Reasons to Visit The Balkans

Bulgaria

One thing Bulgaria is certainly not short of is mountains, with the alpine Rila and Pirin massifs and their rocky, pointed summits with hundreds of blue glacial lakes, or the Balkan range with its stunning waterfalls and sunny meadows, or maybe the Rhodopes with their lush forests and fascinating trails. The Bulgarian mountains will charm you with their fantastic views and offer some of the best hiking routes in Europe.

Bulgaria is also developing into one of the leading European destinations for winter mountain activities. Whether you prefer ski touring, snowshoeing or winter mountaineering, in Bulgaria you will enjoy a fantastic adventure in the snowy summits and dramatic ridges of the mountain ranges. Sunny days, amazing scenery and a superb variety of routes for beginners to professionals awaits you.

A proper adventurer needs proper rest and in Bulgaria you’ll definitely enjoy the hospitality of the local people where you’re guaranteed a warm welcome and great quality service in all kinds of accommodation, from five star hotels to cosy family owned guesthouses. Visitors can expect relaxation in great surroundings well away from the crowds, and all at a very reasonable price.

Bulgaria is rated 3rd in Europe for its quantity of important cultural historical monuments. It is a destination with numerous important historical sites, from the dawn of European civilization to modern times. Bulgarians are very proud of their heritage, stories and folklore still form an important part of their lives where legends and traditions are passed from generation to generation.

Explore thousands of preserved architectural landmarks from Thracian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Medieval Bulgarian and Ottoman civilizations across the country. This history is also captured in poetic songs, rituals, music, dance, costumes and jewellery.

Aside from the above, Bulgaria offers pristine coastline with beautiful sandy beaches and clear seas, so even if your trip is focussed on the mountains adding a few days on at the end to relax on the beach is very easy, you’re just a short internal flight away from the Black Sea or if you prefer to see more of the country, its a 5-6 hour road trip from Sofia to the coastline.

Serbia

During the holidays the atmosphere in cities all over Serbia becomes even more exciting than usual, so you won’t have to look far for some good time. No matter where you are fun and good time will be waiting for you just around the corner, on city squares, in local pubs and traditional Serbian restaurants.

The holiday season is usually the time when we relax, stop counting calories and start enjoying the magic of food. Here the holidays are tightly connected to good, tasty, spicy and diverse foods. The holiday menu usually includes traditional dishes and that menu is all but short and modest. Sarma, Karađorđeva Steak, widely known meat balls called ćevapi, ajvar, burek, gibanica, kajmak, tempting Serbian delicacies, the list just goes on. That’s why we warmly recommend you visit a proper, traditional Serbian restaurant or an ethno village where you’ll be able to taste this magic yourself.

Serbia has twice a New Year’s Eve celebration. If you decide to visit Serbia during holidays the chances are you’ll be celebrating the New Year twice. Thought it sounds confusing it’s very simple. The thing is that Serbs practice the regular New Year’s Eve celebration as well as the Serbian, Orthodox New Year celebration.

If you’re searching for some non-commercial locations and your holiday fun implies exploring the less known, almost hidden places then you’ll definitely have lots of exploring to do in Serbia. There are thousands of natural, cultural and historical treasures all across the country that are not overflown by annoying tourists and will dazzle you with their beauty and magnificence. One thing is certain, whether you choose to visit the medieval monasteries, explore the fascinating mountains, rivers, spas, caves or ethno villages, you will not be disappointed. Arm yourself with maps, a camera, some good vibes and the exploratory spirit and let the holiday adventure begin!

Another positive side to spending the holidays in Serbia is that you won’t have to worry about your budget. Low cost travel arrangements, reasonable prices of food, beverages and services, low prices of tickets for museums, manifestations and other tourist attractions put Serbia on the top of the list of affordable European destinations.

Croatia

Croatia became a popular destination in recent years thanks to the fact they shot several scenes of the famous TV series called Game of Thrones in the country. However, that is not the only reason people took a fancy on this beautiful country. There is a lot Croatia has to offer, so no wonder travelers choose it for their holiday.

With the sudden hit of Game of Thrones companies quickly saw a business idea and started to organize Game of Thrones walking tours in the country. This is a great way to experience King’s Landing in Dubrovnik, Split and Trsteno. You will most likely also stumble upon souvenir shops dedicated to Game of Thrones where you can even try what’s it like to sit on the Iron Throne! There is also lots of information online about the filming locations, so you can also find the places yourself.

Croatia boasts of adventurous activities. Being a coastal country it is a place for many water sports, like sailing, kayaking or diving. But there is so much more!

There are a lot of things to do in Omis, which is a paradise for adventure seekers. You can try zip lining over the Cetina Canyon, hiking up to Starigrad Fortress to take in the views or go rafting and canyoning on the Cetina River. Most people know Croatia for its beaches, but it also has some gorgeous mountains as well. Hiking in Croatia is a great way to stumble upon some impressive views.

