The Ultimate 2-Week Balkans Itinerary: 3 Perfect Routes

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When it comes to planning a Balkans itinerary, it can be difficult to know where to start. As one of the least-visited regions in Europe, there is much of the Balkans that remains undiscovered to most foreign travellers.

This makes travelling in and around the countries that made up former Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Albania a perfect place to get off the beaten path while also sticking to even the tightest of budgets.

The Balkan Peninsula has something to offer any type of traveller — from thriving, metropolitan cities, to sprawling bucolic idyll, ancient Greek and Roman ruins to pristine blue seas and white sand beaches. The Balkans are the absolute perfect place to get off the beaten path in Europe and an ideal region to head when travelling long-term.

However, with so much on offer in the region, the prospect of piecing together a Balkans travel route can seem daunting. Here are some things to consider when planning your Balkan trip.

Things to Consider When Planning a Balkans Itinerary

When to Go

One of the biggest things you’ll need to consider for your Balkans travel itinerary is the time of year in which you plan to visit the region. All Balkan countries experience four seasons — from cold, snowy winters to hot and muggy summers. Also, many places in the Balkans tend to book out far in advance in the summer high season, especially along the Adriatic and Black Sea coasts.

Personally, I think that the best time to visit the Balkans would be in the shoulder seasons. Either in March-May or September-November. When travelling in the Balkans from March-June we noticed a significant increase in tourists and accommodation availability as summer began to set in.

In regards to the weather, with the exception of a handful of cold snaps early on, we found the weather to be mild and pleasant — averaging about 20ºC with abundant sunny days. I had honestly expected it to be more chilly and eventually had to purchase a pair of shorts as the weather warmed.

I tend to think that travelling in the shoulder seasons would be ideal for the more active traveller as well. There are a wealth of mountains and outdoor activities for the nature lover in the Balkans and the more mild weather would make it all the more pleasant to enjoy these.

Planning your Balkans travel itinerary in the winter might prove fruitful as well, however, as many countries (especially Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Macedonia) offer world-class skiing at a fraction of the cost to their western European counterparts.

Yellow Fortress in Sarajevo
View from the Yellow Fortress in Sarajevo

Trip Length

Though the area of the Balkan nations seems small, these countries are incredibly diverse and complex and one could easily spend years in the region and barely scratch the surface. In fact, even after spending over three months exploring the Balkans, we feel that was still so much we missed out on and are desperate to return and see more.

That being said, we understand that the majority of people don’t have an unlimited amount of time in which to devote to a Balkans itinerary. So, if you’re keen to dip your toe into exploring this amazing and diverse region, we would recommend going to for two weeks at a minimum.

When planning a two-week Balkan itinerary, there are a number of things you might want to keep in mind. First off, especially if it’s your first time visiting the region, is that you need to take it slow.

I know that it can be tempting to try and cram every major city into your short period of time, however, there is a strong possibility that if you do this, you will spend most of your time on a bus or in transit rather than actually exploring the places you want to visit.

If you can only spend two weeks in the Balkans, try to limit your travels to two or three countries at maximum. While travellers may think the only thing to see in certain Balkan countries is their capital or most popular city, there are a number of beautiful and interesting places to visit in each country and that takes time.

You are already visiting an off-beat region of Europe…take it to another level by straying even further from the limited tourist trail and come back with experiences that very few European tourists can boast!

If you have more than two weeks to spend, all of the itineraries in this article can easily be combined or added to in order to suit any trip length. The only limit is your imagination!

Finally, have you considered taking out travel insurance for your Balkans trip? World Nomads offers flexible and simple travel insurance policies with coverage for more than 150 activities that you can buy or extend while on the road.

if you’re travelling on a budget and are only after travel medical insurance it’s worth checking out SafetyWing’s nomad insurance.

church of Saint John the Theologian ohrid
Church of Saint John the Theologian in Ohrid, Macedonia

How to Get Around the Balkans

If your visions of travelling through Europe include a lot of train travel, it’s time to give you a harsh dose of reality: the train network is extremely lacking in the Balkans. Therefore, if you are going to be relying on public transit while visiting the corner of Southeastern Europe, you’re going to be spending a lot of time on the bus.

