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2 Weeks In The Balkans
Were you hoping to find some secret gems on your Balkans road trip or looking for the most stunning natural parts of the region? This guide should help you sort through the hundreds of destinations in the Balkans, so you can guarantee you are seeing the best of the best on your two-week trip through Europe’s forgotten oasis.
Fear not; if our itinerary doesn’t cover an area of the Balkans you are eager to see, we have loads of other Balkan travel guides that may suit your fancy on the site.
You don’t have to use this itinerary as an end-all-be-all for your trip. Sift through our many guides and itineraries and use the information to put together your dream trip according to your desires.
Where Are The Balkans
The Balkan peninsula is a geographic region in the southeast of Europe, usually consisting of a dozen or so countries: Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, Greece, and the European part of Turkey.
Although the Balkans region is not necessarily defined, generally, these are the countries that are referred to as part of the Balkans.
The region is named after the Balkan mountain range, which extends nearly all the way across the peninsula. The peninsula is trapped between the Adriatic Sea to the West, the Black Sea to the east, and the Mediterranean in the south and is one of the best regions for nature escapes in Europe.
How To Travel In The Balkans – We’ll Help You Plan Your Holidays In The Balkans
Getting around the Balkans is easy and getting easier by the year. With advances to its intricate train network, bus lines and routes being added to connect popular tourist towns, and improvements in highway systems in almost every country, traveling around the Balkans has never been easier.
Not to mention, it seems budget airlines have figured out people want to travel to the Balkans and have added many affordable routes throughout the region, with many more in the works.
However, a self-driven road trip is our favorite way to get around the Balkans because of its cost, efficiency, and pure beauty. We will set an itinerary for this Balkans road trip for two weeks.
When To Travel In The Balkans
Between the top-notch ski runs at an affordable price, the Adriatic’s immaculate beaches, the unspoiled hiking trails among dozens of national parks, and the dashing water activities of the Black Sea, there is fun for all seasons in the Balkans.
You may take a winter vacation to ski among the fantasized peaks of the Balkans range and decide you crave a summer vacation to its beaches after. There is no reason not to keep coming back as there is a journey to be had at all times in the year.
For the sake of 10 days in the Balkans itinerary, we will assume it is the travel season and you are road-tripping during the summer months along the Adriatic Coast.
Balkan Countries To Visit In Two Weeks
2 Week Balkan Road Trip Itinerary
You will likely fly to the Balkans unless you travel from somewhere nearby, where you can come with your own vehicle. From there, you will need to rent a car to start your road trip. Starting from any of these destinations is suitable; we have mapped out this specific itinerary to spare you time in back-tracking and distances between cities.
Not to waste more breath, here is our suggested two-week Balkans Itinerary:
Where To Start Your Balkans Road Trip
As mentioned, you can start anywhere in the Balkans, and there is always another nearby city within driving distance worth visiting. However, we suggest starting in Albania’s capital city for convenience in planning for this itinerary.
Tirana, Albania (3-4 Days)
Tirana is the capital and largest city in Albania, but by no means the only place to be in Albania. Kruja and Durres are within an hour’s drive from the capital city and well worth your time during your visit.
We suggest spending a day in each of these cities during your stay in Albania.
Start in Tirana, where you must check out Skanderbeg Square’s main square, which is excellent for people-watching. Check out the National Historical Museum, the famous statue of Albania’s #1 hero, and the square’s namesake, Skanderbeg.
Tirana is filled with lovely people, just as all of Albania is, and prices are exceptionally affordable for things like checking out the local cuisine and bar scene.
Next, travel to Kruja – a charming medieval village between soaring mountain peaks and truly green valleys. Besides its picturesque natural appearance, Kruja also has very significant historical importance to Albania.
Very few foreign tourists make the day trip to Kruja; however, you will find a lot of Albanian weekend warriors visiting on days off of work. Despite that, the village has been able to remain wholly authentic and void of tourist traps.
Lastly, on your third and final day, you can travel to the coast to Durres for a true beach escape. It is the most ancient city in the whole country and owns the biggest port in Albania.