Hiking up to Vidova Gora on Brac island will give you the chance to see the Golden Horn from the top. There are some lovely hiking trails in Omis as well for example to Starigrad Fortress. The city walls and cable car in Dubrovnik both offer unique views of the city.

You will not be disappointed by the sunsets that you will experience in Croatia. There are some popular places where people like to head during the golden hour. Admiring the sunset from the top of Mount Srd is one of the must things to do in Dubrovnik.

Many people visit Croatia because of its beautiful beaches. You will find that some are packed with tourists, like the symbol of Croatia the Golden Horn, but there are plenty of hidden bays and beaches as well, where you can have the whole place to yourself. Most beaches in Croatia are rocky or has small pebbles, which is ideal for people for are not so fond of the sand getting everywhere on a beach holiday. However, sand lovers will also find places to satisfy their needs. Sunj Beach on Lopud Island is great for families with young children as it has a very shallow, sandy beach.

Island Hopping is a great way to explore Croatia. This is typically done by sailing boats or catamarans, but you can also do it by kayaks. The Elaphiti Islands are particularly easy to explore by kayak, as they are quite close to each other, so it is possible to paddle between the many small islands. Split is a great base to go island hopping by sailing boat. You can quickly reach Solta, Brac and the Pakleni Islands. They are all beautiful places, that are well worth a trip if you are in the country.

Croatia is full of historical sites. The country displays over 2000 years of history. You will find some things in museums, but most of the buildings are left as they were built and open to visitors. Diocletian’s Palace in Split, Pula Amphitheatre and the Dubrovnik City Walls are an absolute must for history lovers. The capital city Zagreb is also great for sightseeing, as you will find many historical sites like St. Mark’s Square, Lotrščak Tower, Zagreb Cathedral and St. Catherine’s Church as well as numerous Zagreb museums.

Croatia boats of natural beauties. If you love the outdoors you should definitely visit some of the country’s national parks. There are 8 national parks in Croatia. They are Risnjak, Brijuni, Plitvice Lakes, Sjeverni Velebit, Paklenica, Krka, Kornati and Mljet. The most popular ones are Plitvice and Krka. They both make a great day trip from Split. In high season they are packed with tourists, so you might want to head to some of the quieter parks instead. All of them are a great place for a walk, as they have gorgeous scenery and wildlife.

Romania

The country where Dracula existed certainly has no shortage of brilliant landscapes and jaw-dropping castles hidden on rocky hilltops. The Bran Castle has the incredibly spurious connection to Stoker’s narrative, but other places such as Peleș Castle or 14-century Corvin Castle are equally unique. Maramureș boasts towns and villages that seem exactly like in the Middle Ages, with hay racks, horse carts, and wooden churches. Owing to its massively rich medieval history, Romania is saturated with beautiful castles in various states of repair.

Romania has an immense amount of undisturbed forsest as well as the largest population of brown bears in the whole Europe, being a brilliant destination for nature lovers. The Carpathian mountains are running through the center of the country and the combination of natural beauty and villages makes it perfect for anyone who wants to hike or just visit.

The Carpathians boast a beautiful swath of rocky peaks surrounded by grooves of pine and deciduous trees. Many landscapes have not been unaltered by humans and a pretty wide network of huts offers accommodation for people curious enough to travel to the peaks.

Most people who have heard of Transylvania are familiar with the name because of Dracula, but this part of the country is home to some villages that remained unaffected by modern civilization, looking like they did two or three centuries ago. The central part of the country boasts beautifully preserved villages and medieval towns, such as Brașov, Sibiu, Alba Iulia, Cluj, or Sighișoara whose unique citadels make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time.

An incredible reason to visit Romania is its cultural diversity. You will hear German and Hungarian in Transylvania, Turkish in Dobrogea. You will visit Orthodox, Catholic and Evangelical churces as well as mosques and synagogues. You’ll eat “borș” in Moldova and ”ciorba” in Oltenia. You’ll see thousands of tourists in Bucharest and people who have never seen foreigners in the Carpathians. Speaking of diversity, make sure you get your visa if you’re not from the EU.

Romanians love food. Period. Anywhere you’d go in Romania, you’ll find friendly faces happy to serve you some homemade food. If you’re heading for a restaurant, note that some Germanic, Turkish and Hungarian influences can still be seen in the Romanian cuisine, but it still maintains an identifiable character. The typical sour soup (”ciorba”) is quite unique as well as other foods like ”sarmale”. If you plan to visit Romania, be prepared to come back to your home country with a few extra pounds. In addition to the tasty food, this Eastern European country is home to very old restaurants with beautiful interiors, ornate woodword and painted ceilings. The most famous ones are located in Bucharest’s historic center, like Crama Domnească, Casa Doina, or Caru’ cu Bere.

