Meet Europe's next big thing: 9 exciting holidays in the incredibly under-rated Balkans

With spectacular coast and lakes, rugged mountains, and dramatic historical monuments, the Balkans offers something for everyone. From Croatia to Albania, the vibrant region is waiting to be explored..

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1: Cruising the Dalmatian coast by Turkish gulet

Cruising the Dalmatian Coast (Dreamstime)

Cruising the Dalmatian Coast (Dreamstime)

Embrace the sparkling Adriatic and discover the hidden secrets of Croatia’s Dalmatian coast on board a tradition Turkish gulet with Peter Sommers travel.

Cruising from Split to Dubrovnik, you’ll explore the natural and historical wonders of this region, visiting remote archaeological sites, docking beside gorgeous medieval towns and sampling delicious local food and wine. Dalmatia is a country of mountains, islands and sea and there is no better way to experience than aboard a luxury gulet.

Trip: Cruising the Dalmatian Coast: From Split to Dubrovnik

Who: Peter Sommer Travel

When: Departures Jun & Sep

How long: 8 days

How much: £3,495 (exc. flights)

2: Discover Tito’s Yugoslavia

Mostar Bridge, Bosnia and Herzegovina (Dreamstime)

Mostar Bridge, Bosnia and Herzegovina (Dreamstime)

Josip Broz Tito ruled the former Yugoslavia from 1943 until his death in 1980 and famously holidayed in the country, eschewing more exotic foreign destinations for beauty spots closer to home. This tour through Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia with KE Adventure Travel visits some of his favourite haunts.

From the big city thrills of Belgrade to the Old World charm of Mostar and Sarajevo, you’ll experience the best this little-visited region has to offer. Take a spectacular ride on the Sargan Eight narrow gauge railway, stay in the Open Air Museum of Sirogojno on Zlatibor Mountain, and wander the narrow streets of Dubrovnik. This is a spectacular journey through the heart of the Balkans. 

Trip: Tito’s trails – Belgrade to Dubrovnik

Who: KE Adventure Travel

When: Departures Jun & Sep

How long: 10 days

How much: From £945 (exc. flights)

3: Live like a local in southern Croatia

Family kitchen in southern Croatia (G Adventures)

Family kitchen in southern Croatia (G Adventures)

Step away from the rat race and embrace Old World charm and medieval splendour on this farmstay in southern Croatia with G Adventures.

Staying in a cosy farm villa, with ample access to local wine and olive oil, and you will experience rural life like a local. Located close to Dubrovnik and the Adriatic Sea, it’s the perfect base to walk, cycle and sail all over this breathtaking corner of the world, before retiring to your rustic villa for a filling evening meal. Live the Croatian way and make memories that will last a lifetime.

Trip: Local living Croatia – Southern Dalmatia

Who: G Adventures

When: Departures May-Oct

How long: 7 days

How much: From £1,045 (exc. flights)

4: The Balkans in-depth

Traditional Serbian Orthodox Church (Dreamstime)

Traditional Serbian Orthodox Church (Dreamstime)

Combining a variety of exciting outdoor activities with plenty of time to soak up the local cultures, this 29-day tour of the Balkans with Tucan Travel will give you an in-depth understanding of this extraordinarily beautiful region.

Starting and finishing in Budapest, you'll visit every corner of the Balkans, including Serbia, Croatia, Macedonia, Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Here you’ll find imposing mountain peaks blanketed in deep green forests, crystal clear seas fringed by long white beaches and sparkling rivers and thermal springs inviting you to dive in. The people too, are amongst the most hospitable in the world, always happy to invite you into their lives and share a hearty local meal.

Trip: Balkans Encompassed

Who: Tucan Travel

When: Departures Apr-Aug

How long: 29 days

How much: From £2,719 (inc. flights)

5: Discover another side of Croatia and Slovenia

Plitvice Lakes in Autumn (Dreamstime)

Plitvice Lakes in Autumn (Dreamstime)

Step away from the coast to discover a world of lakes, forests and picture-perfect castles on this 8-day tour of Croatia and Slovenia with Intrepid.

