In bustling Sarajevo, countless minarets and cathedral towers rise above streets lined with stylish cafés where students and supermodels—or so they seem—slowly sip coffee.

With Istanbul to the right and Vienna to the left, the capital city of tiny, heart-shaped Bosnia and Herzegovina boasts distinct Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian styles of architecture. The culturally traditional but religiously diverse inhabitants move about in colourful trams. Striking bridges criss-cross the River Miljacka, itself full of crystal clear mountain water. 1984 Olympic nostalgia is everywhere. With few global restaurant chains, local eateries emphasize meat kebabs, fresh Adriatic fish, filo-dough pastries, and authentic Turkish coffee. Accommodations at the five-star Hotel Europe, recently rebuilt and set in the heart of the vibrant pedestrian zone, are equally authentic and elegant.

Outside Sarajevo, the dramatic Dinaric Alps (the southern extension of the Swiss Alps) make for superb hiking and rafting excursions. Equally inviting are Blagaj’s “dervish monastery,“ built into the rock face of the Buna river; the 21-meter high Old Bridge of Mostar; Medugorje, the second largest Catholic pilgrimage site in the world; 25-metre-high Kravica Falls; and the artisan village of Pocitlj.