It comes as no surprise that we’re pretty big fans of the Balkans. With such incredible history and diverse landscapes, the Balkans offer the modern day traveller a very distinctive “off the beaten track” experience, unlike anywhere else in Europe - or in the world for that matter.
There is simply too much of the Balkans to be explored in a short amount of time, but if we were to narrow it down to a few things that you MUST see and do, read on to hear our suggestions.
Find a secluded beach along the winding (and underappreciated!) coastline
It may not be common knowledge, but the Balkans boast some of the most stunning beaches in Europe. Not only are these beaches incredibly alluring with their golden sand and crystal clear waters, they are often located near a beautiful coastal town, which only adds to their appeal. Notable beaches in the Balkans that are worth visiting include Banje Beach in Dubrovnik (Croatia), Sveti Stefan Beach (Montenegro) and Saranda Beach (Albania).
A traditional food of the Balkans, Burek can almost be likened to that of a pastie or savoury pie – it is flaked pastry filled with the likes of ground beef, pork, lamb, cheese and spinach and is often considered an essential after a big night out!
Climb ancient fortifications
A visit to the Balkans is like taking a step back in time. Many of the buildings and monuments throughout this region date back to Paleolithic times – with many of these artefacts still attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. Monuments to check out include the Dubrovnik City Walls in Croatia, Kotor Castle of San Giovanni in Montenegro and the Monasteries of Meteora in Greece.
Explore the beauty of Plitvice Lakes
As one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Balkans, Plitvice Lakes is Croatia’s largest National Park and became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979. The National Park lies within its 16 lakes, all connected by waterfalls and surrounded by deep woodland populated by wild deer, bears, boars and rare bird species. Visitors are welcome to hike through the park and take in the beautiful surroundings, but swimming is not allowed. Sail Croatia’s Navigator Split Return North Cruise visits the equally breathtaking waterfalls of Krka National Park – where swimming is allowed.
Check out Sveti Stefan
Sveti Stefan is another notable sight along the Adriatic coast. Located approximately 6km southeast of Budva in Montenegro, it is a small islet connected to the mainland by an isthmus and is now occupied by a 5 star hotel resort. It was known as the playground for the rich and famous between the 1960’s and 1980’s but now serves as part of the international hotel chain Aman Resorts. Entrance is only for those who are staying at the resort, but there are plenty of free photo opportunities from the mainland.
Explore the vineyards of Croatia
Not only is Croatia a nation of 1000 islands, it is also a land of vineyards, with over 300 official wine regions, producing some 700 wines. Croatian wine has a long history of producing high quality wines, with the Greek settlers first introducing vineyards in the 5th Century. The majority of Croatian wine is white, with just over 30% being red and Rose being relatively rare. Peljesac Vineyards and Matosevic Wine Cellars are popular wineries to sample some of the local produce.
Dance the night away in Tirana
Tirana is well-known for its up and coming nightlife scene. Bars and clubs are definitely places not to miss, with tourists being offered an insight to modern, local culture. It is traditional among Albanians to dress in their evening best and take an evening stroll before heading to the nightclubs, with popular night spots including Mumja, Cuba, Monaco, Cannon and Doberman Club.
While we could go on forever about all the great things that the Balkans have to offer, these are just some of our favourites!