How to Visit Sarajevo’s Abandoned Olympic Bobsled and Luge Tracks
Once a proud symbol of Sarajevo’s 1984 Winter Olympic games, the Bosnian bobsleigh tracks have since been abandoned and left in ruins following the Bosnian War.
There’s something eerie.. yet strangely enticing.. about visiting abandoned places like the bobsled track that was built in Sarajevo, Bosnian and Herzegovina for the 1984 Winter Olympics.
The 1,300-meter concrete track was completed in 1982 and featured a total of 13 turns for the lugers to navigate.
The 8.5 million US dollar project was paid off once the 1984 Olympics garnered enormous crowds. The track was able to be reused during World Cup competitions in the years that followed.
When the Yugoslav Wars began in 1991, the track, along with the rest of the country, became embroiled in the fighting.
The curled turns were used as a defensive position for the Bosnian forces. Many sections of the track are lined with bullet holes and other war wounds.
Today, the abandoned track stands as a popular spot for local graffiti artists who have decorated a great majority of the track. For many Bosnians, the track is a concrete reminder (quite literally) of a more prosperous time in the country’s history.
While backpacking in Sarajevo, I went to take a look at it for myself.
Note: You must use caution while exploring this area. Do NOT wander around this area alone or without a local who knows it perfectly. There are still many unexploded mines littering the hillside. Venturing off the established path is NOT advised.
I started by purchasing a ticket to ride the ski lift up the mountain.
I had been planning on visiting the Sarajevo bobsled tracks from the moment I learned that they were located on the hill high above the city. Abandoned tracks with a dark history, just where I needed to be.
I took the cable car up to Trebevic mountain. The cable car departed every day between 10 AM and 9 PM (the hours may vary depending on the time of year.)
Check the cable car website for the latest information.
During my visit, a one-way ticket was 15 Bosnian Marks and a return (2 way) ticket was 20 Marks. I’ve heard the cost for locals is cheaper.
Once you made it up, you could follow the track. I’d only recommend this to people who enjoy long walks or hiking. It was a long walk and being that high up in the mountains was, at times, making it difficult for me to breathe. The air was cold and thin.
At one point, I had to take shelter underneath a concrete overhang while waiting for the snow to stop. I got stuck in a snowstorm… which actually was a little scary.
Definitely bring along a water bottle and some snacks in case you get hungry or dehydrated.
Despite this area being abandoned and somewhat destroyed from bullet holes and shellings, you can safely walk along the tracks if you watch your step. The tracks are cleared of pine needles and debris from time to time so that they can be used by bicyclists. There are rumors of restoration projects, but I haven’t heard anything official to support that as of yet.
Much like the Chernobyl exclusion zone, nature has been attempting to take over this place. As you walk along the tracks, you’ll find sections covered with moss and weeds growing on top of the concrete.
If you decide to walk the tracks as a solo traveler, the trek will give you a nice amount of time to self-reflect. Aside from walking and appreciating your surroundings, there isn’t a lot else to do once you’re up there. I can understand if some people may even find it underwhelming depending on how much they enjoy long walks through the woods.
While I thought the place was awesome, it was eerie to explore all alone. There weren’t many people around. During my entire walk, I think I saw one or two other people. I can absolutely see how someone might feel afraid for their safety. There are stories of people being mugged since the area is so remote and isolated. Around 50% of Bosnian youth are unemployed and homelessness is also very high.
Once you’re satisfied with your tour of the Sarajevo bobsleigh track, you may begin to wonder how you’re supposed to get back to the city.
You have two options: either walk all the way down or walk back and take the cable car.
To go in reverse, it’s a 237-meter elevation change and takes about 1 hour to get back to where you started. Your other option is to walk for 45 minutes all the way down to the downtown. The path down is steep, narrow, and could be slippery. Since it was snowing during my visit, I decided to go back up and take the cable car down.
Neither option was ideal. I do wish they had another cable car to take at the end of it…
Although the walk back up to the cable was long and taxing, I have no regrets for choosing that option.
Quite frankly, knowing that there were undocumented land mines in the surrounding area, I had very little desire to explore much of that surrounding area by foot. It probably would have been perfectly safe as this route has been traveled many times before, but I wasn’t comfortable taking the risk.