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The Balkan Peninsula is one of the most enchanting destinations to visit in Europe. The beautiful region is full of famous, more touristy cities like Dubrovnik, Kotor or Sarajevo – just to name few. But the Balkans are also home to several lesser known gems as well. Read our list of the top eight undiscovered towns to visit here.
Forget Bled, Piran, and Ljubljana, and head to Novo Mesto, a true hidden gem situated in eastern Slovenia near the Croatian border. This medieval jewel, often overlooked by tourists searching for more popular and famous places, looks like it’s straight out of a fairy tale. Don’t forget to stroll around the old quarter, the real heart of Novo Mesto, a terrific area that includes a maze of tiny streets full of brightly colored houses. Winter is the perfect time of the year to visit Novo Mesto, when the snow covers everything and lends a magical atmosphere to the town.
Split, Zadar, Dubrovnik… all obvious, gorgeous and famous Croatian destinations. But have you ever heard of Rijeka? This enchanting coastal town, also known by the Italian name of Fiume, is rarely among the top places visited in Croatia, but it deserves more attention. For those who are into elegant buildings, secret alleys and pastel façades, Rijeka is the place to be. Rijeka is the perfect starting point for visiting the archipelago of the Kvarner Islands. In addition, Rijeka will be European Capital of Culture for 2020 together with Galway, Ireland. What more do you need to be convinced to visit?
To avoid tourists and annoying cruise ships, the best place to go in Montenegro is Cetinje. The old royal capital of the country is a true gem, often avoided by tourists who prefer to spend their time in the more famous coastal towns like Budva and Kotor. Cetinje is the heart of Montenegrin culture and the most important religious center in the country, so don’t miss the chance to visit its great Cathedral. Cetinje is the perfect place to explore the near Mount Lovćen, another of the highlights of Montenegro.
Mostar, with its traditional buildings and famous Old Bridge, might be the star of Bosnia and Herzegovina, but for travelers who want to escape the crowds and tourists, Trebinje is the best place to go. This small medieval town, located near the Croatian border, is part of Republika Srpska, also known as the Serb Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The town is filled with small houses, Ottoman bridges and is situated along the river Trebisnjica.
Forget the exciting nightlife of Belgrade or the cultural atmosphere of Novi Grad: if you are looking for quiet and relaxation, head to Novi Pazar. This town was once part of the Ottoman Empire, so today many sights of that era, like mosques, traditional houses and neighborhoods are still visible. Novi Pazar is the cultural center of Bosniaks in Serbia and one of the most multicultural areas in the country, where Muslims and Orthodox Christians live together.
Rarely is Macedonia on travelers’ radar. But this country, hidden in the south of the Balkan Peninsula, is one of the best kept secrets in Europe and home to many fascinating places. In addition to the capital of Skopje and breathtaking Ohrid, a must-see destination in Macedonia is Prilep. Wine lovers should seriously consider visiting it, because Prilep is located right in the middle of one of the main wine centers of the country.
While the breathtaking panoramas and fabulous beaches of the Albanian Riviera are known worldwide, the town of Vlora, located at the beginning of it, is often used as a starting point to visit the Riviera but not as a primary travel destination. Vlora is one of the oldest settlements in Albania and offers a variety of activities. From cultural sights to pristine beaches, from old monasteries to archaeological parks, Vlora is one of the most interesting, and at the same time lesser known, towns in the Balkans.
For enthusiasts of outdoor activities, a small town located in western Kosovo near the Montenegrin border is the perfect destination. Peja is surrounded by forests and located near the Rugova Canyon, one of the most impressive canyons in the Balkans. The town is also the best place for discovering the nearby Orthodox monasteries, such as Patriarchate of Peja and Decan Monastery, two of the most beautiful sights in Kosovo.