Balkans

A Quick Guide to Jajce, Bosnia & Herzegovina’s Cascade City

The best things to do in Jajce, Bosnia and Herzegovina's cascade city. Includes tips for Jajce Waterfall, Jajce Fortress, and other Jajce highlights.

The best things to do in Jajce, Bosnia and Herzegovina. This quick guide includes tips for visiting Jajce waterfall and Pliva Lakes, the 13th-century Jajce Fortress, and other highlights.

Most cities have a square, or maybe a fountain, at their centre. But not Jajce. This small city in central Bosnia and Herzegovina is defined by the 17-metre high natural cascade in that falls right in the middle of town. Jajce waterfall is a rather grand statement for what is otherwise a fairly compact and laid-back place. There’s more to Jajce than first meets the eye: The city’s long history as a medieval fortification and the last stronghold of the Bosnian Kingdom makes it worthy of a visit, not to mention its proximity to Pliva Lakes and other pockets of nature.

We spent a few nights in Jajce on our way from Banja Luka to Sarajevo. Located roughly at the halfway point, it’s an ideal place to break the journey between Bosnia and Herzegovina’s two largest cities. This post covers Jajce waterfall and other things to do in Jajce, plus my recommendations for where to stay and what to eat.

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The best things to do in Jajce, Bosnia and Herzegovina's cascade city. Includes tips for Jajce Waterfall, Jajce Fortress, and other Jajce highlights.
Jajce city gate.
The best things to do in Jajce, Bosnia and Herzegovina's cascade city. Includes tips for Jajce Waterfall, Jajce Fortress, and other Jajce highlights.
Jajce bridge.

Why visit Jajce?

Jajce (pronounced yah-yeet-zeh) is a small town with more than its fair share of history. Here are some of the things that make Jajce worth visiting:

  • Jajce citadel was the last stronghold of the Bosnian Kingdom before it fell to the Ottoman Empire. The 13th-century fortress was the seat of Bosnia’s kings (which is why you can see a royal coat of arms above the entryway) and the kingdom’s official capital from 1461 onward.
  • Bosnia’s last king, Stjepan Tomasevic, was crowned at St. Mary’s Church in Jajce by Pontifical delegates.
  • King Tomasevic was later executed and buried in Jajce, an event which marked the fall of the Bosnian Kingdom and precipitated the mass conversion of Bosnian Christians to Islam. The Church of Bosnia has since been relegated to history.
  • Jajce was chosen as a venue for the Second Yugoslavia Assembly, an anti-fascist resistance movement that occurred in Yugoslavia during WWII. The Yugoslav state was officially signed into existence in a meeting room in Jajce.
  • Jajce is right on the doorstep of some of BiH’s most impressive nature—including Pliva Lakes and Perucica, one of Europe’s last primordial forests.
The best things to do in Jajce, Bosnia and Herzegovina's cascade city. Includes tips for Jajce Waterfall, Jajce Fortress, and other Jajce highlights.
The first signs of spring at Jajce Fortress.

When to visit Jajce

Like the rest of Bosnia and Herzegovina, summer in Jajce is high season. This is when the town is at its busiest, especially on weekends when families pop up to Jajce from Sarajevo to cool off at Pliva Lakes and Jajce waterfall. Summer temperatures peak at 30 degrees Celsius in July/August; but even then, evenings are still cool.

The best time to visit Jajce is in spring or autumn, when you can avoid the crowds but still catch the best of the weather. Jajce is less seasonal than some other places we visited in the region; we found everything open during shoulder season, including all major tourist attractions and most restaurants. We visited Jajce in spring, in mid-March, and found the combination of mild weather and thin crowds ideal.

At the end of 2018, Jajce introduced a dual pricing system for its main tourist sites, perhaps to encourage more people to visit outside of season. You can save a few Marks on admission fees if you visit in shoulder or low season (more information under each section). Accommodation prices are also significantly cheaper outside of summer.

Visiting Jajce waterfall & town as a day trip

Jajce is just about the perfect size to explore in a day. The bus from Sarajevo takes between 2.5 and 3 hours depending on traffic, so it’s preferable to visit with a private car or as part of an organised tour. To make it worth your while, choose an itinerary that combines Jajce with a visit to the nearby town of Travnik and/or Pliva Lakes.

Try this full-day tour of Jajce and Travnik departing Sarajevo, or this 3-day private tour that combines the best of northern and southern Bosnia and Herzegovina, including Jajce, Travnik and Mostar.

The best things to do in Jajce, Bosnia and Herzegovina's cascade city. Includes tips for Jajce Waterfall, Jajce Fortress, and other Jajce highlights.
A hotel in front of the Esma Sultanija Mosque in Jajce.

Where to stay in Jajce

While it’s definitely possible to see Jajce on a day trip, if you’re planning an independent visit to Jajce using public transport, I recommend spending 1 or 2 nights in town.

We stayed at Apartman Pliva, a self-contained apartment in the middle of the walled old town. Prices are very reasonable, and the apartment sleeps four or more adults, making it perfect for families, groups, or anyone who likes to have their own space. The owners (and father and son) speak English and are very helpful. The apartment is also fitted out with a full kitchen and a (very retro-looking) washing machine.

