Balkans Travel Guide: 12 Balkan Countries Tips & Information

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Post author Bram

Written by our local expert Bram

Bram was born and raised in Belgium and has traveled the Balkans & beyond. He is a professional freelance travel writer and photographer specializing in outdoor travel with an emphasis on national parks, nature, and wildlife.

The Balkans, a vast and vibrant region in southeastern Europe, is a hotspot for travelers seeking a mix of culture, history, and natural beauty. If you’re planning a trip to the Balkans, this article about the Balkans is your ultimate guide, covering everything from safety tips and the best places to stay to must-visit spots throughout the Balkans.

Whether you’re interested in exploring the stunning landscapes, delving into the rich history, or just soaking up the local culture, our detailed guides offer all the info you need for a memorable journey.

From accommodations that cater to every traveler’s need to safety advice ensuring a hassle-free experience, we’ve got you covered. Get ready to discover the best places within the Balkans, making your travel experience truly unforgettable.

Travel The Balkans Map

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The Balkan region, a significant and diverse region in southeast Europe, is defined by its unique geography stretching from the Balkan Mountains to the Black Sea. While definitions vary, the Balkan nations typically include a mix of countries, often focusing on the territories of former Yugoslavia, Albania, Bulgaria, and Romania.

The exact list of Balkan countries can spark debate, but for a comprehensive understanding, at Chasing the Donkey, we consider Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Türkiye, Bulgaria, North Macedonia, Serbia, Romania, Kosovo, Greece, and Albania.

This ultimate Balkan guide aims to give you a quick yet thorough insight into the Balkan Peninsula, ensuring you grasp the essence of this culturally rich and historically profound region.

Travel Around The Balkans – Tourist Expectations Vs. Local Customs

This is a relatively undiscovered part of Europe. Much less visited (and the cheapest) than, for instance, the Iberian Peninsula, Italy, the British Isles, and France, the Balkan countries are somewhat of a blank spot on the map for many Western European and North American travelers.

Travelers from the West may encounter cultural differences. Don’t expect the 24-hour convenience or quick service you’re used to. The pace of life here is slower, which can be a shift for some. Shops might close for afternoon breaks, and locals in tourist areas might not always greet visitors with open arms.

This slower pace isn’t a drawback but a difference to embrace. Once you engage with them, the locals are welcoming and friendly.

The local life in the Balkan countries is virtually unaffected by mass tourism—with some exceptions in the popular coastal cities on the Adriatic Sea—and the locals are among the most welcoming and friendliest people you’ll ever meet.

Understanding that the Balkans offer a unique cultural experience distinct from Western Europe can significantly enhance your visit to the Balkans. Embrace the local way of life, stay informed about customs, and enjoy the diverse beauty and hospitality the Balkans have to offer.

Is The Balkans Safe?

Many people’s perceptions of the Balkans are still colored by the wars of the 1990s (at the very end, I cover those), leading to questions about the region’s safety today.

Let’s set the record straight: the Balkans are safe. The conflicts have long ended, and the region has transformed remarkably over the past two decades.

Balkan Countries List

We’ll continue this article about what to expect when traveling in the Balkans with a list of Balkan countries featured on this website, as backpacking through the Balkans is popular and will likely include these fantastic destinations.

This is where you’ll find precisely what the Balkan countries are, again in the widest sense of the word, including the entire region.

Here’s the list of the Balkans nations:

  1. Albania
  2. Bosnia and Herzegovina
  3. Bulgaria
  4. Croatia
  5. Greece
  6. Kosovo
  7. North Macedonia
  8. Montenegro
  9. Romania
  10. Serbia
  11. Slovenia
  12. Turkey

Further below, our Balkans guide introduces each country’s culture, characteristics, and highlights. First, we will cover food, visas, money, and safety.

Balkan Food

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An authentic and quiet rural region, the Balkans are home to vineyards, olive groves, truffle forests, goat farms, and honey farms. This is a superb destination if you’re a foodie looking for organic, local cuisine.

The list of typical Balkan dishes is much longer than the list of Balkan countries. Each country has several national specialties.

