Have you ever thought about taking a trip to the Balkans? If not, then we would like to convince you to embark on this wonderful adventure.
Few other regions in Europe are as diverse as the countries on the Balkan Peninsula. Culturally alone, the Balkan countries are more diverse than in almost any other corner of Europe. It doesn’t matter if it’s about religion, food or customs.
In this article, we will introduce you to the 11 Balkan countries in more detail. In addition, we will tell you what interesting destinations there are and what you can do there.
The Countries of the Balkans
The very first of the Balkan countries we will introduce you to in this article is one of the extreme kind. For a very long time, Albania was completely isolated from the outside world. This was due in particular to the Enver Hoxha, around whom, even long after his death, a true personality cult hovered.
Above all, the numerous bunkers that you find in Albania testify to the paranoia that Hoxha had. Today, Albania is a thoroughly safe country. Nevertheless, there is still a lot of corruption – but as a tourist, you will not notice any of it. Especially mountaineers and beach vacationers will fall in love with this country. Some may be happy about the Albanian Alps, others about the total length of 476 km of coastline.
City travellers will also get their money’s worth in Albania. The capital Tirana is the most popular destination in the country. But also Shkoder in the north of Albania and Berat and Gjirokastra in the south are worth a visit.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
You know Bosnia and Herzegovina mainly from the news. In the 1990s, the bloodiest war after World War II took place in this representative of the Balkan countries we would like to introduce to you.
Even today, there are still many traces of these horrible acts. Even official travel guides always warn that travellers should never leave the designated paths – too many mines are still scattered all over the country.
Of course, this should not stop you from visiting this wonderful country. Because in the meantime, it has become much quieter again. Today, three different ethnic groups live peacefully together in a country where these three parties used to fight each other before.
The capital Sarajevo is a true architectural wonder. Simply because both the Ottoman Empire and Austria-Hungary had a cultural influence on the city for a long time. Besides, Mostar is a popular destination for those who want to visit the Balkan countries.
Bulgaria is one of the Balkan countries in the east of the peninsula. At the same time, it is also one of the countries that did not belong to Yugoslavia. Meanwhile, Bulgaria has been a member of the European Union for many years.
The capital Sofia is the most visited city in Bulgaria. Here you will find, among other things, the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, the second-largest church in the Balkans. Before the Church of St. Sava was built in Belgrade, this Orthodox church was even ranked number one.
Of course, not only Sofia that is worth a trip. Other cities also have their merits. These include, in particular, Plovdiv – the second-largest city in Bulgaria – and Varna – located directly on the Black Sea.
If you are interested in history, you can also visit Veliko Tarnovo. This was the old capital of the Bulgarian Tsarist Empire several centuries ago and boasts a beautiful castle.
Greece is also one of the Balkan countries that did not belong to Yugoslavia. It is the southernmost country of the Balkan Peninsula and has been a popular destination for vacationers from all over the world for many years.
The Greeks look back on an eventful and long history. The country is considered the birthplace of democracy – and the Greeks are extremely proud of it! You will quickly notice during your trip to Greece how many similarities there are between the Turks and Greeks. Especially the dishes, such as baklava, are found in both countries’ cuisines.
For city travellers, Greece is just as suitable as for island hoppers and beach lovers. There are so many wonderful places in Greece that it is impossible to summarize them in a short paragraph.
When visiting Kosovo, you will quickly notice a problem. The country is considered independent, yet the Serbian government continues to insist that Kosovo is part of the territory of Serbia.
Of course, the difficulty is much more complex than it seems at first. On the one hand, Kosovo is now predominantly inhabited by Albanians, and on the other hand, it is home to some of the most important monuments of Serbian culture.
Nevertheless, you will never have any issues when travelling to Kosovo. The people are all extremely friendly and do their best to make you feel safe in their country.
Croatia is no longer an insider tip. On the contrary – those who want to spend their vacations on the Adriatic often travel to Croatia. Especially because it is a bit cheaper there than in Italy.
But unfortunately, because of this, most travellers only know the coast of the country. But the country has so much more to offer. Even the beautiful capital of Croatia – Zagreb – doesn’t get nearly as many visitors as Croatian coastal cities like Split or Dubrovnik do.
Croatia also had a huge war when it broke away from Yugoslavia. Fortunately, it was not as long and bloody as the Bosnian war. However, we do not want to minimize the horror of the war.
While Croatia is already quite popular, most people will probably look at you in surprise when you tell them you’re vacationing in Northern Macedonia. However, this doesn’t mean that the country is boring – on the contrary! We have already written a few posts about North Macedonia and especially the capital Skopje.
If you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, a trip to Ohrid is a great option. This is right on the shores of Lake Ohrid and should definitely be high on your bucket list!
The cities in Montenegro are not even the most interesting thing about this country. Anyone who loves nature and mountain climbing will fall in love with the landscapes that await you in Montenegro. Hardly any other Balkan country has such a huge variety of nature as Montenegro.
The largest city in the country is Podgorica – formerly known as Titograd, named after the Yugoslav dictator. We recommend that you also visit the cities of Kotor and Budva during your vacation. Both are located directly on the water and convince primarily by their old architecture in the midst of a walled old town.
Ulcinj, near the border with Albania, is also worth a visit. More than half of the inhabitants have Albanian roots. During Ramadan, you will quickly notice that many restaurants have different opening hours.
Strictly speaking, Romania can no longer be counted as part of the Balkans since only the southernmost part of the country lies on the Balkan peninsula. Nevertheless, for the sake of completeness, we would like to count Romania among the 11 Balkan countries – even if the Romanians certainly see it differently.
This interesting country is especially known for its numerous myths and legends. Surely you have heard of Dracula? Well, he is said to have lived in Transylvania, a region in Romania. And Bran Castle is even said to have been his home.
If you want to get a feel for the mystical side of Romania, you should first and foremost visit the cities of Braşov and Sibiu. Away from these, the capital city of Bucharest, with the largest parliament building in the world, is also worth a visit. Not to mention Timișoara, where the protests against former President Nicolae Ceausescu began.
Serbia offers travel-loving adventurers plenty of opportunities to pursue their hobbies. From impressive metropolises like the capital Belgrade to big cities like Novi Sad and Nis, to idyllic little towns like Subotica, there are plenty of interesting things to discover in Serbia. Nature has created many impressive works of art in Serbia.
First and foremost is a stone formation called Devil’s Town. The already diverse offer is refined with a few picturesque national parks. We can especially recommend the Kopaonik National Park and the Derdap National Park.
The westernmost of the Balkan countries have a few surprises to offer. Not only is it culturally completely different from the other Balkan countries – Slovenia is more Central and Western European in its customs and traditions.
Especially mountaineers will quickly fall in love with the mountains in Slovenia. Especially the Julian Alps, as well as the Steiner Alps, will make every hiker’s heart jump for joy.
If you want to visit an interesting city, then you should definitely put the Slovenian capital Ljubljana on your bucket list. Not only does it have wonderful architecture, but also a castle. From here you can enjoy a wide view of the city and its surroundings.
Now you have learned which Balkan countries there are and why you should certainly put them on your bucket list. Now you just have to pack your bags and visit these wonderful and interesting countries!