Countries covered: the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia, Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro, Croatia & Slovenia
Known regionally for outdoor activities such as mountain climbing, hiking, and skiing, and for peaceful villages, rich cuisine, byzantine relics, and the scenic and architecturally attractive town that is Ohrid, the landlocked and relatively safe Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) remains one of Europe’s last undiscovered treasures. Featuring in Belgrade great fashion and much nightlife, hosting the annual music-themed Exit Festival in Novi Sad and home of outdoor activities such as skiing and hiking, as well as monasteries that dot urban centers and the countryside alike, Serbia is worth discovering. This culturally, ethnically, and religiously diverse country is fairly unfamiliar to most tourists visiting Europe. Traveling off the beaten path to Serbia can be a rich experience.
Despite usually being initially recognized for its war-related tragedies, Bosnia & Herzegovina is nothing short of a well-rounded and outright exciting tourist destination. First and foremost, there is the capital of Sarajevo, one of the Balkans’ most attractive cities, a fascinating architectural mosaic of centuries-old Turkish as well as Austria-Hungarian influences. For devout Christians, there is the village of Medugorje, site of the Virgin Mary apparitions. For nature enthusiasts, there is the waterfall in the town of Jajce. Perhaps best of all, after a day of energetic sightseeing, seeking nature and/or engaging in outdoor sports activities, you do not want to miss the great variety of cuisine this underrated country has to offer.
A relatively “new” Adriatic country featuring grey and rocky mountains, dramatic fjords, secluded bays, and both sand and pebble beaches – dotted with fishing villages, charming and Venetian-style seaside towns and coastal resorts, and otherwise home of a remote interior graced with canyons, rivers, lakes, parks, and forests, the tiny former Yugoslavian republic of Montenegro is undoubtedly a Mediterranean treasure. What’s more, Montenegro offers outdoor activities such as skiing, hiking, and whitewater rafting. Considering all that, plus the exceptional seafood and wines as well as the seasonally vibrant nightlife scene, it is difficult to understand why tourists overlook Montenegro when visiting neighboring Croatia.
Few destinations are as exotic yet as diverse as Croatia, which is especially impressive given its size. Most first-time visitors are initially drawn to the Adriatic’s seasonally popular beaches: 1,246 islands plus a 1,777.3- kilometer (1,104.4- mile) stretch of often rocky coastline, which is arguably one of the most dramatic on earth. Also alluring to nature-seekers is Croatia’s interior, home of stunning mountainous landscape, unspoiled forestry, bird-inhabited wetlands, and the wonderful waterfalls running through Plitvice Lakes National Park. If exploring the scenery tires you out, then there is a rejuvenating health resort in the village of Livade awaiting your arrival.
Its natural wonders alone merit a trip to Croatia, but there’s a lot more. Some of the Mediterranean’s most architecturally striking and postcard-perfect towns are located along Croatia’s coastline, many towns which incidentally offer top-notch nightlife in the summertime. Inland, the capital city of Zagreb proudly displays building designs evoking the Austria-Hungarian era, which in themselves help cultivate a culture quite characteristic of Central Europe. Throughout Croatia are scattered ruins reminiscent of the country’s Roman times. If all that is not enough variety, now add a nation of patriotic people who like to combine fine Italian lifestyle (e.g. cafés and fashion) and cuisine (not least evident in local seafood dishes and wine) with deep-rooted Slavic and folkloric traditions.
Touching snowcapped Alps and the Mediterranean Sea as well as boasting rather diverse architecture, not least the baroque and secessionist styles of Ljubljana and the Venetian-inspired and well-preserved appearance of coastal Piran, the relatively small nation of Slovenia offers much more than its physical size suggests. Slovenia is filled with historic palaces, castles, and churches, regionally renowned for its wines, home of natural attractions such as lush lakes and forests, underground caves, a rocky shoreline, and beautiful beaches, and otherwise featuring seashore resorts that seasonally attract families and partygoers alike. What’s more, the outdoors type will find activities here comparable in quality to those of Slovenia’s Western neighbors at a mere fraction of the price. In this regard, skiing is especially popular. Ultimately, simply passing through Slovenia, from Austria or Italy en route to Croatia, for instance, would be a big mistake.
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You, Charlie, are the kind of guy who was put on this Earth to write travel guides. You don’t just cover the basics. You really dig in. You help to reveal a side of the country that nobody would see if they didn’t have your book. You do a service to the world with every page. Good on you, Charlie.
How does someone know so much about an area of the world that people don’t travel to that much? I mean, I’m sure Former Yugoslavia has plenty of tourists, but come on. You knew about the most popular foods and how to interact with the people. That’s insanely cool. You are a master, sir.