The Balkan Peninsula contains some of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. The region is renowned for offering excellent servings of history, cuisine, adventure and some of the most beautiful natural environments in the world. With close to 15 countries lying either wholly or partially within the Balkan Peninsula, any would-be visitor is spoilt for choice. To complicate matters, each country has scores or even hundreds of top destinations to choose from. However, there are certain destinations which have established a reputation for offering exciting tourist experiences. Such destinations are a must-see for any visitor intending to travel to the Balkans. Here are some of the top destinations in Balkan peninsula.
Places to visit in Balkans
Lake Bled, Slovenia
Lake Bled is considered one of the most romantic destinations in Europe. The Lake has mixed glacial and tectonic origins – it was created when the Bohinj Glacier moved away during the last Ice Age. It is located in a picturesque environment surrounded by undulating mountains and lush forests.
At the center of the lake is Bled Island, a petite little island with cute historical buildings. Its iconic attraction is the Church of the Assumption of Mary. This 17th Century church is an architectural masterpiece decorated with Gothic frescoes from the 1470s. It also contains Baroque equipment, a 52 meter bell tower and a Baroque staircase with 98 steps. It is believed that any man who carries his wife up the steps will have a blissful marriage. Perched on a hill on the lake shores is Bled Castle, a magnificent red and white castle decorated with Romanesque walls, parapets, ramparts and towers.
Next to the lake is the town of Bled which has numerous tourist facilities. Visitors to Lake Bled can enjoy breathtaking scenery, horse riding, boat rides, hiking, cycling or riding iconic the pletna (a water craft which resembles a huge gondola).
Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
This park is home to one of the most spectacular geological features in the world – the 16 cascading lakes. The lakes are not only one of a kind (there are no other cascading lakes in the world); they are also beautiful to look at. They feature natural dams formed out of travertine – a material formed through the action of moss, bacteria and algae. The waters change colors from blue to green, gray or azure.
The park is also home to crashing waterfalls, captivating rock formations and colorful plants. It also boasts of 84 plant species, 45 mammal species, 222 bird species and 18 fish species. Some of its iconic attractions include the European brown bear, lynx, wild cat, wolf, owl, eagle and capercaillie. The park has well paved paths through which visitors can enjoy its magnificent scenery. Visitors can also enjoy boat rides, picnicking, camping, nature walks and numerous other adventures.
Opatija and Dubrovnik, Croatia
Opatija is a town located in the idyllic Kravner Bay along the western coast of Croatia. Specifically designed as a summer retreat for the 18th Century Austro-Hungarian elite, the town was built for elegance, opulence and class. The city is filled with luxurious villas, hillside mansions, pristine beaches and magnificent gardens.
It lies at the center of the iconic 40 km long promenade which links it to quaint towns like Icici and Ika. Opatija is renowned for its luxurious tourist facilities, world-famous wellness industry and spectacular natural environment. The city’s location at the foot of the Ucka Mountain means it is surrounded by a rugged landscape. The perfect way of exploring these environs is by renting a car in Opatija and cruising to the various excitements.
Dubrovnik is popularly referred to as ‘The Pearl of the Adriatic’ on account of its breathtaking beauty. The city boasts of medieval walls which have stood for over 500 years. Within these walls is a pharmacy which has been giving prescriptions for 700 years. Dubrovnik also has ancient palaces, cathedrals, monasteries, and monuments. The city also boasts of emerald-blue waters, white sand beaches, colorful coral reefs, sumptuous delicacies and a rich wine tradition. Dubrovnik is a popular destination for people who desire relaxation, adventure, exploration, luxury and unique cultural experiences.
Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Its iconic attraction is the Stari Most (Old Bridge) built over the Neretva River by the Ottomans in 1556. Although it was destroyed during the 1993 war, it was rebuilt in 2004. The Old Bridge is a 21 meter high architectural gem, which is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Next to the bridge is the Old Bridge Museum which chronicles the rich history of Mostar and offers glimpses into the bridge’s unique architecture.
Mostar also has a number of medieval buildings, mosques and churches. Popular attractions include the Koski Mehmed Pasha Mosque built in 1618 and the Karadjoz-Bey Mosque built in 1557. The Koski Mehmed contains a minaret which visitors can climb and enjoy panoramic views of the city. Another popular attraction is the Muslibegovica House – a 300 year-old building which is the perfect depiction of Ottoman opulence, elegance and style. Visitors in Mostar can also go hiking in the surrounding hills, walking along recent battle lines, touring ancient cemeteries, diving at the Old Bridge and taking idyllic boat rides along the Neretva River.
Gulf of Kotor, Montenegro
Popularly known as the deepest natural fjord in the Mediterranean, the Gulf of Kotor is one of Montenegro’s premium tourist destinations. It is renowned for its beautiful natural scenery, rich historical heritage and exciting adventures. The gulf is surrounded by glorious mountain ridges, crystal clear waters and dotted with tiny splashing waterfalls.
It lots of ancient historical sites many of which have been declared UNESCO World Heritage sites. The popular ones include the town of Kotor, the 3rd Century town of Risan and the idyllic town of Herceg Novi which was founded in 1382. The town of Kotor has a number of ancient cathedrals such as the 11th Century St. Tryphon’s Cathedral; fortifications such as St. John’s fortress and museums such as the Maritime Museum. Visitors can enjoy paragliding, mountaineering, boat rides, hiking and feasting on Kotor’s world-famous delicacies.
Mount Lovcen, Montenegro
This scenic mountain arises from the borders of the Adriatic forming a hinterland to the town of Kotor. It is renowned for its rocky slopes, deep fissures, rugged beaks and numerous species of flora and fauna. Mount Lovcen is perhaps most popular for housing the Mausoleum of Petar Petrović Njegoš – one of the most venerated figures in Montenegro’s history.
The mountain is also home to the Lovcen National Park – a park which boasts of 200 bird species, 85 butterfly species 1158 plant species and numerous mammal species. Some of the park’s iconic residents include the peregrine falcon, imperial eagle, golden eagle, wolf and brown bear. The mountain has numerous hiking and mountain biking trails which can be accessed from towns like Kotor, Budva and Cetinje. In the summer, visitors can enjoy hiking, cycling, picnicking, mountaineering and camping. In the winter, there are fantastic skiing opportunities.
Located in the iconic Albainan Riviera, Sarande is one of the most popular destinations in Albania. It is renowned for its serene, elegant and romantic aura which makes it a magnet for honeymooners. Sarande is located in an idyllic gulf in the Ionian Sea, surrounded by pristine blue waters, white sand beaches and a beautiful promenade.
The city has a rich history stretching back to 350 AD. It is in close proximity to the ancient city of Butrit – famous for its Greek, Roman and Byzantine architectural ruins. There are ancient castles like the Ali Pasha Tepelena Castle, a Byzantine Basilica and Roman Amphitheatre. Sarande is popular for its magnificent sunsets, scenic views and over 300 days of sunshine per year.
Visitors can explore the ancient ruins of Butrit, chill out at the numerous beaches, climb the rugged mountains on the outskirts of the city and visit the iconic island of Corfu.
Those are seven of the must-see destinations in the Balkans. These destinations offer a variety of tourist experiences ranging from historical treasures to culinary delights and exciting adventures. Ultimately, they embody the best of what the Balkans have to offer. Therefore, whoever is planning a vacation in the Balkans will be well served by visiting any of these destinations.