Best of Balkans Itinerary 2 weeks with or without a car
Heading to the Balkan Peninsula? Great choice! We got 3 epic Best of Balkans Itinerary 2 weeks to help you plan and prepare for your trip.
The Balkans is an interesting region in Europe. It is full of stunning natural landscapes, history, and culture (which we LOVE), food, and all of them at an affordable price (as compared to the popular destinations in Western Europe).
So let’s plan a trip to the Balkans!
Best of Balkans Itinerary 2 weeks: Travel Tips
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What and where are the Balkans?
The Balkans comprises the countries of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, and Slovenia. Geographically it is located in the southwestern part of the European continent.
Getting to Balkans
Getting to the Balkans is a little tricky, especially if you are traveling from the USA or Canada. Flights to Greece and Croatia (Zagreb) were easy for us as starting points into the Balkan peninsula before exploring more of the region.
Other countries have airports as well, but for international connectivity and flight frequency, these countries are your best bet. Flights to Romania and Bulgaria from North America were slightly more expensive than arriving in Athens or Zagreb.
In this post, we will include Zagreb as a starting point for the itinerary samples. Another option is to land in Budapest (in Eastern Europe) and then travel to the Balkans. Depending on where you reside, flying to Budapest might be a cheaper option (it wasn’t the case for us).
Visa Requirements for the Balkans
Passport holders from the USA and Canada can enter the Balkans without a visa and can stay up to 90 days for tourism/pleasure.
Slovenia and Croatia are part of the European Union, but Croatia doesn’t use the Euro and requires a multiple-entry Schengen Visa (when you exit these countries to visit the non-Schengen states).
For Indian passport holders, you can enter Serbia visa-free, but to explore other countries in the region, multiple-entry Schengen visas are required. Flights to Greece from India are pretty affordable as compared to Zagreb, or other cities in the Balkans.
Don’t forget to get travel insurance on your trip!
As all of the Balkan countries are not a part of a common economic zone or union, there are border checks when you travel from one country to another.
Even though Croatia and Slovenia belong to the EU, our tour vehicle was stopped at the border for a quick check. This process is elaborate when it comes to other countries like Bosnia Herzegovina, Albania, or Serbia.
Currency of the Balkans
Balkans countries use different currencies. We converted our Canadian Dollars to Euros and then used that for local currency. US dollars are accepted in all exchange offices and some high-end hotels.
Unfortunately, it’s not true for Canadian dollars – we were asked for USD or Euros.
As we travel to Europe often, we converted some Euros for the trip plus our credit cards. Credit Cards can be super handy if you are exploring the capital cities and other touristy towns.
Here is the official currency list
- Euros – Slovenia, Kosovo, Montenegro
- Kunas/HRK – Croatia
- Bosnia Herzegovina convertible mark/KM – Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Serbian Dinar – Serbia
- Bulgarian Lev – Bulgaria
- Romanian Leu – România
- Macedonian Denar – North Macedonia
- Albanian Lek – Albania
Transportation within the Balkans
If you are trying to figure out transportation in the core/central Balkans area, sitting here in Canada or the US, you will probably want to give up. It is not as straightforward as taking a train from London to Paris and enjoying a great weekend. Trains are far and few in between.
We utilized a combination of private car transfers, buses, flights, and tours to explore the Balkans. We will share the tours taken, as well as flight routes and car transfers as we go through the itinerary.
But just remember it is doable using this combination. However, as compared to train and bus networks (and distances traveled) in other parts of Europe, it is not a fun jolly ride. (It took us one day – almost 8 hours – to reach Zagreb from Dubrovnik, and the same from Ljubljana to Belgrade).
The reason we say this is not to scare you, but rather to encourage you to travel if you do not drive or don’t want to rent a car.
Renting a car will make travel easier, you can create road trip stops to explore many small towns and cities in the Balkans. But, and there is a big BUT, you have to keep the following things in mind
- Rental car companies have different policies and regulations for entering different countries within the Balkan countries. So you have to let the company know in advance about your travel plans, and pay for extra insurance coverage (license plates) if necessary
- Don’t forget to get a “Border Crossing Card” when you rent your car to cross over different international territories
- Border checking is crazy during the summer months. You could be stuck there for hours, and it is not fun
- Depending on the cities and countries that you have on your Balkan itinerary, driving may not be a joy ride. For example, we wanted to explore the Yellow Fortress and the old cemetery in Sarajevo, and I admit I can’t drive in those narrow lanes. A car got stuck and the police had to be called to help out and disperse traffic. Having said that, driving in Novi Sad and Belgrade, or Slovenia and Croatia will be effortless. So something to keep in mind.
