A couple weeks ago there was only one unexplored region in Europe left for me to discover and this trip was on my bucketlist for so long already. Finally I found time to go on a Balkan road trip and explore 6 new countries. I had been to Slovenia and Croatia before but not yet to Bosnia, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia, Kosovo and Serbia. I was super excited to see all the Balkan highlights and was more than delighted to do this road trip with my super chill Peugeot 5008, my new favorite car.
Finishing this road trip means I have now been to 94 countries in total! May be at the end of 2018 I will make it to country number 100. Only made it in summer 2019 btw! ;)
In this Balkan road trip blog I will tell you some tips, things to know, where to go, things to do and of course show you the best Balkan itinerary for 3 weeks crossing through all the 8 countries.
Best time to visit the Balkan
Although a Balkan road trip is always a good idea I would suggest you to avoid the peak season July and August. Prices are steeper, everything is super touristy and temperatures raise way above 30. The best months to visit the Balkan countries are May, June and September. Just before the peak season and just after.
Is it safe to travel to Balkan
When I was traveling to Slovenia and Croatia no one seemed to care about safety issues, but as soon as I visited Bosnia and went down south towards Albania, people started asking questions. Is it safe to travel in the Balkans? My question firing back: why would it not be safe on a balkan trip? The war was more than 20 years ago, countries have been independent for a long time and now live in harmony next to each other. Traveling in the Balkans is like traveling in the rest of Europe. There are no major safety issues to be aware of. Traveling in the Balkan is safe!
Border crossings on your road trip
If you decide to go on a Balkan road trip then make sure you have the proper car papers. May you rent a car in for example Serbia then you are not allowed to drive into Kosovo. Sometimes there are exceptions so before you rent a car, figure out what they are. With a European passport and a European car you won’t have any problems. Although in Kosovo you will need to pay €15 for an extra insurance.
Balkan road trip itinerary for 3 weeks
This would be the best itinerary for the Balkan, including all the 8 countries: Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia, Kosovo and Serbia.
- Day 1-2: Lake Bled, Slovenia
- Day 3: Zagreb, Croatia
- Day 4: Sarajevo, Bosnia
- Day 5-6: Mostar, Bosnia
- Day 7: Kravice, Bosnia
- Day 8: Trebinje, Bosnia
- Day 9-10: Zabljak, Montenegro
- Day 11: Kolasin, Montenegro
- Day 12: Koman, Albania
- Day 13-14: Valbona - Theth, Albania
- Day 15: Ohrid, Macedonia
- Day 16: Skopje, Macedonia
- Day 17: Peja, Kosovo
- Day 18: Uvac, Serbia
- Day 19: Srebrenica, Bosnia
- Day 20-21: Belgrade, Serbia
Day 1-2: Lake Bled, Slovenia
Start your Balkan road trip itinerary right after the Austrian - Slovenian border at Lake Bled. Touristy in peak season, but undeniable beautiful. This is not yet an off the beaten path destination in the Balkan, but you will get to see many of them on your trip so hold on. Stroll around the lake, climb to the viewpoint, visit the castles and go glamping in hut with private bath tub at Camping Bled.
Day 3: Zagreb
Cross the border into Croatia and find its capital Zagreb right after the Slovenian border. Join one of the free walking tours to get to see the highlights of Zagreb in just a couple hours. Join the crowd for a bustling night out in this amazing city and relax and drink coffee in old town.
If you want to avoid city life on your Balkan road trip then the lovely village of Samobor is a great alternative. Big town square, coffee places, terraces and colorful houses. Great alternative to Zagreb. Have a look at Apartment Mlinska, amazingly friendly owner, 3-bedroom apartment already for €35. Great deal, perfect location and a 9.7 out of more than 70 reviews!
Day 4: Sarajevo
Drive into Bosnia and discover the tranquility of this country. It was my favorite during my Balkan road trip. Most of my time I spent in Bosnia. Great value for money, lovely people, amazing things to do.
A must do in Sarajevo is joining one of the free walking tours around the city. This city was the epicenter of the Bosnian War and there is a story to tell on every street corner. Also visit the Olympic Winter games venue of 1984. The abandoned bobsled track is amazing to walk through or walk down the ski jumps. Head up to the Yellow Fortress to get the best view over the city. If you have a little spare time stay an extra night in Sarajevo, it is totally worth it.
I stayed in Dreams Apartments & Rooms, 1 minute walk from Old Town. I paid less than $40 per night and it has a 9.4 rating out of 150 reviews. Lovely place!
Day 5-6: Mostar
Probably one of the best parts of your Balkan road trip is the drive from Sarajevo to Mostar. Through tunnels, over bridges, along rivers, through narrow gorges and pass some amazing viewpoints. If time permits stay overnight on a place along Lake Jablanica. See my blog about the best places to see in Bosnia where I camped on the lakeside.
Mostar is definitely a Balkan highlight. The charming old town of Mostar with all its cobblestoned streets, the famous Mostar bridge, multiple sunset bars, good coffee places. Mostar was one of my favorite places on my Balkan trip. Make a day trip to nearby Blagaj to see the medieval monastery and have dinner on the water.
Day 7: Kravice Waterfalls
When driving in the Balkans make sure you get to Kravice Waterfalls. It is possible to visit Kravice on a day trip from Mostar, but its better to stay here overnight. Accommodation options at Kravice are limited, but are very nice and cheap. The waterfalls are lit up at night and a great place to have dinner, come early in the morning to have the falls all for yourself. Definitely stay here overnight, a secret Balkan travel tip.
Day 8: Trebinje
To some people this is the best place to go in Bosnia off the beaten path. If you want to have a slow day then definitely add Trebinje with its charming old town to your Balkan road trip itinerary. Stroll around the lovely village, visit the many religious buildings and simply sip a juice on the terrace and enjoy the laid-back vibe of this sleepy town.
