In this post, we bring you the best and most beautiful off-the-beaten-track places to visit on a Balkans itinerary! I’ve been fortunate to have had the helping hands of some amazing travel bloggers who’ve assisted me in suggesting some of the best things to do and see in the Balkans region. Their expertise uncovers everything from underrated European capitals to charming historical hidden gems and stunning National Parks you’ve never heard of.
A huge thank you to everyone who helped me curate this list of gorgeous Balkans must-see places. It’s safe to say that my European wishlist simply doesn’t stop growing and I can’t wait till I can go back to this region for another visit!
Whether you’re travelling the Balkans on a road trip or by bus, it can be hard to plan a route through this huge area. For ease, I’ve begun this list in Serbia’s capital before winding around the rest of the Balkans region in a circular… ish… motion, before finishing up with some fab suggestions to Croatia and Slovenia – including hidden gems in these more well-known destinations. That said, due to the many border crossings it’s not 100% the best order, since I listed by country. For more tips on what to know before you go, you can check out my post on Balkans travel tips here.
by Chrysoula from Athens And Beyond
If you’re planning on visiting the Balkans, it’s highly likely that bustling Belgrade is already on your list and if it’s not, it definitely should be! Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, was long forgotten on travel bucket lists due to its tumultuous history and Soviet-era architecture peppering the skyline. But today’s more discerning travelers are able to look at this fascinating city as a place to delve into and discover, with a rich culture, buzzing nightlife, and some beautiful buildings dotted in between the Brutalist eyesores!
Not only is Belgrade something different for those who are used to London, Paris and Rome, but it’s much cheaper too, so you’ll get a lot more bang for your buck. Low-cost living, local craft beers, tasty traditional cuisine, and the world’s largest Eastern Orthodox church are all alluring features of this wonderful city.
Start your trip to Belgrade with a visit to Republic Square, a grand plaza that is home to The National Theatre, The National Museum as well as fountains, trees and statues. It can be nice to take a walking tour here to learn more about the history of the city before exploring further. From here you’ll want to move on to the impressive Church of Saint Sava, a huge Eastern Orthodox church with striking contrasted interiors with some parts being intricate and colourful and others left unfinished!
Next, you’ll wander along Knez Mihailova street (the place to see and be seen in Belgrade) before taking in the sights of the Kalemegdan Fortress, with an on-site park that overlooks the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers.
Other worthwhile sites to visit if you have time are Tito’s mausoleum, the Museum of Yugoslavia, and the Nikola Tesla Museum which displays some of Serbia’s greatest inventions.
Tara National Park, Serbia
by Daniela from Grumpy Camel
If you want to get off the beaten path in Serbia, spend a few days exploring Tara National Park in the country’s western region. Forming part of the Dinaric Alps, which span across seven Balkan countries, Tara National Park is characterised by spectacular mountains, deep ravines and dense forests. This area is also home to several wildlife species, including wolves, chamois and brown bears.
The Drina River runs across Tara National Park, its vibrant, turquoise water weaving its way around lush green mountains and steep cliffsides. A large part of the river forms a natural border between Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Tara is also home to two artificial lakes, Perucac and Zaovine, which are great spots for kayaking. Other popular outdoors activities in Tara include rock climbing, rafting and hiking (there are several hiking trails to choose from).
Make sure to visit the small village of Bajina Basta, which sits along the Drina River on the Serbian-Bosnian border. This village is home to one of the smallest rivers of the world, Vrelo, which is only 365 metres long. Another interesting site is the 13th-century Orthodox monastery of Raca, just 7km south of Bajina Basta.
The best way to explore Tara National Park is to rent a car. I also recommend using the city of Uzice or the mountain resort of Zlatibor as your base.
by Emily from Wander-Lush
No Balkans itinerary is complete without a visit to Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second-largest city and cultural heart.
Located 150 kilometres southeast of Sofia, it’s easily accessible as a day trip from the capital – but it’s worth lingering for a night or two to soak up the old-world ambiance.