The river Danube is Europe’s second-longest river and marks the southern border of the country before empyting into the Black Sea. It is another mark of natural beauty, being vast protected land, great for birdwatching, fishing, boating, and hiking. This is a must-go destination if you are pure nature enthusiast and don’t want to miss a great spot. It is the best preserved delta as well as the largest one in Europe, being home to over 350 species of birds living in its marshes and lakes. It is a biosphere reserve and a protected habitat.

The northeastern part of the country is home to one of the most picturesque places of Romania. The group of 8 monasteries is comprised of churches that date back to medieval times (13th to 16th century). In a few cases they have been built to serve as burial places for noble families. They are absolutely unique and very well preserved. The high quality exterior and interior frescoes highlight biblical scenes from the New and Old Testament and even boast a unique shade of blue (“albastru de Voroneț”).

In the communist times, the Bucharest’s extremely elegant interbelic architecture earned the city the nickname of “Little Paris”. Today you’ll find a perfect blend of old palaces dating back to the 18th or 19th century and 21-st century modern buildings. The most shocking building in Bucharest is the collosal People’s House, the craziest tribute to communism megalomania you will ever see.

This huge structure is the world’s second-largest building after the Pentagon. It was built in 1984 and hosts more than 3100 rooms and 13 underground levels. You’ll need a passport to visit this and it costs about 14 euros. Today it houses the parliament.

We have a saying in Romania (“Omul sfințește locul”) and means that nothing matters more than the people. No matter how wonderful a country is, the people will always make a difference. Romanians are famous for their hospitality and friendliness. A good thing is that you’ll find people speaking English in any corner of the country. The young generation will gladly tell you insights or give advice, or at least they will point you in the best direction.

Montenegro

Despite its compact size, the topography of Montenegro is impressively diverse. In the northwest, you’ll find the blinding turquoise waters of Lake Piva. Best explored by boat, cruise between the razor-sharp ravines, peer into Oteša Cave and cool off in Europe’s largest reservoir. Quieter but just as attractive as its Croatian counterpart, the Blue Grotto is a refreshing day trip from the Herceg Novi marina. Not to be mistaken as just a summer fling, visit Montenegro in winter when the Durmitor National Park’s peaks become a powder-white playground.

Balkan, Turkish, Austrian and Italian influences make for interesting gastronomy with a focus on locality and seasonality. Expect garlicky seafood and squid-ink risotto on the coast, while further inland the village of Njeguši makes prosciutto with a cult following – locals make the daily pilgrimage up the hair-raising Serpentine Road to purchase pounds of Njeguši prosciutto that have been dried and smoked for five months. If your palate sways to the sweet side, be sure to stop by Byblos in Porto Montenegro for fistfuls of their cashew baklava, rumoured to be the best in the country.

For now, sunburnt tourists are yet to sully Montenegro’s pebbly shores. The glitterati will soon be washing up on the beaches of Budva – dubbed the “Montenegrin Miami” – due to its lively bars and dance-until-dawn beach clubs. Separated by a sweeping peninsula, we suggest moving along Budva’s shoreline to Bečić. It’s far enough from the main tourist drag to remain relatively low-key, but not so isolated that you’ll pine for afternoon ice cream. Bordering Montenegro and Albania, freshwater Lake Skadar is als blissfully pretty with sandy shores and a handful of timeless villages.

An hour’s walk from the modern city of Bar lies the thousand-year-old Byzantine city of Stari Bar. Following an earthquake in 1979, roofs are missing from many of the buildings, grand Ottoman bathhouses remain abandoned and the city’s fortified walls lie in ruins, offering a fascinating snapshot of the past. Perched atop one of the highest peaks in Lovćen National Park and slightly off from the tourist trail are the remains of famed Montenegrin poet, philosopher and literary icon Petar II Petrović-Njegoš, preserved in a stone mausoleum. If that’s not of interest, 360-degree views of Montenegro, Croatia and Albania will be. Our Lady of the Rocks, a church dating back to the 12th century and overlooking the Bay of Kotor is another notable monument.

Numerous art galleries, archaeological sites and museums are a reflection of the country’s diversity. Visit the capital, capital harbours the Centre for Contemporary Art and is one of the most important cultural institutions in the country, housing collections from Africa, Asia, South America and Europe. You’ll be hard pressed to find a more diverse collection this side of the Adriatic. In addition to flashy clubs and hedonistic open-air festivals, each summer Budva earns the nickname “Theatre City” for its impressive display of open-air theatre productions. Taking place throughout the Old Town, al fresco stages pop up in the Citadel, the Kosmač Fortress and a scattering of churches showing everything from Shakespeare to Montenegrin slapstick comedy. Be sure to set aside a day to explore the UNESCO-protected Old Town of Kotor.

With an average of 250 days of sun, Montenegro has idyllic sailing conditions. Sail from West from East passing by Herceg Novi, the Perast twin islands, Porto Montenegro and Kotor. Potter from craggy coves to the luxurious state-of-the-art marina in Porto Montenegro, via the pirate hideout of Ulcinj, where you’ll find the hidden coves of Zanjic and Mirista.