Durres has over 3,000 years of history, dating back to 627 B.C., earning it the nickname of the eternal city over the Adriatic. The most notable tourist attraction and historical significance is the amphitheater of the Roman Emperor Hadrian – the second largest amphitheater in the Balkans.
When the three days are over, you will likely be craving more of Albania’s culture, and the good news is there is still plenty to see of this country, just not on this itinerary. The Albanian Riviera in the south is one of the most overlooked areas of the Balkans and Europe. Save it for another trip!
Budva, Montenegro (2 Days)
About four hours north of Tirana along the Adriatic coast is the exciting Montenegrin city of Budva. With so much to experience in the Balkans, Montenegro often is skipped in favor of more popular tourist countries; however, those who don’t miss this place will be treated to an authentic experience like many more popular countries in the Balkans cannot provide.
Budva and Sveti Stefan are two semi-secret coastal towns in the tiny country, which are both worth visiting. If you spend two days between the two places, you will probably have seen all you need to see – but it is still worth the time.
In Budva, step through the medieval gate leading to town directly onto the beach and stroll down the coast for about five minutes until you reach Mogren Beach – Budva’s best. Here you will notice a bronze statue of a ballet dancer gazing out to sea. It is the graceful symbol of Budva – a town we would argue is just as graceful as the statue itself.
You can rent paddleboards or kayaks and cover more of the pristine waters surrounding the area that way.
Just six miles to the east is Sveti Stefan, which is a must-visit. It is a fortified town built on a small island connected to the mainland by a sand spit. It is a rare geographical feature but an even rarer town. Walk through its narrow streets, and you can easily spend a few hours soaking up the beauty. If you still have energy, find a way up the hillside on the mainland for an even better bird’s eye view of Sveti Stefan.
Again, Montenegro is a beautiful country and worth more time on your visit – however – for the sake of keeping to the itinerary, it may be better to revisit another time. Podgorica is the country’s capital and is only about an hour away. The city is known to be suffering through an identity crisis after a long history of controlling empires, which gives it a huge unpronounced feel.
Dubrovnik, Croatia (1-2 Day)
Just 2.5 hours northwest of Budva along the Dalmatian Coast is the bustling little seaside town of Dubrovnik in Croatia. You may have seen a few places in Dubrovnik on HBO already as it has gained some fame being host to many scenes from the popular series Game of Thrones.
Though tourism has soared in the past decade along the coast of Croatia, Dubrovnik is well-deserved of its attention and still a must-see on your Balkan road trip.
Make sure you traverse the narrow lanes of its fortified Old Town and take in the excellent architecture which drew the attention of the monster series, G.O.T.
After a long day on the beach, make sure you catch the sunset at one of the seaside cliffside bars offering happy hour at golden hour. You may need to arrive early at a few more popular spots – especially during the busy season – and be ready to witness magic in the sky as the colors change all sorts of vibrant colors. Dubrovnik is one of the best places in the Balkans for sunset magic.
Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina (1 Day)
After Dubrovnik, whether you decide to spend a night in the city or not, you can drive to your next destination in Bosnia and Herzegovina – a much quieter destination for a good night of sleep – in a tiny valley village called Mostar.
It is due north, about 2.5 hours from Dubrovnik, and has a tremendous nighttime ambiance that you will appreciate. It will likely be late by that time, so you can check into your hotel and get ready to witness the largest city in Herzegovina in the morning.
Despite being the largest city, there is no need for concern. It is quaint but full of dark history. You can hike the hills but watch out for undetonated landmines. This might be a bit intimidating, so if you’d like, you can stay in town and witness its history on the walls – literally. Bullet holes still grace the concrete and stone walls around town. It is a tell-tale sign of a violent past, but do not fret; Mostar is such a peaceful place today.
Most people hang around the enchanting famous Old Bridge (Stari Grad), where the two sides of the town connect over the river. You can join if you dare (the bridge is about 60 feet high). If you are lucky, you may catch the locals jumping from the bridge into the river – a sort of tradition in town.
Spend the afternoon walking around the cobblestoned town, and when you feel like you have walked around the entire city, you can grab a drink and get a good night’s sleep or head to your next destination – back to Croatia!
