Here Is How To Enjoy Winter In The Balkans
The cold season is just around the corner, and nothing like a well-deserved winter break to lift the spirits and get over our tiring everyday routine. When looking for interesting winter destinations, the first things that come to mind are exclusive alpine ski resorts with relatively high fees and an exclusive vibe.
However, there are amazing European destinations gorgeous all year round and especially dazzling in winter, the Balkan countries!
Boasting challenging mountain trails, spectacular lakes, unique ski resorts, hot thermal spas, cozy cabins, and stimulating city adventures, the Balkans are an incredible destination to discover this winter!
Weather In The Balkans In Winter
When thinking about the Balkans in winter, the first thing to remember is that the region is home to many different countries, and while some of them might experience abundant snowfall and very low temperatures, the countries located near the coast have less cold but somewhat rainy winters.
In this guide, we have chosen some great things to do in winter in each Balkan country for you to consider before deciding on your final destination.
What Are The Balkan Countries
Located in the southeastern part of Europe, the Balkan Peninsula is bordered by the Adriatic, the Ionian, the Aegean, and the Black Seas. When it comes to mountains, the highest peak is Mount Musala (2.925 m) and the Rila Mountain Range in Bulgaria.
Although there is still disagreement on what countries belong to the Balkans, according to different sources, the following countries lie entirely or partially in the Balkan Peninsula and can be considered part of the Balkan States:
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- North Macedonia
Winter In The Balkans Breakdown
Albania: Best Things To Do In Winter
Better known for its beautiful coast as a mecca for seaside summer holidays, Albania can be an exciting winter destination on the coast of the Adriatic as part of its geography includes the Dinaric Alps.
Convenient all year round, the country is incredibly affordable in winter, when there are almost no tourists and the price for top-quality resorts drop dramatically. There is plenty to do in Albania in winter.
The country has often been featured as one of the world’s most affordable winter sports destinations!
If we had to pick one thing, that is certainly heading to Korce in southeastern Albania to enjoy a plethora of winter sports.
This area of the country has several ski resorts and many hiking trails, some of them suitable for the whole family. Besides, the National Museum of Medieval Art in Korce is a great indoor place to visit when the weather is terrible!
For less active travelers, what about a different Christmas Season? You could spend the Holiday Season of a lifetime in Tirana enjoying the beauty of picturesque Christmas markets and discovering beloved end-of-the-year traditions that range from delicious food to New Year’s Eve impressive fireworks.
Bosnia And Herzegovina: Best Things To Do In Winter
Once home to the Winter Olympics in former Sarajevo back in 1984, the country is home to beautiful ski resorts, including Vlasic, Bjelasnica, and Jahorina.
The mountains are a target spot for locals and tourists who enjoy skiing and snowboarding activities well into April.
Snowshoeing is another popular winter activity in the country, attracting young crowds from all over Europe since here, they find some of the best trails in the continent, surrounded by frozen lakes and waterfalls as well as delightful pine forests hidden under a layer of white snow.
Finally, although typically crowded in the summer, you can have Mostar all for yourself during winter.
The temperatures won’t be as low as you might expect and walking along the Old Bazaar and the ancient alleys can be a dreamy thing to do in Bosnia in winter.
Bulgaria: Best Things To Do In Winter
Rewarding ski runs, impressive snow-capped mountains, cozy mountain lodges, and a capital that’s beautiful all year round, Bulgaria is one of the most popular winter destinations in Europe, Bansko is Bulgaria’s most famous ski resort, but other centers that tourists hit in winter include Pamporovo and Borovets.
Being the country a reasonably affordable destination, it is possible to enjoy world-class winter sports at very convenient fees while lodging and facilities remain top class.
Religious tourism accounts for a wide slice of touristic activities in Bulgaria; the country shelters some inspiring monasteries that you can easily visit in winter if you want to have enough time to explore while avoiding crowds. Rila Monastery is the most famous of all and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The country’s capital, Sofia, features some of the best Christmas Markets in the Balkans, where it is possible to taste the local cuisine (hearty enough to be defined as perfect for winter), indulge in mulled wine, and purchase unique Christmas ornaments decorated with typical Bulgarian patterns.
