If your travel plans have you exploring the Balkans this summer, you are in for a treat, as many of the cultural treasures that define Western Europe can be found here as well. However, the price points are much lower than their continental contemporaries, and the local citizenry are far less jaded than in spots like Barcelona, where residents are becoming increasingly hostile to foreigners.
When you are in the Balkans, be sure to include the following four destinations in your itinerary…
1) Dubrovnik, Croatia
While many fortified cities of yesteryear have long since crumbled or had their bricks dismantled in the name of “progress”, the nearly impregnable walls of Dubrovnik still stand tall in the 21st century, in spite of all the challenges to their integrity over the years (with the most recent being the civil war that Croatia fought against Serbia in the 1990’s).
Walking these impressive ramparts is an attraction by itself, but there are many more attractions contained within, which include many museums, churches, and palaces. Finish off your visit by taking the Dubrovnik Cable Car to a breathtaking vantage point high above the Old City.
2) Kotor, Montenegro
Another lesser known fortified city along the shores of the Adriatic Sea is the well-hidden port city of Kotor, Montenegro. Enveloped by mountains at the end of a fjord-like ocean inlet, this place has been inhabited since the days of the early Greek Empire.
Those that want many of the attractions of Dubrovnik without the crushing crowds will love this place, as many of the churches and museums that the former place has can also be found here as well.
3) Ohrid, Macedonia
Sitting on the shores of a picturesque lake in the shadow of mountains that separate it from Albania, Ohrid is one of the oldest continually inhabited settlements in all of Europe. This fact and the presence of numerous ancient churches dating back as far as the 10th century have made it a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
When you have finished combing through these sacred sites, put on your swimming gear and join the locals at any one of numerous beaches along the shores of the pristine lake that make Ohrid one of the Balkan’s best hidden gems.
4) Suceava, Romania
The town of Suceava itself isn’t exactly the big attraction in the part of Romania in which it is situated, but the fact that it is located within a quick shuttle bus ride of this nation’s biggest cultural treasure (it appears on the money, which is always a good hint to a sight’s importance to a nation’s psyche) makes it one of its key destinations.
The Painted Monasteries is the hot attractions around here, as their walls are covered with elaborate frescoes, inside and out. With bucolic farm country and mountains rising around these holy sanctuaries, it is a trip you won’t soon forget.