Traveling the Balkans: A Comprehensive Guide to the Region

traveling the balkans

The Balkan countries are located in southeastern Europe, also known as the Balkan Peninsula. The region is named after the Balkan Mountains, which stretch from Serbia to Bulgaria’s border and reach the Black Sea. Although the definition of the Balkans varies, this article covers Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro.

Balkan Countries: Tourist Expectations Vs. Local Customs

The Balkan countries are relatively undiscovered compared to other European destinations, and visitors may not know much about the region. However, the Balkan War that devastated the area in the 1990s is over, and the region is safe to travel. While Western tourists may be accustomed to fast-paced service, the people of the Balkans enjoy taking their time. Visitors should embrace the cultural differences, interact with locals, and inform themselves about local customs to make the most of their trip.

The Balkan War

The Balkan War was a complicated conflict that resulted from the collapse of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s. The war between Yugoslavian countries began when Croatia and Slovenia declared independence, followed by the Ten-Day War in Slovenia and the Croatian War of Independence that lasted until 1995. The war deeply affected Bosnia-Herzegovina, a nation with a diverse population of Catholic Croats, Muslim Bosniaks, and Orthodox Serbs. The conflict eventually resulted in U.N. and NATO interventions. The Croatian and Bosnian wars ended in 1995, while the conflict in Kosovo lasted until 1999.

Balkan Food

The Balkans are home to vineyards, olive groves, truffle forests, goat farms, and honey farms, making it a fantastic destination for foodies. Each country has several national specialties, but meat is a prominent feature on any menu. Vegetarians and vegans might face a challenge when traveling through parts of the Balkans, but some countries like Croatia have vegan options.

Currency and Visas in the Balkan Countries

Only three countries on the Balkan country list use the Euro, while Bosnia-Herzegovina uses the convertible mark. Visitors can exchange currency at border crossings, but it’s better to exchange at local exchange offices away from the border. Additionally, visitors from certain countries don’t need a visa to enter Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Croatia. However, the allowed length of stay differs between these countries, and visitors should check with their local embassy before traveling.

Balkan Countries List

The Balkan countries featured on this website, including the entire region, are Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, and Turkey. This article briefly introduces each country’s culture, characteristics, and highlights.

Where to Travel in the Balkans

The Balkans is a traveler’s paradise with numerous destinations and attractions. The region is surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea, the Marmara Sea, the Adriatic Sea, and the Black Sea, with the rivers Danube, Sava, and Kupa as its northern boundary. It offers natural beauty, pristine beaches, snow-capped mountains, historic settlements, medieval architecture, and idyllic villages. Some of the top destinations and attractions in the Balkans include Skopje, Macedonia, the beaches of Croatia, the Old Town in Dubrovnik, Croatia, the Ottoman-era architecture of Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the city of Sofia in Bulgaria, and the ancient city of Istanbul, Turkey.

Slovenia: A Country Packed with Attractions

Slovenia is a small country packed with attractions. Despite being easily drivable in a couple of hours, this Central European country has everything from towering mountain peaks to historic cities, UNESCO-listed caves, and a spectacular coastline. Slovenia is often considered more akin to Austria and Italy than to Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, with onion-domed churches and geranium-adorned wood-beamed houses characterizing the country’s disciplined mindset.

Slovenia’s major attractions include the Adriatic coast town of Piran, the Škocjan Caves, Ljubljana, Lake Bled, and Triglav National Park. For the best accommodations, travelers can stay at City Hotel Ljubljana, Hotel Lovec, or PortHouse Apartments, depending on their travel preferences. To make the most of their stay, they can join activities such as the 3.5-Hour Guided Ljubljana Food & Wine Tour, Guided Tour From Ljubljana or Bled to Postojna Cave and Predjama castle, or Private Walking Tour with a Local in Piran.

Population-wise, Slovenia is home to 2,095,861 people as of 2020.

Top Destinations in Slovenia

Lake Bled Lake Bled is a scenic place that offers historic architecture and tranquility, with a medieval Bled Castle overlooking a serene lake in the backdrop of snow-capped mountains. The Julian Alps and the surrounding area can be viewed from the castle’s panoramic spot.

Triglav National Park Triglav National Park is a well-known destination, famous for its Vintgar Gorge canyon.

Lake Bohinj Lake Bohinj is the largest permanent lake in Slovenia and is located in the Triglav National Park.

Postojna Cave Postojna Cave is a world-renowned UNESCO Heritage site and one of the most visited attractions in Slovenia, with over 25 million visitors since its opening to the public in 1819.

Skocjan Caves The Škocjan Caves are another UNESCO-listed site that has been a tourist attraction since the 19th century.

Ljubljana Ljubljana is the capital city of Slovenia and a must-see destination for travelers, known for its charming old town, Dragon Bridge, and Ljubljana Castle.

