South of Mostar, near the border with Croatia, Medjugorje has became an enormously popular religious shrine for Roman Catholics—millions of pilgrims have visited the site since 1981, when local children reported seeing visions of the Virgin Mary on a nearby hillside. The Virgin, they said, was urging them to spread a message of mir, or peace.

Today, buses take tourists to the popular site, lodgings have sprung up around the village to accommodate the flood of pilgrims, and the street across from the Church of St. James in the center of town is lined with cafes and souvenir stands. The church offers Masses in a number of different languages, and there are prayer services every evening. A visitors center near the church offers information about church services and distributes copies of the latest messages from the visionaries—the young people who originally reported the visions.

Most visitors walk the 2-mi/4-km road from the village to the actual site of the visions, although it's possible to drive to the base of the hill. A rugged path leads up the hill to a cross marking the site, with sculptures by an Italian artist placed at stations along the way. We were struck by the modest simplicity of the site, with its bare wooden cross and its view of the mountains and surrounding valley. There is an aura of peace surrounding the site that is palpable, even to nonpilgrims.

Even with all the new hotels and guesthouses, accommodations in Medjugorje are usually full. Most pilgrims travel to the shrine as part of a group tour, and most fly into Split or Dubrovnik, Croatia, and then travel overland into Bosnia and Herzegovina by bus. It's possible to arrange a long day trip from Split or Dubrovnik, and most travelers who are visiting the site on a pilgrimage spend several days there. 55 mi/90 km southwest of Sarajevo.

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