Breezing through the Balkans
- Two weeks
Ease yourself into the Balkans with a laid-back start in Serbia’s heady capital, Belgrade – a hub of history, culture and late-night hedonism. Take a side trip north to Vojvodina's vibrant capital Novi Sad, and explore the wineries and monasteries of nearby Fruška Gora. Make the overland journey across inland Croatia to Zagreb. From there, take a relaxing detour to Slovenia’s capital Ljubljana and the picturesque lakeside town of Bled.
Afterwards plunge south for sea breezes back into Croatia. Wind your way down the dramatic Dalmatian coast to Split, from where you can enjoy some island hopping. From the ancient walled city of Dubrovnik, detour into Bosnia & Hercegovina for the historic town of Mostar with its iconic old bridge. Immerse yourself in the fascinating cultural fusions of Sarajevo before returning to the sea, this time at Montenegro’s Bay of Kotor. Head inland to visit the awesome cliffside Ostrog Monastery, then cross into Kosovo and explore the tiny country’s medieval Orthodox monasteries from Prizren.
Continue to the quirky Macedonian capital of Skopje to soak up its mix of Ottoman and Byzantine architecture, followed by Ohrid for the otherworldly Church of Sveti Jovan at Kaneo perched above the lake. Moving on into Albania, take in the wild colours of hectic Tirana before travelling south via the Unesco-listed cities of Berat and Gjirokastra.
Cruising the Coast
- Three Weeks
Take it easy along the Dalmatian coast for a couple of weeks. Start in the cobblestoned fishing village of Rovinj, then take in the landscapes of cape Rt Kamenjak, near Pula, on your way to Rijeka. From here, detour to Plitvice Lakes National Park for its famed waterfalls. Plunge down to Zadar, to wander through the slippery marble streets of the Old Town.
Keep cruising the coast to Split, home to the Diocletian’s Palace and gateway to Hvar Island. After a few days on Hvar, continue down to Dubrovnik, with foreboding walls that are a crowning glory of the coast. From here, take a side trip to forest-covered Mljet Island.
If you still have time and can’t get enough of the seaside, leave Croatia and explore tiny but tantalising Montenegro, where historic towns line the limestone cliffs of the Bay of Kotor. Further along the Adriatic coast, you will find Budva with its atmospheric Old Town and numerous beaches. Five kilometres south of Budva is the cherry on the coast, Sveti Stefan, with its iconic terracotta roofs and views you could stare at all day.
- Four weeks
Start this ramble through some of the more offbeat pockets of the Balkans with the colourful Albanian capital Tirana to soak up the cultural assets of the city. After charging your batteries on Himara and Drymades beaches, spend a couple of days exploring the ruins of Butrint, then head north for a trek through the Accursed Mountains combined with the wonderful ferry ride across Lake Koman.
Leaving Albania, cross into Kosovo and explore its monasteries from the old town of Prizren. Next, head south into the mountains of Macedonia through the Mavrovo National Park. Spend at least a couple of days in beautiful Ohrid for its picture-perfect monastery and some swimming in its eponymous lake. Make your way to the Macedonian capital of Skopje where Ottoman and Byzantine architecture create a heady urban landscape.
Continue north towards the Serbian capital, Belgrade, for fascinating museums by day and hip clubs by night. Then explore one of the country's wild national parks – Djerdap in the east, with a cruise through the Danube's Iron Gates gorge, or Tara in the west, on the whimsical Šargan Eight heritage railway. End the journey in historic Niš, from where you can take side trips to the stone pyramids of Devil's Town or the spectacular meanders of Uvac canyon in southern Serbia.