Intercity buses in the Balkans are frequent and affordable throughout the region, but there can be some idiosyncrasies depending on where you are visiting and when. Not all bus routes are listed online, for instance, and those that are can sometimes be inaccurate or out of date.

The best way to make sure that you’re aware of all potential bus routes is to either check at the station or ask someone at your accommodation. This will usually point you in the right direction.

If a particular bus route is erratic, there is also another public transit option that is quite popular among Balkan travellers and that is the minibus. There are a few transfer companies that organise door-to-door intercity transfers in small, privately owned vans.

These do cost more than a traditional bus, however, they operate more frequently and at more agreeable hours than many intercity routes and have the added convenience door-to-door pick-up and drop-off.

If you are interested in using a minibus as transport in the Balkans, they can normally be arranged by your hotel or hostel or privately through a quick Google search. Just type “city A to city B minibus transfer” and you will surely find something.

If you aren’t planning on using public transport to get around and are keen to embark on a Balkan road trip itinerary, then there are a few things you should keep in mind about driving in the Balkans. First and foremost, make sure that your car has the proper insurance so you are able to cross the border.

Most Balkan countries (besides Croatia) are outside of the Schengen area and therefore have different laws concerning international car travel, so make sure to check with your rental car company to ensure you are able to visit all of the countries on your Balkan itinerary.

Generally speaking, roads in the Balkans are fairly well-maintained, especially those going between the large cities. The exception to this, however, is Albania where there isn’t as much money to invest in the infrastructure and the roads can be quite precarious.

Balkan drivers can also be quite aggressive, so make sure that you are comfortable driving defensively if you want to go on a Balkan road trip.

Sunset at Kalamegdan Fortress
Sunset at Kalamegdan Fortress in Belgrade


As mentioned earlier, if you’re not travelling in the high season it’s not essential to book accommodation more than a few days in advance. However, if you happen to find yourself in the Balkans between the months of June and August accommodation can be in a lot higher demand, especially along the coast.

If you are travelling in the high season, we highly recommend booking accommodation as far in advance as makes sense for your travel style – typically a couple of weeks to as much as a couple of months in advance.

If you’re on a budget, then these are some of the accommodation options that we recommend in the Balkans:

Prizren, Kosovo old town
The historic old town of Prizren, Kosovo

2-Week Balkans Travel Itineraries

The Balkans can offer an incredibly diverse experience that is unique to any other region in Europe. And despite its seemingly small geographic region, there are a number of different climates and areas to visit within the Balkans that can appeal to anyone. Here are three different two-week Balkan itineraries that are the perfect option depending on your own particular travel style.

Central Balkans Itinerary

This Balkan itinerary will see you visiting the highlights of the central Balkan nations of Serbia and Bosnia & Herzegovina. Both countries have long and complex histories, incredibly diverse and vibrant cities, and friendly and hospitable residents. One thing is certain, however: you will leave longing to come back and see more.

Days 1-3: Budapest, Hungary

Though not technically in the Balkans, the Hungarian capital city of Budapest is the best logical starting point for this two-week Balkan itinerary. As an international transit hub, it is easy to fly into Budapest and take a train virtually anywhere in Central or Eastern Europe.

While one could easily spend weeks in this amazing city and barely scratch the surface of the myriad things to do, we would recommend spending three days in Budapest in order to get a good feel for the city without being too rushed.

Spend your time exploring the main tourist sites such as the House of Parliament, the Buda Castle, the Central Market Hall, and the incredible and moving House of Terror museum. Take the time to soak in one of the city’s many bathhouses and experience some of the best nightlife in the world as Budapest’s famous ruin pubs.

Where to Stay in Budapest

Budapest is fast becoming one of the most popular destinations for travellers in Europe and has the accommodation choices to match. If you’re lost with the endless options for highly-rated hostels and hotels, check out our top suggestions:

Butterfly Home Danube — This boutique hotel located in a great area on the Pest side is a fantastic place to rest your head while in Budapest. They offer a range of rooms that are suitable for couples and families alike and there is also breakfast included in the rate. Click here to see the latest prices

Lavender Circus Hostel — This small hostel located on the lively Pest side is a great place to base yourself if you want to be close to all of the action in the city, but still want to get a good night’s sleep. The facilities are clean, the staff is friendly, and they offer both dorm beds and private rooms. Click here to see the latest prices

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other hotels in Budapest!

