The Balkans refers to the south-eastern peninsula of the European continent. Comprising of 12 countries including Greece, Kosovo, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Montenegro, no other region of Europe has as diverse a population as the Balkans. For the discerning traveller, the following destinations in the Balkans must feature in their The Balkans trip planner.
Explore traditional Albania at Pellumbas
20 km south-east of the Albanian capital of Tirana, one will find the village of Pellumbas. Though largely unexplored, the area is fast becoming a popular tourist destination. Hike through the farms and woodlands to make your way to Pellumbas Cave. Scientists recently found that the 360-metre (in depth) cave was once home to a species of ancient cave bears. Human remains that date back to the Palaeolithic Era were also found in the cave.
After exploring, you can cool off in the blue-green waters of the Erzen River before you make your way back to the village for a bite to eat.
Hike through the Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia
In Croatia, a stone’s throw away from the Bosnian border lies one of Europe’s most gorgeous and most-visited hiking trails. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Plitvice Lakes National Park has been operational since 1949. The park is a lush valley of 16 terraced lakes, laced together by cascading waterfalls, and is a result of the confluence of several rivers.
The colour of the water in the lakes ranges from clear to various shades of blue and green. Make sure you camp at the park for at least two nights, so you have enough time to soak in the landscape. Peak season is in July and August, and the park tends to get a bit crowded then; if you are averse to crowds, ensure you go towards the end of the season.
Step back in time in Kotor, Montenegro
Known as the pearl of the Mediterranean, Montenegro is one of the most scenic countries in Europe, and the town Kotor is certainly the jewel in its crown. Medieval structures flanked by mountains and pristine blue waters will greet you here. Explore Old Town with its 1,000-year-old fortified walls and cobblestoned streets.
Down a tipple of local wine as you sit in one of the outdoor restaurants. Make your way up over a thousand stairs, pausing at the Church of Our Lady of Good Health, till you reach the San Giovanni Fort for a spectacular view of Kotor and the bay.
Touch the sky at Meteora in Greece
Make sure Meteora in Greece features in your trip planner and prepare to be overwhelmed. Roughly translating to ‘in the air’, Meteora is a destination straight out of a fairy-tale. Monasteries crown the tops of sandstone cliffs that jut out into the sky. It is said that monks sought refuge in the caves and fissures on these cliffs since the 9th century AD.
During the heights of the bloodshed during the Byzantine Era, more monks came over and over 20 monasteries were built here, of which only six stand today. A trip to Meteora will involve a lot of walking, so make sure you are wearing sturdy footwear.
Get your hands on the Balkan Flexipass
The Balkan Flexipass is a rail travel pass that you can use in the following countries – Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia and Turkey. The pass allows travellers unlimited passage for a 5-, 10- or 15-day period in a month, and is a requisite entry in you’re The Balkans travel planner. Whether you want to stop by the Old Skopje Bazaar in Macedonia, or pay a visit to Thessaloniki in Greece, or explore the Split Harbour in Croatia, or simply take in the scenic views, the Balkan Flexipass is your gateway to the destination you desire.
With so much to offer, it will be difficult for any traveller to do justice to the Balkans’ magnificent sights in a single trip. What better to do but visit again and again!