It must be said, however, that the people in the Balkans love their meat. Meat—beef, lamb, pork, chicken, and fish—is a prominent feature on any menu. So, vegans might face a challenge when traveling part of the Balkans (but if Croatia is your destination, we have a handy vegan guide for you!).

Balkan Currency

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Navigating the currencies of the Balkans can feel a bit like a mini-adventure in itself, given the diversity across the region. Here’s a quick rundown to keep you in the loop:

  • Albania uses the Lek.
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina trades in Convertible Marks
  • Bulgaria operates with the Lev. Though part of the EU, it hasn’t adopted the Euro yet
  • Croatia has switched to the euro, making transactions smoother for many travelers
  • Greece, as part of the Eurozone, also uses the Euro
  • Kosovo unofficially uses the euro despite not being an EU member
  • North Macedonia has the Denar as its currency
  • Montenegro uses the Euro, even though it’s not a member of the EU
  • Romania is in the EU but pays with the Leu; it’s on the path to adopting the euro
  • Serbia deals in Serbian Dinars
  • Slovenia is another Eurozone country using the euro
  • Turkey stands out with the Turkish Lira, reflecting its unique position straddling Europe and Asia

Each country’s currency reflects its unique path and status, from EU members to those with special agreements or independent policies.

At every border crossing, you’ll find places to exchange currency. Those places tend to be major rip-offs, taking advantage of unwary tourists. You should try to exchange currencies at local exchange offices away from the border if you can. 

Visas Needed When You Visit The Balkans

Best Wheeled Backpack

When planning a trip across the diverse tapestry of the Balkans, understanding the visa requirements for each country is crucial. For starters, countries like Slovenia, Croatia, and Greece, being part of the EU and Schengen Area, generally offer visa-free access for short stays to many travelers, especially those from EU countries, the USA, Canada, and Australia.

Bulgaria and Romania, while EU members, are not yet part of Schengen but have similar access rules. Non-EU countries like Serbia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Albania, and Bosnia and Herzegovina often provide visa-free entry for short-term visits to many nationalities, aiming to encourage tourism.

Kosovo, with its unique international status, also offers visa-free access to many, but it’s always wise to check ahead for any specific stipulations. Turkey’s visa policy includes an e-Visa option for many nationalities, simplifying the process of entering this transcontinental country.

Lastly, each of these countries may have specific requirements or exceptions based on your passport, so it’s paramount to look into the individual entry rules of each Balkan nation in relation to your nationality. A bit of research beforehand can ensure a smooth journey across this fascinating region.

And Big News For Travelers Headed To Bulgaria And Romania

From March 31st, 2024, get ready for a smoother journey to Bulgaria and Romania, as these gems join the Schengen zone in a big way. If you’ve roamed the E.U. before, you know the drill: showing passports and waiting in lines. But here’s the good news – that’s about to get a whole lot easier, at least partially.

Bulgaria and Romania, E.U. members since 2007, are opening their air and maritime borders to Schengen’s hassle-free travel vibe. Land travel? It’s in the pipeline, so stay tuned. This change is all about easing your way into these countries, letting you dive into their wonders with less fuss at the borders.

And there’s a cherry on top for the avid explorers. Are you venturing into Turkey, Bosnia-Herzegovina, or Montenegro? Your Schengen clock pauses, giving you more wiggle room to explore without eating into your 90-day limit.

Just remember, if you’re planning a lengthy stay, double-check the details with your embassy. Travel smart, travel easy, and soak up every moment in these beautiful corners of the Balkans.

Just be sure to check with your local embassy before your trip – these things constantly change.

Where To Travel In The Balkans – Country Guides

Let’s get you ready for your Balkans trip; with so many countries to choose from, we have broken it down into 12 countries and have given you links to dozens of detailed travel guides we have written for each country in the Balkans region.

1. Croatia

An Independent Country Since: 1991

Susak Island, Croatia, aerial view

The first Balkan country we will start with is Croatia, as it is one of the most popular beach destinations in southern Europe, boasting one of Europe’s most magnificent coastlines.

The Dalmatian coast attracts millions of tourists yearly with its dazzling beaches, clear water, scenic islands, and historic towns. Croatia also features exceptional natural attractions, from gorges and mountains to thick forests, rivers, and lakes.

