The Most Beautiful Places in the Balkans

Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria
Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria | © María Renée Batlle Castillo/Flickr
Maria Angelova

The Balkans are a region in Europe that is still off the radar for many tourists due to the memories of conflicts and wars from the 1990s and their poor tourism marketing strategies. These countries, however, are a breath of fresh air for the those used to traveling in Western Europe, both for their undiscovered beauty and the unspoiled nature. Here’s our pick of the most beautiful places to visit in the Balkan countries.

1. Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

Park

Plitvice | © zolakoma/Flickr
© zolakoma/Flickr

No surprise that these amazing cascading lakes have been an attraction for more than 200 years – their waters in different shades of green and blue attract more than a million visitors per year nowadays. Besides marveling at the lakes, don’t forget to keep your eyes open for the orchids – more than 50 species of these beautiful flowers grow in Plitvice National Park.

Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

Plitvice Lakes in Croatia | © Free-Photos/Pixabay

2. Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria

2. Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria
© María Renée Batlle Castillo/Flickr

Once the capital of Bulgaria, the town of Veliko Tarnovo has preserved much of its past glory and mixed it with a vibrant contemporary art and lifestyle scene. Its streets and houses stacked on hills make it a picture-perfect destination with a bunch of vantage points where you can sip your coffee with a view. Stay for the night to see the sound and light show on the historical Tsarevets Hill, where a centuries-old castle has been restored.

Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria

Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria | © María Renée Batlle Castillo/Flickr

3. Kotor, Montenegro

Natural Feature

Back streets in Kotor, Montenegro
© Peter Barritt / Alamy Stock Photo
Welcome to the southernmost fjord of Europe where you can still feel the architectural influence of the Venetians who ruled over Kotor for a long time. Climb the steps to the fortress San Giovanni for a panoramic view of the Old Town and the bay, or get on a boat and sail your way between green coasts and unreal blue waters.

4. Ohrid, Macedonia

4. Ohrid, Macedonia
© Diego Delso/WikiCommons

They say that once Ohrid used to have 365 churches, one for each day of the year. Even though the number is not as high today, the small UNESCO-listed Macedonian town spread on the coast of the Ohrid Lake is still considered a religious hub in the country. The area is adored by Macedonians and visitors from the neighboring countries, but it’s still a lesser known destination for European travelers from further afield.

Ohrid, Macedonia

Ohrid, Macedonia | © Diego Delso, delso.photo, License CC-BY-SA/WikiCommons

5. Berat, Albania

5. Berat, Albania
© my_cottage/Flickr

Berat is another UNESCO-listed town with turbulent history and impressive remains of its past – the Berat Castle and a mix of churches and mosques that demonstrate in the best way the religious and cultural diversity of the Balkans. Its identical black and white houses with windows like a thousand eyes are lined on the banks of Osum River and make for an impressive backdrop for a photo.

Berat, Albania

Berat, Albania | © my_cottage/Flickr

6. Prizren, Kosovo

Bridge

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© NH53/Flickr
Kosovo is one of the least visited places in the Balkans, but it nonetheless boasts preserved natural sites and fortresses with amazing panoramas such as the one in the town of Prizren. After ambling around the remains of the stronghold, go down back in the town and explore the local cuisine or just sip coffee for hours and people-watch by the river.

7. Sibiu, Romania

7. Sibiu, Romania
© Tudor44/Pixabay

Sibiu has a medieval charm that makes it appear frozen in time. With its collection of art galleries and unusual museums, such as the Hunting Museum or the Pharmacy Museum, and its towers accessible for visitors to climb and watch the town life from a bird’s-eye view, Sibiu is the best cultural stop in Romania’s Transylvania.

Sibiu, Romania

Sibiu, Romania | © Tudor44/Pixabay

8. Tara National Park, Serbia

Park

Drina River, Serbia
© Branevgd/WikiCommons

Tara National Park is a perfect escape for those searching for untouched nature. The highlight of the Serbian natural site is the Drina River Gorge with the River Drina making its way between towering cliffs and attracting rafting enthusiasts from around the world. Tara is also home to two artificial lakes perfect for leisure sailing or kayaking.

Tara National Park, Serbia

Drina River, Serbia | © Branevgd/WikiCommons

9. Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bridge

9. Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina
© Neshom/Pixabay
Mostar is one of those towns that owe their fame to a beautiful bridge, Stari Most (Old Bridge). Although it was destroyed during the Bosnia war in the 1990s, it has been restored and it is still the symbol of the Mostar, spanning the Neretva River.

10. Bled, Slovenia

Church

10. Bled, Slovenia
© Walkerssk/Pixabay

If you are searching for a real-life fairy tale, head to Lake Bled in Slovenia. Take a traditional pletna, a local gondola, to cross to the small island in the lake, and then walk up the 99 steps to reach the church that sits atop it. The morning mist at the lake is one of the most famous sights from Slovenia.

Bled, Slovenia

Lake Bled, Slovenia | © Walkerssk/Pixabay

11. Gökçeada, Turkey

Turkey’s best surfing destination is its largest island, Gökçeada. The winds and waves near its coasts have made it a popular windsurfing, kitesurfing, and surfing destination in southeastern Europe. If you take the ferry to the mainland town of Çanakkale, you can visit the nearby remains of Troy.

Gökçeada, Turkey

Gökçeada Island, Turkey | © shizhao/Flickr

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