Now that we have all the specifics aside, let’s dive deeper into these EPIC Balkan Itinerary samples.
Balkan Itinerary 2 weeks | Best of Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina | Ideal Itinerary
As mentioned we will use Croatia as a starting point. Croatia itself deserves a full week (or more) to explore it intimately but if you have 14 days or 2 weeks in the Balkans, here is what you can discover.
Day 1: Arrive in Zagreb, Croatia
Explore the city center (upper and lower Zagreb) for a day. Zagreb will remind you so much of the Eastern European capital cities like Vienna, Budapest, and Prague. There is so much influence of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, yet many visitors to Croatia don’t explore Zagreb.
We say, spend a day in Zagreb, and here is what you can easily explore
- Walking Tour: We highly recommend a 2.50 walking tour of Zagreb to get acquainted with the city and learn about its past. We booked this tour and highly recommend it, which also includes a funicular ride. Click to view this tour of Zagreb.
- Upper Zagreb: Gornji Grad is the city’s historic city center. The iconic St Mark’s Church and the Zagreb Cathedral is located here. St Mark’s is a Catholic Parish church and is super iconic to the city and the country. From there, take a walk through the Stone Gate. It is said to possess miraculous powers and is considered sacred.
- While you are there, don’t forget to drop by the Dolac Market, Lotrščak Tower, and the Museum of Broken Relationships. You can also hop on the shortest funicular ride and get to the lower Zagreb area.
- Admire city views from Strossmayer Promenade: When you get on the funicular, you will be at an amazing viewpoint of the Strossmayer Promenade for some mesmerizing views of the city of Zagreb.
- Lower Zagreb: Lower Zagreb is home to the central square – Ban Josip Jelačić Square. It is a bustling area for concerts and events. There are tram lines located near the square
- Other popular attractions in Zagreb include – Zagreb 360 (panoramic city viewing tower), Maksimir Park (oldest park), Mirogoj Cemetery, Botanical Gardens
- End the day at Ilica street: It is one of the longest streets in Zagreb. It’s 6 kilometers long and runs from Ban Jelačić Square westwards through half of Zagreb. It is lined with luxury stores and hotels, cafes, and restaurants.
Where to stay in Zagreb? For a day (or more) in Zagreb consider staying at the city center. It is perfect if you are taking tours or private transfers. Staying at a central location makes sightseeing in Zagreb super easy, plus there are tons of cafes and restaurants nearby.
- We stayed at a couple of hotels in Zagreb and preferred our apartment at the Dolac Market, called the Dolac One Apartment. It was spacious and priced right. There were tons of cafes, nearby and the Zagreb Cathedral and the central square was just a few steps away. Click to view prices for the Dolac One Apartments
- Esplanade Hotel: An upscale and posh hotel, situated a few minutes away from the city’s iconic landmarks, the Esplanade Hotel is a treat for luxury travelers. Hotel rooms are clean, with 4 upscale restaurants on-site, and quick access to Jelačić Square and farmers market. Click to view room prices.
- International Hotel: Only a few steps away from the heart of the city center is the International Hotel – a mid-range, business style accommodation with many amenities on-site. Very clean hotel rooms with helpful staff. The hotel offers free wifi, has a bar and sauna on site. Click to view prices and book here
Day 2 Lake Bled, Slovenia
Start for Lake Bled, the next day. Slovenia is easily connected to Zagreb by road. If you are driving, you will enjoy the ride.
- Driving – Zagreb to Lake Bled is about 2.25 hours one way, by road (self-drive or tour).
- Tours – If you are not driving, you can utilize many day tours that combine Lake Bled and Ljubljana (and bring you back to Zagreb by evening). Click to view this recommended tour
- Trains – Trains are available but it takes about 5.50 hours one way, to get to Lake Bled (it goes via Ljubljana so you can expect a change of trains).
You can spend an entire day in Lake Bled from hiking to exploring the Lake Bled Castle, going on a cruise, day camping, picnics, etc.
In the evening, you can travel to Ljubljana and stay there overnight. Staying in Ljubljana will make it easy to find affordable hotels, as well as making the most of your time in the capital city. Ljubljana is also better connected to other cities in the Balkans (including Triste in Italy is like 2 hours away).