Croatia is a varied country. There’s the Italian-feeling Istrian peninsula in the north, the rural inland areas, the Dinaric Mountains just inland from the Adriatic Sea coast, the capital Zagreb, and the Dalmatian islands. Scattered within these regions, world-renowned UNESCO Heritage sites are not to be missed.

There are numerous attractions all over this stunning country. Still, you should focus on Plitvice National Park, Dubrovnik, Split, Zagreb, Krka National Park, Rovinj, and the islands of Hvar, Brač, and Korčula.

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Population: 4,058,165 (2020)

Flag Of CroatiaBalkan Flags_Croatia 2 Croatia’s Top Destinations

Croatia, a gem in the Balkans, really stands out with its stunning coastline along the Adriatic Sea, ancient walled towns, and a unique blend of Mediterranean and Eastern European culture.

It’s not just the sun-soaked beaches that draw visitors from around the world; it’s also the rich history, delicious cuisine, and vibrant local life that make Croatia a must-visit.

Whether you’re sailing around its idyllic islands, exploring the ruins of Roman palaces, or enjoying the nightlife in its historic cities, Croatia offers a diverse experience that’s hard to match in the Balkans.

2. Greece

An Independent Country Since 1830

Lesser-Known Greek Islands - Naxos

Occupying the southern tip of the Balkan Peninsula, Greece is arguably the most historical country in the world. It was one of the most influential regions in ancient times, showcased to this day by lots of remaining structures and ruins.

This is, after all, where modern democracy originated, the very “cradle of Western civilization.”

The capital of Greece, Athens, is home to important landmarks dating as far back as the 5th century B.C. Its most iconic ancient attraction is, without question, the Acropolis, topped by the Parthenon.

Other ancient locations in Greece worth visiting include the Palace of Knossos in Crete, the Temple of Apollo in Delphi, the Olympic Games birthplace in Olympia, and the island of Rhodes.

Thessaloniki is Greece’s second-largest city and a former commercial hub in the Byzantine Empire, which deserves a visit.

Additionally, Greece is also famous worldwide for its thousands of islands that dot the Ionian Sea and Aegean Sea. It’s a super-popular beach vacation destination, thanks to iconic places like Santorini and Mykonos.

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Population: 10,724,599 (2019)

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Top Destinations In Greece

Greece is a jewel in Europe, setting itself apart with a legacy that intertwines ancient history with azure seas and a vibrant contemporary culture.

It’s where mythology breathes life into landscapes, from the Acropolis watching over Athens to the idyllic islands dotting the Aegean and Ionian Seas. Greece’s standout features include its archaeological sites that tell tales of gods and heroes, the warm hospitality of its people, and a culinary tradition rich in flavors.

Here, the past and present merge seamlessly, offering a travel experience filled with discovery, relaxation, and adventure. Whether you’re exploring ruins, basking on beaches, or savoring gastronomic delights, Greece promises a journey through time and a feast for the senses.

3. Bulgaria

An Independent Country Since 1908

Bulgaria Travel Blog_Sofia Bulgaria

Bulgaria is more or less the region where our ancient ancestors arrived in Europe. It is, therefore, one of the oldest inhabited regions on the continent, featuring several significant archaeological sites from the Neolithic period.

Throughout its history, Bulgaria has been the home of the Thracians, Greeks, Persians, Romans, Goths, Huns, and the Ottoman Empire.

The mix of Balkan culture, architectural, and artistic styles is sensational. This extraordinary heritage is reflected in the country’s ten different UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including several unique ancient sites and a few breathtaking natural areas.

There’s plenty to see and do in Bulgaria. Major attractions include Sofia, the Ancient City of Nessebar, Central Balkan National Park, the Rock-Hewn Churches of Ivanovo, Pirin National Park, the Seven Rila Lakes, the Rila Monastery, and the Madara Rider.

Population: 6,951,482 (2019)

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Top Destinations In Bulgaria

Bulgaria might be the Balkans’ best-kept secret, standing out with its wild mix of gorgeous landscapes, rich history, and vibrant culture. It’s where you can hit the ski slopes in the morning and soak up the sun on sandy beaches by the afternoon. Bulgaria’s authentic charm? Its laid-back vibe, ancient towns that feel like stepping back in time, and surprisingly lively nightlife.