Plovdiv recently held the title of European Capital of Culture, and walking the streets of the Old Town, it’s not hard to see why. One of the oldest cities in Europe, Neolithic settlements here have been dated back to the 6th millennium BC. Having been ruled over by Thracians, Greeks, Persians, Goths, Slavs and Turks at various points throughout its long history, Plovdiv symbolises the melting pot of East and West that makes the Balkan region so intriguing.
Plovdiv is best-known for the gifts its Roman conquerors bestowed on the city. Philippopolis, as it was known, boasted a mammoth stadium and an amphitheatre. The latter has been beautifully preserved and still hosts dramatic and musical performances today.
The architecture in the Old Town is another highlight. Homes built in the typical Bulgarian Renaissance style are colourful on the outside and incredibly ornate inside. Among those that have been transformed into house museums, Hindliyan House stands out for its wall frescoes. Others serve as hotels, including Guest House Old Plovdiv, which offers dormitories and private rooms right in the heart of the action. Don’t miss Kapana (literally ‘The Trap’), a small neighbourhood of cobbled streets and winding alleyways. Previously dedicated to artisan workshops, it now serves as the city’s creative hub. Amidst the street art you’ll find plenty of outdoor cafes and wine bars. Pavaj, one of the best restaurants in Bulgaria (if not the entire region), is known for its modern take on classic flavours using local and organic produce.
Pirin National Park
by Sarah from A Social Nomad
Pirin National Park in Bulgaria is something of a hidden gem in the Balkans and a gorgeous location for nature and outdoor lovers. In winter Bulgaria’s biggest ski resort, Bansko, provides for the cheapest skiing and snowboarding in Europe as well as other winter activities. There’s ice skating, cross country skiing and snowshoeing available from the town and in the local area of the National Park. National Park Huts are also open throughout the year and provide excellent accommodation and food across fantastic walking routes in the Park.
Summer months in Pirin National Park are glorious too. There is much easier access to the mountains with the summer schedule of the ski gondola, and there’s also a summer bus service that runs from the Bansko Railway Station to the Vihren Hut high above the ski area for hiking further into the Park. There are also a series of wild hot spring pools present throughout the National Park. Elsewhere, geothermically heated water is piped into more formal pools in the nearby town of Banya.
Outdoor activities reign in the Park and surrounds with mountain biking routes, day hikes and shorter walking routes, horse riding and kayaking available inside the Park. Pirin National Park is easy to reach by car in around 2 hours from the Bulgarian capital, Sofia. There are also buses that run from Sofia to Bansko
by Michael from The World Was Here First
One of the best places to visit during a trip to the Balkans is the Bulgarian capital of Sofia. With easy connections available from Northern Greece, Romania, Serbia & North Macedonia, it’s incredibly easy to spend a couple of days in Sofia during any route through the Balkans.
Sofia is an interesting city to visit with its history spanning several different periods, which is still evident in the city today. Some of the top sights to see in the Bulgarian capital include the Thracian ruins in Serdika Metro Station, the impressive and iconic Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and the plethora of other religious sites in the city centre such as the Banya Bashi Mosque & Sofia Synagogue.
It’s also worth taking the time to learn more about Bulgaria’s Communist past. If this is of interest, it’s worth visiting the Museum of Socialist Art which contains a large selection of Communist-era statues and posters. The Monument to the Soviet Army is another popular site to visit, partly because it has been the target of street artists who have converted it over the years.
Finally, no trip to Sofia would be complete without sampling some of the local cuisine. The Sofia Central Market Hall has a number of stalls and restaurants while there is also a growing number of innovative Bulgarian restaurants who are working to modernise the local cuisine.
by Anda from Travel For A While
Timisoara is one of those hidden gems most people never find out about. This beautiful city is situated close to the Romanian border to both Serbia and Hungary, making it a must on any Balkans itinerary.
A lot of influences contributed to Timisoara’s rich heritage and its beautiful Secession architecture. The city has a large pedestrian area, cathedrals, parks full of roses by the river banks, and a very lively area of restaurants and terraces in the city center.
