Why Balkan countries are underrated and should be your next travel destination?


Journeys | 20.03.2019

The Balkan Peninsula is a distinctive place, it was part of the Byzantine Empire, uniting various peoples, cultures and languages. Here you'll find excellent cuisine, a pleasant local charm, compassionate people and not so many tourists in comparison with other European countries. We'll tell you why the Balkans are a great option for travelling.
A great history
The countries of the Balkan Peninsula include: Montenegro, Bulgaria, Serbia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Romania, Greece, Macedonia, Slovenia, Turkey and Croatia. The Balkan countries have had a difficult past: First, the peninsula was part of the Byzantium Empire, then fell under the rule of the Ottoman Empire, survived two Balkan wars and the disintegration of Yugoslavia into Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, Slovenia, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
There are a huge number of architectural monuments, ancient temples, castles and national parks. The Balkans are the birthplace of Nikola Tesla and the Emir of Kusturica. Ancient cities are scattered all around the countries of the Balkan Peninsula, and these have become historic monuments. The list of attractions is endless, but there are a few cities here that are definitely worth visiting:
The ancient city of Kotor, Montenegro. The medieval city sits by the Adriatic Sea, surrounded by a fortified wall. The first mention of Kotor was in 168 BC. The city itself consists of ancient historical buildings. We advise you to climb the wall and look at the Bay of Kotor, which is commonly referred to as the southernmost fjord in Europe.
Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina. The city was divided into two parts: Croatian (where Christians lived) and Bosnian, the Muslim part. Now there is no such separation, but the old bridge remains, which is included on the UNESCO list of architectural heritage.
Bran Castle, Romania.The Gothic castle was built in 14th century, where according to the legend lived the cruel ruler of the medieval Walchia Vlad Tepes, also known as Dracula.
In fact, the castle was named after Vlad Tepes only in the XX century, when Bram Stoker's book "Dracula" was published.
Surrounded by beautiful landscapes
Climate-wise it is comfortable all year round in the Balkans, there is no snowy winter here, and in summer,it is hot, but there is always somewhere to swim. The peninsula sits alongside the Adriatic and Ionian seas, the Aegean and Marmara, as well as the Black sea. The terrain of the peninsula is mountainous, so there are many incredible landscapes, hiking trails of different difficulty levels, mountain lakes and forests. The Dinaric Plateau, or "Nanos" as it's called, covers the territory of Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and is definitely worth highlighting. In Northern Macedonia and Albania you'll find the Pindus Mountains. Also, don't forget about Rila, Pirin, Rhodope and Stara Planina.
During your trip around Balkans one day you can go up into the mountains with a backpack, spend the night in a tent, and the next day lie in the sun and bathe in the sea. Travellers from neighbouring countries largely come here for this very reason.
The beautiful and natural places of the Balkan countries are not so easy to list, so again we chose three that should not be missed:
Tara National Park, Serbia. Many people know this park, thanks to the Drina River Canyon. The park is named after Mount Tara with an area covering 22 hectares. So there are plenty of natural places.
Durmitor National Park, Montenegro. Montenegro –if it's not the most popular country for hiking and outdoor recreation in the Balkans, then it'll definitely be one of the first. Everyone knows the Black Lake in Durmitor park, where you can go boating with a mountain landscape background.
Valbonë Valley National Park, Albania. One of the most epic places on the peninsula is the Valbonë River Valley (guess the reason for the name of the park), around which mountains rise up high into the sky. "Valbonë Valley" is a little-known and secluded place in the Balkans, so if you want to go on a trip and pretty much never have to meet people, you've arrived.
It's affordable
In addition to all the sights and nature, the Balkan countries are cheaper than other popular European countries. Especially those where there are less tourists. For example, Serbia. You can stay in Belgrade where there many sights, for example, the "Iron Gate", which can easily be reached by car. A good hostel will cost from 8to 15€, and a 4* hotel will cost between 20-30€per night.
A car for a trip can be rented for100€for 7 days. You can travel between countries by train or ferry. A ferry ticket costs roughly 10–20€, depending on the destination.

Prices will of course vary in more popular places. Dubrovnik (Croatia) has become widely know thanks to the TV series Game of Thrones. Scenes were filmed in the Royal Harbour. Of course, the prices will vary widely in the more popular places. For example, the cost of a cheap hostel in Dubrovnik starts from 25€per night.
Explore the little known places rather than the popular ones. The Balkans are literally scattered with tiny cities with interesting histories, and there are plenty of parks on the peninsula where there will not be many people (in Durmitor there will definitely be a lot). For example, the towns of Plovdiv in Bulgaria or Ohrid in Macedonia.

  • It's better to take euros with you. Money will be easier to change, and it is the national currency in Montenegro.
  • Think about aviation logistics. In some cities of the peninsula there may be no direct flights, but there are in the countries closest to them. The distance is varies and it affects the cost.
  • Try the local wine. Many countries on the Balkan Peninsula are famous for their delicious national wines, and they are very reasonably priced.
Tips
Many sights and many areas of stunning natural beauty have not yet been explored, so during your journey you may well discover something unknown. Most of the interesting places are already on the MAPS.ME maps, and you can find many routes to Dubrovnik, Belgrade, Zagreb and other Balkan cities all on the app.
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