There is certainly nothing wrong with the typical European holiday of the likes of Paris, London and Rome. But for the seasoned traveler who wants to get off of that extremely well-beaten path and take in the up and coming and all-together alluring hot new spots in Europe, it is time to go south. And east. Southeast Europe holds treasures that many travelers have yet to discover. A brutal war in the early-to-mid 1990s in a region called the Balkans left deep scars and tends to be the first thing that comes to mind for many when they hear about the area. But time and a lot of hard work have healed many wounds and put the region back together. Today, the area is extremely safe and increasingly well-developed. Tourist infrastructure has been created or revived within the last decade, allowing savvy travelers to take in some of the truly amazing sites the region has to offer. When you have had enough of the tired old sites, check out the Balkans. We recommend these three Balkan jewels.
Three Countries in the Balkans You Should Not Miss
1. Croatia. Croatia is one of the fastest-growing tourist destinations, and for very, very good reason. It boasts an incredibly long and astoundingly beautiful coastline with crystal clear Mediterranean water and lovely towns and cities along the way. On the coast, one should not miss Split and Dubrovnik (there is a reason cruise ships stop at Dubrovnik – it is fabulous), nor the islands of Hvar, Rab and Brach. But Croatia’s not just about the sea. Inland, one could spend much time in the national park called Plitvice Jezera, taking in its waterfalls and peaceful lakes and rivers. In the northwest part of the country, the Istria region brings to mind Tuscany in Italy. With vineyards, rolling hills and quaint villages galore, you will love Istria. Motovun, perched on a hill in Istria, is a must-see, as is Rovinj, which is on the coast. Finally, the capital city, Zagreb, merits a couple days of your time. Eat at Trilogija in the city’s lovely upper town – you’ll be glad you did.
2. Serbia. The top spot to hit in Serbia is its capital, Belgrade. This raucous city is home to vibrant nightlife. It has many, many bars and restaurants full of young people enjoying life. You will notice no doubt that Serbia has not reached quite the level of development of Croatia or the other country in this list, Slovenia; this is part of its allure. It harkens to the older days of the Balkan region, with some nostalgic remembrance of Yugoslavia, the socialist country consisting of what are now 7 independent nations.
3. Slovenia. Tiny Slovenia punches way above its weight. This small nation has got it all; a vibrant city in its capital, Ljubljana, peaceful countryside, skiing and hiking in mountains that are part of the Alps, and access to the coast. The highlight, though, is lake Bled and its nearby cousin lake Bohinj. Lake Bled is one of the prettiest places this experienced traveler has ever seen. With mountains behind it and a tiny island with a church on it in the middle, it is truly picturesque.
The author of this post, Brad Menzer, loves to travel. When not traveling, he’s usually blogging for the immigration law firm Heartland Immigration in the United States, which serves clients all over the world in the full range of US immigration law issues.