Anyhow, for accommodation opt for a centrally located hotel. We stayed at the Central Hotel. It is located only a 5-minute walk from the Ljubljana railway station, and 1 km from Ljubljana Castle. It included free breakfast and Wi-Fi. Click to view the prices of the Central Hotel.
Another option is to stay at the Grand Union Hotel, this is another hotel where we stayed, and it was super fancy, and offered free breakfast. Click to view prices for Grand Union Hotel.
Day 3 Ljubljana, Slovenia
Wake up in Ljubljana, the capital city of Slovenia. Slovenian ambiance reminds you of Central European countries and the aristocratic brilliance in architectural buildings including the stunning Ljubljana Castle that towers over the city centre.
Start your day in the eco-friendly city, with a warm cuppa coffee and Kremna rezina. It is a specialty of the Lake Bled area – a luscious cream cake with a golden, crispy, buttery pastry. It is yummilicious.
After breakfast, use the entire day to explore the city highlights
- Wander the city center of Ljubljana. Start at the Prešeren Square, and then head to the Dragon’s Bridge and make your way to the Ljubljana Castle
- Prešeren Square – Prešeren Square is the central square in Ljubljana. It is characterized by the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation in the front, with a bronze statue of the Slovene national poet France Prešeren.
- From the square, you will see the river Ljubljanica, and the many bridges. Where there are rivers, there is river cruising, and here kayaking is also allowed.
- Ljubljana Cathedral – Visit the St. Nicholas’s Church, or the Ljubljana Cathedral – a Gothic church. It is one of the most recognizable attractions of the city with its green dome and twin towers.
- Located nearby is the Ljubljana Central Market and Town Hall. As you walk the city center, you will find how quintessentially European this city is – with the cobblestones, cathedrals, castles, and the (outdoor) cafes.
- Butchers’ Bridge – This is one of the newest additions to the bridges over the Ljublianica river, and it is characterized by love locks on the railings making it ever so pretty. Butcher’s Bridge connects the Ljubljana Central Market and the Petkovšek Embankment.
- Dragon Bridge – Head to the Dragon Bridge next. It is a road bridge between Kopitar Street and Ressel Street, to the north of the Ljubljana Central Market. Don’t forget to snap some cool photos here!
- Ljubljana Castle – Go on a funicular ride to the hilltop to soak in stunning views of the city of Ljubljana. There is an entry fee for the Ljubljana Castle, but it is worth it. There are quite a few permanent exhibits and temporary displays in the castle complex. Don’t miss the Yugoslavia history exhibition and the Puppet Museum here. Head to the castle top for mesmerising city views.
End the day with fine dining by the river banks. We left Ljubliana at night and took an overnight bus to Belgrade, the capital of Serbia. Read our detailed one day in Ljubljana itinerary
- Driving – If you are driving to Belgrade, it will take about 6 hours (one way), and goes via Zagreb
- Buses – Buses follow the same route, and it takes about 6 to 8 hours (depending on the bus schedule). We took the overnight bus, and we were woken up each time we crossed the border. Daytime buses are also available. We just wanted to spend more time exploring, so we chose an overnight trip
- Flights – There are flights available, fares start at $250 USD, and it takes 1.50 hours (one way) direct flight. Connecting flights is expensive (about $350 USD+), and takes about 5 to 8 hours.
Day 4 – 5 Belgrade, Serbia
Depending on how and when you arrive in Belgrade, you set aside a day to explore the historic city center and the museum and forts nearby. On the second day, choose to venture outside of the city center to the Saint Sava Temple area and the Jemun Area.
As always, start the day with a warm breakfast. We chose to do it in style and visited the Manufaktura Restaurant in the heart of the city. All the main attractions are located very close to the restaurant.
- Wander the city center. We took this 4-hour sightseeing tour in Belgrade to cover the city highlights.
- Visit Republic Square – The Square of the Republic is the central town square in Belgrade. It is home to iconic buildings like the National Museum, the National Theatre, and the statue of Prince Michael
- The National Museum in Belgrade – It is the largest and oldest museum in Belgrade. The museum was opened in 1952, and since its founding, its collection has grown to over 400,000 objects, including many foreign masterpieces.
- Belgrade Fortress – The Belgrade Fortress is a historic complex, consisting of the old citadel and the Kalemegdan Park. It is located on the confluence of the River Sava and Danube. A Monument of Culture of Exceptional Importance, it is a must-visit during your trip to the city. Admission to the site is completely free, and you can also visit the Military Museum located here.
