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Skip Greece & Italy This Summer! Here are 16 Reasons to Travel to the Balkans This Summer Instead

  • Post last modified:April 10, 2023
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  • Post category:Europe

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Did you ever notice as the summer approaches people tend to flock to famous locations like Greece and Itay? While those place are undoubtedly beautiful, the best time to visit them really isn't in the summertime. Last year we decided to travel to the Balkans instead, and were blown away but what a good decision we made.

The Balkans region is located in Eastern Europe, and covers a variety of countries. They tend to be overlooked, and we can't understand why! In this article we're going to give you 16 reasons to change your travel plans this summer, by choosing to travel to the Balkans over the typical hotspots. Let's go!

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1. Travel to the Balkans for Their Amazing Beaches

Greece is known for its stunning beaches. But did you know you could experience similar beaches by just heading up the coast a little?

Right above Greece lies the Albanian Riviera, which boasts some of the most gorgeous beaches in Europe! Albania also has the most incredible beach clubs, making you feel like a rockstar without the crowds and the extortionate prices.

Beach in Albania, travel to the Balkans
Beach in Albania, travel to the Balkans
Beach in Albania, travel to the Balkans

Albania has incredible beaches that are much less crowded.

Head a little further up and you'll find that Croatia also has some of the most pristine beaches. The difference? Travel to the Balkans and you'll see that some of these beaches are untouched, while the Greek islands are packed with people.

Beach in Croatia, travel to the Balkans
Beach in Croatia, travel to the Balkans
beaches in Croatia, travel to the Balkans
Beach in Croatia, travel to the Balkans

Croatia has some of the best beaches in Europe.

2. Travel to the Balkans to Experience Breathtaking Landscapes

The beaches are amazing in the Balkans, but there is actually so much more to explore in this area of Europe that you wouldn't even find in the hotspots! Travel to the Balkans and you'll experience springs, canyons, mountains, thermal waters, forests, and so much more.

In countries like Montenegro, you can drive just a coupe of hours and experience completely different landscapes, all in one tiny country. 

Holt Canyon, travel in the Balkans
travel in Albania- hidden gems
Zabljak, travel in the Balkans

The Balkans have such a variety of landscapes.

3. Travel to the Balkans to Experience a Ton of Diversity

Travel to the Balkans and you'll find that there is so much diversity to experience. The Balkans include several different countries, and each one has its own special culture, cuisine, and specialities.

These countries are very close together, yet they each have something that sets them apart from the rest. This is something that we love about Europe in general, but we loved that we could experience so much, without drastic change. For example the languages are similar, but have some differences making them unique.

Many countries will share the same dishes, but have their own spin on things. When we were traveling through the Balkans we loved this form of diversity, and felt that it was a fun way of not getting bored of the same thing every day.

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4. Travel to the Balkans to Escape the Crowds

Greece and Italy boom with tourism in the summer, sometimes to the point where places can become much less enjoyable. Imagine having to fight for chairs on the beach, or go to see an incredible landmark and have it completely full with people! It certainly takes the beauty away, and can create a lot of stress and discomfort while exploring somewhere new.

Booking hotels can get extremely difficult and costly, restaurant waits are insane, and everything needs to be thought out well in advance. I don't know about you, but that certainly isn't a vacation for me.

Travel to the Balkans and you'll find that the crowds are not even a fraction of what they are in the more popular countries! There were even times we would go to beaches and have them completely for ourselves. Being able to really experience the beauty of a place without a million people is truly the way to go this summer.

beaches in Albania, travel to the Balkans

The beaches in Albania are far less crowded than those in Italy or Greece.

5. Travel to the Balkans and Experience Epic Nightlife

When you go to the Greek or Spanish islands, the parties are insane in the summer. While we aren't denying that they can be super fun, we had some of our most fun nights in the Balkans.

Balkan people love to party, and rather than being surrounded by commercial style parties, we found ourselves partying to electronic music in small alleyways, dancing on tables at crazy clubs, and experiencing some seriously epic nightlife.