Split, Croatia (1-2 Days)
You will cross borders several times, and here you are crossing back into the long narrow nation of Croatia to the most famous seaside town, Split.
Split has become one of the hottest destinations in the Balkan peninsula. If you are road-tripping during the summer, you may have to book accommodation in advance – especially when arriving in the nighttime; you don’t want to be left without a place to sleep.
Split is the second-largest city in the country and the largest in the region of Dalmatia. Despite all the people, we like Split because of its blend of modern living and ancient history.
You only need one day to see the sites in Split, but you will notice many people hanging around at the resorts and taking boat trips for an extended stay.
Whatever you do, there are a few things we suggest which none include beaches or lazing in the sun.
The Old Town and its maze of narrow streets and cafes are worth getting lost in. We’d also suggest climbing the Bell Tower of St. Domnius Cathedral for unparalleled views of the city and the fifty shades of blue in the Adriatic Sea. Lastly, you must visit Diocletian’s Palace – especially as a Game of Thrones fan, as multiple scenes were shot here at this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Alternatively, if you want to run away from the crowds, consider traveling just a short half-hour down the coast to Omis, which is regarded as very similar to Split in architecture but half the price and size (and madness) of Split.
After a full day in Split, you will need to be well-rested for your longest drive of the road trip, but don’t worry; the time is well worth it, and the ride is beautiful.
Zagreb, Croatia (3 Days)
Four hours north of Split is Croatia’s stunning capital in the northern part of the country, Zagreb. It is one of the best cities in the Balkans just to walk around and experience the culture vibrating off the walls. We love Zagreb for many reasons and believe it is worth at least two days of your itinerary.
There are so many things to see as far as sites go; however, our favorite part of the city is probably its most popular. Gornji Grad – the upper town – with its cobblestoned streets and head-turning architecture is worth at least a few hours of walking around and grabbing photographs.
Though we could argue your time isn’t wasted leisurely strolling its streets, it is fair to assume that some people would like to stay busy seeing the sites. No worry, there are plenty of things to do in Zagreb too.
One of the more entertaining things you can do in Zagreb is spend an hour or two in the Museum of Broken Relationships. People worldwide have submitted their sob stories about lost loves, and is there anything more amusing than complicated love stories (ask Nicholas Sparks)? And yes, it is precisely what it sounds like. The museum is so well done and has become Zagreb’s top tourist attraction based on pure intrigue.
There is also a booming street art scene in the city, which has turned the dull walls into a collection of youth culture and talents, making the city the most beautiful it has ever been.
It is a vibrant city full of young people, bustling chic cafes, talented and entertaining street performers, and green parks around every corner you least expect it. The city is forever in our hearts, and we are sure it will find a place in yours, too.
Ljubljana (2-3 Days)
We end our itinerary a little under two hours northwest of Zagreb in a new country – in the capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana. It is another city with a young identity and lively streets. You can walk along the river and be entertained for hours. Or, set up shop on the river at a cafe and spend time watching life go by.
Speaking of capital cities in Europe with a lot of green space, Ljubljana has set a precedent in that category, making it one of the prettiest urban cities in Europe – and it is hard to dispute that once you see it.
Spend a majority of your stay in the gorgeous Old Town, soaking up the excellent vibe of restaurants serving up delicious traditional Slovenian foods.
If you still have time left in your vacation, you MUST visit Lake Bled, which is the country’s biggest attraction but not to be missed.
Enjoy Your Balkan Road Trip
The Balkans are a vastly underrated road trip destination in Europe. As a matter of fact, when you combine its lovely coastal drives among pristine, crystal blue waters of the Adriatic, its mountainous terrain, Transylvania’s wooded forests, quaint Black Sea coastal towns, stunning old-world architecture, and wondrous lakes and waterfalls, the Balkans region is genuinely incomparable to anywhere else in the world. And the affordable prices to travel around the area don’t hurt either.
Even though this region of Europe is often forgotten, it is no less beautiful than anywhere else on the continent and deserves more attention as a holiday oasis.
Don’t be shy and comment below if you have any concerns regarding a vacation to the Balkans.Share