- Old Palace Belgrade – Stari Dvor was the royal residence of the Obrenović dynasty, now it is the City Assembly of Belgrade.
- The House of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia – Located opposite to the Old Palace, is the seat of the National Assembly of Serbia. It is a landmark and tourist attraction.
- Knez Mihailova Street – Hang out (or eat out) at Knez Mihailova Street. It is the main pedestrian and shopping zone in Belgrade.
- Saint Sava Temple – (Next day) Head to Saint Sava Temple. It is a Serbian Orthodox church and it is located on the Vračar plateau. It was planned as the bishopric seat and main cathedral of the Serbian Orthodox Church and is dedicated to Saint Sava, the founder of the Serbian Orthodox Church.
- The Museum of Yugoslavia – This is a MUST visit in Belgrade. Everything that you want to know of Belgrade, the capital of the former Kingdom of Yugoslavia is here. It is a public history museum showcasing the Yugoslav period, as well as the non-aligned movement. Josip Broz Tito’s grave is also located here. Here is a top-rated Red Communist Tour to take in Belgrade
- Nikola Tesla Museum – The Nikola Tesla Museum is a science museum, dedicated to honoring and displaying the life and work of Nikola Tesla. The museum is home to more than 160,000 original documents of technical objects, instruments and apparatus, and drawings.
Hotels in Belgrade: For 2 days in Belgrade, stay at a central location. We stayed in a centrally located apartment, called the Central Park Residence. The location of the apartment was great, rooms were big. The rooms were also decently priced. It was clean, with neat space – nothing too fine or fancy!
Day 6 – 7 Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina
On day 6, start for Sarajevo. Driving time is 4.50 hours from Belgrade to Sarajevo, and you will have 1.50 hours of sightseeing time in the capital city.
- Driving – If you are driving to Sarajevo, it will take about 4.50 hours (one way)
- Buses – Buses follow the same route, and it takes about 5 to 6.50 hours (depending on the bus schedule). Overnight buses are also available. If you take a morning bus, you will be in Sarajevo by 2:00 pm local time
- Flights – In 50 minute direct flight, you will be in Sarajevo from Belgrade. The fare starts at $250 USD. Connecting flights are insanely long, like 8 to 10 hours
Sarajevo is a unique destination and deserves a few visits to understand the city and its past. As you explore the city, you will find
- Turkish/Ottoman markets and culinary traditions
- Austro-Hungarian architecture and buildings like the City Hall – 18th- early 20th century (including the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand)
- Erstwhile Yugoslavian remains like the 1984 Winter Olympics complex and the 1992-95 Siege and attack by its neighbors
To understand this past, we highly recommend joining a Tunnel of Hope or Tunnel Museum Tour. The location of the tunnel as well as the exploring of the Winter Olympics Bobsleigh and Luge Track will take at least 4 hours. And we highly recommend doing it. Here is the tour we took, and recommend.
Here are some of the attractions in Sarajevo that you must visit
- Admire the Sebilj Brunnen – Iconic fountain – Sebilj Brunnen is the iconic landmark in Sarajevo, located in the centre of Baščaršija square in the old town. It is an Ottoman-style wooden fountain, built in the mid 18th century.
- Explore Baščaršija – Historic City center – From the Sebilj fountain, wander the historic city center. Baščaršija was built in the 15th century, by Isa-Beg Ishaković, an Ottoman Bosnian general.
- Free walking tour – If interested, you can take a free walking tour of the historic city center. There are many tour operators and agencies who take you around. Here are 2 tours – 10:30 am or 12:00 pm start time.
- Latin Bridge – This is the very spot where Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife were assassinated, which ultimately led to the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. The original Latin Bridge was made of wood and was built in the 16th century, and later in the late 18th century, the Latin Bridge was designed in an Ottoman style. The river Miljacka flows underneath the bridge.
- Other attractions in the city – Vijećnica – City Hall, Sacred Heart Cathedral, Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque
- Afternoon Tour – Highly recommend visiting the Sarajevo Tunnel. We booked an online tour of 4 hours that included return transportation from the city center, history guide to the Sarajevo Tunnel Museum, Sarajevo Olympic Bobsleigh and Luge Track, and the Yellow fortress.
You can explore all of this in one day as well. Early morning explore the old town and go on a walking tour, and then in the afternoon venture on the Tunnel Tour.
Set aside some time to wander the old town, and eat your heart out. Bosnian Coffee, Cevapi, Potato pies, and pastries will lure you – so don’t resist, just EAT (like we did!)