Start exploring in Union Square, a large piazza in the pedestrian area flanked by pastel-colored buildings. The square becomes alive at dusk when terraces fill with people all around. Make your way through the cobblestone streets and under the colorful umbrellas on Alba Iulia street, towards Victory Square which is dominated by the Orthodox Cathedral. The pedestrian area encloses 4 squares and many streets and has been constantly growing these last few years. Timisoara is preparing to be the European Capital of Culture in 2021 and the city center is becoming more and more attractive.
It’s a great idea to stay right in this central area and the most convenient option is to book an apartment through Airbnb. Regarding restaurants, I loved the food and atmosphere at The Scotland Yard Pub but there are plenty of good choices in the area.
by Jade from The Migrant Yogi
The charming medieval city of Sibiu, Romania is a must-visit on any Balkans itinerary. Settled by Saxon Germans, Sibiu, or Hermannstadt, was the 2007 European Cultural Capital and in 2008 one of Forbes’ most idyllic places to live in Europe.
Nestled in the Carpathian mountains of Transilvania, Sibiu boasts lively squares, colorful buildings, houses with ‘eyes’, and an impressive number of museums. The Brukenthal Museum network consists of a Romanian art museum, a Transilvanian history museum, a natural history museum, a history of pharmacy museum, and even a steam locomotive museum! At Astra you will find an outdoor ethnographic museum dedicated to Romanian folk culture.
If you’re a nature lover, the activities in the mountains will keep you busy for days. Balea Lake is also an easy day trip away. Visit Parcul Subarini for a network of trails perfect for early morning runs.
Visit Piața Mică and Piața Mare for any number of terraces to enjoy a coffee or glass of wine. There are a number of outstanding places to eat in Sibiu – some of the city’s best restaurants include Hermania, Restaurant Grande, and Kulinarium.
The main squares of the old town (Piața Mare, Piața Mică, and Piața Huet) are interconnected among themselves and to the lower town by hidden tunnels and secret stair passages.
Head up the Council Tower for sweeping city views or dare to tell a lie on Podul Minciunilor (the Bridge of Lies).
Sibiu is a small city, and walking everywhere is easily done. And incredibly safe! It’s an excellent option for solo female travelers. Whatever your interests, Sibiu is a gem in the heart of Transylvania that should not be overlooked!
Ohrid, now declared both a Natural AND Historical UNESCO Heritage site, is a gorgeous lakeside city. Both history and nature lovers will feel at ease here, with its ample hiking opportunities at Galicica National Park or time spent exploring the historical architecture.
Holidaymakers may prefer to relax on the city beaches – an ideal sunbathing spot in the summer – or go for a swim in the lake to cool off. A gentle stroll around the lake or woodland areas is a perfect way to take in the nature in this area too. A boat trip and visit to Sveti Naum Monastery is a great day trip option.
I enjoyed staying in a family-run Airbnb in the heart of the old town, close to many of the best attractions. Must-sees in Ohrid include Samuel’s Fortress, the Church of Sveti Jovan at Kaneo, Plaosnik and the Ancient Theatre of Ohrid.
Peja, Pristina and Prizren
It appears Kosovo got lost in the sea of wonderful Balkans itinerary suggestions! Thankfully, having visited the region myself, you can read my top tips for visiting Kosovo here. From the quirky capital Prishtina, to the cultural heart Prizren, and finally Peja – the small city best known as an access point to Kosovo’s greatest hiking routes and the Rugova Canyon – Kosovo is a fantastic country. Definitely not one to leave off your list.
Himarë & Southern Albania
by Daniel from Witrag Travel
Don’t worry – you’re not the only one planning your Balkans trip and thinking that Albania looks very far away indeed. But commit to visiting this little-known nation and you’ll have an authentic travel experience all to yourself.
There are countless reasons to visit and, luckily, many of them are in and around your new favourite beach town: Himarë.
You might be surprised to discover that the southern shores of Albania have some of the best beaches on both the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. Even though Himarë beach itself won’t live long in the memory, its laidback atmosphere, delicious local wines, promenade restaurants, and sea view apartments (from as little as €30 a night!) certainly will.
