The Balkans are one of my favorite regions in the world. There are so many underrated places here. This isn’t just a few hidden gems…it’s the whole mine! The entire region is full of stunning nature, incredible food, and warm people. The culture and the history here is insane. This is where centuries of epic struggles went down between two huge empires, the Ottoman and the Austro-Hungarian. Furthermore, some of these places are miraculously not crawling with tourists. Sorry Balkans, I’m spilling your secrets like a gossipy pre-teen and showing the world why the Balkans are awesome.
No this isn’t a dream. It’s real. This charming town has a long history, much of it pretty horrific from the war in the 1990’s but tourism is picking up and many are realizing all that Bosnia has to offer. This 16th century Ottoman bridge was rebuilt in 2004 after being bombed in 1993. I feel that it is a symbol of Mostar and Bosnia rebuilding and moving forward.
This 600-year-old Dervish monastery is in a beautiful idyllic setting on the Buna river.
The Herzegovina region of Bosnia is worth a trip. Not only will you see Blagaj (above) and Počitelj (the cover photo) but you can see this pristine waterfall. Note the lack of humans blocking the view.
I think Sarajevo is a contender for the most interesting city in the world. Some call it the Jerusalem of Europe, with a mosque, synagogue, Catholic cathedral and an Orthodox church all within steps of each other. Don’t even get me started on the crazy history here. World War I history buffs out there?
A beautiful peaceful monastery deep in the mountains? Um yes…sign me up! A mere 2 hours away from Sofia is this gorgeous place where you can chill in the mountain air listening to monks chant. I highly recommend eating the fresh fried dough at the kiosk nearby.
Bulgaria’s 2nd largest city Plovdiv, doesn’t have a big city feel. It has a wonderful mix of modern and traditional with an ancient section with traditional homes and this fun artsy section called Kapana.
Not too shabby for a summer palace eh? King Carol had pretty good taste. Deep in the Carpathian mountains, you can visit this late 1800’s Neo-Renaissance style castle.
Who would believe that this adorable colorful Saxon village in Transylvania holds Dracula’s roots. Apparently Vlad the Impaler’s father was born here.
This centrally located Transylvanian city is the perfect base to explore all of Dracula’s old hood including Bran Castle and the many fortresses and medieval villages in the region.
Hardly a secret, Dubrovnik has become one of the most visited places in Europe and is usually the first Balkans country that tourists will visit. Best to visit in the offseason unless you like sharing with a few thousand cruise ship passengers. Despite its high school cheerleader level of popularity, I still adore this city with its medieval walls and glittering waters.
Read More: Ultimate Guide to Dubrovnik
We can’t let the Dalmatian Coast have all the attention. The Istria region of Croatia is equally beautiful with its own culture and vibe. Rovinj has more of a laid-back resort feel compared to Dubrovnik but with the same Croatian charm.
Just a short drive south from Dubrovnik is this stunning bay, often called Europe’s southernmost fjord.
Climbing the 9th-century city walls around Kotor gives you incredible views of the town and the bay. Montenegro is a nature lover’s dreams with both mountains and beaches.
Belgrade, the ex Yugoslavian capital and current Serbian capital is a vibrant exciting city with the dubious honor of being one of the best party cities in Europe, if not the world. The large pedestrian center has everything from shopping to restaurants and is one of the oldest areas of the cities with many well-preserved monuments and buildings.
Novi Sad, Serbia’s 2nd largest city, is one of the rare places in the Balkans where you don’t see the Ottoman legacy. This city stayed firmly within the Austro-Hungarian empire and some in Serbia would say this city is more Hungarian than it is Serbian. There are 11 official languages in Novi Sad with the first two being Serbian and Hungarian, respectively. It is a truly lovely place and easy to reach less than 2 hours by train from Belgrade.
This Ottoman “City of a Thousand Windows” is stunning to behold. The views from either side of the river or the castle on the hill will have you shooting photos constantly.
Want pristine beaches? Albania has those too. One of the most beautiful coastlines in the world, sharing the Adriatic and Ionian Seas with its neighbors Montenegro and Greece, but much less crowded.
This idyllic lake with an ancient village around it is the perfect spot to unwind on a Balkans adventure. Make sure to catch the sunset at the Church of St. John.
Skopje is a pretty, albeit odd city. Most of it is new and rebuilt in this neoclassical style complete with more statues per square inch than any city in the world. This “makeover” happened in 2014 and has been controversial. There is a traditional section of the city, the old bazaar, where the Ottoman history is evident.
Prizren is a cute little city with extremely friendly locals, inexpensive large portions of food and a fortress on the hill where you can catch a killer sunset over the city. In my case, it was rainy and overcast yet still breathtaking.
There’s just something about these old bridges that give the scene an enchanting quality.
Is this the most beautiful city in the world? It would get my vote. With the pastel pink church, a castle on the hill and a dragon bridge, it’s almost as if a princess designed it.
Nope, not done with Slovenia yet. This little country has tons of awesome spots including this coastal town in the Istria region, close to Italy. More pastel goodness and a beautiful coast. Come on Slovenia, now you are just showing off.
Have you been to the Balkans? What was your favorite place?