RejsRejsRejs » The travel favorites » Balkans: The great travel guide to an overlooked part of Europe
Albania Bosnia Herzegovina Bulgaria Greece Kosovo Croatia Montenegro Nordmakedonien The travel favorites Romania Serbia Turkey

Balkans: The great travel guide to an overlooked part of Europe

Montenegro Kotor View Travel
There are many good reasons to explore the Balkans, because the Balkans store in many unique places. We have gathered the best of them here so you can get inspiration for where to start.
resin banner Hotel Skt. Anne banner

Balkans: The great travel guide to an overlooked part of Europe is written by Paloma Fjord.

Balkan Map Travel

Balkans - a fascinating travel region

There is always something fascinating about discovering an area of ​​Europe that everyone knows, but few have visited such really thoroughly where one gets into the corners. One such area is the Balkans.

Here, therefore, is the editorial board's first bid for the most beautiful, interesting and often overlooked cities in the Balkans, which is a region we highly recommend you explore as a traveler.

competition tropical islands
Croatia Balkan Rijeka River Travel

The cultural city of Rijeka in Croatia

Rijeka has been selected as the European City of Culture by 2020 and with good reason: Rijeka is Croatia's third largest city and an important port city in the Balkans. In addition, it is a northern and more relaxed alternative to Croatia's more famous destinations such as Zadar, Split and Dubrovnik.

It is obvious that rent a car, start in Rijeka in the north and then otherwise drive down the Croatian coast, or drive east to Osijek, which is described further down in this article. Before departure, it is a good idea to check Croatia's natural gems and undiscovered paths and plan the perfect road trip in the Balkans.

Rijeka has a strong Italian influence, but also an Austrian and French atmosphere in the form of the distinct café culture.

You can clearly feel the charm of the many outdoor cafes on the city's largest boulevard, Korzo, where the locals take a well-deserved rest after a long day, and where you are also more than welcome to settle down too.

croatia, croatia holidays, travel to croatia

Rijeka's culture and nature

Baden-Württemberg, banner, 2024, campaign, europa-park, europa-park resort

Rijeka is known for being politically well to the left of the rest of the country; in fact, for being decidedly fox red and for having a lively punk rock scene worth checking out.

In Rijeka it is also clearly recommended to take the steep walk up the hill to Trsat Castle. Here you can be overwhelmed by the impressive panoramic view, where you can follow the long winding Rječina river through the city with your eyes.

Also take a day trip to the island of Krk, where you will find the most beautiful beaches, the coziest small villages and one of Croatia's most delicious wines, Vrbnicka Zlahtina, which has a beautiful golden color.

Croatia Osijek Food Market Travel

Osijek for foodies, Croatia

Osijek is far from one of Croatia's most touristy cities and is therefore a nice break from the more visited cities along the Dalmatian coast. If you are still in Rijeka to experience the sights of the Capital of Culture, Osijek can be reached in a four-hour drive.

The easiest and cheapest way to get to Osijek is by flying to destination. From there, you can make the roughly three-hour trip to Osijek by car or bus.

Princess cruises banners

Osijek is the capital of Croatia's northeastern region of Slavonia. The city was hit hard during the Balkan Wars in the 90s, but most of it has thankfully been rebuilt.

The Slavonia region is known throughout Croatia and throughout the Balkans for its fantastic food. It is a good mix of Croatian, Serbian and Hungarian cuisine. The gastronomy reflects Osijek's multiethnic heritage and is famous for its freshness and generous use of both herbs and strong spices.

The accommodation options in the city are not that many, but they are there.

To experience delicious local wine, you can go wine tasting at a winery a short distance outside Osijek. Here you must finally taste Graševina, Croatia's most famous wine, bottled directly from the wine barrel.

Bosnia and Herzegovina Balkans Trebinje Old Houses Travel

Mediterranean atmosphere in Trebinje, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Trebinje in Bosnia and Herzegovina is just a short drive 18 km east of Dubrovnik in Croatia. The drive is a perfect transition to Bosnia's lesser known Serbian half, Republika Srpska.