View of the Budapest Parliament Building from the Buda Castle

Days 4-5: Novi Sad, Serbia

Novi Sad, Serbia’s second-largest city, is just now starting to emerge as a tourist destination. Within easy reach of Budapest’s Keleti train station (there are two trains leaving daily), Novi Sad is the perfect introduction to the Balkans and Serbia in general.

Selected as the European Capital of Culture 2021, Novi Sad is finally getting the attention it deserves on the international tourism scale. Famous already for its notorious EXIT music festival each summer, Novi Sad also has a beautiful old town that is worth wandering through and a thriving cafe culture.

One of the main sites to see in Novi Sad would be the Petrovardian Fortress which sits atop the banks of the Danube. The city also has a great nightlife and arts scene which ensures that you won’t be bored for the two days you will be spending here on this Balkan itinerary.

Where to Stay in Novi Sad

Novi Sad is growing in popularity as a tourist destination and, because of that, there are a few great accommodation options to choose from. Here are our top picks:

Hotel Fontana — This boutique hotel is a great place to stay in Novi Sad if your budget allows for a little more than a hostel. It is centrally located, has a number of rooms available, and breakfast is included in the room rate. Click here to check availability

Agape Villa Apartments — If you’d like to have your own space while visiting Novi Sad, then these apartments are a great choice. Located in the centre of town, they come fully furnished and there are a number of flats to choose from. Click here to check availability

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other hotels in Novi Sad!

Petrovaradin Fortress in Novi Sad
Petrovaradin Fortress in Novi Sad

Days 6-9: Belgrade, Serbia

After dipping your toe into the vibrant and diverse culture of Serbia, it’s time to head to the country’s amazing capital: Belgrade.

Belgrade is an incredibly special city that, though certainly a bit rough around the edges and not traditionally beautiful, has a tendency to charm travellers off their feet. There aren’t a ton of typical tourist sites to see here, but it is worth spending at least three days exploring and getting to know the Serbian capital.

Take the time to visit the Kalemegdan Fortress park which sits above the confluence of the Danube and Sava rivers. Tour the St Sava Cathedral, one of the largest Orthodox cathedrals in the world. Visit the Nikola Tesla museum and geek out over the inventions of this celebrated scientist. And, of course, no visit to Belgrade is complete without experiencing its infamous nightlife.

Where to Stay in Belgrade

Belgrade is becoming a sought-after destination in its own right as more and more people discover what this amazing city has to offer. If you’re wondering where to stay in Belgrade, follow these suggestions:

Garni Hotel Opera — Located in the city centre, this is a great hotel if you have a higher budget when visiting Belgrade. They come very highly rated, are within walking distance to all of the best attractions, they have a number of clean and comfortable rooms available, and breakfast is included in the nightly rate. Click here to check availability

El Diablo Hostel — If you’re travelling to Belgrade on a budget, then this hostel is the best place to stay. This place has an incredible atmosphere, a wonderful and helpful local staff, clean dorms and private rooms, and they also organise social events in the evenings. Click here to check availability

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other hotels in Belgrade!

Zindan Gate @ Kalamegdan Fortress
Zindan Gate at the Kalamegdan Fortress in Belgrade

Days 10-12: Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina

After living life to its fullest in Belgrade, it’s time to leave Serbia and head to another incredibly historic, dynamic, and vibrant Balkan capital: Sarajevo.

Sarajevo is a wonderful city to explore and it has a completely different feel to it than Belgrade. With two days here, you can take the time to visit the city’s many museums and learn about its place in history…from Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian rule to the devastating siege in the 1990s.

Though the war ended here more than 20 years ago, there are still reminders of the devastation that Sarajevo saw scattered throughout the city and it is incredibly important to educate yourself on this contentious matter.

Other interesting sites in Sarajevo include the bazaars of the Old Town, the abandoned bobsled tracks from the 1984 Winter Olympics, the Latin Bridge (the site where Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated, which many historians believe was an inciting incident to the beginning of the First World War), and the Yellow Fortress.