Plus, let’s not forget the food – a hearty blend of Eastern European and Mediterranean flavors that’ll have you asking for seconds. Whether you’re exploring the buzzing streets of Sofia, marveling at the Rila Monastery’s frescoes, or hiking through untouched natural parks, Bulgaria offers an authentic slice of Balkan life that’s hard to find elsewhere.

4. Turkey

An Independent Country Since 1923

Best Hotels Near The Blue Mosque -
The crossroads of cultures, the meeting point of continents, Turkey lies in Europe and Asia and has historical and cultural connections to countless other regions. Influences range from Greek, Roman, and Persian to their own Byzantine and Ottoman eras.

Visitors can find fascinating historic buildings, ancient ruins, and centuries-old heritage throughout the country.

Although not the capital of Turkey (that’s Ankara), the country’s largest city by far is Istanbul, formerly known as Constantinople and Byzantium; this massive metropolis is home to some of the world’s greatest buildings. In the city’s historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, you can visit iconic landmarks like the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, the Grand Bazaar, and the Topkapi Palace.

Elsewhere in Turkey, other major tourist destinations include the “fairy chimneys” in Cappadocia, the underground towns of Kaymakli and Derinkuyu, the ancient ruins of Ephesus, and the remains of Troy.

Natural highlights range from Pamukkale’s phenomenal travertine hot springs to the Turquoise Coast’s gorgeous beaches and Turkish Riviera. 

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Population: 10,620,739 (2021)

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Top Destinations In Turkey

Turkey is a fascinating crossroads between Europe and Asia, offering a unique blend of cultures, history, and landscapes that truly sets it apart in the Balkans and beyond. This country is a melting pot where ancient ruins stand shoulder to shoulder with bustling modern cities, where the call to prayer mixes with the sounds of bustling bazaars, and where you can enjoy some of the world’s most unforgettable culinary experiences.

Turkey’s hospitality is legendary; locals welcome visitors with open arms and an eagerness to share their rich heritage. From the awe-inspiring Hagia Sophia in Istanbul to the lunar landscapes of Cappadocia, Turkey is a place where every corner holds a new surprise.

Whether you’re soaking in a Pamukkale hot spring, exploring the ruins of Ephesus, or sailing the turquoise waters of the Aegean, Turkey offers an endless adventure that’s hard to match.

5. Albania

An Independent Country Since 1912

Best Hotels In Saranda, ALBANIA - beach

A relatively unknown and unexplored country in the heart of the Balkans, Albania oozes culture and history. This is one of the oldest regions in Europe—if not the world—sharing the same history as Greece and Italy.

Albania lies between Macedonia, Kosovo, Greece, and Montenegro in a quiet corner of Europe. However, although it gets only a fraction of the crowds that visit Croatia, Greece, or Italy, those who go there often find themselves surprised by its wealth of ancient sites, beautiful architecture, and vibrant culture.

This is as off-the-beaten-path as you can get in southern Europe, making it great for budget travel (especially regarding accommodation). Albania boasts striking landscapes, incredible national parks, glorious beaches, and handfuls of historic towns and villages.

Don’t miss Berat and Gjirokastra, the capital of Tirana, Theth National Park, Shkoder, and the Albanian Riviera.

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Population: 2,845,955 (2020)

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Top Destinations In Albania

Where To Go In Albania - Dhermi

Albania stands out in the Balkans with its unique blend of natural beauty, historical depth, and cultural richness. This hidden gem is more laid-back than some of its more famous neighbors, offering pristine beaches along the Ionian Sea, rugged mountains, and charming, time-forgotten villages.

What sets Albania apart is its authenticity; it’s a place where tourism hasn’t overshadowed the local way of life. Here, you can explore ancient ruins without the crowds, enjoy the hospitality of locals over a cup of mountain tea, and discover a coastline that rivals the Mediterranean’s best – all at a fraction of the cost.

Albania’s recent history has kept it under the radar for many travelers. Still, those who venture here find a country eager to share its treasures, from the bustling streets of Tirana to the serene shores of Ksamil. Albania is the Balkans’ unpolished diamond, offering an adventure for those willing to look beyond the usual tourist spots.