Besides, a short walk over the coastline takes you to mesmerising Livadi Beach, which perfectly combines lively beach bars with some of the cleanest water you’ve ever seen. Too busy? We don’t believe you – but for some real seclusion there’s a smattering of paradise coves a little further along at Gjiri Beach and Akuarium Beach.
You’re perfectly situated to hit up breezy Berat, historical Burtrint, or pretty Ksamil. But there are natural wonders nearby too: the Blue Eye has to be seen to be believed – scientists still can’t figure out how deep it is.
Finally, drive along Llogara National Park to the Mount Çika viewpoint. You’ll be served with a poignant reminder of the country’s bloody past – if you spot a concrete dome bunker, know that it’s one of more than 173,000 that scar the country’s terrain.
Reaching the magical viewpoint, you’ll see why so many Albanians are looking forward to a new and positive future: this jaw-dropping panoramic of the unspoilt coastline reveals a country that has it all, and is finally able to share it with the rest of us.
by Sue from Sue Where? Why? What?
Berat is a UNESCO World Heritage site & a must-see on any Albania itinerary. Its beauty comes from the collection of white Ottoman houses which cascades down the hill, overseen by Berat Castle. As a result, it has been called the “City of a Thousand Windows”. Through its centre runs the River Osum & the 2 sides of the town have distinctly different characters. Both are worth exploring in their own right. Mangalemi is where most of the action is in terms of shops, restaurants, and the opportunity to get lost in the maze of fascinating houses.
Climbing 200m up the hill to Berat Castle is well worth the effort, particularly in the morning as the sun rises. The complex is the last “living castle” in Europe which still houses numerous residents. It is also home to the central museum, more than 20 churches and a mosque.
A walk across the Bridge of Gorica takes you to the alternative neighbourhood. Gorica is less populated and picturesque but gives a real sense of what life was like centuries ago. When I visited, we were the only tourists on this side. It provides some fantastic viewpoints to observe the architecture across the river.
I would recommend Hotel Mangalemi as the ideal spot to base yourself. It’s centrally located but the perfect place to sample the unique Berati architecture. Although Berat itself can be explored in a day, if you spend more time here you can indulge in some of the many activities on offer such as biking, hiking or rafting in the surrounding mountains. My top tip is to wear sturdy shoes; the cobbles can play havoc with your ankles!
by Samantha from Sam Sees World
The Balkans is one of the best areas in Europe to explore. The entire area is packed with famous sights and attractions, plus some amazing hidden gems. One of these very special hidden gems of the Balkans is a small town in Montenegro called Herceg Novi. This is a charming, quaint coastal town that sits along the famous Bay of Kotor. It is the perfect place to visit in Montenegro to see a more authentic and off-the-beaten-track side to the Balkans.
Beyond its beauty, there are a ton of exciting and unique things to do in Herceg Novi. Since the city is located along the coast there are a ton of beaches lining the shore which offers ample swimming and sunbathing opportunities. The beaches aren’t sandy but visiting them and spending a day enjoying the stunning views and great vibes is wonderful. Herceg Novi also has its own old town which is charming and much less busy than the old towns in touristy cities. Many tourists don’t know this, but visitors are permitted to go to the top of the clock tower in the old town which offers stunning views of the entire city!
Getting to Herceg Novi is easily done by renting a car or hiring a driver to bring you. From then on, you can relax in your own quiet Montenegrin paradise.
by Nick Kembel from Spiritual Travels
Nearly a million pilgrims journey to Ostrog Monastery every year, making it one of the most important religious sights in the Balkans. In an isolated location overlooking the Bjelopavlići plain about 50 kilometers from the Montenegrin capital, Podgorica, the white-walled monastery is built into the side of a sheer cliff.
Ostrog Monastery belongs to the Serbian Orthodox faith, of which over 70% of the country’s inhabitants adhere to. The monastery was founded in the 17th century by Vasilije, the Bishop of Herzegovina and is dedicated to Saint Basil of Ostrog, both of whom are interred there.