Despite the crop of luxury hotels taking root in Kotor, Montenegro hasn’t quite caught up with the likes of Italy, Spain and Portugal. We can’t promise that this won’t change with the country’s surge in popularity and bid to become part of the EU, but for now it remains a purse-friendly summer alternative.

Former Ibiza-goers began visiting Montenegro when the White Isle started to become that bit too obvious for them. You’d be wise to go before the package holiday brigade gets wind.

Kosovo

While it is rare for Kosovo to make it onto most people’s travel wish lists, this small and unspoiled country located in the heart of the Balkan Peninsula has plenty of things to offer visitors. Read our list to learn why everyone should visit the newest country in Europe at least once in their lifetime.

The first reason to come to Kosovo is for the people. The country is home to some of the friendliest and most hospitable people in the world, always ready to help visitors in case of difficulties. Kosovars love to chat and talk with tourists about their beautiful country and ask them why they decided to visit.

Pristina may not be the most beautiful town in the Balkan Peninsula, but it has its charm. The Kosovar capital is one of the liveliest capitals in Eastern Europe, with plenty of university students and expats, and is a city with many things to offer visitors and inhabitants alike, such as festivals, cultural events, interesting museums, cool cafés, and amazing restaurants.

Despite its small size, Kosovo is home to some of the most spectacular natural landscapes of the Balkans. Most of them are situated in the western area of the country, near the Montenegrin border, and particularly in the Rugova Valley, a terrific natural area with gorgeous forests, high peaks, and breathtaking panoramas.

Kosovo is more than nature and Pristina. The country hosts two of the most charming towns on the peninsula: Prizren and Gjakova. While Prizren is famous for its Ottoman-era buildings and ancient mosques, such as the spectacular Sinan Pasha Mosque, Gjakova has the largest bazaar in the country known for its cafés and artisan boutiques.

No one has been to Kosovo without experiencing the famous Kosovar café culture. In the Balkan country, a coffee is more than just a coffee: it is a way of life, a cultural moment. Don’t be surprised to find cafés full of people of various ages at every time of the day – it’s normal. Espresso, Turkish coffee, or macchiato? Just choose one and enjoy it.

Did you know that Kosovo is home to one of the coolest ski areas in the Balkan Peninsula? Brezovica, a mountainous area near the Macedonian border, is mostly frequented by the expat community living in the country, but in recent years more tourists have been heading to Kosovo in the winter to appreciate its ski resorts.

Kosovo has an excellent gastronomy scene. Many restaurants serve typical Albanian cuisine, such as fërgesë (chopped cheese cooked with peppers and meat), tavë kosi (a casserole of yogurt sauce, rice and lamb), byrek, and fried kaçkavall cheese, plus in Pristina it is also possible to sample a variety of different cuisines, such as Indian, Chinese, and Persian.

Macedonia

One of the reasons we loved Macedonia was the fact that it still felt distinctly European. Without the touristy crowds, visitors can soak up the ambiance of these timeless, quaint cities and enjoy the essence of pure European charm.

North Macedonia has some pretty fantastic summertime weather. Typically from May through October, the weather is warm and dry. In fact, in the two months, we toured the country we only encountered one full day of rain. This makes for sunny, blue skies that are perfect for photography, swimming, and enjoying outdoor activities.

Although Macedonia is a landlocked country, it has an amazing body of water. In the summer, Ohrid comes alive with tourists and Macedonians seeking out a taste of lake life. Lake Ohrid is Europe’s oldest and deepest lake.

The lake water is astonishing clean, clear, and a perfect temperature for swimming in the summer. The charming resort town also has great nightlife, outdoor adventures, and delicious local cuisine to ensure the perfect summer getaway.

As travelers, we love the flavors and cuisine of Macedonia. Generally, the dishes are hearty, full of protein, but never too heavy on the stomach. Popular meals include meat and vegetable platters, fresh salads, and stuffed peppers and cabbage rolls. In Ohrid, belvica is a lake fish and a local delicacy.

However, our most memorable dish was a meaty stew called chorba. In Ohrid, it is widely served with a homemade garlic dressing and fresh bread. It was phenomenal.

Macedonia’s mountainous terrain is a hiker’s dream! For those that get all the feels from dramatic landscapes, then you’ll love exploring this rugged country. Cities like Prilep and Ohrid even offer hiking opportunities right outside the front door. The mountain trails are easily accessible and there’s no need to hire a costly rental car.

Travelers that enjoy exploring Roman ruins will love touring Macedonia. The country has spectacular ancient cities that are often wonderfully quiet and serene. Two of the more popular sites are Heracela just outside Bitola and the Ancient City of Stobi.

Travelers have described Skopje as quirky, unique, and unlike any other place they’ve ever visited, so we were intrigued to explore it for ourselves. After visiting Macedonia’s capital city, we deemed it the Las Vegas of Europe.

