We can guarantee one thing: your trip in the Balkans will be everything but boring. They are beautiful, wild, unpredictable and fascinating at the same time. We have visited a few of them and we tried to get to know the Balkan mentality and culture. We want to present four countries from the Balkan Peninsula that should be on your bucket list. With this post we want to show you why your trip in the Balkans will be unforgettable.
The best country to start the Balkan trip is definitely Croatia. Most tourists love it for its incredibly clean beaches and sea, beautiful seaside towns with Mediterranean architecture and exquisite cuisine. We have visited many places around Croatia and were never disappointed. Croatians are big patriots and they know exactly what they can be proud of. Everywhere you go you will hear Croatian music. Ok, that might become a little annoying after a while.
Anyway, it is better to avoid Croatia in July and August as it can get pretty crowded. If you’re into partying you might wanna try Zrce, which is something like the Croatian Ibiza. You can either go in June or September to enjoy the warm weather and have certain beaches all for yourself. You can definitely go on a culinary trip and eat as much fresh fish and seafood as you can manage. Many places such as Dubrovnik or offer nice walks full of history. Did you know that Zadar has its own colosseum?
Our last visit to Croatia was a true food orgy. We spent it in Opatija and we fell in love with the local cuisine. Somehow every restaurant or bar we visited was even better than the previous one. Our favourite one was definitely a restaurant serving fresh fish right from the sea prepared in a simple but delicious way. The cook was an old grumpy lady that didn’t speak a word of English. However, when we tasted what was on the plates we would have forgiven her even if she was the Satan’s wife. This kind of experience is one of the reasons your trip in the Balkans will be unforgettable.
Montenegro can offer everything from splendid beaches, delicious food, picturesque towns breathing with history to adventurous mountains and the prices are still acceptable even for those on a low budget. You can either spend you holiday lying on the beach and tasting fresh and seafood. If you’re looking for adrenaline you can check the rafting possibilities.
We totally recommend joining the cruise around the Bay of Kotor. It is quite cheap and promises an unforgettable day. The cruise lasts almost all day and it is definitely worth more than the ridiculous sum you pay for it. Our guide was not exactly happy to discover that there were some people not speaking Russian on board. He struggled a lot to produce at least a few sentences in English. It didn’t really have a serious impact on our happiness. We were enjoying the hot sun, occasional stops on beaches with crystal clear water and tiny islands hiding treasures.
Our departure from Montenegro wasn’t idylic at all. A fierce storm came and it started raining heavily. The lightnings were striking everything around us while we were waiting at the bus station for the bus. The bus that came looked everything but safe. The visibility was close to zero because of the rain and the water caused a landslide. This made the things even worse since we were basically driving along the cliffs. It is hard to imagine our terror all the other passengers were feeling the same way. We couldn’t believe that the driver (not even for a second losing his grip) got us safely to our destination while chainsmoking.
After the traumatic ride we were quite happy to take the bumpy bus to Albania. Once in a while the driver stopped in the middle of nowhere to take some random passengers. The bus was already full but apparently it was no issue for some people who simply brought their own chairs. Our first impression was that Albania has its own rules and everything is possible. We visited Shkoder and Tirana and we want to go back to see more.
Shkoder will be a pleasant surprise for you. It is far from beautiful western towns and cities. This one is trying to be as practical as possible. You will be shocked at how cheap everything is. The centre is surprisingly clean and the walk will be very pleasant. You can also visit the fortress guarding the town from the nearby hill or explore the local market. After Shkoder you can head to the Albanian capital city where we you can observe even more bizarre things.
The very first one was the “bus station”. It is basically just a piece of pavement where each bus stopped for a few seconds and then continued to whichever destination it was going to. The transport system in Albania is actually all fun. There are no timetables for departures and arrivals, you simply go to the nearest travel agency and explain where and when you want to go. After that they send you to the correct travel agency where you’ll be able to buy tickets. This attitude will accompany you everywhere in Albania. People simply don’t care and think too much. You can get anything, you just have to know where to ask and where to go. People will be willing to help you and won’t expect anything in return.
By the way, it is possible to become incredibly rich in Albania. Many people have been given factories, lands and so on and became filthy rich. If you want to start a successful business, Albania is probably the best place to do it. The reason is that the labour force and resources are unbelievably cheap. It is almost impossible to become homeless since there is no property tax. Even if you lose everything you can still keep your house. Maybe without water and electricity but better than nothing, right? However, to buy a house you will need a looooot of money even though rents are still very low.
Did you know that there are 75 reasons to travel to Albania? Check this link!
In Tirana we managed to find a bus that took us directly to our next destination Ohrid. It is one of those places that everyone falls in love with immediately. Macedonia is inland but the Ohrid lake compensates for everything that the sea shore provides. A lot of money is invested each year so that the lake is clean. The result is truly stunning. You will have to try hard to find such crystal clear water in Europe. One of the reasons we weren’t willing to leave was the amazing food we had at the hotel. The owner used all the ingredients from their garden and orchard and prepared simple but tasty meals. The climate in this area is very favourable for vine and different types of vegetables and fruit. You can actually take a wine tour into the surrounding vineyards.
The town itself is not really huge but you will be amazed at its beauty. You can walk around the centre to check the tiny streets, the church of St. John, the ancient theatre right in the heart of Ohrid or the Church of St. Joachim. You can also walk along the shore and enjoy a drink “on the beach”. If you come in the late spring or early autumn the weather will be still warm and you can take a nice bath in the lake. Moreover, you will avoid the huge crowds that come here in the summer.
When we had to think about how to get to Greece which was our very last stop. It was basically impossible to check the timetables on the internet. The plan was to go by bus to a nearby village and then check some connection to Greece. To go all the way to Skopje and then try to catch the only bus to Thessaloniki seemed too uncomfortable. However, the taxi driver who gave us a ride to the bus station in Ohrid suggested he could call a taxi driver from the village we were going to that could take us to Greece for a reasonable price. On some websites we read about people describing how they crossed the border in a taxi. We started to believe these stories were true. Everything happened just like the taxi driver said. At the station a young man approached us and told us he would take us to Thessaloniki. A man waiting nearby overheard our conversation and said he was interested in joining us since he needed to get to Greece as well. It took us around two hours to get to Thessaloniki and we even shared the expenses with our new passenger.
Can you think of any other reasons why your trip in the Balkans will be unforgettable? Let us know in the comments!