More Slovenia Travel Blogs For those planning their Slovenia travel itinerary, blogs such as the Best Castles in Slovenia, Top Beaches in Slovenia, Where to Go Glamping in Slovenia, Ultimate List of Spas in Slovenia, Guide to Renting and Driving a Car in Slovenia, Ski Resorts You Can’t-Miss in Slovenia, Where to Stay in Slovenia, Things to Do with Kids in Slovenia, Best Day Trips from Lake Bled, Best Day Trips from Ljubljana, and Fun Accommodation Choices in Piran can be helpful resources.

Croatia: A Varied Country with World-Renowned Heritage Sites

Croatia 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, with 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.

Croatia’s major attractions include Plitvice National Park, Dubrovnik, Split, Zagreb, Krka National Park, Rovinj, and the islands of Hvar, Brač, and Korčula. Travelers can stay at Timeout Heritage Hotel Zagreb, Berkeley Hotel & Day Spa, or Apartments Korta, depending on their preferences. They can also join activities such as the City Walking Guided Tour in Zagreb, Old Town & City Walls Guided Tour in Dubrovnik, or the Old Town and Diocletian Palace 1.5 Hour Walking Tour with a local guide in Split.

As of 2020, Croatia has a population of 4,058,165.

Top Destinations in Croatia

Dubrovnik Dubrovnik is a must-see destination in Croatia, boasting old buildings protected by UNESCO, the oldest arboretum in the world (Arboretum Trsteno), and many Renaissance buildings that are considered architectural heritage. The city also has walls and is dotted with towers and turrets. Some of the enchanting beaches in Dubrovnik include Copacabana Beach, Lapad Beach, and Cava Beach.

Plitvice Lakes National Park Plitvice Lakes National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most famous national parks in Croatia. Its cascading waterfalls and turquoise lakes are a sight to behold.

Dalmatian Islands The Dalmatian Islands are a group of islands in the Adriatic Sea, known for their stunning beaches, clear waters, and charming villages.

Split Split is the second-largest city in Croatia and the largest city in the Dalmatian region. It is known for its historic center, Diocletian’s Palace, and its beautiful beaches.

Krka National Park Krka National Park is a beautiful park in Croatia known for its waterfalls, hiking trails, and stunning scenery.

Istria Istria is a peninsula in the Adriatic Sea, shared by Croatia, Slovenia, and Italy. It is known for its picturesque hilltop towns, beaches, and vineyards.

Zagreb Zagreb is the capital city of Croatia, located in the northwestern part of the country. It is known for its historic architecture, museums, and vibrant nightlife.

Bosnia-Herzegovina: A Culturally and Religiously Diverse Country

Bosnia-Herzegovina, an independent country since 1992, is located in the Balkans and is known for its cultural and religious diversity. It is home to several ethnic minorities, such as the Bosniaks, Croats, and Serbs, making it the most diverse country in the Balkans. The country’s cityscapes are dotted with both church spires and minarets, and it is one of the few European countries with a Muslim majority.

The country is a true crossroads between Europe and the Middle East, offering visitors a unique cultural experience. Bosnia-Herzegovina has a rich cultural heritage and beautiful natural attractions, making it a popular tourist destination. Visitors can explore historic towns like Mostar and Sarajevo, go whitewater rafting in Bihać, Banja Luka, or Foča, and explore little towns such as Trebinje.

Top Destinations in Bosnia-Herzegovina

Some of the top destinations in Bosnia-Herzegovina include Mostar, Medjugorje, Kravice Waterfalls, Blagaj Dervish Monastery, and Sarajevo. Visitors can also explore the country’s national parks and museums, which offer a glimpse into the region’s fascinating history and culture.

Where to Stay in Bosnia-Herzegovina

For those planning a trip to Bosnia-Herzegovina, there are many accommodation options to choose from. Some of the best-rated accommodations in the country include Hotel Sinan Han in Mostar, Hotel Luna in Međugorje, and Hotel Logavina in Sarajevo.

Montenegro: A Spectacular Destination

Montenegro, an independent country since 2006, is a spectacular destination known for its stunning landscapes, vibrant coastal towns, and hospitable people. Its name, meaning “Black Mountain,” refers to the country’s magnificent coastal hills, sandy beaches, rugged inland mountain ranges, deep canyons, and shimmering lakes.

Visitors to Montenegro can explore the Bay of Kotor, Durmitor National Park, Budva, Sveti Stefan, and Lake Skadar. Budva is one of the Adriatic’s epicenters of luxury and beach travel, with loads of excellent hotels. The country’s hospitable people make it one of the most enjoyable places to visit in southern Europe, especially for those looking for an off-the-beaten-track outdoor adventure.

Where to Stay in Montenegro

There are many great accommodation options in Montenegro, such as Apartments Villa Luka in Sveti Stefan, Apartments Mrdak in Bar, and Vivid Blue Serenity Resort in Sveti Stefan.

For you

6 thoughts on “Traveling the Balkans: A Comprehensive Guide to the Region”

Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top