Where to Stay in Sarajevo

Sarajevo has a number of great places to stay, being popular among those on a backpacking Balkans itinerary or on a more traditional tour of the region. Here are our top suggestions:

Hotel VIP — This hotel, located in the Old Town, is within a stone’s throw of all of Sarajevo’s best sites. They have a range of comfortable and clean rooms available, a restaurant on site, and a fantastic breakfast included in the nightly rate. Click here to check availability

Hostel Franz Ferdinand — A great hostel for solo and budget travellers. They have a range of dorms and private rooms with helpful staff and breakfast included. Click here to check availability

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other hotels in Sarajevo!

Sarajevo Old Town
Sarajevo Old Town

Days 13-14: Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina

After spending time in the Bosnian capital, it’s time to head south to one of the country’s most popular tourist cities: Mostar.

Mostar is perhaps most famous for the iconic, Stari Most, or Old Bridge, which was reconstructed in 2004 after being destroyed by Croatian forces during the Balkan Wars in 1993. Before then, the same bridge had connected the two sides of Mostar for over 400 years.

While Mostar is becoming ever more popular purely because it is incredibly picturesque, small, and walkable, it is important to learn about the history and culture that has shaped this Bosnian city. Take the time to go on a tour of Mostar in order to learn how the city is still very much ethnically divided today and to try and understand the horrors that residents have had to live through.

Where to Stay in Mostar

Mostar is quite popular on the backpacker trail and is gaining traction as a tourist destination among not-so-budget-minded travellers as well. Therefore, there are a number of accommodation options to choose from. Here are our suggestions:

Hotel Eden — This hotel is excellently located in the Old Town, has a number of great rooms available and also has a free breakfast each morning. Click here to check availability

Hostel Majdas — This small hostel located close to everything in Mostar is one of the best hostels in the entire region. Run by incredibly hospitable owners, the rooms are clean and comfortable, they organise day tours of Mostar and the surrounding area, and a hot and delicious breakfast is included in the nightly rate. Click here to check availability

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other hotels in Mostar!

Stari Most in Mostar
Mostar’s iconic Old Bridge

Adriatic Balkans Itinerary

If the draw of the Balkans for you lies on its pristine Adriatic coast, then this is the Balkans tour itinerary for you! Beginning in the capital city in Croatia, this route sees you going to some less-visited areas of the beautiful Adriatic coastal region.

Days 1-2: Zagreb, Croatia

Croatia’s capital city of Zagreb is an excellent starting point for this Adriatic Balkan itinerary. Often overlooked for the coastal cities, Zagreb is coming into its own as a tourist destination and has a lot to offer travellers.

Zagreb has a very cool and artistic feel to it and has a number of very interesting sites to see and things to do. Wander around the Old Town, visit a few of the city’s museums to learn about the history and culture of the Croatian capital, and maybe get lost while hunting out some of the best street art pieces!

Zagreb also has a fantastic restaurant scene where you can get everything from traditional Croatian fare to modern, international favourites. There is also a fantastic nightlife that can see you partying into the wee hours of the night.

Two days in Zagreb is ideal for those looking to get a feel for the city and to hit all of the main attractions, though you could easily spend more.

Where to Stay in Zagreb

Because Zagreb is finally becoming a tourist destination in Croatia in and of itself, there are a number of great accommodation options to choose from in the city. Here are our top suggestions:

Casablanca Boutique B&B — This boutique bed and breakfast is one of the best places to stay in Zagreb if your budget allows for a little bit more than a hostel. They have a number of clean and comfortable rooms available, it is located very close to the city centre and all of the main tourist attractions, and breakfast is included in the room rate. Click here to check availability

Hostel Mali Mrak — This locally-run hostel is one of the best places to stay in Zagreb if you’re travelling solo or on a budget. They have an incredibly friendly staff, great common areas that make it easy to meet other travellers and have both dorms and private rooms available. Click here to check availability

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options in Zagreb!

Beautiful view of Zagreb
Beautiful view of Zagreb

Days 3-6: Split, Croatia

Continue your itinerary through the Adriatic Balkans in the beautiful coastal Croatian city of Split. Split has a lot to offer tourists and is not nearly as busy and is significantly more affordable to visit than Dubrovnik.

