There are several ‘good’ seasons to visit Bosnia and Herzegovina, as it boasts the advantage of having two types of climate.
Summers throughout the whole country are hot and dry. Bosnia enjoys cool evenings in the mountainous regions whereas Herzegovina has an arid Mediterranean climate that makes summer sunny and hot with temperatures averaging over 30°C – (90°F). Prices increase with the temperature and accommodation is generally more expensive in the summer season (July–August). From June to mid-September the weather in Bosnia is warm. In Herzegovina the warm weather starts earlier, in May, and lasts easily into the end of September. Spring and autumn are lovely months to visit. In May the countryside is teeming with wild flowers, the days are pleasantly warm with cool, refreshing evenings and people come out in crowds after the cold winter months. October and November are good months to avoid the crowds and enjoy the barrage of orange, red and yellow leaves that paint the forests. These months do experience some rain but there is an equal number of cool, sunny days – particularly in Herzegovina.
The best time for a winter visit is the snowy months, particularly if you are a skier. Herzegovina experiences little snow and has mild winters, whereas Bosnia and the mountainous regions have very cold winters and high snow precipitation. Olympic-level skiing on mounts Bjelašnica, Igman and Jahorina is a particular draw from January through to March. February, however, is the coldest month of the year with frequent temperatures below zero. Bear in mind that due to global warming trends snowfall in Bosnia is not as consistent as it was in the past. While the roads in winter are decent and road clearance teams are getting better, they are nowhere near as safe as European or North American ones during or after heavy snowfalls. Any extensive winter travelling in Bosnia should be accompanied by snow chains. It is also worth mentioning that fog and sometimes very bad smog in Sarajevo can be intense during the winter, especially in December and January.
Public holidays and festivals
Celebration of the Apparition (Međugorje) – Held on 24 June, this event usually attracts over 100,000 faithful each year from every corner of the globe and celebrates the day in 1981 when a group of young teenagers saw the apparition of the Mother Mary on a stony hill in western Herzegovina.
Mostar Summer Fest – Mostar is slowly creeping back into the cultural scene. To match its stunning architecture and beautiful surroundings, the city’s summer festival hosts a great range of local productions in drama, music, art and film, as well as international events in music and drama.
‘Baščaršijske Nights’ – For the entire month of July, the old town in Sarajevo (Baščaršija) hosts cultural events from whirling dervishes to Viennese philharmonic and Celtic concerts. Each night has something special and most events are free of charge. It’s the longest and one of the best events in the whole country.
Demofest – Demofest is a three-day music festival, centring around 30 young local bands, including a few from other countries. It takes place in the unique atmosphere of the Roman-built castle in Banja Luka. In addition to good music, visitors can enjoy a number of workshops and talks and some very interesting after-party events.
International Folklore Festival – Whereas folklore events in most countries aim to pay homage and preserve the old traditions that once existed in their homeland, folklore here is still very much alive and part of both rural and urban life. The great folk traditions of the Croats, Bosniaks and Serbs invite dozens of other folk groups from around the world to offer a ‘peek into our past … how we dressed, danced, played music, sang & lived’.
OK Fest – Happening in early July, OK Fest has become one of the premier music festivals in BiH hosting both regional and international artists against the stunning backdrop of Sutjeska National Park. Aside from live music it also features an Adrenaline Zone for rafting on the Tara or hikes to Perućica, an Art Zone for cinema screenings and discussions and an Agora Zone for panel discussions and mini conferences.
Summer on the Vrbas – Late July is an excellent time to visit this northern city to enjoy one of Banja Luka’s best traditions. The cool Vrbas is a great attraction in itself, as well as being the perfect setting for this festival of events and concerts.
Una International Regatta – The Una Regatta celebrated its 50th anniversary not too long ago. Taking place in late July, this rafting event is unmatched in the region as more and more enthusiasts gather to kayak, raft and have fun on Bosnia’s most beautiful river.
Sarajevo Film Festival – The rebellious and artistic soul of Sarajevo flared during the war years. Amid the death and destruction of the city, several Sarajevan artists decided to host an international film festival and it has since gone from an improvised vision to one of the best film festivals in Europe. Unlike Venice and Cannes, Sarajevo’s festival has no barriers between the viewing public and the artists themselves, making it a great place to meet and mingle with actors, producers and the stars.
Ballet Fest – Established in 2010 by the Sarajevo National Theatre and Sarajevo Ballet, this week-long festival includes a programme of events held at the National Theatre as well as workshops and informal gatherings for ballet aficionados.
Sarajevo Poetry Days – Launched in 1962 by Izet Sarajlić, a Bosnian poet and academic, this international literary festival is now held annually each autumn in the capital city.
Teatar Fest – This theatre festival highlights young actors and actresses from around Europe and North America. The festival is free of charge and brings in a wide array of excellent university theatre and dance groups.
MESS – This international theatre festival has been a tradition in Sarajevo for over a century and some of the finest theatre groups in Europe regularly take part in this annual gathering. MESS also highlights the event with alternative and modern dance and explores various themes related to the tragic history of BiH through its multimedia programme, Memory Module.
Jazz Fest – More and more of the big names in jazz are starting to buzz around the annual jazz fest in Sarajevo. The venues are usually small and intimate and there are always free jam sessions in jazz clubs around town after the show. Tickets can be purchased online and there is good information about all the acts as well as other jazz-themed events happening around BiH throughout the rest of the year.
‘Sarajevan Winter’ – Since 1984, Sarajevo has hosted an annual cultural festival of friends and citizens from around the world. The festival includes theatre plays, concerts, literary events, movies and children’s programmes.