Banja Luka is the second-biggest city in Bosnia and the de facto capital of the Republika Srpska, but there's very little here to detain travellers for long. After Serbian nationalists systematically destroyed most of the city's historical and cultural heritage – including mosques, Catholic churches, a historical clock tower and various 16th-century buildings – a rather bland, soulless place was left. The ethnic cleansing wasn't limited to the built heritage either; the Serbian population, which sat at around 50% before the war, is now around the 90% mark.
Encouragingly, two rebuilt religious buildings from different traditions are now the city's biggest drawcards: a captivating reconstructed 16th-century mosque and a magnificent Orthodox cathedral. Banja Luka's lively nightlife is another redeeming feature, as is the close proximity to rafting on the emerald-green Vrbas River, which meanders through the city before disappearing into a lush canyon.