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Winter is truly spectacular in the Balkans – from frozen lakes to mountain hikes with unpredictable weather and cozy spa destinations with hot thermal pools, there is something for every type of traveller. Follow our guide to discover the best places to spend the colder months.
Vrnjačka Banja (pronounced Ver-nyach-kah Ba-nya) is the most celebrated spa resort in Serbia, a perfect haunt for those who enjoy winter only from a warm pool inside (or for those who choose the nearby small ski resort Goč). The mineral springs in Vrnjačka Banja were first discovered by Roman soldiers and the town has since attracted people from near and far. There are tens of hotels with spa centers to choose from and spacious parks perfect for walks in the mild winter.
Bulgaria is famous for its ski resorts but if you are up for something truly exceptional and challenging, head to the Koncheto Ridge (literally translated as the Horse Ridge) in Pirin Mountains. If you stay in Bansko, it is doable to hike all the way up and down for a day, provided you have a mountain guide or you are experienced hiker used to heavy winter conditions. Koncheto Ridge is known for a peculiar phenomenon – often the weather on the one side of the ridge is cloudy and rainy, while on the other it’s sunny, as if there’s an invisible wall dividing them.
Poiana Brașov is one of the best places for skiing in Romania with 24 km of ski slopes in the Carpathians, most with snow cannons to ensure good conditions regardless of the weather. You can take a public bus from Brașov to get there or use the lift to ascend above the historical Romanian town and enjoy a panoramic view of it. After a day at the slopes, explore the streets of Brașov from the Black Church and the spacious squares to the streets lined with colorful houses and the narrowest street in Romania called Strada Sforii.
Ohrid, a historical town perched on the banks of the UNESCO-protected Lake Ohrid, is one of the most visually impressive destinations in Macedonia as well as one of the most culturally rich ones. It still preserves remains of 4th-century BC buildings and the impressive 10th-century Samuil’s Fortress built by the Bulgarian tsar (king) Samuil. Take a stroll up the winding cobblestone streets to glance at the lake from above and then choose a traditional restaurant where the grilled meat delicacies and Macedonian spirits will warm you up.
The youngest country in the Balkans has winter resorts for you located in the Bjeshkët e Sharrit Mountains (also known as Šar Mountains). Although the skiing infrastructure has much space for improvement, you can change the scene and swap your traditional Balkan ski destinations with Brezovica, the major winter hub in Kosovo.