6. Bosnia And Herzegovina

An Independent Country Since: 1992

Bridge - Things to do in Mostar Bosnia and Herzegovina | Bosnia and Herzegovina Travel Blog
Balkan Travel Guide. Old Bridge in Mostar

Bosnia-Herzegovina is the most culturally and religiously diverse country in the Balkans. This is as close as you can get to the Middle East and Muslim culture without leaving Europe. This is a true crossroads country home to several ethnic minorities, such as the Bosniaks, Croats, and Serbs.

In Bosnia-Herzegovina, cityscapes are dotted with both church spires and minarets. It’s one of the few countries within Europe with a Muslim majority, making this a fascinating place to visit.

Combining a rich cultural heritage with beautiful nature, Bosnia-Herzegovina has a variety of attractions. Make sure you visit Mostar and Sarajevo and allow time to go whitewater rafting in Bihać, Banja Luka, or Foča and explore little towns such as Trebinje.

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Population: 3,301,000 (2019)

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Top Destinations In Bosnia-Herzegovina

Bosnia-Herzegovina, nestled in the heart of the Balkans, is a country where East meets West in the most literal and figurative sense. What makes it stand out is its remarkable blend of cultural and religious diversity, breathtaking natural landscapes, and a tumultuous history that’s both heart-wrenching and inspiring.

From the cobblestone streets of Sarajevo, where you can hear the call to prayer mingling with church bells, to the iconic Stari Most bridge in Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina offers a unique tapestry of human experience. It’s the perfect place where you can explore medieval castles, raft down vibrant rivers, and hike through untouched national parks—all within a day’s journey.

Despite its past, Bosnia-Herzegovina is incredibly welcoming, with locals ready to share stories over a strong coffee or homemade rakija. It’s this raw, unfiltered connection to its history and culture that sets Bosnia-Herzegovina apart, making it a must-visit for those seeking depth and authenticity in their travels.

7. Montenegro

An Independent Country Since: 2006

KOTOR BAY MONTENEGRO - CROATIA TRAVEL BLOG

In terms of landscapes, Montenegro is one of the world’s most spectacular countries. Its name literally means “Black Mountain.” This is a place of magnificent coastal hills, sandy beaches, rugged inland mountain ranges, deep canyons, and shimmering lakes.

Additionally, Montenegro also has vibrant coastal towns. The most well-known one is Budva, one of the Adriatic epicenters of luxury and beach travel, with loads of excellent hotels. Its hospitable people make this one of the most enjoyable places to visit in southern Europe, especially if you’re after an off-the-beaten-track outdoor adventure.

You shouldn’t miss the Bay of Kotor, Durmitor National Park, Budva, Sveti Stefan, and Lake Skadar.

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Population: 622,359 (2018)

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Top Destinations In Montenegro

Montenegro, a gem of the Balkans, strikes a perfect balance between the grandeur of its natural landscapes and the charm of its historic towns. What sets it apart is its compact size packed with diversity: from the stunning Adriatic coastline with its crystal-clear waters to the rugged mountains and serene lakes inland.

Montenegro offers the allure of luxury in Budva and the tranquility of ancient forests in its national parks, all within a short drive. The Bay of Kotor, resembling a fjord, with its medieval towns and dramatic scenery, is a UNESCO World Heritage site that exemplifies Montenegro’s unique appeal.

This country is a paradise for adventure lovers, offering everything from hiking and rafting to sunbathing and sailing. Montenegro’s relaxed vibe, coupled with its rich history of Venetian palazzos, Ottoman forts, and Roman mosaics, invites travelers to dive deep into its culture. It’s a place where you can enjoy the high life or go off the beaten path, making every visit uniquely memorable.

8. North Macedonia

An Independent Country Since: 1991

Best Beaches In The Mediterranean - View from above on Adriatic sea coastline and Jaz beach at Montenegro, nature landscape, vacations to the summer paradise.

Just like its western neighbor Albania, North Macedonia can trace its origins back to even before antiquity. The oldest settlements date from as far back as 7,000 BC, but it was not until the 4th century B.C. that it became the Kingdom of Macedon.