There are only a few trains per day from Podgorica to remote Ostrog station. From the station, it is a one-hour walk uphill to Ostrog Monastery. Along the way, you’ll pass Lower Monastery, where you can stop to take a peek inside the Church of the Holy Trinity, dating to 1824. Reaching Upper Monastery, you’ll pass through an entrance arch to find monk’s quarters built into the cliff.
Finally, you’ll reach the main white building, which contains the Church of the Presentation, where an Orthodox Monk will greet you in an eerie cave as you pay homage to the remains of Saint Basil. On the upper floors, you’ll find Church of the Holy Cross and various lookouts offering epic views over the surrounding plain.
Visiting Ostrog Monastery is a surreal experience, and offers visitors a glimpse into the Serbian Orthodox Faith and local Montenegrin culture. By walking there, you can arrive just as pilgrims traditionally do, making it an all-around awesome experience. Finding the way can be a little tricky, though, so it’s best to follow this detailed Ostrog Monastery guide for all the details.
by Arabela from The Spicy Travel Girl
If you’re seeking a truly authentic experience of Balkanic hospitality, consider a trip to Njeguši. A tiny village up on Mount Lovćen, Njeguši is not very easily accessible since it requires a difficult drive up a steep and narrow mountain pass. However, the drive is absolutely worth the experience of spending a night in this charmingly traditional place.
Njeguši is by far the most famous for being the birthplace of the Petrović-Njegoš Dynasty, Montenegro’s ruling dynasty until the country’s invasion by Austria-Hungary. You can visit the former ruler and poet Petar II Petrović-Njegoš’ birth house in the village, as well as his mausoleum on Mount Lovćen and his palace in nearby Cetinje.
However, what captured my heart even more than the village’s historical significance was the authentic experiences of Montenegrin hospitality I had during my stay. When I visited Njeguši, I stayed at a ‘guesthouse’, which was much more like an old man’s private house. While paying no more than ten euros for a night in a cozy private room, falling asleep to a concert of barking dogs, the man invited me for delicious meals of his homemade bread, homegrown tomatoes, homemade cheese, and self-raised lamb, all of which are specialties of the region. I ate until I was full but the man kept offering more of the most delicious tomatoes I had ever had before. And of course, his code of hospitality strictly forbade him to let me leave without a strong shot of homemade rakija!
BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA
Una National Park
by Ellis from Backpack Adventures
Una National Park is one of the newest and largest national parks in Bosnia Herzegovina. It is a place of pristine nature that surrounds the Una, Unac and Krka rivers. Despite its natural beauty Una National Park is still an off the beaten path destination.
The park is only 35 kilometers from popular Plitvice Park in Croatia. However, it receives only a fraction of its visitors despite the fact that it is equally beautiful if not more so. Its waterfalls, travertine formations and pools are more impressive and span a much larger area. The Una river with its turquoise and emerald green color runs throughout the park and is probably one of the most beautiful rivers in the Balkans. It is not for nothing that the Romans called it Una, or the One. It offers lots of activities from swimming to kayaking and rafting.
Una National park was established in 2008 to protect nature around the Una. The river and waterfalls are surrounded by lush forests and limestone cliffs home to animals like bears, wolves and lynx. For nature lovers Una National Park is a must. The most beautiful waterfalls are Strbacki and Milancev buk. Strbacki buk is right at the border with Croatia and impresses you with its network of travertines where the water thunders down. Milancev Buk is there to amaze you with its scenic forest location and its height. With 54 meters it is the highest waterfall in Una National Park.
Una National Park also has a rich historic and cultural heritage as well. There are lots of ruins from medieval fortifications on the hills above the river. This area has a complex and multicultural past. The Rmanj monastery in Martin Brod and the Sultan Ahmed mosque in Kulen Vakuf both have a long history of being destroyed and rebuilt.
