Amico Mostar Tour
When I was staying in Dubrovnik I booked a trip to Mostar with Amico tours, and as promised the tour van arrived just a little bit late and was just a small group which made me happy as I saw several larger buses while I was waiting that just made me cringe thinking about generic experience they were going to have. I had paid extra to go on a tour that had a maximum of 10 people which promised a much more intimate experience and I can tell you it’s worth it for the more personal experience. The smaller group allowed more time available for exploring and less time stuck in border check points as you cross into several countries and in and out of Schengen area so the big buses often get stuck longer as they have more passengers to check.
Our tour kind was kind enough to have brought some Zvečevo-Lasta Fig Strudle biscuits to share with the group that we made in the town of Čapljina where he was from. This was a really cool way to make you feel welcome and offered something unique to the tour experience feeling such a personal connection with the locations you were visiting.
The first stop was an old Mogorjelo an old roman villa and winery from the 4th century that had been sadly neglected and not protected from over zealous tour groups but our tour guide explained that most tour companies skip this location which had spared it much wear and tear from foot traffic. the spot was certainly interesting and our tour guide made sure to explain a bit about the area, the war and the structure we were exploring.
The next stop was a UNESCO listed Turkish old town of Počitelj built on a rocky cliffe along the river Neretva. The Mosque of Šišman Ibrahim-pašina built in 970AD by Hadži Alija. To get to the Mosque it involved a 10-15 minute hike up some steep stairs cut into the mountain but offered an amazing view across the village. If you reach the top there is an old castle fort Počitelj but you can enter inside and climb a very tight passageway to the top to see an even more impressive view across the village and towards the Mosque. The town contains the fort of Počitelj that was built between the 15th and 18th centuries. It seems the town has a very interesting political situation with a local business owner making somewhat of a mess of things trying to force tour groups to visit his restaurant, unlike several other tour groups we skipped stopping by for lunch and continued onto Mostar.
We arrived in Mostar and our tour guide gave us a walk through the city and pointed out all the key areas:
- where to get great photos
- which direction is the best restaurants to eat (based on view and food quality)
- where you can walk down the path to the river below if you want a swim
- where is the most interesting parts of the city (right side of the river it turns out)
- some insights on when the bridge jumpers will jump
- some tips on famous local cuisine to try
After I had spent sometime exploring the city of Mostar (some history of the city and the bridge being rebuilt), I explored the ancient tea house (check name), visited the Mosque and paid to climb the narrow stairs of the minaret to see amazing views across the town towards of the bridge and the city of Mostar. At this point the weather was amazing and I was simply in love with the beauty of the old city on the west and less so about the new part on the west side of the river.
Finally after taking a heap of photos of the bridge and the bridge drivers I decided it was time to swam briefly in Mostar river…. I have to admit the final plunge took me quite some time to mentally prepare as I dipped my toe in to feel how cold and water was, I was only jumping from the river bank edge into the river was not dumb enough to jump from the bridge… I knew that jumping into the river was going to be like getting punched in the chest as the water was just soo damn cold compared to the outside air temperature but after doing it I can say for certain that it was worth it to say I’ve done it for sure. Be aware the river current is fairly strong so make sure you are a confident enough swimming before jumping in and also I wouldn’t advise you jump out too far, obviously jump behind the jiggered rocks but stay close to the shore and you will be fine, when I jumped in there was plenty of people around and in the water should I have gotten into trouble and needed to be rescued.
The area down by Neretva river is a great vantage point for watching the bridge jumpers and as mentioned previously it’s often a poorly calculated dive or the cold water temperature that causes bridge jumpers issues. You can opt to jump from the bridge, but don’t take this jump lightly as many untrained people get injured (often Australian’s apparently) and if you time your visit right you can catch some of the awesome events such as Red Bull Cliff diving on the 15th August 2015 which I sadly just missed by several days when I visited.
Also think about bringing a towel and maybe a change of clothes for the trip back if you want to jump into the river for a swim, I was lucky that it was a warm enough day so I had mostly dried by the time I reached the bus….
The downside to the tour was the stop at the town of Međugorje to visit a Catholic church for close to 1 hour at the end of the day, most people used it as a toilet and ice cream stop… the downside we found out later on the way home that there was a great new museum we passed on the way home that would have made for a far better stop based on the group we had on the day we probably could have pushed harder to skip the church tour but we didn’t know that we missed out on the museum until we were heading home. If you are really religious the tour can also head to the church earlier and drop you off so you can spend much more time there, if you are more interested in actual history I would suggest pushing for a stop at the museum but advise Amico ahead of time to ensure they can plan the day accordingly. Amico maybe also swap the itinerary around so check the plan when booking your tour.