6 Gems of Nature in the Balkans

These places are paradise on Earth

Photo by author — Kravice Waterfalls

Have you ever heard of the Balkans?

I am European and I had never heard about this part of the continent until just a few years ago. Oh, if I knew what I was missing out on…

The Southeastern area of Europe is home to the most beautiful nature that I have ever seen. Everything comes in tones of green, blue, and emerald. The landscapes are authentic, the people are genuine, the culture is raw and the history is immense.

I ended up visiting the Balkans for the first time in the summer of 2017, randomly. I fell in love. So much so, that I had to return the next year, and I have been to almost every country in the region (which includes Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo, Croatia, Bulgaria, Albania, North Macedonia and Romania — with some people also including Slovenia and Greece).

Come with me on a journey through some of the most breathtaking places in southeastern Europe!


1. Kotor, Montenegro

If Paradise exists on Earth, it is right here, in Kotor.

Lying on the coast of Boka Bay, Kotor is the most beautiful gem in a bay with more than 100kms of shoreline. As you enter the bay, the scenery is breathtaking. The blue waters surrounded by the high mountains, the raw nature, the authenticity of the place and its people make you feel you are being let into a secret world. Well, you are, but maybe not for much longer. Kotor is getting more and more known, so I recommend visiting soon, to enjoy the real vibe of the place.

The little town, surrounded by the medieval walls, feels like a fairytale. You can walk on the same streets over and over and not get tired. You can take a boat tour on the bay, or you can go up the mountains and enjoy this view. Irresistible.

Photo by author

2. Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina is such a special place! It is hard to pick one location that you should visit in the country, but if I really had to pick one, I would go with Mostar.

Famous for dark reasons, dating back to the war years in the early 90s, Mostar was reborn like a phoenix. It keeps the wounds and the scars of a four-year war but mostly on the souls of the people. The town itself has erased almost all poignant traces of the troubled times, to become one of the most visited places in the Balkans. And for good reasons… The iconic bridge, the historical ambiance, the hospitality, and the most gorgeous nature surrounding the city, like the Kravice Waterfalls or the idyllic village of Blagaj.

Photo by author

3. Tara Mountains, Serbia

These mountains in Western Serbia are one of the most special places in the Balkans. Located near the Drina river, which creates the natural border between Serbia and Bosnia, they provide a calm, beautiful location to do rafting, go on hikes, and explore amazing vegetation, clear lakes, and magnificent viewpoints.

I did a yoga retreat for a week in the middle of nowhere in these mountains, and it was one of the most unforgettable experiences of my life. Our daily hikes took us to places like this one in the photo. Worthy it, right?

Photo by author

4. Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

This place is perfect to spend a whole day in the middle of some of the most gorgeous nature you’ll ever see.

It is a National Park, with well-defined paths that take you through green scenery, crystal clear lakes, and mesmerizing waterfalls. You can choose between longer or shorter trails, and even get on lesser-known paths, to get away from the crowds and enjoy nature on your own.

The day I visited, arrived in mid-morning, and stayed until late afternoon, spending about 6 hours in the park. It was one of the most beautiful days of my life. So much so, that when I went back home, I covered my bedroom with wallpaper depicting Plitvice Lakes.

Photo by author

5. Shkodër, Albania

I visited Albania during a 3 month-long tour across Eastern Europe and, somehow, I didn’t like it much. I didn’t like it to the point that I booked a last-minute flight out of there. But maybe it had nothing to do with Albania itself. Maybe it was just me getting tired after 2 months on the road alone. Maybe it was the fact that I felt uncomfortable as a solo woman traveler in a land still dominated by patriarchy.

But the truth is that when I look back at pictures from that trip, the most beautiful ones are from Albania! I spent 5 days in the country, 3 in Tirana and 2 in Shkodër, a small town by a lake with the same name, that the country shares with neighbor Montenegro.

If you are looking for a European experience that doesn’t feel like Europe and has incredible sights, then Albania is the place to go. This is a picture from my trip. Beautiful, right?

Photo by author

6. Rila Lakes, Bulgaria

Rila Lakes are nature at its best. They are a group of 7 glacial lakes located in the Rila Mountains, in Bulgaria. Each lake has a name associated with its most distinguishing feature and, together, they create the perfect place to spend a whole, beautiful day.

Take a cable car up the mountain and then explore at your own pace, creating your own itinerary. You can keep it soft, or go on more extreme hikes. Either way, you will be rewarded with gorgeous landscapes and photos that you will cherish forever.

Photo by author

Takeaway

I haven’t seen much of the world outside Europe, but I have covered this continent extremely well. And any time I think of the most beautiful places I’ve been to in my life, I find myself daydreaming about going back to the Balkans.

If you like nature and beautiful landscapes, good weather, nice people, and a genuine feeling of what it’s like to be alive, do yourself a favor and book a ticket to anywhere in the Balkans, as soon as you can. I promise you, you will fall in love.

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