At night, the city center comes alive with activity. The massive statues, colossal buildings, and pirate ships along the Vadar River give off Las Vegas vibes. There is so much to visually process, it’s definitely a city to awaken the senses.

Bosnia Herzegovina

Nearly three quarters of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s capital was destroyed or damaged by shells and bombs during the war but, since then, Sarajevo has mostly returned to being the vibrant city of years past. Its historic center blends East and West and visitors can feel they’re in Vienna one minute and Istanbul the next.

Sarajevo’s Ottoman past can be felt in the cobbled streets around Bascarsija. Here topped copper-green domes overlook narrow alleyway craft bazaars. Meanwhile grand relics from the Austro-Hungarian Empire span the streets round Ferhadija. While there are signs of the city’s recent past, shrapnel-scarred walls and cemeteries on surrounding hillsides. Sarajevo is a city that embraces life.

Traveling across Bosnia and Herzegovina, it’s impossible not to fall in love with the landscape. Dramatic rocky mountains, cut down the middle with turquoise blue rivers and gushing waterfalls, carpet most of the country. While Bosnia and Herzegovina only has a 25-kilometer slice of the Adriatic Coastline, overshadowed by the coves and bays of Croatia and Montenegro, the country does win out when it comes to epic gorges and valley drives.

While it’s easy to spend days, if not weeks, exploring Sarajevo, it’s worth getting out of the capital to explore other towns. Mostar is one of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s most spectacular cities, with prime Ottoman-era architecture and its famous Stari Most (Old Bridge). The bridge was bombed in the Croat-Bosniak War in 1993, but has since been reconstructed. Today, the bridge is 24 meters high at its apex and it is a rite of passage for young dudes to dive off into the River Neretva below.

Despite the horrors of the conflict still being fresh in local memories, Bosnians will go out of their way to welcome strangers. Guests staying with Bosnian families will be made to drink a lot of coffee and eat till they’re stuffed. Visitors will find people are willing to help them out at any time.

There are some amazing shopping opportunities in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Not only are prices low when compared with the rest of Europe, the level of craftsmanship is amazing. Hand-hammered copper goods, some handmade delicate lace, as well as traditional carpets, weaves and jewelry are among the traditional specialties. More unique are the pens on sale in the market around Sarajevo’s Bascarsija, they’re made out of bullets from the siege of 20 years ago.

Bosnia and Herzegovina has always been a country known for its trade and consequently has long had a diverse population. Today you may hear mosques calling out to prayer across the valleys, followed by the sound of church bells. In downtown Sarajevo a mosque, a synagogue, a Catholic church and an Orthodox church can all be found in the same block.

From crunchy, flaky burek filled with tangy white cheese to succulent cuts of grilled meat, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s cuisine is humble but satisfying. Ingredients are fresh and locally sourced. That means a healthy dose of Shopska Salad accompanied by a spongy, freshly baked flat bread is hard to beat.

Slovenia

Slovenia has just started to establish its name as a popular travel destination. This small country on the sunny side of the Alps is very diverse and offers something for everyone. Slovenia is home to friendly people, beautiful nature, delicious food, and has a rich history and culture. It is a great destination for a quick day trip or a week-long relaxing getaway.

In its small territory, Slovenia exhibits a vast diversity of nature. The country has numerous mountains and hills that are suitable for all levels of hiking. In the winter, the snow-covered mountains offer the joy of skiing. For those who prefer to be warm, Slovenia’s seaside offer charming old towns, a dip in clear water, and beautiful sunsets. The Prekmurje lowlands in the northeast are perfect for the cycling enthusiast. Whether visitors are looking for an active vacation or a relaxing getaway, Slovenia has it all.

Slovenians are hospitable and friendly people, and they want to make their guests feel like kings. Locals in Slovenia will be happy to introduce visitors to their traditional food, culture, monuments, and natural wonders. Enjoying good food is something they love almost as much as meeting in cafés. Slovenians will gladly sit with a visitor for hours just sipping coffee, chatting, and enjoying the views. Showing off the beauty of their country is something Slovenians also love to do. Since a large percentage of people in Slovenia speak English, communicating with locals should not present a problem.

Slovenia is a great destination for adrenaline junkies. In Planica, the zipline with the steepest descent in the world simulates the feeling of a ski jump. Bridge Solkan, the longest train bridge built of stone blocks, is a picturesque place to bungee jump. Water sports enthusiasts can raft or kayak on the crystal clear river Soča. For visitors who are a little less courageous, Slovenia offers several adrenaline parks, which are becoming a popular weekend destination for the locals.

The Slovenian nation has a rich history. Before gaining independence in 1991, Slovenes were a part of different empires, kingdoms, and countries. A day visiting the castles from medieval times will let visitors’ imaginations run wild. Hospital Franja, a secret partisan WWII hospital, is tucked away in a forest and still displays the enormous courage of the people who fought in the war. Numerous indoor and outdoor museums around the country make Slovenia a great destination for history buffs.