Balkan people know how to party, and are some of the most fun people to be surrounded by. The Balkan countries have some incredible festivals in the summer, and there is always some kind of party waiting.

nightlife in Prizren, travel to the Balkans

The Balkans have super fun nightlife.

6. Travel to the Balkans and Meet Awesome People

Something we truly loved about our travels in the Balkans was all of the incredible people that we met. There is this cool attitude that Balkan people have that is sort of relaxed and carefree, but strong and intense at the same time.

Balkan people are not afraid to share their opinions with you, so you certainly won't meet any fake people. This reminded me of home in a way. As a native New Yorker, I am extremely honest, as are many of my friends and family. If we like you, we'll treat you like family, and if we don't, you'll know it. While many people may take this as rude. I truly think more people need to be like this. Who wants to surrounded by fake people anyway?

However, unlike New Yorkers, Balkan people are way more relaxed. They aren't bothered by the hustle and bustle of city life, and they just want to chill on the beach, have a drink, and party their asses off. To me, this is the best of both worlds. Travel to the Balkans and you'll know what I mean- they are a hell of a good time, and definitely people you'll want to be surrounded by.

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7. Travel to the Balkans For It's Very Cultural Diversity

While many people are very similar in terms of attitude in the Balkans, there is actually huge diversity when it comes to culture and religion! While most of Europe is catholic, there is actually a huge amount of Muslims in the Balkan region. Travel to the Balkans and you'll find churches built right next to mosques, and a mix of catholic, orthodox Christian, and Muslim all living harmoniously in the same area.

Seeing the blend of cultures is truly unique, and it doesn't happen many other places in the world. One minute you'll feel like you're in Italy, and the next you'll feel like you teleported to Turkey! You can see it in everything from the architecture to cuisine. The Balkans are extremely diverse, and it's definitely something unique to experience.

moque in Tirana, travel to the Balkans
church in Bulgaria, travel to the Balkans

In the Balkans you can find both mosques and cathedrals.

8. Travel to the Balkans and Discover All Of Its History

The Balkan countries have a sad history, but have come a long way in the past decades. It was extremely interesting to learn about how each country interprets their past, and we loved taking tours while in these countries. 

Don't have time to read the whole article and want to save it for later? Just pin it!

Travel to the Balkans pin
Travel to the Balkans pin
Travel to the Balkans pin

Make sure to take as many free walking tours as you can! Especially in capital cities like Tirana, Zagreb, and Skopje, you'll really get to learn a lot of the Balkan history, and see how each of the countries have grown throughout time.

road to Zabljak Montenegro

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9. Travel to the Balkans to Eat Delicious Food

We absolutely loved the food in the Balkans! There is such an interesting mix of food to indulge in, even within each country. For example, head to the seaside of Montenegro and you'll have incredible seafood and fresh pasta dishes. Then had inland to the mountains and you'll have tasty meats and hearty stews. 

Balkan countries have an influence of Mediterranean cuisine, and just like Greece and Italy, they use a lot of olive oil, cured meats, and homemade pastas. 

seafood in Albania, travel in the Balkans
food in Kosovo, a country under the radar
travel to the Balkans- cuisine

There is a variety of sites in the Balkans depending on where you go.

Truffle is also huge in the Balkans, especially in Croatia! So if you're a truffle-lover like we are, make sure when you travel to the Balkans you take advantage of this. Prices for truffle are much more affordable, and extremely fresh and tasty.

truffle pasta in Hvar, travel to the Balkans

Truffle is super popular, and used in many pasta dishes.

10. Travel to the Balkans to Avoid Breaking the Bank

Speaking of being affordable- travel to the Balkans and you'll save a ton of money! While prices in Greece and Italy skyrocket in the summer, the countries in the Balkans still have very modest prices.

Especially in countries like Kosovo or Serbia, you'll find that everything is super cheap, even a fraction of the price of the more popular places in Europe.

On average we spent $50/day each in the Balkans, which would have been double if we had visited Greece or Italy. You can find hotels as cheap as $20/night, and have meals for under $10/person! Now your summer travels don't have to break the bank if you decide to travel to the Balkans.


