Example Travel Route ~2 Weeks in the Balkans
Since you are only going to be in the Balkans for about two weeks and are trying to see as many cities as possible. I would recommend taking flights to most destinations unless you are able to get a night train or bus and would be able to arrive in the morning. Usually, for shorter trips like this, I pick three to four spots that I want to divide my time between and maybe take day trips from my chosen main destinations.
- Land in Istanbul and stay about two days.
- Fly to Greece stay two days (80-90$usd for flight).
- From here I would recommend traveling North.
- Athens to Tirana, Albania 11 hr driving (I would fly here) 90-150 USD
- From Albania, all the cities are rather close and you can take a bus between the cities stay about 2 days.
- Tirana to Skopje, Macedonia this is about 3 hours away by car or bus
- Skopje, Macedonia: stay about 2- 3 days. This is an excellent city base for day trips you can also check out Prizren, Kosovo 2 hour drive is supposed to be a beautiful city
- Skopje, Macedonia to Plovdiv, Bulgaria ~ 5 hr drive
- Plovdiv, Bulgaria stay for 1 day then travel to Bucharest, Romania stay 1 day
- Fly out of Bucharest, Romania to Vienna Austria about 120 USD for the flight
- Stay two days in Vienna then two days Budapest
- Fly to Sarajevo and visit the places recommended by TravelinDingo and you can visit Mostar, Kravice park (a day trip from Mostar), Split and Dubrovnik Croatia which are supposed to be picturesque.
- I’d fly home from Sarajevo.That should put you right around the amount of time you have to travel and allow you to see the majority of the Balkans main sites.
Istanbul is a large ancient city with a lengthy history. As it’s an Islamic country one of the iconic sounds are the calls to prayer that sound throughout the city each day. The most iconic mosques in the city are the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia.
Istanbul also has an array of exotic markets. For all our chefs out there the most famous bazaar in Istanbul is their heavenly spice market. Their spices market includes not only spices drrr, but it has tons of different types of dried fruit and teas. This is a cheap place to get all the necessary ingredients for Turkish tea. Just find a recipe online and you’re set!
I know you’re probably thinking of the Disney movie Hercules. Who put the glad in gladiator… Hercules. Trust me there is much more to Greece than just Disney. In a two day trip, you won’t be able to see everything but you will be able to see the main events of at least Athens. We recommend the
- The Acropolis and Parthenon-
This is the iconic image of Greece. Picture tall white columns that are slightly falling down under a sea blue sky. This ancient temple is built at the highest point of the city and is dedicated to the patron saint of the city Athena. It’s 20 euros to enter during high season.
- Monastiraki Square-
Get your bargain shopping on! This is the most popular flea market in the old district of Athens. Here you can barter for clothing, souvenirs, and specialty items like olive oil soaps and beauty products, worry beads, Greek-style rugs, and Backgammon. You can’t get Greeker than that!
- The Temple of Zeus-
The Temple of Zeus is one of the Seven Classical Wonders of the World. If you have seen Disney it’s the temple where Herculeus goes to see the statue of his father. The temple was severely damaged and is currently undergoing renovation, but it’s still definitely worth a visit.
- Panathenaic Stadium-
The Panathenaic Stadium is one of the most impressive stadiums in the world as it is constructed out wholly out of white marble. The stadium hosted the Olympic games in 1896 and remains today one of the most visited sites of Athens.
Hiking in Athens
Athens is blessed with many hiking trails. After a day of visiting ancient monuments, a nice get away from it all is to take a hike! We mean that literally. One of the nearby hiking trails close to Athens is called Attica and is in Hiking in Sounion National Park. This hiking trail takes adventurers to the cave of Kitsos. An ancient cave that was used as a home by our ancient ancestors about 40,000 years ago. Many archeological finds like obsidian and neolithic dishes and pottery have been found near the site.
Greece’s neighboring country in the Balkans, Albania, is known for its long extensive coastline and glorious beaches. Tirana is the capital of Albania. The Et’hem Bey mosque is one of the most popular attractions in Tirana. It’s truly a sight to behold because it’s 18th century detailing and frescos have been well preserved.
Saranda is a great starting beach to visit. Even though this beach has rocks and not soft sand, it still has crystal clear waters, a great climate, and to top it all off there is a cool castle nearby called Lekursi Castle. From this beach, you can easily work your way up the coastline to more sandy coasts, but don’t discount this Saranda beach.
Macedonia is one of the small countries that also borders Greece only a three hours drive from Tirana, Albania, it makes it easy to travel between the two countries. Skopje is a creative combination of old vs new. For example the stone bridge of Skopje which connects the old city to the new city. An impressive feature of Skopje is the Skopje fortress which protects the city from ancient invaders. One of the world’s most famous citizens was from here, Mother Theresa. You can find her memorial in Skopje and pay homage to her selfless acts.
Canyon Matka is one of the main sites to see in the country and it’s really close to the capital of Skopje just 17 kilometers. Canyon Matka has the oldest artificial lake in the country and is also the home to many ancient monasteries and caves. It’s a truly unique canyon throughout all of the Balkans. Spending a day here is a relaxing trip from the city, and will allow you to decompress from seeing so many ancient sites and history. There is plenty here for outdoorsy people to explore.
Bulgaria part of the Balkans is the neighbor of Macedonia and is most well known for it’s impressive Balkan Mountain range, ancient forests, and ski slopes. In short, it’s an outdoor explorer’s paradise. Sites like the Seven Rilas Lake, the Balkan National Park, and Rila Mountains will all make you one happy adventurer in the Balkan states.
Bulgaria also has a breathtaking city called the City of Tsars. This city nestled in a valley surrounded by a thick fortress wall. The city of Tsars developed in the middle ages and it is easy to see the presence of the past when walking down the cobbled streets. The wall that surrounds the city may sound imposing but because the forest has overgrown it now gives the city a tranquil fairy tale feel.
One of our last stops through the Balkans countries, Croatia. Croatia is a thin country similar to Chile. It is north of Albania and wraps around Bosnia so Croatia actually has a coastline.
Pula has always been a popular destination for tourists even throughout ancient times. In fact, it’s always been one of the most popular cities in Croatia. Pula attracts the young and old because of its grandiose, impressive, and well-preserved stadium. In the past the stadium was used for gladiator fights, fortunately, this no longer happens. Pula is a great mixture of new and old. Walking through this city will never be tiring.
Another beautiful city to visit is called Split a.k.a. the Mediterranean Flower. This city sits right on the water and is a city for historical architects or just people who like pretty buildings. Like many countries in the Balkans, these cities have had many different rulers with their own styles and cultures. Split is known for its stunning Gothic and Renaissance architecture. The beauty of Split is the wonderous Diocletian’s Palace, which is huge, luxurious, and grand. In fact, it’s easy to get lost in the palace. Make sure to hold on tight to your map!
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