Where to stay in Sarajevo
- Courtyard by Marriott Sarajevo: A 4-star hotel, with a mid-range price tag, the Courtyard by Marriott Sarajevo offers free breakfast and wifi, with a contemporary vibe. Click to view more about the hotel
- Hotel Plaza: Mid-range hotel, in an apartment-style building with access to balcony and hill views. The old town just steps away. Book your stay here.
- Hotel Europe: Fine hotel with cozy rooms with a gym, an indoor pool & a spa with saunas. It is located in the heart of the old town. Reviews for the hotel are very positive, click to find out more
Day 8 Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina
Day 8, head out to visit Mostar, located in the warm Herzegovina region. You can go on a day trip from Sarajevo to Mostar as well, or stay in the city.
- Driving – Sarajevo to Mostar is 2 hours by road, driving or via private transfers
- Tours – There are tons of day tour options from Mostar to Sarajevo. This is a good value which includes exploring sister towns as well
- Alternative option – If you do not wish to take public transport, opt for Sarajevo to Dubrovnik transfer via Mostar. This will give you an extra day in Dubrovnik. Click to view more about this direct transfer.
- Trains – This is one of the most scenic routes in the Balkans. The entire 129 km (80 miles) between Sarajevo and Mostar takes about 2.50 hours (one way) and will make you fall in love with Bosnia even more. Train travel is a good option if you are staying overnight in Mostar, as doing this on a day trip will be tiring (and you may not find a suitable train back for the same day)
Once you arrive in Mostar, spend the entire day in the charming old town. Here is what you can explore in a day in Mostar
- Admire the iconic Stari Most (Old Bridge) – Also known as the Mostar Bridge, the Stari Most are the most iconic symbol of the city. It was originally built in the 16th century, in the Ottoman style. The Old Bridge stood for 427 years, and was damaged in 1993 (during the Croat–Bosniak War), and later re-built.
- The Museum of the Old Bridge – The museum is located in the Old Town Area to celebrate the second anniversary of the reconstruction of the Old Bridge.
- Bosnaseum – Museum showcasing the effects of the war and the siege, including the damages to the bridge and reconstruction
- Neretva River – Admire the largest rivers of the eastern part of the Adriatic basin, the Neretva. You can admire it from the old town Mostar and also from some of the other sister towns in Herzegovina.
- Visit the Bazar Kujundžiluk – Perfect for shopping for souvenirs or eating out, whilst admiring the Neretva.
- Other attractions – Kriva ćuprija (stone bridge), Crooked Bridge, Mostar Peace Bell Tower
Enjoy a beautiful sunset at Mostar Oldtown, and stay there for the night. Click to view hotels in Mostar.
Day 9 Kravice Waterfalls, Bosnia & Herzegovina
The next day, start for Dubrovnik – back to Croatia. But not before exploring some of the hidden gems in Bosnia Herzegovina. Day 9 has a relaxed itinerary, where you will stop by attractions while driving from Mostar to Dubrovnik.
- Driving – Mostar to Kravice Waterfalls takes 50 minutes by car (GPS location: Ljubuski, 10 minutes from here). From Kravice, add another 2.50 to reach Dubrovnik after sightseeing
- Buses – Take around the same time, costs around $6 – $8 from Mostar to Kravice waterfalls. To reach Dubrovnik, you have to take a bus to Capljina, and change for a 2.50-hour bus ride to Dubrovnik
- Tours – There are no direct tours from Mostar to Dubrovnik (tours are available the other way originating from Dubrovnik to Mostar in a day trip format). If you do not wish to take the bus, opt for Sarajevo to Dubrovnik transfer via Mostar. This will give you an extra day in Dubrovnik. Click to view more about this direct transfer.
Kravice waterfall is a natural wonder located about 40 km, south of Mostar. It is a large water cascade on the Trebižat River. There are parking spaces available near the waterfalls.
Popular activities at the waterfalls include swimming, boat ride, kayaking, etc. There is an entry fee to the water, and it varies by season. Autumn and spring are not busy, but you will find the water to be slightly cold for a swim (spring or late autumn).
There is a cafe located inside the waterfalls park.
From the waterfalls towards Dubrovnik, you can stop by nearby sister towns. (Private transfer from Sarajevo to Dubrovnik via Mostar, will stop by these stops as well). Other places to visit near Mostar include
- The Buna – Buna River is a short river located near the village Blagaj. It is best known for the Buna Spring. Vrelo Bune is a natural creation on the river, and it is a perfect stop for snacks, and a short hike. From here you can enter the Dervish monastery and Velagic House.