11. Travel to the Balkans for the Comfort of Getting Around

One reason we love Europe in general is the ease of getting around. There is an endless amount of opportunities when it comes to getting from one place to the other, and in the Balkans it is super affordable.

We rented a car in Romania for just $15/day, and it was super easy to get around. Roads are smooth, and people don't drive like maniacs.

Rent a car in the Balkans:

There are also plenty of buses that connect big cities in the Balkans, making it very accessible for all travelers. Here are a few of the most popular routes that you can book:

12. Travel to the Balkans for a Safe Vacation

Let's be honest- when traveling, safety is huge! The Balkan countries are super safe, and the people are very welcoming. This especially goes from Croatia, where the crime rate is extremely low, and even our friends would leave their doors unlocked, or their windows down.

Despite the dark past of many of these countries, the Balkans are very safe, and a great place to travel whether you are solo traveling, or with your family.

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13. Travel to the Balkans to Have More Authentic Experiences

When tourism takes over a place, it's hard to really get a feel for the culture.

Commercialized souvenir shops, touristy restaurants, and foreigners selling junk in the streets are just some of the things that more popular destinations attract.

Travel to the Balkans and you won't experience this at all. What you'll find instead are mom-and-pop Restaurants, local handicrafts, and cozy boutique hotels. You'll walk away really experiencing the culture of each place you go, which is one of the best parts of traveling!

Mostar Bazaar. travel in the Balkans
olive wood shop, travel in the balkans
Mrizi I Zanave Agroturizem, travel in the Balkans

The Balkans are less commercialized and have much better things to buy.

14. Travel to the Balkans to Stand Out from the Crowd

How many times have you scrolled on social media and seen the Trevi Fountain? Her, we're not knocking it- it's obviously famous for a reason. But don't you want to explore new places that have yet to overdone? 

The Balkans is full of amazing things to see and do, and you'll be sure to stand out from the crowd if you travel to the Balkans over the other super popular spots in Europe.

Pula, travel to the Balkans

Croatia has a colosseum just like Rome! (It also has way less visitors).

Let's show the world just how beautiful some of the other countries in the area are, and that there is so much more to Europe than just the typical tourist hot spots!

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15. Travel to the Balkans to Leave the Schengen Zone

Want to know the number one reason we actually went to travel to the Balkans last summer? We actually used up our 90 days in the Schengen Zone, and ended to leave for a full 90 days before re-entering. Our solution was then to travel to somewhere where we could fly for cheap, and that's when we decided to travel to the Balkans.

We has to leave the Schengen Area (tourists can only spend 90 days within a 180-day period) and using Skyscanner we found the cheapest place to fly outside the Schengen Zone was Romania. It's then that we decided to rent a car and spend 3 months exploring the Balkans. We're so glad we did because we had one epic summer!

Flight Tip: Using Skyscanner you can put from "your city" to "Everywhere". This way you can see which is the cheapest country in the area to fly. Also, you can check the calendar to see which are the cheapest dates for your destination!

Search for a flight to the Balkans:

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16. Travel to the Balkans and You'll Help the Environment

Did you know that the environment suffers greatly from overcrowding? In the summer nature takes a big hit on its health du to the amount of people overpopulating one area.

Remember in 2020 when Venice was finally able to breathe again from tourism? The canals started to turn more blue, and they even started to see dolphins! In order for us to protect our beautiful European Hot spots, we need to let them breathe, and that's where we come into play. Travel to the Balkans and you'll be doing Mother Nature a favor, but spreading out tourism and not overpopulating Greece, Italy, and the other favored countries that flood with tourists in the summer.

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So what do you think? Will you stick to the basics, or will you travel to the Balkans this summer instead? We highly suggest you give it a go- we know you'll fall in love with this area of Europe just as much as we did!

Want to explore this area more deeply? We have a ton of Balkan Travel Guides that cover each country, as well as detailed articles about specific destinations throughout the region.

Looking to plan an epic trip? Let us help! After 3 months road tripping the Balkans last summer, we can help you create the perfect itinerary, or even set you up with one of our complete travel planning packages.

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