Black (war) tourism in Bosnia and Herzegovina

The original article was published on Balkans in-site.  Any reprints of the article only with the permission of the author and the Balkan in-site.


For many decades, the Balkan countries have been supplementing state budgets with revenues from the tourism industry. Sea, sightseeing, and ski tourism have been and remain traditional destinations. After the wars of the 1990s and early 2000s, new types of tourism developed in the post-Yugoslav countries: museum, ecological museum, historical (as a kind of excursion), religious, and extreme. Both foreigners and residents of the former Yugoslav republics are interested in such recreation. However, in recent years they have become interested in so-called black tourism, which has become particularly widespread in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The black (war) tourism in BiH is a part of the memory of the war 1992-1995 and a way for people to remember the past and honor the people that they lost throughout the Bosnian war.

In the guidebooks, which tell about the places to visit in the framework of dark tourism, you can rarely find destinations to the Balkan countries, in particular, to Bosnia and Herzegovina. In this country, such a direction of tourism is in its infancy, but the number of tours and routes to “traumatic” places is very large. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, dark tourism is represented by two types – sightseeing tours and memorial museum exhibitions. Common features for them are the organized nature and presence in the tourist flow of both people from the Balkans and foreign citizens. However, this type of tourism has not become widespread; it continues to be a local phenomenon. Places of black tourism are represented in Bosnia and Herzegovina by concentration camps in the Trnopolje, Omarska, Keraterm, and the Srebrenica-Potocari Memorial Centre, places of mass crimes, military actions, and cemeteries.

In some communities, the sites of local tragedies that occurred in 1992-1995 are in the foreground. This is especially evident in Srebrenica, Gorazde, Visegrad, Kozarac, Mostar, Sarajevo, and Prijedor. Tourists can book themed tours at local travel agencies, which offer group or individual visits to concentration camps, mass graves, former military sites, and memorial complexes. Often such tours are conducted by non-professional guides. These are people, who were prisoners of concentration camps, prisons, victims of ethnic cleansing, and fought in the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. For locals, this is a job that is lacking in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Besides, it is an opportunity to tell schoolchildren, students, and scientists from the Balkans or abroad about their traumatic experiences, the 1992-1995 war and war crimes, particularly the Srebrenica genocide.

The two Bosnian cities of Mostar and Sarajevo, as well as the Srebrenica-Potocari memorial complex, have the largest number of dark tourism enthusiasts. These locations are most popular in tourist leaflets and brochures, which every traveller has the opportunity to take from the Tourist Agencies in the largest cities of the country. They go to Mostar to see the Old Bridge, which was destroyed in 1993 by the Croatian Defence Сouncil and was rebuilt in 2004. Streets on both banks of the Neretva, through which the Old Bridge was built, have long since become separate tourist locations.

Dwelling houses, mosques, and other buildings have become a kind of material monument of black tourism. There are souvenir shops on the streets of Mostar, located near the Old Bridge. Specific souvenirs, which are in demand among the guests of Mostar are shell casings, cartridges and handles, which are made from used bullet casings. Mostly organized groups of visitors come to the Srebrenica-Potochary memorial complex. Among them are students, high school students, members of the Bosnian Diaspora, who want to honour the memory of the victims of the genocide. Excursion to Potocari includes an acquaintance with the permanent exposition, located in the premises of the former battery factory, which housed the Dutch UN peacekeeping battalion. Additionally, visitors are invited to watch a documentary on the events of July 1995.

The biggest tourist attraction of black tourism in Bosnia and Herzegovina is Sarajevo. During 1992-1995, while the Bosnian capital was under siege by the Serbs, photos of the city and its inhabitants were constantly published in the world media. After the end of the war, ordinary tourists decided to come to Sarajevo, wanting to see the Vrbanja Bridge, which locals call the Olga and Suada Bridge, and the Bosko and Admira Bridge. Moreover, Vrbanja Bridge is one of the must-see places for people interested in dark tourism. There are also other monuments such as, the rescue tunnel, the Alley of Snipers, Trebevic and Jahorina mountains and the house near Pale, where Radovan Karadzic and his family lived during the siege. Also, the city market (Markale), the Olympic Village, the cemetery, where the soldiers of the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina have buried, streets and houses with traces of shelling, are some of the most known black tourism monuments.