Cave exploration is a long-standing tradition in Slovenia. In the underground of the country, thousands of caves are hidden, of which 22 are open to the public. Each of the caves reveals beautiful and unique karst formations that have been growing for millions of years. With over 600,000 visitors per year, the most popular cave is Postojna Cave. Besides breathtaking formations, this cave is also popular for being a home to the olm. This small blind animal is the color of human skin and lives in the waters in the cave. That is why locals refer to it as a human fish. Visiting one of the beautiful caves is a great way for families to spend a hot summer day.

Food is an important part of every culture, and it is no different in Slovenia. Some traditional foods like kranjska klobasa (a type of sausage) are popular all over the country; others, like bograč (a type of stew), are unique to one of the 12 regions that form Slovenia. Known for their hospitality, Slovenians always love to prepare traditional food for their visitors. Besides traditional Slovenian food, Balkan foods are also very popular among Slovenes. The most popular street food in Slovenia, burek, actually originates in Bosnia.

Like the rest of the country, the Slovenian seaside is diverse. The coast offers something for everyone, including beautiful beaches. For the romantic souls, Piran is a must. This old town charms visitors with its architecture, art, cozy cafés, and restaurants. The nearby town of Porotorž offers casinos where visitors can try their luck. The seaside also offers spots to unwind and recharge. A popular spot among the locals is an outdoor spa located in the Sečovlje Salina Nature Park.

Slovenia is rich in mineral water. Depending on the geographical location, the actual water offers different healing benefits. The water’s healing benefits make spa centers all around the country an attractive destination for a vacation. Spa centers offer packages where visitors can relax their body and soul and get the most out of the healing water. With beautiful surroundings, various pools, water slides, and saunas, these centers are also a popular destination for families.

Albania

If there is a destination that everyone should visit at least once in his or her lifetime, it is Albania. This small country is one of the last hidden gems of Europe and totally worth a look. From the cliffside views of the sea to the charming coastal hamlets, from the vibrant capital city Tirana to the stunning mountainous landscapes, here’s a list of 10 great reasons to visit Albania.

The first reason why everyone should visit Albania, is for the pristine beaches of the south coast. Like its famous neighbors Greece, Italy and Montenegro, Albania is home to terrific beaches that suit everyone: no matter if you prefer sandy or pebble bays, Albania has them all. The best coastal part of the country is called Albanian Riviera and starts after the Llogara pass, a mountain pass near the city of Vlora, and ends in Ksamil, a small town near the Greek border.

Tirana is undoubtedly one of the liveliest capital cities of the Balkans and has plenty of cool museums and art galleries that everyone should include in his or her list of places to see in Albania. A must-see is the Bunk’Art, a covert bunker located in the outskirts of Tirana, which has been transformed into a museum. Places in the city center worth a look are the Bunk’Art2, a memorial to the victims of the Communist regime, and House of Leaves, the former-headquarter of Dictator Hoxha’s secret police.

Byrek, pita, yogurt sauce, sandwiches, olives and cheese: Albanian food is just delicious. The country has one of the best street food scenes in Europe, but if you prefer to sit at a table, do not be worried: Tirana has plenty of great restaurants, such as Padam, Mullixhiu, and Oda just to name few, that offer typical and international cuisine, as well as veggie options. We suggest you to try both street food and restaurants and then buy a larger pair of jeans, just in case!

You can’t say you have been to Albania without sipping a coffee in one of the several cafés of Tirana. Drinking coffee is not just a thing here, it’s a way of life: strolling through the city center of Tirana you’ll see plenty of cool cafés and bars, where people from all the ages spend a lot of their time sipping coffee and chatting. The prettiest cafés in town are located in Blloku, the coolest neighborhood in Tirana, which was off-limits to anyone during the Communist years. Now it is the liveliest area of the capital, lined with countless outdoor bars.

One of the most beautiful and yet least-visited parts of the country is the north. Almost everyone who visits Albania prefers to spend some time in the capital and then head south. But if you have extra time—and we suggest you to find it—don’t miss the chance to spend few days in the north. The mountains offer spectacular trails, breathtaking panoramas, and beautiful nature.

Wandering through UNESCO sites and ancient archaeological parks without crowds: do you think it is impossible? Well, not in Albania! As if the cheap prices, beautiful beaches and gorgeous mountains were not enough, Albania is also home to terrific archaeological towns, such as Butrint and Apollonia, and enchanting hamlets, such as Berat, Gijrokaster, and Korça, which looks like it’s come straight out of a fairy tale.

Albanian people are some of the most friendly in the whole world. If you can’t find a street or if you need any kind of information, they will love to help you. It’s a big plus if you can speak Italian or German, because many Albanians worked in those countries before, but younger do speak English, so there are no problems.

