3 week trip around the Balkans States

The Western Balkans don’t tend to be towards the top of the classic European adventures list, but they really should be and especially so if you’re looking for a 2-3 week adventure.  Whilst the likes of Spain, France and Italy offer the beautiful settings and a similar(ish) geographical area, the Western Balkans offer the variety of 8 different countries, are more compact, less busy and go toe-to-toe with those countries in terms of beaches, dramatic settings and cute old towns.  Examples?  The Havar area has the best beach and boat setting in Europe; Lake Bled and Sveti Stefan must be up there with the most picturesque spots in Europe; Dubrovnik has arguably the best Old Town and city walls in the world; and, in my opinion, Montenegro has the most beautiful coastline in the world.  Don’t believe this?  Give it a go – as I say, one of the best 2-3 week European adventures in Europe

Boat trips, beaches and exploring the caves around Havar Island

Havar is the most luxurious beach destination in Croatia.  You’ve got the glitzy harbour with super yachts and world-class beach bars, a variety of adrenaline pumping lash centres in Havar Town coupled with more chilled out spots all around the island, and places like the Blue and Green caves to be explored by boat all around the island.  Definitely one of the highlights of Croatia and the whole Balkans

Wandering Dubrovnik’s Old Town City Walls

One of the best preserved old towns in the world, with spectacular city walls and a stunning setting that sees it surrounded by mountains to the east, the crystal blues of the Adriatic to the west and the terracotta roofs of the buildings pouring out into the nearby town.  Dubrovnik quite rightly sits as one of the highlights of the Balkans, if not the whole Mediterranean


Its only downside is, predictably, the sheer volume of fellow tourists that descend into the narrow lanes of the Old Town.  I won’t write a detailed review, but my top three tips are:

  1. Make sure you walk the full circle of the City Walls – they are some of the best preserved in the world and give you some of the best views of the Old Town and surroundings
  2. Make your way up to Mount Srd for views over the whole city – this 412m / 1350ft high hill allows you to the escape the claustrophobia of the Old Town and, because of just how dramatically steep it is next to the Old Town, gives amazing views.  Taking the cablecar is the best and easiest way up there but, if the queues are long, just take a taxi which takes 15mins.  The other option is a hike along the clear walking trail which although is only 2.5km / 1.5miles is STEEP and will take at least 45mins
  3. Try to get lost in the Old Town – as with all Old Towns, the experience is all about feeling the magic of the place and imagining what it would have been like to be here before modern times.  You don’t really get that by following a guide book and, even if you do, you’ll naturally just be following all your fellow tourists anyway.  Instead, just head off in any direction and see where you end up – you can always retrace your steps to see some places you may have missed, and who knows what unusual places you may find
  • Part of a 2-3 week itinerary – the Western Balkans are a seriously underrated part of Europe and represent one of the best 2-3 week trips you can do in this part of the world with stunning castles and old towns, and some of the best coastline in the world all compactly housed within 8 countries.  For the 2-3 week itinerary for the highlights and general tips for this part of the world, see this travel entry and where Dubrovnik fits in –3 week trip around the Balkans States

The Plitvice Lakes in northern Croatia

I am amazed that these lakes aren’t more famous.  When people think of the most beautiful lakes in the world, you think of the likes of Lake Tahoe, Malawi, Torres del Paine, Atitlan, or Lake Bled and Como far closer in Europe.  But the Plitvice Lakes are right up there for sheer beauty and have the added advantage of hundreds of waterfalls linking them all together.  A must if visiting Croatia