Una National Park is best visited from Bihac. A town in the northwestern part of Bosnia Herzegovina that is easy to reach by bus from either Sarajevo or Zagreb. The best way to explore Una National Park is with your own transport though as public transport into the park is limited. Luckily, renting a car in Bihac is very cheap.
by Dean and Laynni from Routinely Nomadic
While Mostar is popular with day-trippers from Dubrovnik, “popular” is a pretty relative term when it comes to Bosnia and Herzegovina. It lags far behind neighbors Croatia and Slovenia in total tourist numbers and most people outside the Balkans aren’t even familiar with Mostar, let alone its amazing bridge. Yet, Stari Most (Old Bridge), is not only the most impressive attraction in Mostar but could very well be the most picturesque bridge in all of Europe (despite some stern competition). There are many different Stari Most viewpoints, all of which offer a unique photographic angle toward this iconic landmark. Distant landscape shots, close-up selfies and hidden river trails all provide a different perspective. During busier times, locals periodically jump from the bridge to delight tourists and fill hats with tips.
Near the bridge, most of the hotels and great value restaurants are located on the west side of the Neretva River, while the east bank is lined with colorful shops and cafés with cute balconies and excellent bridge views. Here you can also explore the Mehmed Pasha mosque, featuring classic architecture and, you guessed it, more outstanding views of Stari Most. Those looking for something a little different, and maybe a little morbid, can walk about a kilometre upriver to the gutted remains of a bank that was used as a disturbingly effective sniper tower during the Bosnian War of the early 90’s. It is technically off limits, but it is possible to find your own way in to examine the bullet holes, shrapnel damage and political graffiti, all of which serve as grim reminders of Bosnia’s turbulent past.
Spending 2 days in Sarajevo is a great entry point to the Balkans if you want to learn about the devastating war and genocide that occurred during the Bosnian War and break up of Yugoslavia, during the 90s. This is a tragic time period that doesn’t get enough attention when we learn about European history – the Bosnian genocide alone lead to the deaths of over 8300 people. Galerija 11/07/95, the War Childhood Museum and Tunnel of Hope are all good places to start. A free walking tour is also a great, personable way to learn about Sarajevo and its recent past.
There are also lots of fun activities in Sarajevo. Sunset at the Yellow Fortress, taking the cable car up Trebevic Mountain, and visiting the abandoned Olympic Bobsleigh track are all popular with tourists. In the heart of the city, the Baščaršija is a beautiful area with many distinctive buildings and rows of local cafes where you can try traditional Bosnian coffee.
By Disha from Disha Discovers
The Balkans is a dreamy region in Europe with so many beautiful towns and cities. One of the best places to visit in the Balkans is Split, Croatia. I visited Split for the first time two years ago and instantly fell in love. It’s one of the few cities in Europe that I constantly miss and can’t wait to return to.
Split has a very laid back vibe. The locals are friendly and easygoing. You can tell that they love their city and they want tourists to feel the same too. Don’t make the mistake of only visiting Split for a day. This town has more to offer than you think! One of the most noteworthy things to do in Split is to wander around Diocletian’s Palace. This area has tons of photo opportunities and is surrounded by lots of cute cafes and restaurants.
Another fun thing to do in Split is to head to the beach. Croatia is known for their beaches and rocky coastlines. You won’t find a shortage of stunning beaches around Split. One of my favorite things to do in Split is to indulge in the coffee culture. The locals in Split take their coffee very seriously. Therefore, there’s no such thing as a bad coffee shop in Split. Lastly, the best thing to do is to just start walking and get lost. There are so many hidden gems in Split!
by Eric from Penguin And Pia
If you are looking for a quiet spot in the Balkans that allows you to enjoy the sunshine and the coast, look no further than Kaštela, Croatia. This unique “town” is actually made up of seven smaller seaside villages that line the Dalmatian Coast between Split and Trogir. These historic villages were once formed around fortresses for defence but have since morphed into quaint fishing villages with a relaxing appeal.
Because of the location between two larger, more popular places, travellers often miss the area which is a shame. The historic buildings and nature around make the Kastela lovely to visit. There is a coastal walkway that snakes through most of the villages and Kaštel Gomilica even has a famous fortress used in Game of Thrones filming. You can also find many beaches along the coast – but remember that Croatian beaches are generally made from small stones.