You might have heard things about Albanian beaches and its lively capital city Tirana, but Albania is still largely unexplored by tourists. Why? The country has been isolated for almost 50 years and the infrastructures are not the best in Europe. However, things are changing and Albania is one of the brightest stars of the Mediterranean.

If you already know Albania’s coast and capital and want to explore something new, don’t be worried: the country has plenty of hidden gems easily reachable from Tirana. Two of the best places to visit in Albania are Kruja—a lovely mountainous hamlet located 40 minutes by bus from Tirana, where there is a lovely old bazar and a museum dedicated to Skanderbeg, the national Albanian hero—and Korça—also called the little Paris of Albania, famous for its coffee culture and a beautiful Orthodox cathedral.

Moldova

Wedged between Romania and Ukraine, Moldova is a land of unspoilt countryside, age-old monasteries and amazing food and wine. Here’s why you should drop by one of the least-visited countries in Europe.

Plăcintă is a tasty fried bread filled with anything that is close to hand, from branza, the local sheep cheese, to cabbage and sour cherries. Sarmale is a local take on dolmas, using cabbage leaves instead of vine leaves and stuffed with both meat and rice. Mămăligă is the Moldovan version of polenta usually served with sour cream. Looking to warm up after a cold Moldovan day? Try zeama, a hearty chicken soup chock full of chunky vegetables. You can sample all these meals at restaurants and cafes across the country at ridiculously affordable prices. But for a real treat, stay in one of the new agrotourism ventures springing up around the city of Orhei.

When Moldova gained its independence from the Soviet Union and started looking towards the west, the predominantly Russian-speaking part of the country in the east unilaterally declared its own independence to become Transnistria. It remains a Soviet time capsule, home to close to 500,000 people, but in effect, a country that no-one else acknowledges.

That doesn’t stop Transnistria holding a Soviet-style military parade every year, on 2 September. Or issuing its own stamps and currency and holding on to Soviet statues and monuments long after the rest of the former eastern bloc abandoned theirs. It makes a discombobulating day trip from Moldova’s capital, Chişinău – complete with a suitably austere border-crossing and document check – but a rewarding one nonetheless.

Just across the Nistru River from Ukraine, the tiny city of Soroca is one of the last bastions of Roma culture. Not just in Moldova, but across western Europe. Here, a large number of Roma families have settled, building houses and living according to cultural rules that have changed very little over centuries. They have their own ‘king’, who makes rules for the town and decides who can marry who in the community. Once famous for its medieval fortress – built in the 1400s, during the era of Stephen The Great – visitors now flock to Soroca to see the elaborate houses built by the town’s Roma residents.

Keen to show off their wealth, they have built extraordinary homes inspired by famous buildings around the world. You’ll spot one home inspired by St Peter’s Basilica. Another that looks an awful lot like the U.S. Capitol Building. There’s even one that looks like the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. Most lack indoor plumbing and electricity. Many are left abandoned when families move along. But wandering through this bizarre city of relics is a truly surreal experience.

Just 50km north of Chişinău, you’ll find Orheiul Vechi, one of the the oldest Christian monasteries in the world. Over 2,000 years old, it sits atop a remote, rocky ridge, its white bell towers and golden dome glittering in the sun. It has survived the invasions of the Mongols and the Tatars and seen off the designs of Stephen The Great and the Soviets, providing a constant focus for Christians across the country. Its extraordinary Cave Monastery dates back to the tine of the Dacian tribes.

The closest village is Butuceni. Cross the small wooden bridge here to the other side of the Răut River, and follow the path towards the ridge. Along the way, you’ll spot the remains of a 15th century defence wall and other caves, used for shelter and solace across the ages. Ahead, the the twin spires of an Orthodox church dedicated to the Ascension of St Mary come into view, an extraordinary sight in a bleakly beautiful landscape.

Greece

In very little need for introduction, there are a million reasons to travel to Greece. The cradle of Western civilization, ambrosial food, and fantastic weather are only some of the things that make Greece a wonderful destination all year round.

It is a perfect time to visit Greece, a country that is steeped in history & surrounded by the beauty of the Mediterranean Sea. The natural beauty of Greece with the largest coastline in Europe is unbeatable and the history you will witness in the archaeological sites of Athens and many other Greek cities will definitely stick with you for a long time.

Greece is well-known for its production of olives and olive oil widely used in salads & cooking. Whether you are a seafood lover or a vegetarian, Greece has a lot to offer!

Local specialities include tzatziki, moussaka and favourite fast food, the mouth-watering Souvlaki, a delicious skewered meat served on pita bread with tzatziki. Besides food, local drinks of Greece include wines, beers, ouzo, and raki.

Don’t worry if you are a sweet lover! Greece also offers an excellent selection of desserts. You should try yoghurt with honey and walnuts and loukoumades.

The overwhelming hospitality of Greeks is incompatible across the globe. Greeks are extremely generous when inviting others; they exchange a lot of gifts typically a cake and wine when visiting their friends. Greeks pride themselves on FILOTIMO a concept to connote friendliness & hospitality. You will feel the joy of meeting Greeks, who will always appreciate your presence.