Did you know: Here are editor Anna's 7 overlooked favorite islands in Thailand!

7: Koh Mai Thon south of Phuket
6: Koh Lao Lading at Krabi
Get numbers 1-5 immediately by signing up for the newsletter, and look in the welcome email:

The newsletter is sent out several times a month. See our data policy here.


Trebinje is surrounded by high scenic mountains, and the city's clear Mediterranean atmosphere is complemented by Byzantine domes and signs with Cyrillic characters. The glorious blue-green Trebisnjica River flows calmly from the old town to the new part of town.

To appreciate the glory of Trebinje properly, head up to the nearby mountain Leotar and experience a beautiful paragliding trip over the surrounding mountainous Balkan landscape.

The city also offers a party!

On summer evenings, the old town is transformed into a big outdoor party with both live music outdoors and DJs at the city's surprisingly many nightclubs. It's quite a lively city.

Balkans: Azure Kotor in Montenegro 

competition tropical islands

Kotor i Montenegro has one of the most scenic coastlines in Europe, and without doubt the most beautiful in the Balkans. Kotor lies deep in the bay of the same name.

The Bay of Kotor is actually one of the Adriatichavets longest bays. It is even said to be the southernmost fjord in Europe.

The city is adorned with old towers, villas and steep mountains, which abruptly rise from the turquoise blue water with the small sailboats. The massive 1400th-century Venetian walls protect a regular beehive of winding medieval streets packed with restaurants, bars, churches, shrines and small hotels.

Montenegro is like a cheaper and smaller version of Italy, and Kotor is absolutely irresistible. Therefore, it is recommended to start by getting to know Kotor and then continue to explore other beautiful Montenegrin towns such as Perast and Budva.

Montenegro is also on the editorial board top-15 over overlooked destinations in Europe.

At Kotor's Old Town you can experience the most beautiful sunset from the top of the city. All you have to do is go 1300 wobbly steps up to the fortress on the mountain top… Today's exercise and lots of sweat are guaranteed, but it is a view without equal in return as well.

The fortress itself is worth a look as it reigns steeply and proudly all over Kotor. And the view over the whole city is magical.

The Bay of Kotor, which reflects the sunset and the two islands barely visible at the farthest point of the horizon, is magical. Without a doubt one of Europe's best panoramic views.

Serbia Balkan Niš River Travel

The cultural capital of Serbia Niš

The newsletter is sent out several times a month. See our data policy here.

Serbia's third largest city is packed with remnants from the past, and the city can be dated back to Roman times. It is even said that Constantine the Great was born in Niš over 1800 years ago.

During its lifetime, the city has changed hands countless times due to its geographical location, where it was the gateway from the Balkans to the east.

This means that there are still an impressive number of fortifications around the city. That is why Niš is also rightly known as the cultural capital of Serbia and puts its name to a large number of festivals that are worth visiting all year round.

When you have experienced enough culture in Niš, you can mash yourself in Belgrade gastronomic temptations here.

As a tourist in Niš, you must experience the city's violent past in the form of the remains of the 'Skull Tower'. The tower was built by the vengeful Ottoman general Hurshid Pasha and is made of skulls from his defeated enemies as a warning to future opponents.

A rather bizarre must see on your turn.

Albania The Albanian Riviera Sea Travel

The Albanian Riviera

Albania has what can be described as Meanhavets most pristine coastline, and it is one of the longest in the Balkans. The cliff stretch is 150 kilometers long and runs from the cities of Vlorë in the north to Sarandë in the south.

With a view over Middelhavet the Albanian Riviera has perhaps the most spectacular location. Here you can visit the crumbling castle of Himare, which sits on a hilltop with a fantastic view.

You can rent a car in Tirana, from where it is just a few hours drive to Vlorë and from there a few more to Sarandë.