The Sarajevo military tunnel (also known as the tunnel of salvation or hope) was the only link between the occupied capital and the outside world. It was built in 1993 by soldiers of the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina near Butmir Airport to connect Sarajevo with a zone controlled by UN peacekeepers.

Thematic or sightseeing tours of the city include visits to places of mass death of Sarajevo residents. Such places can be seen in the city centre, near the city market (Markale), in churches and on the streets in different areas. It is impossible to pass them because they are “marked in red”. This is the Sarajevo Roses, a kind of symbol of the city and a reminder of the non-combatants deaths during the shelling. The Alley of Snipers became famous during the siege of Sarajevo due to the constant death of civilians. The alley, also, ran along Zmaja od Bosne Street from Bosnia and Mesha Selimovic Boulevard, connecting the industrial zone of Sarajevo and part of the old city. There are many skyscrapers in these parts of the Bosnian capital, where Serbian snipers have set up positions.

Locals moved along Zmaja od Bosne Street and Mesha Selimovic Boulevard in short runs or hid behind UN armoured vehicles. The Bosnian Serbs, also, set up firing positions in the mountains surrounding Sarajevo. On the most famous of them such as Jahorina, Bjelasnica, Trebevic and Igman, art installations were collected, from which the shelling of the city was carried out. These are quite popular cities of dark tourism among the guests of the capital, but individual walks are dangerous because of the threat of exploding landmines and hitting shells. Tourists are warned about the danger by special signs that read “Caution, mines.”

Almost every city in BiH has museums and memorials dedicated to the events of the 1992-1995. Sarajevo and Mostar have the Museums of Crimes against Humanity and Genocide, Gallery 11/07/95, the War Childhood Museum, where exhibits tell the story about Bosnians and Croats inside the Serbian concentration camps, the Srebrenica genocide, ethnic cleansing, shelling of civilian objects, and the activities of the International Tribunal of the former Yugoslavia. The museums were created as a place to remember the war and the traumatic experience of the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Εvery day students, often from the Bosnian Diasporas, come here. For many years, former prisoners of the concentration camp have been trying to organize a similar museum and a memorial centre. There are no permanent exhibitions on their territory and the tourist tours of concentration camps are not often included.

Specially created places of dark tourism include memorials to the fallen soldiers of the Bosnian army, children, civilians, journalists, and medics who died during the 1992-1995 war. Thus, black tourism is a local phenomenon in Bosnia and Herzegovina, although it is also developing in the neighboring countries of the former Yugoslavia. In the BiH, black tourism is a part of the memory that is presented in the post-war Bosnian society. Through this specific kind of tourism, the country’s population recounts in the younger generation and foreigners about the war, the war crimes, the suffering of civilians, and the plight of people in concentration camps and in occupied Sarajevo.



  1. Foley, M., Lennon, J. (1996). JFK and dark tourism: A fascination with assassination. International Journal of Heritage Studies, 2 (4): pp. 198–211. doi:10.1080/13527259608722175
  2. Foley, M., Lennon, J. (2000). Dark Tourism. The Attraction of Death and Disaster, London : Cengage Learning EMEA, 256 p.
  3. Nilsic, S. (2010). Sarajevo Experiencing a Tourism Boom. Balkan Insight. Retrieved from https://balkaninsight.com/2010/04/06/sarajevo-experiencing-a-tourism-boom/
  4. Panic, K. (2019). Flourishing War Tourism in Bosnia. Fair Planet. Retrieved from https://www.fairplanet.org/story/flourishing-war-tourism-in-bosnia/
  5. Rose, E. (2016). War Tourism Flourishes in Bosnian Capital. Balkan Insight. Retrieved from https://balkaninsight.com/2016/11/29/war-tourism-flourishes-in-bosnian-capital-11-28-2016/
  6. Seaton, A.V. (1996). Guided by the dark: from thanatopsis to thanatourism. Journal of Heritage Studies, 2. pp. 234–244.
  7. Stone, Ph. (2006). A dark tourism spectrum: Towards a typology of death and macabre related tourist sites, attractions and exhibitions. Tourism: An international Interdisciplinary Journal, 2006, Vol. 54, № 2, pp. 145-160.