- Blagaj -This town is home to the Velagić House and Dervish monastery. The monastery dates back to six centuries and is built on the banks of the Buna river. This is a historic Sufi monastery built on the cliffs by the water and has a mausoleum and Turkish bath on site.
- Pocitelj – The tiny village of Pocitelj is (considered) designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and dates back to the Middle Ages. Once upon a time, the village was filled with residents, and today only a handful of inhabitants remain. The village overlooks the Neretva River and is surrounded by thick rock walls. There is a mosque located here as well – marking the evidence of Turkish influence. No entry fee.
Exploring all the sights will take you an entire day. It is a good idea to reach Dubrovnik by evening, so that you can explore the pearl of Adriatic first thing in the morning.
Kravice waterfalls to Dubrovnik is 2.50 hours, one way. Buses, private transfers are available.
Where to stay in Dubrovnik Croatia: Here are some hotel options for Dubrovnik.
- Prijeko Palace: Located within the old city walls of Dubrovnik, the Prijeko Palace is a 15th-century hotel offering sea-views, a rooftop bar, and a terrace. Click to view room rates for Prijeko Palace
- Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik: This luxury hotel is housed in an 1890’s building and is located right outside the Pile Gate in the old town, so all the prime attractions are within reach. Hotel rooms are equipped with TV, clean spaces with free breakfast included. The hotel property includes a restaurant, bars, and a spa with an indoor pool and sauna. Click to view reviews and prices for Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik
- Dubrovnik Luxury Residence L’Orangerie: This is a perfect apartment-style hotel with spacious rooms, balconies, washing machines, and tons of restaurants and cafes in the building complex. Check out room rates and prices – Dubrovnik Luxury Residence L’Orangerie
Day 10 – 11 Dubrovnik, Croatia
Next 2 days, explore Dubrovnik. Set aside one day for Dubrovnik Old town attractions, and venture on a short day tour to the islands the next day. Here is how your 2 days in Dubrovnik should look like
- Wander through the old town, and this is where you see everything that Dubrovnik is known for. Take a wander around, capture photos, or take a guided tour.
- Dubrovnik cable car ride – We took a guided tour of Dubrovnik with a funicular ride in the morning. Dubrovnik Cable car is located outside the old city and is included in the tour cost. Book your old town walking tour with Dubrovnik Funicular ride
- Walk the Old City Walls – Once the walking tour ends, head to the City Walls. It comes at a cost though (300 kunas or 43 USD), but you will be welcomed by mesmerizing views of yellow tiled roofs and the pretty blue sea views. It can take anywhere from 1-2 hours to complete the entire loop, depending on the crowd.
- Old Pharmacy Museum in the Franciscan Monastery – Oldest running pharmacies in Europe.
- Walk the Stradun or Placa – Stradun or Placa is the main street of Dubrovnik. Stradun is stretched from Pile Gate (western entrance to the old town) to the Old Town’s port. On one end, is the Clock Tower and the Orlando Column is located near it. It was covered when we visited.
- Sponza Palace – A 16th-century palace located in the main street. Today it is a museum. The 1st and 2nd floors are home to the State Archives, with manuscripts dating back nearly 1000 years.
- Rector’s Palace – The Rector’s Palace is a palace within the old city walls of Dubrovnik, which was used as the administrative seat of the Rector of the Republic of Ragusa between the 14th century and 1808.
- Porat – Old Port City Dubrovnik – The old port of Dubrovnik is within a walking distance from Rector’s Palace. This is where boats would dock in the past and today you can take ferry rides to the Lokrum Islands or the Gruž Ferry Port.
- Other notable attractions inside Old Town – Ploče Gate (14th century fortified wall on the eastern gate), Gate to Luza Square, Orlando’s Column, Tvrđava Minčeta (14th-century fortress for some amazing views).
- Three Islands Tour – On day 2, embark on a Three Islands Tour. We recommend taking this tour, which includes pick up and drop off from the hotel, and also includes lunch. The tour is done in 6-8 hours with sightseeing in all areas.
Day 12 – 13 Split, Croatia
We are almost on the home stretch, and circling back to Zagreb (for return flight home). From Dubrovnik head to Split, and stay there for 2 nights.
- Driving: Drive from Dubrovnik to Split takes 3 hours. Border crossing is required, as Dubrovnik is separated from mainland Croatia by Bosnian Border (and Bosnia Herzegovina is not part of EU)
- Buses: We took a bus from Dubrovnik to Split, and it took us about 5 hours, one way. The cost was $20 USD per person.