Speaking of accommodation, the absolute best way to experience the magnificent nature of the Albanian Riviera is actually in a tent - surprisingly enough. And fortunately, there are plenty of campsites in the area, which allows for an alternative, exciting, and not least economical, accommodation under the open starry sky.

If camping isn't quite your thing, the options for staying at a hotel are also good.

To complete the Riviera experience, do not deceive yourself to drive to Jala and enjoy an extraordinary beach day. The water is superb and crystal clear and its inviting blue waves are just waiting for you to jump in.

Albania Balkan Northern Mountains Travel

Albania's mythical Alps is the unknown Balkans

Albania's northern mountains are one of the least developed parts of Europe and home to a tribal culture with roots stretching back centuries.

The towering cliffs of the Albanian Alps surround ancient villages, primeval forests and barren pastures, making the wild region a well-known destination for nature lovers.

It is recommended to take the old, rusty Koman ferry from Koman to Fierze.

On the three-hour trip over the lake's shiny surface, you pass steep cliffs and lush green mountains. It is one of the most beautiful sailing trips in the Balkans.

Kosovo Pristina City travel

Big city life in buzzing Pristina in Kosovo 

Kosovo's period of turbulence and war of independence means that the capital Pristina may not be in the top ten of many wishful travel destinations in the Balkans. But stop for once, because Pristina is actually a little ultrahip gem that has a lot to offer.

It is the capital of Europe's youngest country - the youngest in more ways than one, because the average age in the country is only 28 years, and that's not the only thing that is surprising.


Did you know: Here are 7 of the best local food markets in Denmark!

7: Green Market in Copenhagen
6: Eco market in Randers
Get numbers 1-5 immediately by signing up for the newsletter, and look in the welcome email:

The newsletter is sent out several times a month. See our data policy here.


Due to former US President Bill Clinton's involvement in the Kosovo conflict, the Kosovo people today seem to love Americans. There is even a 3,5 meter high statue of Bill Clinton in the middle of Pristina.

The EU is very visible in the city, as it is home to many expatriates.

Pristina therefore has a lively, international city life with lots of bars and cafes, which are definitely worth checking out. There are not so many classic sights, but there is life and people.

Romanian scenic Danube delta

'Why should I go to the gym? Romania?' you might be wondering. The answer comes here:

The vast Danube delta is an absolutely fantastic wetland that cannot be compared to anything else. Europe's second longest river, stretching all the way from southern Germany down over the Balkans to Sortehavet, empties into this delta.

That's not saying much.

The large and sparsely populated waterways are home to a UNESCO-protected wetland that is very rich in wildlife and biodiversity.

Finally, to experience all the glory, do not deceive yourself to rent a canoe or sail through the scenic waterways. From there you can enjoy the fauna and flora, the deep orange sunset with the wildlife singing around you and eat delicious local fish and caviar.

When you're in Romania anyway, it's obvious to rent a car, and that way experience the great country's diversity, for example beautiful and historic Transylvania with all the Dracula stories.

Northern Macedonia Skopje Alexander The Great Travels

Handsome Skopje in North Macedonia in the Balkans

Nordmakedonien is the country's relatively new name, as until 2018 it was officially called 'The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia'. North Macedonia a vastly underrated country to travel in, and that's a shame.

It's dirt cheap to travel around there, it's picturesque, and the country boasts both Greek and Byzantine ruins. As if that wasn't enough, the population is also one of the friendliest you can imagine.

In the capital Skopje, it is recommended to explore the Albanian quarter with old mosques, markets and a festive nightlife. Close by, you can even experience the newly built government building, which, like a real Las Vegas "Caesars Palace" palace, stands and towers over the river Vardar in memory of Macedonia's glory days with Alexander the Great more than 2000 years ago.

In addition, Skopje is a really good hub if you have to travel around the Balkans, as it is located right in the middle and borders many of the exciting cities and countries that this article deals with.