Click here to see all the best places to visit in Bosnia on a road trip!
Day 9-10: Zabljak
It is time to leave Bosnia and visit Montenegro. Cross the border and drive up North into the mountains. Head to Zabljak, the adventure capital of Montenegro and try things like rafting, canyoneering, zip lining, hiking, camping, jeep tours and all other adventures you can imagine. Don’t miss hiking in Durmitor National Park and a visit to Black Lake. Zabljak is one of those Balkan tourist spots for adventurers.
Day 11: Kolasin
When the weather is good, you will have an amazing time in the mountains in Kolasin. I stayed overnight high up on the mountain at Eco Katun Vranjak, a place you won’t find in any other Balkan travel guide. It was hard to get there by car (they can also pick you up) but once up at the Eco Camp it was stunning.
There are multiple hikes from here to for example National Park Biogradska Gora or Lake Pesica. I decide to hike to the lake but the weather was not in my favor and thunderstorms rolled in! See the Facebook video below. I am sure when the weather would be good it would be a secret Balkan travel tip.
Day 12-14: Komani Lake - Valbona - Theth - Shkoder
You will get to country number 5 on your Balkan road trip itinerary by entering Albania. Meet the friendliest people, great value for money and the most amazing landscapes. Start with the Komani Lake Ferry from Koman to Fierze. No words needed when you see these pictures, honestly one of the best things to do in Balkan.
Get off in Fierze and get to Valbona where the great hike to Theth starts. This popular backpack itinerary for Balkans was one of the highlights on my trip. From Theth you head back again to Shkoder.
It is wise to leave your car at Lake Shkoder for 2 days when you are doing the popular Balkn backpack route Shkoder - Koman - Fierze - Valbona - Theth - Shkoder.
Day 15: Lake Ohrid, Macedonia
Driving in the Balkan is mostly very chilled. Not much traffic and road conditions are mostly ok. In Albania though roads can be really bad. Prepare for a long day on winding roads through the mountains with bad road conditions, but once you cross the border into Macedonia it is all fine again.
Lake Ohrid is a little detour from this itinerary, but a lovely place to unwind from traveling. Drink coffee at the lake side and walk up to the St. John for beautiful views over the Lake and stroll through Lake Ohrid old town to shop for souvenirs.
Day 16: Skopje, Macedonia
Drive up north over the new highway to the capital of Macedonia. Marvel at all the statues and Roman like buildings at the main square in Skopje and stroll through the completely different old town on the other side of the river. This city literally had two different faces, but well worth seeing on your Balkan trip. Take a day tour from Skopje to Matka Canyon, it is only 30 minutes drive, but an amazing place, to hike, lunch, visit caves and take a boat trip.
Day 17: Peja, Kosovo
Your second last country on this Balkan road trip is Kosovo. Peja is the third biggest city in Kosovo and not the most popular tourist spot in the Balkans. The sleepy city is nice to explore but head into the nearby mountains and visit National Park Bjeshket. Sleep here in a local guesthouse and hike to Lake Leqinat which forms the border with Kosovo and Montenegro. Meet the amazingly friendly Kosovo locals up here.
Day 18: Uvac Canyon, Serbia
This is another Balkan highlight on this road trip itinerary. This region is full of surprises and some tourist spots are so deserted it is hard to believe. Uvac canyon surely is one of the best places to see in Balkan. It is a little tricky to get there, but once you made it to the Uvac viewpoint you wont regret it. Click here to get all the info about how to get to the Uvac Canyon Viewpoint.
Serbia is the last country on your Balkan itinerary, but before you head to the capital Belgrado. I advise you to make a little detour back into Bosnia again.
Day 19: Srebrenica
It may sound a little weird but visiting the Srebrenica Genocide Memorial and museum is well worth doing on your Balkan trip. It made one of the deepest impressions on me. It is not the most fun thing to do in the Balkan, but please visit Srebrenica to learn about the July 1995 genocide, the worst crime in Europe after World War 2. Never forget Srebrenica! Click on the link to read my emotional story…
Day 20-21: Belgrade
End your 3 weeks Balkan road trip itinerary in the bustling capital of Serbia. Join one of the free walking tours in the morning, have a beer in the sun in the city center and party hard all night long in the famous Belgrade nightlife. This is the perfect place to end your Balkan road trip.
Some Balkan tips to know before your trip
Off the beaten path
After driving in the Balkans for several weeks I know one thing for sure. If you are looking for an off the beaten path destination in Europe than I found it for you. At the start of my Balkan road trip I still saw a lot of tourists, but the more South I drove the more I felt like I was off the beaten path.
Not overrun by tourist
The best things to do in the Balkans are touristy and that is understandable, because if you go to the Eiffel Tower you will also see a lot of tourists. Balkan highlights are not yet overrun by tourists though.
Also when you travel to Balkan bring enough Euros in cash with you. It was a pain in the ass to constantly deal with all the different currencies. Literally every country has its own currency. Apart from Kosovo were they just use the Euro. But in every country the Euro is accepted and often prices are only stated in Euros in for example the supermarket in Montenegro.
While driving in the Balkans be aware that a foreign car is an easy victim for police checks. They will mostly always stop you anyway so just make sure you hold on to the speed limit and then there is not much they can do.
Thank you for reading my Balkan road trip blog and I hope it helped you planning your holiday. May you have specific question about your Balkan trip please leave me a comment and I am happy to answer it. If you would like to help me then please share this link anywhere on social media or pin it on Pinterest. For you a small thing to do, but for me it can make a big difference. Thanks in advance!