1. CLOSE BY
The Balkans are not too far away if you’re a European traveler. In fact, during the summer, you can take a 9-hour night train from Munich to Zagreb – easing into the Balkan tempo while you sleep and waking up to breakfast in Croatia. You can easily get to Munich from most European destinations as it serves as a hub for a lot of train networks.
Contact your local KILROY office to get more guidance on your best train options through Europe!
If you prefer flying or don’t want to spend the first day of your holiday venturing through the changing European landscapes, the news is still good. You can reach a lot of Balkan destinations within a couple of hours from most places in Europe. As an example, you can catch a direct flight to Belgrade from Stockholm, Oslo, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, London, and Brussels, to name a few. This brings you to a great starting point of the Balkan fun.
2. OFF THE BEATEN TRACK
So close but yet so far (away from the tourist crowds). Just a couple of hours on a plane, and you are off the beaten track. The Balkans are just as rich in history and culture as the rest of Europe, but it hasn’t become mainstream (yet) so you avoid the big crowds and long lines – unless you choose very specific places that have become popular in recent years.
An example is Dubrovnik in Croatia which became famous after being featured in Game of Thrones and making it to the Wanderlust Travel Award. This has attracted a lot of visitors, but for good reasons, of course. Mix up your visit with some of the more visited (usually beach) destinations with time in the mountains or the big cities.
3. LOTS OF HISTORY
The Balkans have a long and rich history with ancient buildings and relics dating back tens of thousands of years. The area has been ruled by empires such as the Greek and Roman which has left them sprinkled with unique cultural heritage sites. Explore the old towns spread all over the region and visit ruins dating back further than your family tree.
4. GORGEOUS SCENERY & NATURE
There’s something for everyone in the Balkans. Even if historical sites are not your thing, you can go into the mountains and indulge yourself in the raw, often untouched nature. The Balkans offer more than mountains of course. You’ll find waterfalls, lakes, rivers, canyons, caves, hills, beaches, forests, etc., etc.
You can go for week-long hikes while you explore the gorgeous scenery by day and spend the nights in authentic mountain chalets. We highly recommend this, which is why we’ve created the re:connect with nature journey. If you’re an experienced hiker, you can easily do it on your own with a bit of planning, but if you’re pressed for time, don’t want to bother with the planning, or you’d like to meet other travelers on your trip, this is the perfect alternative to going solo.
5. GET YOUR ADRENALINE NEEDS SATISFIED
All of that amazing nature calls for some of the wilder nature experiences. You can do everything from river rafting in Albania to bungee jumping into the deep canyons of Montenegro. Go paragliding or ziplining in Serbia or try Via Ferrata climbing in Bosnia. Climb Mt. Bobotuk or kayak on Durmitor lake. Whatever rocks your adrenaline boat, the Balkans have you covered.
6. MORE BANG FOR YOUR BUCK
Compared to Western Europe, you will get a lot further with what you spend in the Balkans. The very cheapest places to go are North Macedonia, Serbia, and Albania, but even though Croatia, Montenegro, and Greece are more popular and therefore more expensive, they’re still cheap compared to the rest of Europe.
If you’re a budget traveler, you can choose the low-budget options of staying in hostel dorm rooms (for as little as €5) and jumping on the local busses to get around. If you prefer a bit more comfort and privacy, you can get private double accommodation for as little as €15 per night per person.
You might find yourself spending most of your budget on experiences rather than commodities and practicalities – which is exactly why we love it at KILROY.
7. FOOD FOR THE HUNGRY TRAVELER
As our local partner in the Balkans says: “No one will go hungry from these lands”. The portions are generous and the food is usually sourced locally. This means cheeses from the animals you encounter on your hike in the mountains, herbs from the garden of the chalet, vegetables grown and cultivated by the villagers, honey from the hives out back, etc. Who said local and sustainable?
Sometimes you might also encounter culinary experiences that will… challenge your pallet, but it’s all part of the adventure, right? For the most part, however, the food is fresh and delicious!
8. THE NIGHTLIFE
Are you more interested in the drinks than the food? Good news then! Not only are the drinks cheap – they’re also strong. On top of that, the young people of Balkan love to party and interact with other people in bars and clubs. Take the same precautions you would at home (don’t get too drunk, don’t leave your drink unattended, don’t walk home alone drunk late at night, make sure to drink water, and so on) and you’re in for a good time.
You probably won’t find the best nightlife if you opt for staying in the mountains the entire time, but if you take your time to visit places like Belgrade in Serbia, Sarajevo in Bosnia, or Skopje in North Macedonia, you’re almost guaranteed a good night out.
9. SAFE TO TRAVEL – ALSO FOR SOLO FEMALE TRAVELERS
While you should always take care of yourself (even in your home city), the Balkans are perfectly safe to travel in – including for solo female travelers. Crime against tourists is rare as well as street harassment and other unwanted attention.
Take your normal precautions when traveling and don’t flash your valuables unnecessarily or leave your laptop unattended on a busy street cafe table. Remember to pack your common sense and make sure you use it no matter where you go.
10. THE FRIENDLY LOCALS
Generally, people are super friendly and willing to help. They are also proud, however, so make sure you meet everyone as the humble visitor you are.
Depending on where you’re from, the tempo might not be what you’re used to. Instead of letting it stress you, try to slow down and enjoy the take-things-as-they-come attitude. You can learn a lot from letting go of control and embracing life as it comes at you.
Even if English is not the first or even the second language of the local communities in the Balkans, the people will still be curious to talk to you. This is part of the adventure and if you meet people with an open mind and heart, you can still communicate using gestures and body language. Learn simple phrases such as “Thank you” and “Please” before you go or once you get to a place if you want to level up your polite interaction with people.
Now it’s time to go out there and have fun! Whether that’s by enjoying and connecting with nature, jumping into the fun activities, exploring the ancient cities, or indulging in the food and drink culture, there’s something for everyone in the Balkans. If you want the best of it all? We recommend joining our re:discover trip to the Balkans called re:connect. This journey takes you through four of the Balkan countries in two weeks. Get to Belgrade early (to explore the nightlife and big city vibe) and extend your stay in Dubrovnik (to see what the hype of the old city on the Adriatic Sea is all about) to get the most out of your trip.