In Skopje, finally, do not miss the controversial big man in all his metallic glory in the middle of the big 'Macedonia Square':

A statue no less than 24 meters high for an (for political reasons) unnamed warrior on a massive, anatomically correct horse with bronze balls as big as beach balls shining proudly in the sunlight. This must be said to be a sight you will soon forget.

Another thing that is definitely recommended to do in Skopje is to experience Kapan An in the Old Bazaar area. It is a nightclub built in a historic caravan station from the 1400th century. It has previously been a traditional Muslim inn and trading house. 

If you visit Skopje in the warmer months, there is even a party in the building's courtyard until the bright morning hours.

Northern Macedonia Balkan Bitola Street Travel

Bitola, the nice little putt

Bitola is one of the oldest cities in North Macedonia, and if you stroll through the city you can clearly spot traces of the past in the architectural development. Bitola is North Macedonia's cultural and historical center and a small town of around 74.500 inhabitants.

Bitola has many nice and cheap accommodation options.

The city boasts beautiful romantic architecture from the 19th century – the time when European consuls ruled the Ottoman Empire.

The blending cultural history of the past also allows Bitola to boast the most authentic colorful bazaar in the Balkans. The ancient Turkish bazaar is simply like a sight taken out of Aladdin's cave.

It is recommended to take a day trip to Ohrid; a beautiful old town located by a fantastic mountain lake of the same name. The small town has several churches, basilicas and Orthodox shrines.

Northern Macedonia Lake Ohrid Monastery Travel

Northern Macedonia's most beautiful lake, Ohrid is the Balkans at its most beautiful

Probably northern Macedonia's most famous and primary tourist destination is the majestic lake Ohrid. The surrounding town of Ohrid has a charming older town with Ottoman heritage, beautiful ancient monasteries and then of course the large and famous lake that has given the town its name.

A must is to take a small boat trip and from the sea side experience the beautiful and spectacular church 'St. John at Kaneo 'from the 1200th century. It is really nicely situated on a hill with a formidable view; here nature and culture merge into a higher unity.

On the 2,5-hour ferry ride across Lake Ohrid, you'll see some of the most beautiful scenery you can imagine.

The ferry sails to the spectacular 1000-year-old monastery 'St. Naum' on the Albanian border. It is definitely worth a visit, and the nature in the area is unique.

Therefore, do not cheat yourself for one of the most magical day trips in the Balkans.

Bulgaria Balkans Sozopol Coast Travel

Sozopol, Bulgaria

The old town of Sozopol on the Black Sea coast is one of the most historic towns in Bulgaria and not least in the Balkans.

The city's old town dates back to before ancient Greece and has cobbled streets and the characteristic dilapidated two-story houses typical of Ottoman cities.

Explore Sozopol by strolling through the small winding streets of the picturesque old town. Eventually you will hit the waterfront - unless you are extremely lost. Here you can enjoy a refreshment and a round of world-class sunbathing on the beautiful beach of Harmani. 

In late summer, there is pressure in Sozopol: here it is filled with Bulgarian and international tourists who come to get sun, good food and fantastic beaches. It simply exudes life and holiday atmosphere in the city and it is definitely worth experiencing.

Bulgaria Balkan Aladzha Monastery Ruin Travel

The Balkans are too Aladzha Monastery in Bulgaria

This monastery in northeastern Bulgaria is an absolutely stunning limestone gem in the Balkans. It is built into a vertical rock wall and is one of the most unique Christian monasteries in Europe. In their time, the monks carved dwellings, crypts and even a small chapel in the limestone. It is a very impressive piece of work that you must not deceive yourself for.

Alternatively, you can also rent a car in Bulgaria's third largest city, Varna, from where it is only a 20-minute drive to the monastery. You can throw a few coins on the carpeted floor of the monastery's chapel, as it is said to bring good luck.

A short hike through the woods leads you to a catacomb that dates back even further.

If you are interested in experiencing several of Bulgaria's enchanting monasteries, read on Top-5 Overlooked World Heritage Sites and be surprised.