Note that the Republic of North Macedonia, as the country is officially known, is not the same as the historical region of Macedonia, which is much larger and spread across three neighboring countries. (After years of dispute with Greece, the country changed its name from “Macedonia” to “North Macedonia,” while a northern Greek province officially became “Macedonia”)

North Macedonian culture and heritage are a mix of local and foreign influences, much like most other countries in the Balkans.

A landlocked country, North Macedonia is a relatively mountainous place. Its landscapes are rugged and wild, characterized by mountain ranges, valleys, and large lakes.

As you can imagine, its cities and cultural attractions are old—if not ancient.

Any North Macedonia itinerary should contain, at the very least, Lake Ohrid, Matka Canyon, Mavrovo National Park, and Skopje.

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Population: 2,077,132 (2019)

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Top Destinations In North Macedonia

Kaneo, Ohrid, Macedonia

North Macedonia stands out in the Balkans with its profound mix of cultural heritage, breathtaking natural landscapes, and a rich history that weaves through its cities and countryside. It’s the blending of civilizations over centuries that gives North Macedonia its unique charm, from ancient Roman sites to Ottoman bazaars.

Skopje, the capital, showcases this blend with its modernist buildings and ancient stone bridge. Lake Ohrid, one of the world’s oldest and deepest lakes, offers not just natural beauty but also a treasure trove of historic churches and a serene, timeless vibe. What truly sets North Macedonia apart is its ability to offer visitors an authentic experience; it’s a place where traditional music fills the air, culinary delights surprise the palate, and natural beauty invites exploration.

Whether you’re hiking in the national parks, wandering through the old bazaars, or enjoying the laid-back atmosphere of the lake, North Macedonia offers a unique journey through the heart of the Balkans.

9. Serbia

An Independent Country Since: 2006

Novi Sad - Best Day Trips from Belgrade, Serbia

One of the largest Balkan States, Serbia is the only country in Europe that uses Latin and Cyrillic alphabets.

Its capital city, Belgrade, is a part of the Southeastern part of the European continent and is one of the largest and oldest cities, home to striking Communist-era buildings and Belgrade Fortress, to name a few highlights. Belgrade’s Stari Grad is where you’ll find mansions dating from the 1800s and the iconic National Theater.

Outside the capital, numerous historic towns and archaeological sites dot the countryside, which is made up of mountain ranges, plateaus, and rivers. While there’s a wealth of culture and history to be soaked up in Serbia, people who like being outdoors won’t be disappointed.

Absolute highlights include Fruška Gora National Park, the attractive Drina River, the Nikola Tesla Museum, the Stari Ras and Sopoćani complex, Derdap National Park, Belgrade Fortress, and the Studenica Monastery. Besides these, there are many other nature parks, ancient monasteries, fortresses, and old towns to visit and explore.

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Population: 6,963,764 (2019)

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Top Destinations In Serbia

Serbia, a gem in the heart of the Balkans, distinguishes itself with a vibrant cultural scene, historical depth, and an unpretentious, lively spirit. Unlike its coastal neighbors, Serbia offers a journey through time with its well-preserved medieval fortresses, monasteries that have stood the test of centuries, and lively urban centers where history meets modernity.

Belgrade, the capital, buzzes with energy, offering a nightlife that rivals Europe’s best alongside museums and parks that tell stories of a tumultuous past. Outside the city, the serene beauty of the countryside, with the Danube River winding through towns and past ancient sites, invites exploration.

Serbia’s appeal lies in its warm hospitality, delicious cuisine that’s a testament to its crossroads of cultures, and the blend of tradition and contemporary life. It’s a country where every corner has a story, offering experiences that range from the serene beauty of the Fruška Gora National Park to the lively streets of Novi Sad, the cultural heartbeat of the nation.

10. Romania

An Independent Country Since 1877

Driving through the Balkans - Your Guide to Driving In The Balkans - Transfagarasan Pass
Transfagarasan Pass

A large country in the northwestern corner of the Balkan Peninsula, Romania is known mainly for its numerous spectacular castles, epic landscapes, and beautiful towns.

Arguably, its most popular destination is Transylvania, a forested region with various hills and fortresses. Its most notable landmark is Bran Castle, associated with the legend of Dracula.