Check rates and availability for Apartman Pliva.

The best things to do in Jajce, Bosnia and Herzegovina's cascade city. Includes tips for Jajce Waterfall, Jajce Fortress, and other Jajce highlights.
Jajce Fortress and town.

Things to do in Jajce

Here are my tips for visiting Jajce Waterfall, plus more things to do in Jajce and the surrounding area.

Jajce waterfall

Jajce waterfall, officially Pliva Waterfall, is the city’s defining feature and the first thing most visitors see (and hear) when arriving in Jajce by bus. Formed by the intersection of the Pliva and Vrbas rivers, the roaring cascade sends a soft spray over an official viewing platform and gives the whole town of Jajce a peaceful backing track.

The best things to do in Jajce, Bosnia and Herzegovina's cascade city. Includes tips for Jajce Waterfall, Jajce Fortress, and other Jajce highlights.
Jajce waterfall—the incredible Pliva Waterfall.

The multi-tiered waterfall is aided by concrete barriers and channels. It once stood 30 metres high and fed the first ever hydroelectricity plant built on the Balkan Peninsular; but after an earthquake hit the region in the 1990s, part of the river basin was flooded and the waterfall shrunk to its current height of 17 metres.

In August, Jajce draws massive crowds for cliff jumping events, when professional divers conquer the waterfall.

Jajce waterfall visitor’s information

  • Opening hours (viewing platform): Daily, 9am-7pm (May to October) & 9am-4pm (November to April)
  • Admission cost (low season, 1 October – 30 April): 4 KM
  • Admission cost (high season, 1 May – 30 September): 8 KM (high season ticket also includes entry to the Ethno Museum & Mithraeum)
  • Recommended time to spend: 30-40 minutes

Where to get the best views of Jajce waterfall

Skip the viewing platform: The best views of Jajce waterfall can be found on the opposite side of the valley. When you’re standing on top of the falls, you’ll notice a little hut set in the forest directly opposite. This is where you want to go to get a full view of the waterfall with Jajce and the fortress set behind.

To get there, cross over the green chain bridge and walk east along the road shoulder. After about 100m, you’ll see a steep trail head open up on your left. Follow the trail to the bottom to reach the covered lookout. The best views of the waterfall are from the grassy area just to the left of the gazebo.

Pliva watermills.

Pliva Lakes & watermills

A few kilometres west of Jajce, the Pliva river widens to form two picturesque lakes. Pliva Lakes and Pliva watermills—a set of old hydro-power mills used to grind flour—can be visited in an afternoon if you’re travelling by taxi, or as a day trip from Jajce if you’re walking from town.

Here are my full instructions for getting to Pliva Lakes from Jajce, plus more photos of the Pliva watermills.

The best things to do in Jajce, Bosnia and Herzegovina's cascade city. Includes tips for Jajce Waterfall, Jajce Fortress, and other Jajce highlights.
Inside Jajce Fortress.

Jajce Fortress

Set above the town at Jajce’s highest point, atop the egg-shaped hill that gives the town its name, Jajce Fortress is part of a medieval complex that was constructed in the 13th century. The 15th-century royal castle that once stood here was the seat of the Bosnian Kingdom for 40 years from 1421 until it fell to the Ottoman Empire.

The best things to do in Jajce, Bosnia and Herzegovina's cascade city. Includes tips for Jajce Waterfall, Jajce Fortress, and other Jajce highlights.
The royal insignia above one of Jajce Fortress’s portals.

The fortress’s defensive walls, bastions and two towers are in pretty good nick. Visitors enter the complex via a portal that bears the royal insignia carved in sandstone. The complex is small compared to similar fortresses in Belgrade and Novi Sad; inside, it’s mostly small hills and two reconstructed buildings. Climbing the interior walls reveals excellent views of Jajce and the mountains beyond. It’s not to be missed.

The best things to do in Jajce, Bosnia and Herzegovina's cascade city. Includes tips for Jajce Waterfall, Jajce Fortress, and other Jajce highlights.
Views of Jajce from inside the fortress walls.

Jajce Fortress visitor’s information

  • Opening hours: Daily, 9am-7pm (May to October) & 9am-4pm (November to April)
  • Admission cost (low season, 1 October – 30 April): 2 KM
  • Admission cost (high season, 1 May – 30 September): 5 KM
  • Recommended time to spend: 30-40 minutes

Jajce Catacombs

Just beyond Jajce Fortress on the hill overlooking the city is the entrance to Jajce Catacombs. This set of small underground chambers hewn from granite served as a clandestine church and crypt during the 14th century, when Jajce came under Ottoman rule. If you look hard enough, it’s possible to distinguish carvings in the rock walls (amidst the graffiti). In the lower chamber, there’s a sizeable stone-relief crucifix carved over a small alter.

This doesn’t top my list of things to do in Jajce, but it’s worth a look if you’re in the area.

