Welcome to the Balkans, a region rich in history, culture and natural beauty. Nestled in Southeastern Europe, the Balkans encompass a diverse group of countries that have captivated travelers for centuries. From stunning coastlines to picturesque mountains, ancient ruins to vibrant cities, the Balkans offer a wealth of experiences for every type of traveler. In this article, we delve into the countries that make up the Balkans and highlight some of their top destinations.
Serbia is a landlocked country in the heart of the Balkans with a history dating back to ancient times. Belgrade, the capital, is a vibrant metropolis that seamlessly blends its rich history with a modern urban landscape. Visitors can explore the historic Belgrade Fortress, stroll down the bustling Knez Mihailova Street, and immerse themselves in the city’s vibrant nightlife.
Beyond Belgrade, Serbia offers a wealth of natural beauty. The mountainous region of Zlatibor is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, with serene landscapes and opportunities for hiking, skiing, and wildlife viewing. The picturesque city of Novi Sad, located on the banks of the Danube River, is known for its annual Exit Festival and the charming Petrovaradin Fortress.
Croatia is a gem of the Adriatic Sea, known for its stunning coastline, historic towns and idyllic islands. Dubrovnik, often referred to as the “Pearl of the Adriatic,” is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a must-see destination. Its well-preserved medieval walls, cobblestone streets, and iconic red-roofed buildings make it a favorite among travelers. The nearby island of Hvar is another Croatian highlight, famous for its lavender fields, crystal-clear waters, and vibrant nightlife.
In addition to its coastal treasures, Croatia offers stunning national parks. Plitvice Lakes National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, boasts a series of cascading lakes and waterfalls surrounded by lush forests. Krka National Park, with its network of waterfalls and emerald pools, is also a popular choice for nature lovers.
Albania, a country on the Adriatic and Ionian Seas, is a hidden gem that has recently begun to gain recognition among travelers. Its coastline is dotted with picturesque beaches and charming seaside towns. Saranda, a coastal town in southern Albania, is a gateway to the Albanian Riviera and offers a mix of stunning beaches, archaeological sites and a lively atmosphere.
For history buffs, the ancient city of Butrint is a must. This UNESCO World Heritage Site showcases the ruins of a once-thriving Greek and Roman city, surrounded by beautiful natural landscapes. The capital, Tirana, is a vibrant and evolving metropolis where visitors can explore a mix of Ottoman, Italian and Communist-era architecture, as well as a burgeoning arts and culinary scene.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a country of diverse landscapes and cultural heritage. Its capital, Sarajevo, is a fascinating blend of Eastern and Western influences, shaped by its Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian past. The city’s Old Town, with its cobbled streets, mosques and bazaars, is a delight to explore.
One of the country’s most iconic landmarks is Stari Most (Old Bridge) in the city of Mostar. This 16th-century Ottoman bridge spanning the Neretva River is not only a stunning architectural masterpiece, but also a symbol of unity and resilience. The nearby Kravice Waterfalls, with their cascading turquoise waters, provide a refreshing retreat during the summer months.
Macedonia (North Macedonia)
Macedonia, officially known as North Macedonia, is a landlocked country that offers a unique blend of history, nature and hospitality. Skopje, the capital, is a vibrant mix of architectural styles reflecting its Ottoman, Byzantine, and Yugoslav past. The city’s Old Bazaar, with its narrow cobblestone streets and bustling market stalls, is a treasure trove for souvenir hunters.
The country’s natural wonders include Lake Ohrid, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the oldest lakes in Europe. Its crystal clear waters and surrounding mountains make it a perfect destination for swimming, boating and hiking. The city of Ohrid, located on the shores of the lake, is home to ancient churches, fortresses, and a vibrant summer festival.
The Balkans offer a wealth of experiences for travelers seeking a unique and off-the-beaten-path journey. From the historic cities of Serbia and Croatia, to the pristine beaches of Albania, to the cultural treasures of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Northern Macedonia, the Balkans are a treasure trove waiting to be explored.
Whether you’re interested in history, nature, or simply immersing yourself in the vibrant local culture, the Balkans have something to offer. Each country in the region has its own unique charm and attractions, and traveling through the Balkans allows you to experience the diverse tapestry of this fascinating part of Europe.
So pack your bags, get ready for an adventure, and get ready to discover the beauty of the Balkans. From the awe-inspiring landscapes to the warm hospitality of the locals, this region is sure to leave a lasting impression on any traveler lucky enough to explore its wonders.
Which countries make up the Balkans?
The Balkans is a region in Southeast Europe that consists of several countries. The countries that make up the Balkans are Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, and Slovenia.
Is Turkey considered part of the Balkans?
Turkey is not considered part of the Balkans. Geographically, a small portion of Turkey, known as Eastern Thrace, is located in the southeastern part of Europe and is sometimes included in discussions about the Balkans. However, the majority of Turkey is located in Asia, and culturally, it is more closely associated with the Middle East.
What is the historical significance of the Balkans?
The Balkans have a rich and complex history. The region has been a crossroads of different cultures, civilizations, and empires throughout history. It has witnessed the rise and fall of various powers, including the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Balkans have also been a hotspot for ethnic and religious tensions, leading to conflicts such as the Balkan Wars and the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
What languages are spoken in the Balkans?
The Balkans are linguistically diverse. The region is home to various languages belonging to different language families. Some of the major languages spoken in the Balkans include Albanian, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Croatian, Greek, Macedonian, Montenegrin, Romanian, Serbian, and Slovenian. Additionally, there are several minority languages spoken by different ethnic groups in the region.
Are all the countries in the Balkans members of the European Union?
No, not all countries in the Balkans are members of the European Union (EU). As of my knowledge cutoff in September 2021, the EU member states in the Balkans are Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, and Romania. However, other countries in the region, such as Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia, have expressed their intentions to join the EU and are at various stages of the accession process.