Welcome Back to Sarajevo - Page 5

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Room With a View: A liftee hut, typical of the old-school charm found at Jahorina, sits at the top of a palma lift accessing plenty of untouched powder.  (Carly Calhoun)


Several European carriers, including Lufthansa and Austrian Airlines fly into Sarajevo International Airport (+011.387.33.289.100; www.sarajevo-airport.ba), which was recognized as the best European airport in the "under one million passengers" category by Europe's Airport Council International. Because Sarajevo is not a major hub, the most economic choice for many U.S. travelers will likely be to fly to a more central airport and then transfer. For instance, Alitalia (800.223.5730; www.alitalia.com) offers round-trip flights from London Heathrow to Sarajevo (before taxes) for £106. For travel throughout much of the Balkans, it makes sense to use a travel agent, who can coordinate flights and the best deals.

Another wallet-friendly option is to fly into Europe and then take a bus from a slew of European hubs, including Vienna, Amsterdam, Ljubljana, Berlin, and Zagreb. Find bus schedules and make online reservations through the Centrotrans website (+011.387.; www.centrotrans.com).

Note that euros are generally accepted throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina, except in the post office and other state-run places. The konvertibilna marka, or KM (BAM is its currency equivalency in English), is the country’s official currency.

From Sarajevo to Jahorina and Bjelasnica:
Buses run from Sarajevo’s National Museum to both resorts every weekend from December to April, and everyday from January to mid-February—the season’s peak. Ticket price is €5 (€1 = $1.20) for a round-trip ticket and both bus rides take about 45 minutes. Please check with Sarajevo’s tourism office in Old Town because the schedule changes based on amount of snow and demand. Feel free to ask the tourism office for help with everything from weather conditions to transportation (Zelenih Beretki 22a, +011.387.33.220.724; www.sarajevo-tourism.com). There are also several rental car possibilities, including Hertz (Zmaja od Bosne 6, +011.387.33.204.090; email: hertz@bih.net.ba).

The season runs from December to April, with the high season from January to mid-February.

On the mountains:

Of the ski areas that surround Sarajevo, Jahorina, which hosted the women’s alpine events in 1984, and Bjelasnica, host of the men’s alpine events, are by far the most popular—with places to stay, eat, and rent equipment on both mountains. Of the two, Jahorina is the most developed with several brand-new hotels and places for après-ski action. For the most part, Jahorina was spared from the war whereas Bjelasnica was not.

There are a plethora of mountain huts and private accommodations, which can be booked through Sarajevo’s tourism office or one of the organizations listed below. There are also several new hotel options right in the middle of the action. Termag Hotel (+011.387.57.270.422; www.termaghotel.com) opened in 2004 and is rustic-chic with a pool, sauna, and Turkish bath. High-season prices are €71 per person for half-board—breakfast and lunch or dinner. Another fail-safe is Hotel Kristal , which has ski rental, a fitness center, a comfortable bar, and a restaurant with domestic cuisine. Prices range from €33 to €56 (+011.387.57.270.430; www.kristal-jahorina.com).

At the time of writing, Bjelasnica—the steeper and higher (more than 6,700 feet) of the two resorts—is hurrying to overhaul lifts (a day pass costs 23KM, or about $14, compared to Jahorina’s 20KM day ticket), expand runs, and finished buildings, which will provide private accommodations and add 2,500 beds (in 2004 the number was under 500).

Besides mountain huts, which can be reserved through the tourism office or one of the organizations listed below, Hotel Marsal is the only game in town at Bjelasnica. At the base of the ski lifts, the hotel has a disco club and 70 refurbished rooms. Half-board is around 75KM ($46) per person per night (+011.387.33.279.100; www.hotel-marsal.ba).

There are plenty of good, inexpensive lodging choices in private accommodations and in hotels. There are also a few opportunities to splurge.

Bascarsija Pansion (Veliki Curciluk 41, +011.387.; email: heartofthebascarsija@hotmail.com) has 50 beds and simple, clean rooms that range from 40KM for a single to 100KM for a double ($25 to $62). Also in the historic center of town, Villa Orient (Oprkanj 6, +011.387. is a luxurious alternative. Equipped with a fitness room and Internet capabilities, prices range from €79 for a single to €107 for a double. Just on the hill overlooking town, Hotel Saraj (Nevjestina 5, +011.387.33.233.500; www.hotelsaraj.com) has 140 rooms and a health and beauty center. It’s located on the way to Jahorina. All prices include breakfast and range from €41 for a single to €82 for a double.

For all your vacation needs—including tours, equipment, adventure outings, and accommodations in both ski areas or in town—contact Green Visions (+011.387.33.717.290; www.greenvisions.ba). Sarajevo Discovery (www.sarajevo-discovery.com) has an extremely knowledgeable guide staff and can help with every detail of your visit. Ask for Adnan: +011.387.61.190.591.

Jahorina and Bjelasnica:

There are several choices on both mountains for good domestic food (the hotels, for instance, serve good dishes) but the hole-in-wall joints are often the best. On Jahorina, a favorite that’s right in the middle of the ski area and convenient to the lifts is Rajska Vrata (Heaven’s Door), which serves solid, tasty veal stew and pivo. A meal for two with beer is less than 20KM ($12). The counterpart restaurant on Bjelasnica is Planinska Kuca (Mountain House), which serves a mean spinach or cheese pie at the base of the slopes. A meal with a beverage is around 10KM ($6).

The streets of Old Town form an open-air buffet full of fantastic restaurants specializing in grilled meats, pastries, and Bosnian coffee. Head over to Cevabdzinica Hodzic (Bravadziluk 34, +011.387.33.532.866) for the Bosnian favorite, cevapi. Ten sausages, onions, pita bread, and a beer costs 8KM, or less than $5. Just on the other side of the Miljacka River, a three-minute walk from Bascarsija, Inat Kuca, or the Spite House (Veliki Alifakovac 1, +011.387.33.447.867), is a wonderful restaurant with views overlooking the river and the city. Ask for the window seat between the second and third floors and order the sampler that comes with stuffed peppers, stuffed onions, and veal kebabs—price: 10KM. Restaurant Club Jez (Zelenih beretki 14, +011.387.33.650.312) is a homey restaurant near the tourist info office and a cornerstone for locals and ex-pats. The trout with garlic sauce and the lamb with plums, apples, and raisins are sure-fire delights. A meal with wine is about 60KM ($37).

It seems there are as many places to relax with a beer or a glass of wine as there are people in Sarajevo. One standout is Pivnica HS (Franjevacka 15, +011.387.33.239.740): the brewery hall for the local favorite, Sarajevsko pivo. The building is beautiful and the half-liter dark brews don’t hurt. The City Pub (Despiceva bb, +011.387.33.299.916) in the Old Town is arguably the hippest place in town to grab a drink and watch fashionable Bosnians toast life.

The 22nd annual "Sarajevo Winter" begins February 7 and runs through March 21, 2006. It’s a conglomeration of cultural events—theater, concerts, movies—taking place throughout the city. The festival is a celebration of art across all genres and is a nice way to relax after a day on the slopes.

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