We all know and daydream about the countries in central Europe, from Italy for it’s incredible history and Gelato, to France for it’s southern riviera beauty, and Spain for it’s cities and Paella. But maybe you fancy a trip to some countries off the beaten track? Take a look at our top 6 Balkan highlights, and we can guarantee they’ll be next on your list!
You’ll be well aware of the stunning Greek Islands, and pictures of Santorini and Mykonos likely flood your Instagram throughout the European summer months. But did you know the Greek mainland is equally as fascinating? Away from the crowds of the main islands, and further north from Athens, the northern mainland features more mountainous views and wildlife, and the absolute highlight belonging to the crazy town of Meteora. With monasteries averaging 300 metres in height and perched on sandstone pillars accessed by cable car, it’s hard to picture the old methods of transport up to the monasteries - rope ladders.
If you want a visit to the riviera without the crowd, this ones for you. Driving the scenic coastal road you can wind between old towns, newer beach-side shops, and witness European activities you see in movies from older ladies dressed in black walking the mountains, to herds of donkeys and goats taking over the road. Visit the City of a Thousand Windows in Berat, and take a look around Gijrokaster flat stone-roof houses. No trip to Albania is complete without a sideline to the Blue Eye lake at 50+ metres deep, and you definitely won’t want to miss their delicacy too, Burek; pastry filled with spinach and cheese.
Old stone buildings surrounding beautiful clear mediterranean water and facing the East of Italy, Montenegro has some amazing towns right on the waters edge, making it a real up-and-comer for travellers. If you’re a fan of shopping, the old town of Budva is where you should head. It has the look of Venice walkways and great history without the crowded tourism. Heading north from here, you must check in to Perast. Easily viewable in a day (but trust us, you’ll definitely want longer), Perast is a small seaside town boxed in by huge mountains with sea water coming through an opening where two mountains just don’t quite meet, making it a truly desirable location to relax without the crowds of tourists.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Much like all the Balkans the scenery in Bosnia and Herzegovina is outstanding, but with a complex history the country also has a great mix of memorials and museums. If you’re after a bit of it all, a trip to Mostar would be your best bet. Home to the famous rebuilt bridge of Stari Most at a staggering 24 metres high, they welcome crazy bridge jumpers to show their skills… Need more of a thrill? The old olympic bobsled track still stands in Sarajevo, now covered in graffiti and used by keen skateboarders! But for those of us more relaxed, a wander around old Bazaars and a visit to one of the many beautiful waterfalls should suffice!
You probably have seen the photos of Lake Bled in Slovenia, and wondered about travelling there. Featuring a church on an island in the centre of a stunning lake, a castle peering off a cliff through trees, and often still water to create wonderful photo opportunities. The country of Slovenia is a wonder for nature-lovers, and while it doesn’t necessarily have the old towns and stone homes of central Europe, it sure has enough crystal clear lakes, gorges, and snow capped mountains for it to become a travel favourite.
A more popular location within the Balkans, and absolutely necessary to add to your adventure, Croatia has the outstanding construction of nearing Italy but with additional islands to sail around, towns to get lost in translation around, and less of the tourist rush. No visit to Croatia is complete without visits to Dubrovnik and Split, both easily accessible and arguably best viewed by boat. If you're a fan of Game of Thrones, you won't want to miss these spots, where some of its most iconic scenes are filmed.
Want some more travel inspiration? Click here to see our blog and recommendations for your next trip!