Spending three days in Split will allow you to really get a feel for this wonderful city, spend some time lounging on the beach, and maybe going on a day trip or two. Take the time to explore Diocletian’s Palace, stroll along the seaside promenade, and maybe climb up Marjan Hill to take in some of the spectacular views.

There is also the potential to visit nearby cities, islands, and natural sites like Trogir, Sibenik, Krka National Park, or the islands of Brac or Hvar.

Split also has a wonderful nightlife, a fantastic restaurant scene, and incredibly friendly people all of which are there to occupy your time.

Where to Stay in Split

There are countless accommodation options in Split, seeing as it is one of Croatia’s premier tourist destinations. If you’re lost on where to stay, these are our top suggestions:

Il Giardino Luxury Rooms & Suites — If you’re looking for a little bit more luxury, then you can’t go wrong with this boutique hotel. They have a number of spacious and comfortable rooms on offer, are located close to both the centre of Split and within walking distance of the beach and have breakfast included and a restaurant on site. Click here to check availability

Tchaikovsky Hostel — This hostel is a great option if your travelling solo or on a budget. They are centrally located, have excellent ratings, and offer both dorm and private rooms. Click here to check availability

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options in Split

Split Harbour
Split Harbour

Days 7-9: Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina

After enjoying the coastal charms of Split, it’s time to head a bit inland and visit the historic city of Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina. Follow the advice in the Central Balkans itinerary above for things to do and places to stay when you are there.

Days 10-12: Kotor, Montenegro

After learning about Bosnian history in the divided city of Mostar, it’s time to head back to the coast on this Adriatic Balkans itinerary and visit the historic port city of Kotor in Montenegro.

Kotor is becoming a popular day-trip option from Dubrovnik, however, we believe it is an incredible city that deserves more time than just one simple day. Your first day in this beautiful place can be spent wandering through the charming cobbled streets of the Old Town and walking the famed city walls. It is also worth hiking around the surrounding hills to gain some truly spectacular views of Kotor and the harbour below.

Your second day in Kotor can be spent either exploring more of the city itself or venturing a little bit farther afield to the nearby town of Perast. This is a smaller and less touristy area of coastal Montenegro, however, it is incredibly beautiful and very much worth visiting.

Where to Stay in Kotor

Kotor is becoming quite a popular tourist destination, especially in the warm summer months, and has a number of accommodation options. Here are our top picks:

Hotel Monte Cristo — This hotel is located in the centre of the Old Town and has a number of great, clean, and comfortable rooms on offer. They also have breakfast included in the room rate and a helpful staff to give you recommendations about Kotor. Click here to check availability

Old Town Kotor Hostel — Located, as the name suggests, in the Old Town, this hostel is a fantastic base for exploring Kotor. They have a very friendly staff that organise social events, clean facilities, affordable breakfast options, and a range of both dorm and private rooms. Click here to check availability

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse the best options in Kotor!

Kotor city walls
Beautiful Kotor from the City Walls

Days 12-14: Tirana, Albania

After enjoying the order and beauty of the previous towns and cities mentioned in this particular Balkan itinerary, it’s time to head to the wonderful chaos of the Albanian capital: Tirana.

Tirana isn’t always everyone’s favourite city, with its lack of traditional tourist sites and visible outward beauty. However, visit this city with an open mind and speak with locals and you are sure to have an amazing visit to this underrated Balkan destination.

Tirana has a thriving cafe culture and one could easily spend a day hopping from one cafe to another, enjoying some of the best coffee in the region. There are also a number of interesting museums and historical sites to visit which will help you learn more about Albanian history and isolation.

Where to Stay in Tirana

Tirana isn’t much of a tourist destination yet, however, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some great places to stay in the city! Here are our recommendations:

Hotel Antigone — This hotel located in Tirana’s city centre is a great option. They have a number of clean rooms available, a restaurant and bar on site, and breakfast is included in the room rate. Click here to check availability

Trip’n Hostel — This small hostel run by a friendly and helpful local staff has a great atmosphere and fantastic common spaces to meet other travellers. They also have a range of dorm and private rooms available. Click here to check availability

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other hotels in Tirana!