Getting there is quite easy. The bus #37 runs between historic Trogir and Split. You can get off at one of the “Kaštel stops” between Split and the Split airport and then walk down to the coast in any one of the Kaštela. You’ll find many small local cafes, waterfront restaurants serving up local cuisine, and other shops in each of the little towns.
As for staying nearby, there are beachside hotels and many apartments. The quiet location close to a popular roadway up and down the coast makes it a great place to stay near Split if you don’t want to deal with the busyness of the city centre!
by Wendy from The Nomadic Vegan
This gem of a medieval island town is an easy day trip from Split and definitely worth visiting if you love history, architecture, and the feeling that you’ve stepped back in time. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Trogir is one of the best-preserved medieval towns in all of Europe. With their Gothic arches and delicate columns, many of the buildings are reminiscent of Venice. That’s because the Venetians ruled the town for several centuries and have definitely left their mark.
Trogir’s fine state of preservation is due in part to the fact that it’s located on an island and surrounded by fortification walls. All of the ugly modern development has thus been restricted to the mainland, while the island still looks much as it did several hundred years ago. To view the whole town from above, climb up to the top of the crenelated walls at the Kamerlengo Castle. From here, you’ll also enjoy stunning views out over the Mediterranean Sea.
In addition to the Castle, another building definitely worth seeking out is the Cathedral of St. Lovro. Its portal, sculpted by Master Radovan in the 13th century, includes nude sculptures of Adam and Eve that were quite controversial at the time. You’ll also see the figure of a lion, which symbolizes Venice. If you’re staying overnight, a lovely place to have dinner is Konoba Trs. While the menu consists mostly of meat and fish dishes, staff are happy to cater for vegetarian and vegan visitors to Croatia as well.
by Eniko from Travel Hacker Girl
Omis makes a great day trip from Split as it is only 25 km away and there is a regular bus service. However you can easily spend more time in the town as well, so you can also book accommodation here and make it your base.
Omis is a paradise for adventure lovers. You can go rafting on the Cetina River. Dalmatia Getaway offer tours which incorporate some canyoning elements into the trip as well. This means you will have a chance to rope swing into the water, cliff jump and explore a cave behind a waterfall. If you prefer to see the Cetina Canyon from above, then you can go zip lining. There are 8 wires offering an exciting way to see the beautiful canyon below you.
If you want to see even more scenic views, then I suggest a hike up to Starigrad Fortress. It takes about 1 hour to reach the top. Set off early in the summer, to avoid the heat. Once you get to the top, you will be rewarded with gorgeous views of the surrounding area. After your hike, you can go for a swim at the beach to cool yourself down. The water is a bit colder here than other parts of the country as this is where the Cetina River flows into the sea. However, on a hot summer day, you will appreciate this!
The Pljesevica Hike
by Becki from Meet Me In Depatures
One of the most off the beaten track places in Croatia is located ironically close to one of Croatia’s most well-known tourist attractions.
The Pljesevica Mountain trek in northern Croatia is located just a short distance from the famous (and overcrowded) Plitvice Lakes.
If you’re wanting to get away from the crowds, I 100% recommend doing this hike. The hike starts in the village of Korenica, going through pretty Croatian farmland and then winding through forested terrain, meandering its way up along a disused road from the Yugoslav war and up to the peak in the Dinaric Alps, where you can stand with one foot in Croatia and the other in Bosnia and Herzegovina!
The trail is about 13km each way and takes the best part of a whole day to complete the round trip at a leisurely pace. This also gives you some decent time at the top to explore all the relics left from the war as well as take some stunning photos from the top of the famous stage-like rock with the rolling countryside below you. It literally feels like you’re on top of the world up here.
The hike does come with a few disclaimers, first, are the warning signs for land mines. These are on the Bosnia and Herzegovina side, so IF you take that route down the mountain, don’t go off the trail. Also, take all the food and drink you will want for the whole day. There is nothing en route; we didn’t even see other hikers on the trail. It’s really in the middle of nowhere. Because of this, make sure you tell someone you’re doing the hike in case you have an accident and need help. Finally (although we didn’t see any) this is also European wolf and bear country; they have been spotted in the forests on the mountains.
