- Discover the unspoilt scenery of the Balkans – fast becoming one of the top travel destinations in the world
- The best ways to explore the Balkans including walking holidays, river cruises, yacht sailing holidays and escorted tours
- What to expect from a holiday to Slovenia, Romania, Croatia and Montenegro – plus highlights of what to see and do
Twelve countries make up the Balkans, yet they are still relatively unknown as holiday hotspots – which makes them an attractive option for travellers seeking unspoilt scenery and an authentic experience. Easy to fly to, welcoming and with inviting temperatures, if you’ve yet to visit Slovenia, Romania, Croatia or Montenegro, perhaps now is the time to book your first trip.
With its dramatic alpine peaks and lush lowlands, Slovenia is an excellent place for a European tour, especially if you enjoy walking holidays. A similar size to Wales, the country is awash with storybook scenery, making it an idyllic destination to explore on foot. On a Walk & Discover break, there are accessible routes to stroll along, as well as more challenging hikes covering longer distances.
A highlight is sure to be a day spent at Lake Bled, and you’ll soon discover the images you’ve seen in brochures and online don’t do the scene justice. A tear-shaped island sits almost at the lake’s centre and is crowned by a fairy-tale church with a soaring spire and terracotta roof. Nearby are forested hills, where a medieval castle stands atop a craggy cliff – all that’s missing is a Disney princess!
Lake Bohinj is another must-see sight, nestled in the heart of the Julian Alps. Again, there are several levels of walks which allow you to look around the area, so you may find yourself trekking under a canopy of trees, climbing up to view Slovenia’s famous Savica waterfall, or simply meandering around Lake Bohinj’s picturesque shoreline.
You’ll fall in love with Ljubljana, the country’s attractive capital, and on a guided walking tour with a local expert, you’ll hear more about the city’s history and stories. The pedestrianised old town has many baroque buildings, cobbled alleyways, and fine piazzas – stop awhile to soak up the atmosphere, or visit the Central Market to buy a few souvenirs.
Romania, a glorious Balkan country rich in history, art, and architecture, offers countless travel experiences. The Danube river flows through the country en route to the Black Sea, and one way to appreciate the scenic landscape and captivating culture is on a river cruise. There’s no denying that Romania’s natural beauty will leave a lasting impression as you sail past stunning riverbanks, and you will also be enthralled by the country’s charm, its thriving literary scene, and local contemporary cuisine.
On our Romanian river cruise, which also visits Hungary, Serbia and Bulgaria, you’ll spend time in the capital, Bucharest. With tree-lined boulevards and elegant belle-époque villas, you can understand why the city is affectionately nicknamed ‘Little Paris’. A highlight of a guided tour will be the Palace of the Parliament, a colossal concrete extravagance commissioned in 1984 by the Communist leader, Nicolae Ceausescu. The palace remains unfinished, and only 400 of 1,100 rooms are currently used. Don’t miss the chance to wander around the city’s squares too, especially Revolution Square, located near the Royal Palace.
Holidays to Europe offer plenty of opportunities to sample different delicacies, and a traditional Romanian dish is a hearty plate of meatballs, generously spiced with garlic, parsley or dill. Restaurants also serve freshly stuffed peppers, and a popular lunchtime meal is a wholesome vegetable and dumpling soup. Romania also produces excellent wine, with the wooded hills of Transylvania being the source of many palatable whites, and the Carpathian foothills responsible for some superior reds.
If you’ve never travelled to the Balkans before, you’re missing out. Holidays to Croatia are on the rise, and it’s easy to see why. With a stunning historical capital city, there are plenty of things to do in Dubrovnik, and cruises along the Dalmatian coast are truly breathtaking.
One unique way to explore Croatia and the Dalmatian coast is aboard a yacht cruise, where you sail between small islands and ports. You’ll spend your days swimming in the Adriatic Sea when the yacht drops anchor in a tranquil bay or relaxing with a small number of like-minded, easy-going passengers on a sundeck. And when you do go ashore, beautifully preserved, atmospheric medieval towns and fishing villages await, as do impressive cities and serene national parks. Sailing holidays in Croatia really are something special.
When it comes to things to do in Dubrovnik, start with a guided tour around the Old Town. Nestled behind massive, imposing ramparts, a walk along the city wall is recommended – our tour includes this, heading in through the main gate during the late morning. The city’s labyrinth of narrow streets (some with steep inclines up steps) are a joy to explore too, and if you’re a fan of Game of Thrones or Star Wars, some landmarks will look familiar. While in the ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’ be sure to visit the Rector’s Palace to admire its Gothic and Renaissance architecture and learn about how the palace has been damaged over the decades by fires, gunpowder explosions, and earthquakes.
With a planned itinerary and an expert guide on hand, escorted tours are a reassuringly hassle-free way to explore a new destination such as Montenegro.
Montenegro is a welcoming country, where time seems to have stood still. And that’s part of its charm. Even the notable town of Budva doesn’t see the summer crowds like other coastal resorts located along the Adriatic Sea – its Venetian old town and sheltered harbour are a delight. Equally fascinating is a trip from Budva inland to the Šipčanik wine cellar, which was once a secret underground aircraft hangar.
First-timers on a Montenegro holiday often say they’re taken aback at the scale of the country’s jutting terrain, despite the name meaning ‘black mountain’. Whether in Lovćen National Park or the intriguing ‘second city’ of Cetinje, majestic mountains can be seen everywhere. There are lush valleys dotted with olive groves, heavenly bays, and sparkling lakes – Montenegro may have had a turbulent past, but Mother Nature has been kind.
The Bay of Kotor is undoubtedly an unmissable stop-off, a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site flanked by the limestone peaks of Mount Lovćen. Kotor, a moated town with a twin-towered cathedral, is picture-perfect, and Perast is beguiling too, renowned for its artificial island with a striking blue-domed church – take a boat trip to visit it.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.