Greece Thessaloniki Sunset Travel

Relaxed metropolitan atmosphere in Thessaloniki

Though Greece is one of the more well-visited countries in this article, Thessaloniki is probably still a bit of a well-kept secret. And it's lucky, because the city exudes authenticity, history and local culture.

Thessaloniki is located in the Macedonia region and is Greece's second largest city. Thessaloniki served for millennia as the gateway to the Balkans for sailing from the Aegean Sea. This caused many to try to gain control of the city, and it has gone by many names, including Salonika and Salun.

Thessaloniki was once known as the cosmopolitan second capital of the Ottoman Empire, and later the great Spanish-Jewish immigration led to the city being called "Madre de Israel" / "Mother of Israel."

Today, the architecture of the big city reflects that much of the old has been lost. One hundred years ago, fires broke out in the city, and much was lost forever. Few ruins and ancient monuments today stand alongside the modern, which was simply built on top of the old.

In Thessaloniki's new metro, there has recently been an opportunity to experience the underground ruins of the past. At the open archeological site of 'Venizelou' metro station, metro travelers can experience the 84-meter-old marble-paved road from the heyday of the past.

After admiring the history and architecture, you should end the day in true Thessaloniki fashion: Eat kilos of seafood and drink liters of wine.

The city's life can be found in the street cafes, which Thessaloniki actually houses more of per capita than any other city in Europe. Afterwards, a long stroll along the water is much needed and alluring, and Thessaloniki offers the perfect backdrop and the most beautiful sunset for the purpose.

The authentic cities Volos and Pelion are reasonably easy to get to from Thessaloniki, and are a completely different world.

Turkey Edirne Mosque Blue Sky Travel

The corner of the Balkans: Turkish charm in Edirne

The last stop on the southern part of the Balkans is Turkey. The Turkish part of the Balkans is small, but rich in history and culture, and Edirne contains it all.

The city was known as Hadrianopolis in antiquity and is close to the border with Bulgaria. Its location means that it has been the center of many great battles in Hellenic times.

The most famous attraction in the area is the giant Selimiye Mosque from the 1500th century, which can be seen from a long distance. If you want to learn more about traditional Ottoman architecture, Edirne is an obvious destination.

The city's architecture is world famous, partly because of the beautiful bridges. Take a walk along the Maritza Bridge and experience a sea of ​​decorative minarets.

The Edirs are also known for a somewhat atypical, old tradition, namely oil mining. Every year in June, an oil wrestling festival is even held in honor of this bizarre sport.

Turkey is a huge country, and not too far from the Edirne lies a completely unique natural area, which is included in our fantastic article on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Read in Crazy about world heritage and be blown backwards.

Edirne is also known for the 'Thracian Wine Route', which in Turkish is called Trakya Bag Rotasi. The route starts in Edirne and continues through historic vineyards, each of which boasts its own distinctive wines and flavors. Worth checking out!

If you are interested in Turkey's many coastal cities, you can check Alanya og Bodrum.

Have a good trip to the Balkans!

There may be links to business partners in this article - you can see how it goes here
Baden-Württemberg, banner, 2024, campaign, europa-park, europa-park resort
  Princess cruises banners

About the author

Paloma Fjord

Paloma's desire to travel started early, as her parents did not wait long to take her on countless trips to Brazil. The passion for the country's amazing nature and huge cultural diversity remains great and has made Paloma educated in Portuguese and Brazilian studies. Since then, it has been several years in Lisbon, and the rest of the Portuguese-speaking world is high on her wish list.
Paloma is also not shy to admit that she loves chaotic big cities. Whether it's called New Delhi, New York or Mexico City doesn't really make much difference - as long as there are lots of people to look at, small neighborhoods to get lost in and freshly prepared street food to taste, Paloma is perfectly happy.

Add comment

Comment here


The newsletter is sent out several times a month. See our data policy here.


Travel deals

Facebook cover picture travel deals travel

Get the best travel tips here

The newsletter is sent out several times a month. See our data policy here.