The Balkans, also known as the Balkan Peninsula, is a geographic region that is located in southeastern Europe. The basis of the name comes from the Balkan Mountains which run through the entirety of Bulgaria.
This area of Europe is bordered by the Adriatic Sea in the northwest, the Aegean Sea in the south, the Black Sea in the northeast, the Turkish Straits in the east, and the Ionian Sea directly to the southwest.
When it comes to land borders, the northern part of the peninsula is usually defined in various ways, depending on who you ask.
Here is a list of countries that are considered part of the Balkan Peninsula:
- Kosovo (10,908 km²)
- Montenegro (13,810 km²)
- North Macedonia (25,713 km²)
- Bulgaria (110,993 km²)
- Bosnia and Herzegovina (51,180 km²)
- Albania (28,749 km²)
And here are some of the countries that are mostly or partially within this region and how much of their land is within the Balkan Peninsula:
- Greece (110,496 km²)
- Croatia (24,013 km²)
- Romania (11,000 km²)
- Serbia (51,000 km²)
- Slovenia (5,000 km²)
- Turkey (23,764 km²)
5 Activities You Can Enjoy When Visiting the Balkans
While the history of a place is very important, the Balkans are a fun and rewarding place to visit. Here are some of the simplest and cost-efficient experiences that you can enjoy on your Balkan trip.
Sightseeing and Monument Visiting
When you explore new countries, you’ll surely want to see some of their historical patrimonies. Here are three of the most inspiring places that should make your list:
Bulgaria’s Rila Monastery
This intriguing monastery was built in the 10th century and houses some interesting stories under its roof. This Orthodox monastery is visited by over 1 million tourists each year and its architecture makes it a cultural landmark as well as a testament to the region’s tumultuous history.
While you are here, hop on a bus to Sofia. It is only 71 miles away and well-worth seeing.
The Town of Ohrid in the Republic of Macedonia
If you have never heard of the Emerald Lake, this is your chance to explore its mysteries. Ohrid is strategically situated on the banks of this famous lake and attracts tourists from all over the world.
If you are a festival lover, going to Ohrid in the summers will most likely leave you missing this place after you have to leave it.
Croatia’s Dubrovnik City
If you’re a beach lover, Croatia’s Dubrovnik is the ideal Balkan destination. Situated on the edge of the Mediterranean Sea, this resort-rich city offers a multitude of tourist favorites as well as unexplored wildlands.
If you are a beach lover, Dubrovnik is the ideal Balkan destination. Situated on the edge of the Mediterranean Sea, this resort-rich city offers a multitude of tourist favorites as well as unexplored wildlands. Boat hire in Croatia is a fantastic getaway from the hustle and bustle and renting a boat can help you get the full experience. Dubrovnik is on the UNESCO list of protected historical sites, so it will be sure to enchant and leave you with an unforgettable experience.
Test Your Cycling Skills on Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast
This relaxing coast trail needs to be mentioned on its own because it offers one of the most peaceful and magical travel experiences that many have lived to tell tales about.
If you’re a bicycle lover this trip will provide a real challenge but also enrich your traveling experience and for sure, you’ll take lots of photos to show friends and family back home.
Mountain Climbing/Winter Sports
If you’re a fan of mountain climbing then the Balkans offer a plethora of places that you definitely need to visit. Here are some of the more beautiful places that you should add to your list if you’re a passionate mountaineer:
Jahorina (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
This is one of the tallest mountains in the country and it also boasts one of the best ski resorts in the region. It is a perfect place if you hate the cold since the lowest temperatures are usually in the month of January (-9.9 degrees Celsius).
A gorgeous area that offers a multitude of hotels, bungalows, and eco-resorts for
you to spend a relaxing time at.
Popova Shapka (Macedonia)
An area filled with mesmerizing lakes and huge forests. This area does not get a lot of snow throughout the year so if you prefer warmer climates this could be the place for you.
Trekking in the Balkans
Maybe climbing mountains is a bit too extreme for you. If you just want to enjoy a couple of days of trekking through charming landscapes, here are some regions that you need to see to believe.
Plitvice Lakes National Park (Croatia)
This is one of the oldest national parks in Croatia. It is known for its beautiful lakes and marvelous waterfalls surrounded by wooden plank pathways. Depending on how much time you have at your disposal there are multiple trails that you can enjoy.
Durmitor National Park (Montenegro)
This is another national park that you should not miss if you’re traveling in this region. Be mindful though of Bobotov Kuk peak since the trek up there can be quite difficult, especially in colder times of the year.
Valbona Valley National Park (Albania)
This area, which covers a total area of 80 square km, is also home to the Valbona river and is surrounded by mountainous terrain, glacial springs, and various rock formations. This is a must-see if you enjoy your time in the great outdoors.
Scuba diving has become a hobby that is readily available to most people as long as they either buy or rent some decent equipment. More and more people are attracted to this exciting activity that oftentimes makes you feel like a genuine Jacques Cousteau.
If you have your own equipment you should consider visiting Serbia, Croatia, or Romania. The services offered there for rental are usually not the greatest, so you are better off bringing your own gear. On the other hand, the amazing coastlines of these countries are absolutely worth it.
If you are an inexperienced diver and simply want to rent equipment for a few hours, Greece is your best bet. On average, the country has superior quality equipment and more experienced divers that can help you learn how to properly scuba dive.
All in all, the Balkan region boasts a lot of wonderful places where missing out on scuba diving would mean missing out on some breathtakingly beautiful sights and creatures.
When deciding on places to visit we generally tend to go for the most popular places without questioning our decision. Then, we complain about how expensive the trip was and how busy the location felt.
But sometimes there are far better options in areas of the world that might not seem as popular. The Balkans are a prime example of this perception paradox.
You will get a lot more out of your trip, for less money. So, when you are planning your next trip, have a closer look at the Balkans and all the riches it has to offer.