- Tours: There are day tours from Dubrovnik to Split, and it includes sightseeing and returns transportation. Click to view the day tour here.
- Or you can book a one-way transfer to Split from Dubrovnik
- Ferry – Ferry route is available from Dubrovnik, and is a popular option during peak season. It takes 4.50 to 6 hours, depending on (2) routes.
By the time you arrive in Split from Dubrovnik, it will be lunch time. The central bus station in Split is conveniently located near the old town. Ans just a few steps away you will find the river promenade, cafes and hotels for the night or two.
Hang out and relax at the old town for the remainder of the day. And then on the second day embark on a walking tour or explore many museums located in the city. Here are the tops things to do in Split for your trip
- Split Riva Promenade – The Riva is the seafront promenade in Split. It is an amazing place, and the promenade is lined with cafes and restaurants. You can ride a bike, stroll, take in sea views, eat and drink and feel the vibrant spirit of Split!
- Walking tour of the Old City Split – On day 2 in Split, wander the well preserved old town of Split with edifices from the Roman and Venetian area.
- There are guided walking tours of 1 – 2 hours in duration to explore the historic old town. Click to view this highly recommended walking tour
- Diocletian’s Palace – Diocletian’s Palace is probably the MOST recognizable image of Split globally. Diocletian’s Palace is a stunningly well-preserved 4th-century Roman architectural complex. There are only a few apartment rooms that were partially restored. The palace was once adorned with 3500-year-old graphite sphinxes, today you can only find 3 of them.
- Peristil Square – Located right in front of the Diocletian’s Palace is the Peristil Square. Enjoy a drink or two at the Luxor cafe here, soaking the sun on the square steps and admiring the Diocletian’s Palace.
- The People’s Square – On the west end of the Peristyle, is the huge Pjaca or the People’s Square. At the square, you will find the Ethnographic Museum of Split, Town Hall – Gradska vijećnica (built in Renaissance style), and many open cafes!
- Other attractions in old town Split – Pusti me da prodjem or ‘Let me pass’ lane (cobblestoned lanes), Split City Museum, Temple of Jupiter, Cathedral of Saint Domnius
- Marjan Hill – Marjan is a 123 metre hill, in Split and is home to the Museum of Croatian Archaeological Monuments and Mestrovic Gallery. Go on a short hike, and then soak some sun at the beaches nearby.
- Tours to consider – City Tour, GoT inspired guided tour in Split.
Day 14 Plitvice National Park and return to Zagreb, Croatia
On day 14 of the Balkans itinerary, start from Split to Plitvice National Park and then finally to Zagreb.
Split to Plitvice National Park is about 2.50 hours, one way.
- Driving: Drive will take 2.50 hours to the Plitvice National Park
- Buses: Buses take 3 to 4.50 hours. Buses go via Skradin – Krka National Park and Korenica to Plitvice. It makes for a long day. So we booked a tour, and that is what we would recommend.
- Tours: Here is a recommended tour, that covers transfer from Split to Zagreb, with a tour of the Plitvice National Park
Plitviče Lakes National Park is the oldest and one of the largest natural parks in Croatia. It’s known for a chain of 16 terraced lakes, which is joined by waterfalls. There are walkways and hiking trails which wind around and across the water.
You can embark on a kayak tour to enjoy the falls closeby. Swimming is not allowed at the lakes. However, picnic, hiking, water rafting can be arranged at different levels of the walls.
Viewing the scenic falls is the ONE thing that pulls tourists here, and is a must visit. Visiting the area takes about 4 hours.
After Plitviče Lakes National Park, drive (or take a bus) to Zagreb. The drive takes 2 hours one way. Or opt for a private transfer. If you are taking a bus back, ensure you leave by 3:30-4:00 pm to get a bus back to Zagreb, within a reasonable time.
Sightseeing Map: Balkan Road Trip Itinerary 2 weeks
Balkans Itinerary | Off-beat & Unconventional Balkans Croatia, Albania, Kosovo, North Macedonia | Sample 2
In this off-beat, 2 weeks in Balkans itinerary, discover Albania, Kosovo, North Macedonia, and spend a week in Croatia. For this trip, fly to Zagreb Croatia, and then from Dubrovnik venture to other areas in the Balkans.