Croatia: Best Things To Do In Winter
It’s no secret that the Balkans host some of the most magical Christmas Markets in the world. Croatia proudly hosts the most spectacular of them all, the Zagreb Christmas Market, which has been deemed the Best European Christmas Market for several years.
This Zagreb Christmas Market is one of the most visited spots in the country in winter, receiving visitors from all over the country and the rest of Europe!
It is known for the numerous stalls serving delicious local food, mulled wine, and dozens of handmade Christmas ornaments for your tree.
However, if you’re looking for a truly breathtaking sight, head to the stunning Plitvice Lakes National Park and enjoy the opportunity to see the incredible waterfalls wholly frozen.
This overwhelmingly beautiful natural wonder is one of the most incredible things to do in Croatia in winter.
Greece: Best Things To Do In Winter
Although the first thing that comes to your mind when thinking about Greece is the immense collection of whitewashed islands and pristine beaches, the country can be an exciting destination for those into winter sports.
In the last decades, the country developed an exciting tourist offer for the colder months thanks to the dozens of top-class ski runs scattered throughout the mainland. Snowboarding is another sport that has seen more and more fans in the high Greek mountains.
Besides, a visit to Greece will always offer that extra cultural visit that makes your experience rich and unforgettable. For instance, the stunning ski resort in Mount Parnassus is only a few minutes away from the mysterious archaeological site of Delos.
If you’re looking for a more relaxed winter break, it is a good idea to plan a visit to the capital, Athens, in winter. During this period, the most famous European archaeological site, the Acropolis, is easy to visit as you will encounter neither crowds nor extreme heat.
Thessaloniki, in the northern area of Greece, is a fantastic city with a young population as it’s home to one of the country’s leading universities.
Thessaloniki offers plenty of cultural activities, including museums, exhibitions, street markets, and historical sites that you can visit even if the temperatures are down.
Kosovo: Best Things To Do In Winter
Having declared its independence from Serbia in recent years (2008), Kosovo is among the youngest nations in the world.
Kosovo offers a surprising variety of winter activities, surrounded by a landscape made of frozen lakes and snowed-capped mountains.
Head to Brezovica for a popular ski resort less than two hours from Pristina, the highest peak in the area is Mount Black Rock, and it is open during the whole winter season.
The cultural center of Kosovo is the historic city of Prizren, another excellent winter destination made of charming cobbled streets, mountainous landscapes, and an attractive Ottoman district with an ancient bazaar and a unique atmosphere.
Here, you can check out three remarkable religious sites, including Prizren Cathedral, the Sinan Pasha Mosque, and the Orthodox Cathedral devoted to Saint George.
Montenegro: Best Things To Do In Winter
Somewhat forgotten and unknown, Montenegro is a winter paradise for sports and adrenaline-driven experiences.
Although the country features a few attractive national parks worth a stop or two, no other place beats the majestic beauty of Durmitor National Park, which stands out as a great winter destination for hiking and sightseeing.
Winter safaris are also popular among travelers of all ages, either in snowmobiles or self-driven 4×4 trucks.
Skiing is also possible down the slopes of Mount Savin Kuk; the quality of the runs equals top-class runs in Switzerland or Austria, but the prices are much more affordable. The resort offers three ski lifts and a particular run for kids.\
North Macedonia: Best Things To Do In Winter
Heavily dotted with high peaks and mountain ranges, North Macedonia is an excellent winter destination, easy to reach from any other Balkan state. There are several impressive National Parks all over the country, all offering amazing winter scenes under a thick blanket of snow from December to March.
The largest national park in the country, Mavrovo, spreads over more than 200,000 acres and hosts not only an important ski resort but also the gorgeous Mavrovo Lake and the underwater Sunken Church.
Since we’ve checked the biggest national park, maybe it’s also a good idea to visit the smallest one.