Have more time?

If you have more than 2 weeks to devote to your Balkans itinerary, then we would suggest exploring more of the undiscovered nation that is Albania. From Tirana, you can head to the beautiful towns of Berat and Gjirokaster before ending your tour of Albania in the lovely Adriatic seaside city of Sarandë and the UNESCO-listed village of Butrint.

Tirana, Albania
Tirana is certainly an underrated city

Off-the-Beaten-Path Balkans Itinerary

If you are a more intrepid traveller and would like to venture to places in the region where few tourists go, then this Balkan itinerary is for you. While it doesn’t cover the biggest and most lively cities or the pristine beaches of the previous two Balkans travel itineraries, it does see you visiting some misunderstood places will give you a lot of time to enjoy the wild nature that this region has to offer.

Days 1-3: Pristina, Kosovo

Begin this off-the-beaten-path Balkans itinerary in the capital city of Kosovo: Pristina. Kosovo sees very few visitors as Balkan countries go but this is a huge shame as this young nation has a lot to offer travellers.

It might seem like there isn’t much in Pristina, however, this is another city that needs time to get to know and appreciate. Take the time to get lost in its streets, visit some of its fantastic historical sites, a enjoy its thriving cafe culture.

Pristina also has some great restaurants that would be a great introduction to Kosovan food, which is unique to that of other countries and draws from a number of influences. It is also a fantastic base to go on some day trips to other, smaller towns and villages in Kosovo where few tourists ever venture.

Where to Stay in Pristina

Pristina doesn’t see a lot of tourism, however, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some great places to stay! Here’s where we recommend:

Hotel Prima — This hotel is in a prime location for exploring Pristina. They have a few great clean and comfortable rooms available and also have a free breakfast that is included in the nightly rate. Click here to check availability

Oda Hostel — Situated in a great location, this small hostel has a friendly and involved staff that have a ton of great recommendations and organise evening social events. They have a few rooms on offer and also have a resident cat. Click here to check availability

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other hotels in Pristina!

National Library in Pristina
National Library in Pristina

Days 4-7: Prizren, Kosovo

Prizren is the second-largest city in Kosovo and also one of the most beautiful, which makes it a perfect addition to this Balkans travel itinerary.

It has a more laid-back pace of life than the capital of Pristina and there are a number of lovely historic sites to visit in the city as well. The picturesque old town is filled with beautiful mosques, bridges, and the Prizren Fortress which offers great views over the rest of the city.

It is quite small in size, so you can see a great portion of the sites in just a day or two. Take the time to really get to know Prizren during your time here and maybe take advantage of a day trip or hike nearby.

Where to Stay in Prizren

Prizren has numerous great accommodation options available. There are some of our tip suggestions:

Hotel Edi Imperial — This small hotel is a great place to base yourself in Prizren. Located in the Old Town, they have a few cosy and clean rooms on offer, a helpful staff, and a great breakfast included in the nightly rate. Click here to check availability

Ura Hostel — This hostel has a fantastic and hospitable local staff who are keen to show off the best of what Prizren has to offer. They have both dorm and private rooms available and clean and comfortable facilities. Click here to check availability

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other hotels in Prizren!

Beautiful Prizren from above
Beautiful Prizren from above

Days 8-11: Skopje, North Macedonia

Begin this Balkans itinerary in the capital city of North Macedonia: Skopje. Skopje is an interesting city, one that has seen some massive renovations in the past decade.

There are a number of interesting things to see in Skopje, such as the statue of Alexander the Great, the Kale Fortress, and the Stone Bridge. There are numerous monuments to historical figures in the country’s history littered throughout the capital, as well, most of which were erected within the past fifteen years or so.

Another great thing to do in Skopje is to take a day hike and enjoy the natural scenery surrounding the capital. Spending the day hiking to the Matka Canyon, for instance, is very popular amongst visitors to the North Macedonian capital.