Greece is famous for its turquoise waters and breathtaking sandy beaches. Whether you are looking for an organized beach with sunbeds, umbrellas, beach bars and tavernas where you can party all day long or more secluded beaches with a peaceful environment to sunbathe and read your book, Greece has it all. It hosts some of the best beaches in Europe and offers activities like diving, kite surfing and boat renting suitable for all age groups!

Greece hosts many worth seeing historical sites worth visiting. If you are a lover of ancient architecture, Greece is surely an incredible attraction for you! Greece is the home to many intellectuals, from Alexander The Great to Aristotle The Philosopher and much more who have left a remarkable mark in the country.

Greek islands are in fact heaven on the earth with their glorious beauty of deep blue waters and white and blue houses. The majestic beauty of Santorini is worth seeing where the whitewashed houses are perched on the cliff of the volcano. You can also enjoy many outdoor activities like kite surfing; rock climbing, hiking and diving on the beautiful Greek Islands and stunning landscapes that will make your holiday unforgettable.

Greeks are famous for their hospitality and kind-heartedness towards friends and strangers. If you are looking for new friends in a metropolitan city or an island, Greece is the best place for enhancing your social life!

Many tourists are concerned about safety in Greece due to political unrest; however, the situation has tremendously changed in the past few decades. The Greek Islands like Crete, Rhodes, and Corfu are the best options for your family holiday where you can have a pleasant and calm holiday.

Best Time to visit The Balkans

The best time to travel to the Balkans is in the shoulder seasons of April to June and September to November. However, there are advantages to traveling to the Balkans any time of year. During the shoulder seasons, the weather is mild, more popular cities aren’t as packed, and you can still enjoy some of the coastal destinations in the region.

In summer of months from July to August, beaches are packed with Europeans on holiday, however, this is a good time to visit if you want to experience one of the many festivals that take place during the season.

If traveling between December to March, this is a good opportunity to experience world-class skiing in the Balkans at a fraction of the cost of Western European countries.

Coastal regions in Croatia, Montenegro, and Albania are going to have significantly warmer winters than anywhere in the central Balkans, but don’t go expecting 20+ degree sunshine anywhere in the Balkans in the middle of January.

Essential Information

Visas

Except Greece and Slovenia which need Schengen Visa to enter the Country, other countries in the Balkans require entry visa if visitors enter the countries directly from outside Schengen area or no visa if entering the countries from Schengen area. The rules in each country are different and may change anytime.

Time Zone

Most of the countries in the Balkans are under GMT+2 and GMT+3 time zones

Languages

The languages in the Balkans are Slavic (spoken in Bulgaria, Macedonia, Serbia, Kosovo, Bosnia Herzegovina, and Slovenia), Romance (spoken in Romania and Moldova), Balkanik (spoken in Albania), and Greek (spoken in Greece). Most of the people in the Balkans do not speak English, except for those who are in Tourism sectors.

Currency and Payment

Only Slovenia and Montenegro use Euro as the countries' official currency. Other countries use their own currencies. Withdrawing cash from ATMs is preferable as compared to from currency exchange shop for cheaper fees. Credit cards are accepted in most big stores while smaller stores or restaurants accept only cash.

Etiquette

Here are some do's and don'ts in Uzbekistan:

ShoesIt’s polite to remove footwear before entering a home (or indeed many guesthouses).

Religious buildingsDo not attempt to visit during prayer time. Before entering a church, mosque or synagogue, both genders should cover legs and shoulders. In mosques women should loosely cover their hair with a scarf (usually provided). In a synagogue it’s the men who should cover their head. In churches, men should remove their hats.

Dining outIf you head out for a drink or meal, whoever does the inviting should do the paying. It’s an unspoken rule that the other person should even the score next time around.

GreetingsHandshakes are standard, although Croats will greet friends and families with a kiss on each cheek; Serbs add a third. In rural areas of Albania and Kosovo, men should be particularly careful about addressing or touching local women, who don’t normally shake hands with strangers.

The Balkans Ready Packages

Balkan 12D11N

EUR
1099
per pax
  • Ljublana Zagreb Split
  • Budva Tirana Skopje Tours
  • 8D7N in 3Star Hotels
  • 15PAX minimum
  • English Guide

East Europe Balkans 9D8N

USD
1299
per pax
  • Half Board Meals
  • 9D8N at 3Star Hotels
  • Berlin Prague Budapest
  • Vienna Sarajevo Zagreb Tours
  • Tour Director from Jakarta 

Italy Greece Balkan from Jakarta 14D12N

USD
2099
per pax
  • Venice Zagreg Sarajevo
  • Dubrovnic Prizen Skopje
  • Ohrid Kalambaka Athena Tour
  • English Guide
  • Tour Director from Jakarta