Galicica is North Macedonia’s tiniest natural reserve which is completely covered in snow during winter, home to one of the country’s most superb hiking trails that leads to Mount Peak (225Here are 11 of the best day trips from Bucharest. We have ideas from epic road trips to ancient sites, and spots for nature lovers.5 m) and offers stunning views over Ohrid Lake and the picturesque lakeside village.
Romania: Best Things To Do In Winter
Located on the eastern Balkan Peninsula, Romania is one of the largest countries in southeast Europe. Maybe not as popular as other countries in this geographic region, but the country is a great winter destination you should explore.
Receiving a good quantity of snow from early December well into March, skiing and snowboarding are two of the most popular activities in Romania. Small and picturesque mountain villages feature Nativity events and street markets, perfect for getting a close-up look at the local culture and traditions.
For history buffs, Bucharest will exceed every expectation, so make some time to explore Revolution Square, the Palace of the Parliament, and Old Town Bucharest.
Castles and marvelous natural scenes populate the region of Transylvania; book a cozy lodge in the medieval city of Sibiu to jump on a train and explore the whole area.
Also, in Sibiu, you will find a huge Christmas Market open from November to early January. It counts more than 70 merchants from Romania and other countries as well.
Serbia: Best Things To Do In Winter
A perfect destination for young travelers, lively but also affordable, the capital of the country, Belgrade, has an exciting series of nightclubs, pubs, and music venues that will undoubtedly keep you warm and cozy in the cold winter evenings.
Shopping is also affordable and entertaining; reach the Choomich Design District in Serbia to discover an exhilarating new generation of Serbian designers.
Instead, if you prefer to be in contact with nature, check out inspiring mountain landscapes, and do some sport, pay a visit to Tara National Park to discover some therapeutic walking trails.
Horse riding in the snow is a popular activity too. Different horse riding clubs near the mountains offer organized group scenic rides or horse carriage excursions.
Slovenia: Best Things To Do In Winter
Surrounded by high peaks and majestic lakes, Slovenia shows its best dress in the cold season. The spectacular scenery covers up in snow, offering some of the most enchanting landscapes you can imagine.
Winter sports are the highlight of Slovenia’s cold winter. Slovenia in winter is an excellent place for hiking and climbing, but also to experience skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, and so many more activities.
Hundreds of Europeans reach Slovenia in winter to climb the country’s highest peak, Mount Triglav, or to enjoy the dreamy white landscapes in Triglav National Park.
And if you’re not a fan of outdoor adventure, head to a spa resort for some steaming hot thermal treatments, or seek refuge in the capital, Ljubljana. Here, you can go shopping at the beautiful Ljubljana Advent Market, which every December is next to the Ljubljana River, to sample delicious roasted chestnuts, pečenica (fried sausages), and traditional sauerkraut.
Also, in the nearby Postojna Cave, a breathtaking version of the Nativity Story is recreated every December, featuring hundreds of performers every year.
Finally, you can head to the coastal city of Piran to soak in the picturesque atmosphere of this Adriatic town. Or you can go for a wine tasting session to sample some of the best labels in the country.
Turkey: Best Things To Do In Winter
Nothing like a city escape to Istanbul during winter; if you’re looking for mild temperatures, interesting cultural landmarks, delicious food, and… why not? Some shopping too!
Istanbul in winter is a stunning and lively destination. You can discover two of the grandest mosques in the country, Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque or learn everything about the mysterious whirling Dervishes with their fascinating dance ritual.
What is there not to love about a day by the Bosphorus or a visit to the top of Galata Tower? Include in your city experience a couple of hours hunting for spices, teas, and silk pashminas in the fascinating Grand Bazaar, one of the oldest markets in the world.
Seek refuge in a city café on the iconic Istiklal Caddesi to try a hot cup of salep, the traditional winter beverage made from Orchid tubers.
And if you prefer more wintery landscapes, why not reach the beautiful Cappadocia, with its rocky peaks covered in snow? Balloon trips in Cappadocia are available all year round and can be a magical winter experience that you probably won’t forget easily.