Where to Stay in Skopje

Skopje is an interesting place to visit and therefore has a number of great places to stay. If you’re struggling to find the best place for you, check out our top suggestions:

Hotel Old Konak — This centrally located hotel is a fantastic base for exploring Skopje. It has a number of clean, comfortable rooms available and breakfast is also included in the nightly rate. Click here to check availability

Shanti-Hostel — Located in the centre of town, this hostel has great common areas, is clean and comfortable, and has both private and dorm beds available. They also have friendly staff to ensure your visit to Skopje is a great one. Click here to check availability

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other hotels in Skopje!

Days 11-14: Ohrid, North Macedonia

After spending time exploring the biggest cities in Kosovo, it’s time to head to one of the most beautiful towns in North Macedonia: Ohrid. Situated on the banks of the eponymous Lake Ohrid, this wonderful town is a great place to visit, recharge your batteries, and enjoy the beautiful lakeside scenery and relaxed way of life.

It is worth riding a bicycle by the lake to take in the scenery away from the (albeit minimal) tourist crowds. Visit the main attraction in the city, the Church of St John the Theologian, and take the steep hike up to King Samoil’s Fortress which offers spectacular views of the city.

There are a number of other beautiful hikes you can do in and around Ohrid if you are keen to explore some of the mountainous terrain of the Balkans, along with some watersports available on the lake itself.

Where to Stay in Ohrid

Ohrid has been a popular spot amongst locals for years and it is now gaining international attention. Therefore, there are a lot of great places to stay in Ohrid. Here’s where we suggest:

Villa Jordan — This hotel, located directly on the lake, is one of the best places to stay in Ohrid. Their clean, spacious, and comfortable rooms include lake views, there is a pool and other recreational facilities, and there is a fantastic breakfast included in the nightly rate. Click here to check availability

Old Town Hostel — A great option for both budget and solo travellers alike. Centrally located, they have a great local staff who are keen to help out their guests with anything, they have a number of rooms available, and great common areas to meet others. Click here to check availability

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to see the best hotel deals in Ohrid!

Beautiful Lake Ohrid
Beautiful Lake Ohrid

Mapping out the perfect Balkans travel itinerary can be a daunting process, with so many wonderful places to explore in this diverse region. Make sure to devote an adequate amount of time to each destination you visit and you will ensure that your Balkan trip is the best it can be!

Are you planning a Balkan itinerary? Have you visited the Balkans? Let us know in the comments!

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Maggie is a co-founder and writer for The World Was Here First. Originally from the US, she has lived in five different countries and has travelled to dozens more, both solo and with her partner, Michael. She particularly loves exploring Spain and spending time in the Caucasus and the Baltics. Read more about Maggie


  1. Hi Maggie. At the end of 2017 my wife and I sold our house, most of our furniture and our car and embarked on a year long travel in Europe. Our plan is to stay a month at a time in one location (to both save via a month long discount and immerse ourselves at least a little in the culture) central enough in various countries and take day or overnight trips to nearby sites. So far we have spent a month in southern Spain and are concluding a month in southern France. Next up is Greece. As you know we will then need to spend 3 months outside Schengen countries and our thought was to do that in the Balkans. I could not have read your Balkans piece at a better time! As an authority on the area where would stay if you were to spend a month in 3 locations including Romania, Bulgaria and the Adriatic Balkans? Just so you know we have taken a tour of the Adriatic Balkans with Road Scholar that included Montenegro north to Slovenia and loved all of it. We know very little about Romania and Bulgaria. We have been using Airbnb to find lodging.

    I look forward to any advice you can throw our way.


    • Hey Wayne! That sounds like an absolutely amazing journey and I hope you’re having a great time! As for a place to settle for a bit outside of the Schengen area, Sofia can be quite a good option — people generally have mixed opinions about the city but we, personally, loved it — and it has a great restaurant and arts scene and a lot of really interesting things to do. Plovdiv is also a great option in Bulgaria, it is definitely prettier than Sofia and has a lot of ancient Thracian ruins as well. It’s also located close to a lot of Bulgaria’s best wine country.

      In Romania, our favourite city we visited there was Cluj-Napoca and it definitely feels very livable and vibrant. However, if you’re keen to do a few more day trips, it might be better to base yourselves somewhere like Brasov, which is closer to a lot of the “highlights” of Transylvania.

      I hope this helps!

