Enjoy the sun on the Dalmatian coast for half the price of Croatia – by crossing the little-known part of the Bosnia and Herzegovina coast.
With its turquoise waters, pine forests and terracotta roofs, the Dalmatian coast is famous for its beauty.
But while tourist crowds flock to Croatia for this scenery, you can enjoy it for less by heading to the Bosnian beach town of Neum instead.
This budget escape borders Croatia between Dubrovnik and Split, a quirk that dates back to 1699, when the city-state of Dubrovnik, fearing a Venetian attack, gave a tiny piece of land to the Ottoman Empire to create a buffer against Venice.
This means that Bosnia and Herzegovina has the smallest coastline in the world after Monaco, at just 12 miles.
With daily maximum temperatures of 25°C in September and a good distance from Dubrovnik and Split, the only big difference is the cost.
According to operator Kayak, a double room in a hotel will cost an average of £62 per night in Bosnia and Herzegovina this September. In comparison, couples along the Croatian coast could pay £140 a night.
Even at Neum’s biggest and fanciest hotel, the Grand Hotel Neum, a last-minute weekend this month starts at £49 per person per night. These include breakfast, spa access, a choice of four swimming pools and a private beach.
Food and drink are also much cheaper.
A fiver gets you some local beers in change and there are Bosnian, Mediterranean and international dishes at very reasonable prices.
The real crowd-pleaser is Ćcevapi, a popular Bosnian takeaway lunch.
Locals joke that this is the reason KFC has never been successful here.
This simple but filling meal consists of grilled mini meat skewers and raw onion slices stuffed into a warm flatbread. Again, you’d be hard-pressed to spend £5 on this popular staple.
Admittedly, Neum is a bit rough compared to its established neighbors Croatia and Montenegro.
It’s more of a seaside resort, doesn’t offer much culture and parts of the city are underdeveloped. But every year the tourist offer improves.
Neum is home to several pebble beaches, the largest and most popular being Plaza Neum.
Various water sports and boat trips are offered, again cheaper than in Croatia.
For a fly-and-flop holiday on the Dalmatian coast, there is no better value for money.
Neum itself does not offer many attractions, but is an ideal base for exploring both southern Croatia and the hinterland of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The Herzegovinian capital of Mostar, known for its Ottoman bridge, is about an hour’s drive away.
Overnight stays in the heart of the cobbled old town can be had in a hostel dorm for as little as £12 per night.
For something more luxurious, like the 4H Hotel Restaurant Kriva-Cuprija – which has even attracted royalty – the cost would still keep you under £45 per person per night this September.
The best place to admire Mostar’s beauty is at the top of the 17th-century Koski Mehmed Pasha Mosque in the heart of the Old Town.
Admire the turquoise Neretva River as it winds for miles through the city below.
Other top sights include the Kajtaz Ottoman House, the Museum of War and Genocide Victims, and the Old Bazaar, where you can pick up a scoop of fresh ice cream for less than a pound while shopping for souvenirs.
Then park at a bar and watch daredevil divers plunge 24 meters from the Stari Most Bridge.
On the outskirts of Mostar lies the small village of Blagaj, known for its dervish house built into the cliff of the Buna Spring.
Admire the views from the shore or rent a canoe and follow the spring to its source in a cave.
Less than an hour away are the Kravice Falls, the country’s answer to America’s Niagara Falls.
Be prepared for a very cold, albeit refreshing, swim before relaxing at one of the waterfront restaurants.
There are many local tour operators you can book with at short notice to see these attractions. And if wine is your thing, there are tours to Mostar’s surrounding vineyards for that too.
But you don’t have to go far to see fantastic scenery. Back in Neum, the Vidikovac viewing platform offers a view of the majestic bay. There are also a few hiking routes – if you can tear yourself away from your lounge chair.
Getting to Neum is a bit more complicated than Croatia.
You fly to Dubrovnik and from there the bus ride to Neum takes about an hour.
Flixbus fares are just under £8 each way – and bus travel across the region is generally cheap.
But for a slice of Dalmatian sunshine at a bargain price in this quirky corner of Bosnia, the effort is worth it.
GET THERE: Flights to Dubrovnik this September are available with easyJet from £217 return, and Jet2.com has flights next September from £228 per person.
STAY THERE: The Grand Hotel Neum costs from £49 per person per night for four nights, arriving on September 22nd.
Or spend four nights at Hotel Kriva-Cuprija in Mostar from £45 per person per night.
MORE INFO: See Tourismbih.com.