The best things to do in Jajce, Bosnia and Herzegovina's cascade city. Includes tips for Jajce Waterfall, Jajce Fortress, and other Jajce highlights.
Inside the Jajce Catacombs.

Jajce Catacombs visitor’s information

  • Opening hours: Monday to Sunday, 10am-5pm
  • Admission cost (low season, 1 October – 30 April): 2 KM
  • Admission cost (high season, 1 May – 30 September): 4 KM
  • Recommended time to spend: 10-15 minutes
The best things to do in Jajce, Bosnia and Herzegovina's cascade city. Includes tips for Jajce Waterfall, Jajce Fortress, and other Jajce highlights.
Esma Sultanija Mosque.

Esma Sultanija Mosque

This glittering white mosque with emerald-coloured detailing on its minaret is the most beautiful religious building in Jajce and the town’s most valuable piece of Ottoman-era architecture. It’s also thought to be the only mosque in Europe that bears a woman’s name. The mosque was constructed in 1750 with Esma Sultanija, the wife of a prominent Bosnian vizier, as its benefactor.

Like most other mosques and Catholic churches in Jajce, the Esma Sultanija was completely destroyed in the war. (Interestingly, two of Jajce’s other mosques were spared because of their precarious hill-side locations.) When it was rebuilt, a memorial wall and plaque dedicated to the 328 victims of the 1992 military offensive was erected out front. A memorial for Christian victims is located directly across the road.

There are several other mosques in Jajce with interesting aesthetic features and histories. Dizdar’s Mosque, or the Women’s Mosque, is located on the way to Jajce Fortress. Built in 1812, the design is notable for its absence of a minaret.

The best things to do in Jajce, Bosnia and Herzegovina's cascade city. Includes tips for Jajce Waterfall, Jajce Fortress, and other Jajce highlights.
St. Mary’s Church and St. Luke’s Belltower.

St. Mary’s ruins & St. Luke’s belfry

Directly below Jajce Fortress, the 12th-century St. Mary’s Church played an important role in Bosnian history. In 1461, the last king, Stjepan Tomasevic, was crowned inside the church, marking the beginning of the end for the Kingdom of Bosnia. Decades of damage from fire and earthquakes has left the church in ruins.

Attached to St. Mary’s is St. Luke’s belfry. Jajce’s Franciscan monks were the patrons of this Gothic-style tower, which is thought to be the only surviving medieval bell tower in the continental Balkans. It’s also rumoured to be the place where Bosnia’s last king is buried.

Unfortunately, it’s not possible to enter inside the church ruins, nor can visitors climb the bell tower. You can however poke your head through the stone windows or climb the stairs in front of the church for a better perspective.

The best things to do in Jajce, Bosnia and Herzegovina's cascade city. Includes tips for Jajce Waterfall, Jajce Fortress, and other Jajce highlights.
Jajce Ethno Museum.

Jajce Ethno Museum

This petite museum split over two levels is housed inside an old Austro-Hungarian-era schoolhouse. Downstairs, a permanent exhibition deals with local history through a display of artefacts, primarily costumes and weaving apparatus. A small collection of Yugoslavian radios is displayed in the next room, and upstairs, there’s a collection of geological displays.

Most didactics haven’t been translated to English but the museum is still worth a look, especially if you’re a fan of textiles. You can see the whole museum in about 20 minutes.

Ethno Museum visitor’s information

  • Opening hours: Daily, 9am-5pm (May to October) & 8am-4pm (November to April)
  • Admission cost (low season, 1 October – 30 April): 2 KM
  • Admission cost (high season, 1 May – 30 September): 2 KM
  • Recommended time to spend: 20-30 minutes

Where to eat in Jajce

  • Kod Asima is probably the most popular restaurant in town. It’s location inside the stone city gate is very cool—the outdoor terrace is literally on top of the gate. The menu is traditional and simple. We liked the cevapi and the lonac stew.
  • For something cheaper, there are a couple of good barbecue joints opposite the Esma Sultana Mosque. We enjoyed both the chicken and the cevapi at Kristal.
  • At Pliva Lakes, we ate at the Motel Plaza restaurant. The terrace looks directly onto the lake. The food is a bit pricier, but excellent quality.
The best things to do in Jajce, Bosnia and Herzegovina's cascade city. Includes tips for Jajce Waterfall, Jajce Fortress, and other Jajce highlights.
Jajce, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

How to get to Jajce

Jajce is well connected, with daily bus services from Sarajevo (approx. 3 hours travel time), Mostar (approx. 3 hours travel time), Banja Luka (1.5 hours travel time), and most other major cities in Bosnia and Herzegovina and also Croatia. Use Balkan Viator to check up-to-date bus departure times and fares. The Jajce tourism office also keeps a bus schedule on its website—handy for planning your onward travel in advance.

Jajce bus station is centrally located on the opposite side of the river, roughly 10 minutes’ walk from the centre of town.

Where to next?

Check out my other posts from Bosnia and Herzegovina:


Have you been to this part of BiH to see Jajce waterfall? What are your favourite things to do in Jajce?


Jajce waterfall: Pin & share it!

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