  2. Hi Maggie. Great page! I am likely going to mirror your Central Balkans itinerary in July 2019. Can you expand on how you traveled in between destinations? And how you managed booking the transportation? Thanks!

    • Hey, Greg, thanks for your comment! Your best option when it comes to travelling between destinations is to take the bus — it is more often than not the only public transport option, as well. If you want to make absolutely sure that you get a seat, I recommend heading to the bus station to book your place a day or two before you intend to travel. Some bus companies may have online booking, but in our experience, it can be unreliable. Hope that helps and you have a great trip!

  3. Hello Maggie,
    Your itineraries sounds very exciting! I plan to do a solo travel in the Central Balkans for 2 weeks in September. Is it a good idea to travel solo?

    • Hi Shini, glad you like the itineraries and sounds like you have a great trip planned! September should be a great time to visit the Balkans. In my own experience, travelling solo was safe and easy in that area of the world. It was always easy to meet other people and I never felt like my personal safety was at risk. Hope you have an amazing time, I’m sure you will love it 🙂

  4. Hi Maggie!
    Thank you so very much for all of this excellent information. I scored a round trip ticket to Belgrade from JFK for $193 – how could I NOT DO THIS??? In APRIL?? I will be visiting solo and your advice has helped me feel super excited instead of nervous. I have been taking Bosnian/Croatian language for a year and my teacher here will hopefully be able to arrange meet-ups with family he has still in the area. But I’m much happier being overly prepared than underprepared!

    • Thanks for your comment, Helena! Sounds like you snagged a great flight deal and I hope you have a great trip to the Balkans. I’m so glad that our advice has been helpful for you 🙂

  5. Hi Maggie
    Great site – I really enjoyed reading about your journeys. We are planning a trip to the Balkans in September. Unfortunately, and unusually for us, it has to be a little less ‘off the beaten path’ as I broke my leg and ankle badly last year and my hiking and stair walking abilities are much compromised. That said, we are planning to see some of Bulgaria, Romania, a quick pass through Zagreb before going to Bosnia and then on to Montenegro. We have been to the Istrian Coast of Croatia and a bit of inland Croatia but are not planning to go down the dalmation coast (I did this many years ago). We’ll be driving ourselves – we’re pretty comfortable with this as we’ve driven around Turkey and Morocco and Spain and Italy. We have about 6 weeks for this trip. Things we are keen to see include Brasov, drive the transfargarian road, Sarajevo, Mostar, Durmitor NP, Perast, Trebinje and anything ancient! Have you got any recommendations? Do you think we are trying to do too much?
    We also hope to duck over to Bari from Dubrovnik and spend an additional week in the Lecce area (depending on finances :-/ )
    Thanks in anticipation Rana

  6. Hi Maggi,
    We are a travel enthusiast couple from India . Could you please help me to plan a route for these destinations by public transport . Flying in to Tivat – Montenegro -Kotor, Montenegro-Tirana, Albania-Berat and Gjirokaster -Sarandë -Butrint-Skopje, Macedonia- Ohrid, Macedonia-Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina-Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina-Novi Sad, Serbia- flying out of Belgrade, Serbia. I have 3 weeks plus and we don’t want to rush every day with suitcases so day trips wherever possible are preferable. We don’t mind doing some if not all these destinations, though from your itinerary account they all seem fabulous. Thanks

    • Hi Aradhana, sounds like you’re planning quite the trip. Bus timetables and public transport in the Balkans can be hard to plan, but you can check up on a lot of routes by using However, this isn’t always 100% accurate and it’s a good idea to check the routes at the bus stations when you’re there on the ground. Hoe you have a great trip!

  7. Thank you for your email, sounds awesome. What would it cost me to do this tour.(BALKANS)
    2 people traveling, sharing accommodation.

  8. Hello…want to travel to the balkans with my group of well travelled friends around 15 seniors in good health.., with interest in culture history n cuisine.
    we are Indian nationals of Xtian origin….so we have visa issues which we organise with your support data…these are the countries.. Serbia, Bostnia &Herzegovina,Kosovo Albania, Macedonia , Montenegro. We need a slow pace trip n not rush , days can be 15 or more.
    Thnx n regards Wynoma
    Thnx wynoma


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