The Pljesevica Hike is one of the most epic things I did during my time in Croatia, and if you are looking to get away from the crowds and off the beaten track, this is certainly one way to do it.
Triglav National Park
by Heather from Conservant Traveller
If you want to get off the beaten track in Slovenia, Triglav National Park is the place to go. Here you can get gloriously lost in forested valleys, go hiking up remote mountain trails, and even paddle the emerald waters of the Soca River.
This is one of the most stunning sections of the Julian Alps and is easily accessed from the popular tourist town of Bled. If you are driving (hiring a car is really easy in Slovenia) you can do a scenic day trip loop through the park, starting and finishing in Bled. But if you have time, it’s worth spending a few nights in Triglav, perhaps in Bovec or Kobarid, to make the most of the scenery and activities available.
The route begins with a stop at Lake Jasna, a beautiful stretch of water with an incredible mountain backdrop, and a memorial to a legendary chamois! Next it’s a drive up the Vrsic Pass, with its precipitous hairpins and world-class Alpine views everywhere you look. The drive isn’t actually too difficult and the road is of good quality, just watch out for all the cyclists who can be difficult to overtake! On your way up the pass you’ll come across a small church constructed out of wood by Russian prisoners during World War I, a poignant reminder that this natural paradise hasn’t always been a peaceful frontier.
Over the other side of the pass is the fertile Soca Valley with turquoise rivers, plunging waterfalls and traditional villages to explore. If you’re into outdoor sports such as kayaking and hiking then this is the place to come to get your adrenaline fix.
by Stephanie from History Fangirl
One of the most magical travel destinations in the Balkans is Lake Bled in Slovenia. While it’s popular with tourists, there are lots of hikes, viewpoints, and other spots where you can get away from the crowds.
The easiest way to get here is to rent a car and drive from Ljubljana, but you can also take the public bus or even go on an organized tour.
Some of the most popular things to do here include going on a boat ride to the island in the middle of Lake Bled, hiking up to Bled Castle to take in the gorgeous views, and walk around the circumference of the lake to see the beauty of the area from every vantage point.
If you come to Lake Bled in winter, you can enjoy special events like the Christmas Market in December and St. Stephens Day in January. If the lake is frozen over, you go can ice skating right on the lake. There are also opportunities to ski here and in nearby Triglav National Park. If you want to do something really unique, you can climb a mountain in winter and sleep in a hut alone overnight. Imagine waking up alone on the top of a snowy mountain!
by Oksana & Max from Drink Tea & Travel
Vipava Valley is an off the beaten path Balkan gem. Located in Slovenia, the Vipava Valley is known for its incredible wine, picturesque setting and great food. It is the perfect place to spend a few days wine and dining. Locally known as Vipavska Dolina, the Vipava Valley is dotted with vineyards which are mostly family owned and operated. We visited Burja Estates, which is named after the wind which blows through the area. The locals credit their incredible wine to the “Burja” wind which can reach gusts of up to 100/km per hour. The wind keeps their vineyards free of bugs and therefore pesticides.
Only recently have the local vineyards in the Vipava Valley started to open their doors to visitors. However, finding the wineries takes a bit of determination especially if you don’t speak the local language so we recommend going with a local guide.
Outside of wine tasting, you can explore some beautiful medieval villages of the regions. Goče is a maze of narrow cobblestone streets and perfectly preserved 17th-century buildings with great restaurants. Farm to table values take centre stage on menus in the Vipava Valley. You’ll likely be just steps away from the gardens and seasonal produce your meal came from.
One restaurant truly embodying this principle is Cejkotova Domacija in Goče. We had a great time dining at this agri farm and encourage anyone in the area to do the same.
Thanks again to everyone who contributed these amazing Balkans itinerary ideas. Let us know which place you want to visit the MOST out of all the suggestions in the comments below.
And, since we are all keen to dream of future travel, let us which beautiful places in The Balkans got missed off the list so we can all keep daydreaming!