What to see in Bihac
The center of Bihac is small but rather pleasant, located near the river Una flowing through the city. The main pedestrian street, Bosanska, is lined with a few cafes where you can sit down and relax over a cup of strong coffee, probably the favorite thing to do of locals.
At the edge of the street, you can find the Fethija Mosque dominating the area. Even if it serves as the Muslim temple today, it was originally built as the church of St. Anthony of Padua in 1266 and changed into the mosque in 1592, after the Ottoman conquest.
This is in fact the oldest Gothic structure in Bosnia and Herzegovina and one of the very few mosques built in the Gothic style in Europe. When looking at it closely you will quickly realize this place doesn’t look like a typical mosque.
From the 17th century, Bihac was surrounded by impressive double walls, with only three gates leading to the city. Only a very small part of it remained until today – the so-called Captain’s Tower, one of the oldest structures in the city.
It wasn’t used only for defense purposes, the tower was also home to the local prison. The name of the place is a tribute to the function of the city captain who occupied the upper floor of the building and ruled the town from there.
Today you can visit the local museum inside the Captain’s Tower and learn more about the place.
Only a few steps away from Captain’s Tower you can find a lone tower – the only remnant of St Anthony’s Church. It was built in 1891 after the end of Ottoman rule, with the magnificent 50-meter high tower, and in the next few decades, it was renovated and extended. The final look of the church, which today we can see in old pictures only, was really impressive.
Too bad that shortly after it was completed, the architectural masterpiece was destroyed by the Allies’ bombing of Bihac. It was never rebuilt and only the tower and part of the decaying wall remained until current times.
Next to the bombed church, you can find some old, beautiful tombstones as well as Türbe – the Ottoman mausoleum. Originally it was a wooden structure that stood in the place of St Anthony’s Church.
As a deal with the city rulers who wanted to give the citizens a church that would not conflict with the Muslim structure, the Türbe was demolished and another one, made from stone, was built in the new location.
The mausoleum commemorates the defense of Bihac when the Austria-Hungary army attacked the city in 1878 (they were sent to get the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina as it was decided by the Congress of Berlin). Even if the Habsburg army won, the inhabitants still wanted to commemorate those who defended the city hence the new Türbe.
The Una river that goes through Bihac gives a great foretaste of what the nearby National Park has to offer. In the center of the town you can see some picturesque small cascades and damming on the river – they are the best admired from the islands that you can reach by some footbridges that clearly need renovations. This is such a pleasant place to visit.
A bit outside of Bihac, towards Una National Park, you can stop at Sokolac castle, built high on the mountainside overlooking the area. The only reason we decided to visit the place was the view of the castle we got from the road – it looked impressive enough that we did a small detour to explore it. And that was definitely a good idea. Even if the final part was a bit steep to hike up, it was still worth the effort.
It is believed that the castle was built in this place already in the early 11th century but officially it was first mentioned in 1369. With its strategic location high above the area, the castle was protecting the nearby trade routes and over the centuries changed ownership numerous times.
Once the Ottomans took over the region at the end of the 16th century the importance of Sokolac castle started to fade (nearby Bihac became the main center of the area) and eventually, in 1878 it was abandoned.
Recently the ruins of the castle were renovated with EU funds and the place is a great tourist attraction that sadly doesn’t seem to attract many tourists. But it is such an interesting spot, not only for its history and impressive ruins but also for the amazing views of the area.
Where to go next
From Bihac, the most obvious choice to continue your journey is to Una National Park with its beautiful nature. But there are other interesting places nearby: Ostrozac with its semi-abandoned fortress, the abandoned Zeljava air base right at the border between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina (it’s accessible from the Croatian side) or the famous Plitvice Lakes National Park.
I published many articles about Bosnia and Herzegovina that you might find useful when planning your trip there. Here are some of them:
- Best places to visit in Bosnia and Herzegovina
- 37 Best Things to Do in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
- 25 Amazing Things to Do in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Visegrad, Bosnia and Herzegovina – See the Iconic Bridge on the Drina
- What to See in Jajce, Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Visit Travnik – the Heart of Bosnia and Herzegovina
- and many more!
If you are looking for articles about a specific destination – check out the map with all the articles I’ve published (and their locations).
For the end I left a few announcements that might interest you:
- Sign up to my newsletter or follow me on Bloglovin to get updates about the new posts
- Join my Facebook group about Eastern Europe, the Balkans and former USSR and connect with fellow travellers and enthusiasts of these regions – just click here!
- I’ve included a few handy links of services and products I personally like and use so you can plan your own trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina too. They are often affiliate links. This means I will get a small commission if you book/purchase anything through my links, at no extra costs for you. Thank you!
LIKED IT? PIN THIS POST FOR LATER!
If you enjoyed that post why don't you share it with your friends? That would mean so much to me! Also be sure to join 30.000+ fellow travelers and follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram for travel updates and even more pictures! If you don't want to miss new posts sign up to my newsletter or follow on Bloglovin!