Alone atop the abandoned Sarajevo Bobsled Track


I climbed into the track here, at the bottom, and headed uphill to explore the rest of the area.
I climbed into the track here, at the bottom, and headed uphill to explore the rest of the area.

How do you get one of the largest tourist attractions in a city to yourself? In the case of Sarajevo’s 1984 Olympics Bobsled Track the answer is easy: Go at sunrise in the middle of the winter. Having just completed such a visit I cannot recommend enough NOT doing it the way I did.

Some of the awesome graffiti in the abandoned bobsled track from the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics
Some of the awesome graffiti in the abandoned bobsled track from the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics

Don’t get me wrong: The views were incredible. But I also spent a decent portion of my trip hoping I wouldn’t slip and break something – namely me – on the icy streets as I hiked up to the site. Once there it was more about not slipping on the snow-covered track or sinking in to the snow banks surrounding it. Needless to say, all the things I hoped to avoid happened to some extent (though no breaks!).



Owing to jet lag I was awake early on my first morning in Europe this trip and the bobsled track was high on my list of sites to see. Ideally I would’ve done it first thing after I landed on the afternoon prior but work got in the way. Instead, I mapped out the path as a brisk 5.5km trail up from town into the hillside. Sure, the elevation gain was a steep 500 meters but I had my hiking boots with me and a decent pair of gloves. I’d be fine. Google Maps estimated the trip time at 90 minutes and I figured I’d probably do it faster than that.

A crumbling and abandoned house on the hillside as I hiked up to the bobsled track above Sarajevo
A crumbling and abandoned house on the hillside as I hiked up to the bobsled track above Sarajevo

What I did not account for was the black ice and unplowed roads. It was slick and hard going. I often found myself sliding back down the hill, giving up precious progress. And that was before I even made it to the track. Suffice it to say, I did not beat the Google Maps time.

One of the hiking trail signposts marking the way between town and the abandoned bobsled track in Sarajevo
One of the hiking trail signposts marking the way between town and the abandoned bobsled track in Sarajevo

Most visitors either arrive at the track by private car with a guide or take the cable car up to the top. Most websites talking about the tour suggest walking down from the top if you want some extra exercise. I wanted the exercise but I also didn’t really have time to wait for the cable car to open at 10a so walking up seemed like a good idea. I’m not even sure a private taxi would have made it to the top; I got to help push one car out of the snow along the way.



Once I made it to the base of the track other fun complications set in. I wanted photos of the graffiti and my only safe way out was up and through. So I hopped in to the track and started following the single-track path in the snow uphill. Getting out was the mistake.

Headed up Sarajevo's bobsled track in the snow.
Headed up Sarajevo’s bobsled track in the snow.

Inside the track the snow depth was obvious. Outside it was not. Inside there was a track where it was packed down, making the walk slightly easier. Outside were snow drifts of indeterminate size. I got out at one point, thinking it would be shorter and faster to “cut the corner” rather than walk the curves of the track. I quickly retreated to the original plan after accidentally finding myself thigh-deep in snow.

The snow was deep and soft and easy to sink into. This is where I decided that being on the outside of the track was an absolutely terrible decision.
The snow was deep and soft and easy to sink into. This is where I decided that being on the outside of the track was an absolutely terrible decision.

Eventually I made my way out the top of the track. I ran in to the drive who got stuck trying to make a u-turn on the snowy roads and helped push his car free. And I trudged onward to the cable car station. Even with stopping for photos along the way I made it to the top about two hours after leaving the hotel; not bad given the conditions and the 90 minute estimate. But that left me with another problem. It was still well before 10a and the cable car was not yet operating. With overcast skies and freezing temperatures I was not particularly keen on hiking the shorter trails atop the hill, though I’m sure they’re lovely in the summer.

More fun graffiti in Sarajevo's old bobsled track
More fun graffiti in Sarajevo’s old bobsled track

Fortunately I was able to convince the operators of the ride to let me wait inside. It wasn’t particularly warm but there was a chair and I was protected from the wind. It was probably the warmest 50 degree (10° C) room I’ve ever been in.

Climb into the track, where a path for walking is more clear and the graffiti is very cool
Climb into the track, where a path for walking is more clear and the graffiti is very cool

It was very much a magical experience. For roughly 75 minutes, from when I passed the last houses until I found the guy stuck in the snow I saw no one else. I heard nothing but animals and the breeze rustling through the trees. I had great views of the city and valley below. And also of buildings shot up during the war, still showing their pockmarked, bullet hole scars.

Views of Sarajevo from the top of the cable car ride and bobsled track area
Views of Sarajevo from the top of the cable car ride and bobsled track area

I will happily call it a great mistake. And you should definitely go visit the track if you’re in town. It is close by and easy to get to when the weather cooperates. Just don’t do it like I did.

Looking down on to Sarajevo from the cable car
Looking down on to Sarajevo from the cable car
Getting to the top of the bobsled track in Sarajevo offers spectacular views back down into the valley below.
Getting to the top of the bobsled track in Sarajevo offers spectacular views back down into the valley below.
Looking down on to Sarajevo from the cable car
Looking down on to Sarajevo from the cable car

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and .

4 Comments

  1. Cool pics! I get a kick out of seeing abandoned sites. Though I don’t envy your slog uphill through the snow!

  2. Wow, what a cool thing. It was so disappointing to see the mess Yugoslavia fell into not long after the games. I fondly watched most of those games and to see the same sites wrapped in war was awful…and seeing the suffering of people trying to find their way after oppressive rule ended…

  3. The trails are definitely lovely in the summer. I was there in August. The cable car views are just as stunning in the winter tho.

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