The well-preserved medieval town of Sighisoara is absolutely worth visiting as well.

For more urban attractions, Bucharest’s capital city has several of those, most notably the enormous Communist-era Palace of Parliament.

The towering Carpathian Mountains flank Transylvania, a wild landscape home to wolves and brown bears that attract adventure seekers like hikers, campers, winter sports enthusiasts, rock climbers, and photographers alike.

Yet another remarkable natural feature in Romania is the Danube River, which flows into the Black Sea in Romania. The Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve is a prime location for wildlife watching, scenic bike rides, drives, and boat excursions.

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Population: 19,317,984 (2020)

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Romania’s Top Destinations

Romania stands out in the Balkans with its captivating blend of natural wonders, medieval charm, and vibrant urban life. It’s a country where the legends of Dracula are intertwined with the reality of castles perched in breathtaking landscapes and cities bustling with culture and history.

Romania’s diverse terrain, from the rugged beauty of the Carpathian Mountains to the serene expanses of the Danube Delta, offers a playground for nature lovers and adventurers alike. Bucharest, the capital, is a hub of energy and innovation, showcasing a mix of architectural styles that tell the nation’s story.

Beyond the urban, the Transylvanian countryside unfolds with Saxon villages and Gothic fortresses, offering a step back in time. Romania’s rich folklore, traditional crafts, and hearty cuisine add layers to the travel experience, making it distinctively memorable in the Balkan context. It’s a place where the past and present coexist, inviting visitors to explore its many layers.

11. Republic of Kosovo

An Independent Country Since 2008 (not recognized by Serbia)

Prizren, Kosovo - Balkan Travel Guide

A landlocked country surrounded by Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro, and Serbia, the Republic of Kosovo is a partially recognized country in the Balkans. Although some nations still don’t recognize Kosovo’s independence, it is a separate, although small, region in southeastern Europe with a distinct culture.

This fascinating new country has much going for it, including its obscurity. Because many travelers don’t know much about it, it has the unique potential to surprise and overwhelm unsuspecting visitors completely. Kosovo, after all, is gorgeous.

It’s home to beautiful domed Serbian monasteries dating from the 1200s, picturesque mountain towns, and world-class hiking trails.

Despite its turbulent past, Kosovo is perfectly safe to visit now. Yet, it does remain one of the last off-the-beaten-track destinations in Europe.

Like its neighbor Serbia, from which it declared independence in 2008, Kosovo is somewhat of a cultural crossroads in southern Europe, with Christian and Muslim influences.

Its spectacular natural scenery is Kosovo’s most significant touristic resource. Home to towering mountains dotted with canyons and lakes and crisscrossed by rivers; this small country is an outdoor lover’s paradise. You can go hiking, cycling, whitewater rafting, fishing, boating, skiing, and snowboarding.

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Population: 1,873,160 (2020)

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Top Destinations In Kosovo

Kosovo might be one of the lesser-known gems in the Balkans, but it packs a punch with its rich history, vibrant culture, and warm hospitality. Standing out for its youthful energy and resilience, Kosovo is a place where ancient traditions blend seamlessly with a keen sense of progress.

The capital, Pristina, buzzes with cafes, street art, and museums that tell the story of its past and its aspirations for the future. Beyond the city, the country’s landscape offers stunning natural beauty, from the rugged peaks of the Accursed Mountains to the serene beauty of the Mirusha Waterfalls.

Kosovo’s rich cultural tapestry is evident in its diverse festivals, traditional music, and crafts. This is a country where every conversation with locals enriches your understanding of their journey towards self-identity and independence. Kosovo invites the curious traveler to delve into its stories, enjoy its welcoming spirit, and discover its unique place in the Balkans.

12. Slovenia

An Independent Country Since: 1991

Triglav National Park - Famous and beloved Vintgar Gorge canyon

Slovenia may be tiny, but it’s packed with attractions. You can drive across in just a couple of hours, yet there’s everything from towering mountain peaks to historic cities, UNESCO-listed caves, and a spectacular coastline.

Often considered a part of Central Europe rather than a Balkan country, Slovenia has more in common with Austria and Italy than Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. This is a place dotted with onion-domed churches, where geraniums adorn wood-beamed houses and are characterized by a disciplined mindset.