Starting on Croatia’s dazzling Dalmatian coast, you’ll head to the luminous lakes of Plitvice Lakes National Park before crossing into Slovenia. Based in Bled, a beautiful lakeside town with an island church straight out of a fairytale, you’ll discover forest hikes, medieval architecture and sumptuous local dishes. Indeed, this is a journey jam-packed with history, nature and delicious morsels.

Trip: Croatia & Slovenia

Who: Intrepid

When: Departures May-Sep

How long: 8 days

How much: From £1,130 (exc. flights)

6: Discover Dalmatia on two wheels

Cycling in Croatia (Dreamstime)

Cycling in Croatia (Dreamstime)

Explore Croatia’s extraordinary Dalmatian coast at a more relaxing and revealing pace on this 8-day cycle tour with Exodus.

Following the best cycling routes in the region, it’s a trip packed with history and culture. You’ll cycle the long and beautiful islands of Hvar and Korcula, travelling by ferry between the islands and encountering seaside villages, tiny medieval towns and lovely pebble bays, before finishing in Dubrovnik, with two nights to soak up the atmosphere of this uniquely preserved city. At every spin of the wheel, you’ll be accompanied by the dazzling clear waters of the Adriatic, an unbeatable way to cool down after a long, tiring day.

Trip: Cycling the Dalmatian Coast

Who: Exodus

When: Regular departures throughout the year

How long: 8 days

How much: £879 (exc. flights)

7: Discover the hidden Balkans

Lake Prespa, Macedonia (Dreamstime)

Lake Prespa, Macedonia (Dreamstime)

Visit a little-known corner of the Balkans and experience a Europe where nature rules and hospitality is generous and given freely on this 16-day journey through Albania, Kosovo and Macedonia with Undiscovered Destinations.

Each country is fascinating, complex and deeply imbued with history. In Albania, you’ll experience hill-top fortresses, high alpine meadows and traditional rural life. In Kosovo, you’ll discover a beguiling mix of modern history and ancient monasteries and mosques. In Macedonia, the buzzing street life of Skopje awaits, as well as the soothing tranquillity of Lake Ohrid and the Church of Jovan Kaneo.

Trip: Albania, Kosovo & Macedonia Hidden Europe

Who: Undiscovered Destinations

When: departures May, Sep & Oct

How long: 16 days

How much: From £1,699 (exc. flights)

8: An Albanian alpine adventure

Rural life in the Albanian Alps (Dreamstime)

Rural life in the Albanian Alps (Dreamstime)

Visit a land of ancient traditions, breathtaking scenery and heart-warming hospitality on this 8-day journey into the heart of Albanian’s remote alpine region with Evaneos.

After crossing the spectacular Komani Lake by ferry, you will head high into the alps, trekking through remote mountains, encountering the Blue Eye in Theth and staying in remote communities where locals will share their stories, culture and hearty meals. Finally, you’ll visit the cities of Kruja and Shkodra, shopping for local handicrafts and feasting on local treats.

Trip: Nature and Tradition in the Albanian Alps

Who: Evaneos

When: Flexible dates throughout the year

How long: 8 days

How much: From £635 (exc. flights)

9: Trek through the Balkans

Kotor in Montenegro (Dreamstime)

Kotor in Montenegro (Dreamstime)

Experienced trekkers say that hiking in the Balkans today is like hiking in the Alps 50 years ago. On this 14-day trek with Ramblers Walking Holidays, signposts may be rare, but your local guides know the paths intimately, leading you high amongst rugged peaks, untamed wild landscapes and through traditional farming communities and rural villages.

You’ll trek from Albania to Montenegro, climbing the trough of Prosllopi and following former mule tracks through wild terrain, alpine meadows and oak and pine forests to the ancient city of Kotor. Each night, you will be welcomed warmly in rustic guest houses and traditional alpine huts where locally sourced home cooking awaits. This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Trip: A Trek Through The Balkans

Who: Ramblers Walking Holidays

When: Regular departures throughout the year

How long: 14 days

How much: From £1,735 (exc. flights)

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