Its major attractions include the Adriatic coast town of Piran, the Škocjan Caves, Ljubljana, Lake Bled, and Triglav National Park.

QUICK LINKS FOR A VACATION IN SLOVENIA

Best Accommodations In Slovenia

Best Activities In Slovenia

Population: 2,095,861 (2020)

Flag Of Slovenia

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Top Destinations In Slovenia

BEST BALKAN CITIES_Holidays In The Balkans - LAKE BLED

Slovenia might be small, but it packs a punch in the diversity and richness of its landscapes and cultural offerings, distinguishing it from its Balkan neighbors.

Nestled between the Alps and the Mediterranean, Slovenia is a green oasis with an abundance of natural beauty, including pristine lakes, dense forests, and rugged mountains.

The country is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, offering everything from skiing in winter to hiking and cycling in the summer season. Ljubljana, the charming capital, is known for its vibrant cultural scene, pedestrian-friendly streets, and a mix of classical and modern architecture. 

Slovenia also stands out for its commitment to sustainability, being one of the greenest countries in the world. The culinary scene is another highlight, blending Mediterranean, Alpine, and Balkan flavors. Slovenia’s unique blend of natural beauty, sustainable living, and rich cultural life makes it a standout destination in the Balkans.


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Balkans Accommodation Ideas

The Balkans offers tourists an amazingly wide variety of choices to pick from. This list mentions only a few of the best places to stay and explore in the Balkans.

If you plan your next holiday, consider the Balkans, and you will realize that it is indeed one of the most diverse parts of the world.

Balkan Itinerary Ideas

Here are some of our ideas for how to plan your trip across the Balkans. 

The Balkan War

What To Wear In Albania_Sarande

The Balkan War was an incredibly complicated conflict. Sparked by the collapse of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s, this war was the only exception to the peaceful transition from communism to capitalism in Eastern Europe.

The war between Yugoslavian countries was initiated by free elections held in 1991 in Croatia and Slovenia to become independent nations. The Yugoslavian army tried to suppress these newly emerging opinions of freedom.

The two countries declared independence anyway, followed by the Ten-Day War in Slovenia and the Croatian War of Independence that would last until 1995.

In the following years, Yugoslavia’s other countries gradually became independent. The conflict profoundly affected Bosnia-Herzegovina, a nation with large populations of Catholic Croats, Bosnian Muslims, and Orthodox Serbs.

The war eventually resulted in U.N. and NATO interventions. The Croatian and Bosnian wars ended in 1995, while the conflict in Kosovo lasted until 1999.

Nowadays, travel is safe in the Balkans. The region is war-free. Croatia is leading the way with a booming tourist industry.

Balkan Travel Tips Wrap Up

Wrapping up your plans to travel to the Balkans – you’re in for an adventure across some of Europe’s most diverse landscapes and cultures.

Each of the countries in the Balkans offers a unique experience, from ancient ruins to buzzing modern cities. When you’re planning to visit, consider what you want to see and do to choose the best time to visit the Balkans.

Hiring a car can give you the freedom to explore hidden gems, but don’t underestimate the efficiency of public transport here—it’s a budget-friendly way to hop between cities.

Keep an eye out for cheap flights, especially if you’re hopping across countries.

Our travel tips for traveling the Balkans are all about making your trip as smooth and enjoyable as possible, no matter which ones you want to visit. Get ready for an unforgettable journey!

 

Comments (42)

  1. Wow! There are many countries in Balkans!🇷🇸🇲🇪🇧🇦🇭🇷🇹🇷🇬🇷🇦🇱🇲🇰🇸🇮🇽🇰🇷🇴👌🏼👌🏾

  2. Thanks for this Blog, Now I know how much I spend when I go that place. it is really helping me to plan my trip around Serbia, Montenegro, Albania and Bosnia.

  3. How would I get some recommendations on touring some of the Balkans for a week or 2. We wouldn’t have time to visit them all. We will be attending a wedding ceremony in Albania next August and might as well tour some other areas while we are there.

  4. As someone who’s a bit apprehensive about traveling, your blog gives me the confidence and motivation to step out and explore. Thanks for that.

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