Day 1 Zagreb Croatia
Arrive and spend a day in Zagreb, the capital city of Croatia. Explore the city highlights like the Gornji Grad highlights iconic St Mark’s Church, Zagreb Cathedral, Stone Gate, Dolac Market, Lotrščak Tower, and the Museum of Broken Relationships. Don’t forget to pop by the central square – Ban Josip Jelačić Square, and hang out at the Illica Street. Read: Is Zagreb worth visiting?
Day 2 Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes National Park to Split Croatia
On day 2 embark on a day tour (or bus trip) to Plitvice Lakes National Park from Zagreb. Spend 4-6 hours here, and then proceed to Split. Book this transfer from Zagreb to Split, via Plitvice Lakes National Park
Day 3 – 5 Split Croatia
Spend the next 2 to 2.50 days in Split. Explore the stunning old town, relish their cuisine, soak in the sun at the beaches, and go on short cruises.
From Split, you can also explore many Croatian Islands like Hvar, Trogir, Krav National Park. They can be explored by keeping Split as a base and taking day tours.
Day 6 – 7 Dubrovnik Croatia
Head to Dubrovnik on day 6 (or evening of day 5, if you like. Buses take 4-6 hours, one way. We took a bus at 5:00 pm, and were in Dubrovnik by 9:30 pm).
Explore Dubrovnik for 2 days. Start in the old town, go on specialty tours like food or Game of Thrones tours, 3 Island Tour.
Day 8 – 9 Tirana, Albania
You can travel to Tirana from Dubrovnik via flight, drive or take an overnight bus. We booked an overnight bus to arrive in the morning in the city.
- Driving: If you are driving to Tirana, it will take about 5 hours. So half of day 8, will be driving
- Buses: Dubrovnik to Tirana bus is via Kotor (Montenegro) and it takes 8.75 hours. So you can either assign one day (8) if traveling during the day or opt for an overnight bus like us
- Flights: Flights will get you to Tirana in 5.50 hours, and costs about $350 USD+
We chose Tirana, because through this city, we were able to explore Kosovo and North Macedonia by road, mostly using day tours.
Let’s explore Tirana first
- We chose a day tour to explore the highlights of Tirana and the nearby town of Kruja in one day. Here is the tour we recommend
- In Tirana, explore the old town. Skanderbeg Square is the primary attraction in the city. And the Skanderbeg Monument dominates the square. You will also find tons of restaurants and stores located nearby.
- Et’hem Bey Mosque – This mosque was built in 1821 by Et’hem Bey in a typical Turkish style, and speaks volume of the clergy difficulties when freedom of religious expression was prohibited.
- Next, explore the King’s Palace and National Martyrs Boulevard.
- Tirana’s legacy with the Ottoman can be found only at the Clock Tower and Et’hem Bey Mosque, the rest of the remnants were destroyed by the Communist powers.
- Food Tour: If you love to try out the local cuisine, book this Albanian food tour that takes you to the New Bazaar lanes, and lets you relish the various delicacies. Book the tour here
Hotels in Tirana: As always we chose to stay near the city center, for close access to sightseeing. Hermes Tirana Hotel is a mid-range hotel, with nice clean rooms, perfect for a night’s stay. Click to book your stay here.
Day 10 Tirana to Skopje
Next day, start for Skopje, capital of North Macedonia. We booked a private transfer to get us there, but there are buses available as well.
- Driving: Driving time is 5.50 hours to Skopje.
- Buses: Buses take 5.50 to 6 hours to reach Skopje. They are a low cost option at $15 to $20 USD. There are overnight buses available as well, departing between 07:00 and 09:00 pm in the evening.
Car or bus, day 10, will be mostly spent on traveling. The second half of the day, settle into your hotel and head out for dinner and a stroll at the Old Bazaar.
Hotel in Skopje: Stay at the Hotel Mirror Petrovec, located near the airport.
Day 11 Skopje
We recommend taking a day tour to explore the city highlights in Skopje and learn about its history. You can embark on a walking tout yourself, but because you have a day only in the city, make the most of it by a tour.
Here is the tour we booked. This private tour takes you around city highlights in Skopje and also Matka Canyon nearby. Here is what you can expect in Skopje sightseeing
- Explore Old Town and modern architecture of Skopje – from old bazaar to monuments.
- Macedonia Square – This is the main square of Skopje, and is iconic to the city.
- Visit Matka Canyon, you can also book an optional boat tour here
- Vodno mountain – Enjoy the panoramic view on Skopje from the nearby Vodno mountain, via cable-car system to the Millennium Cross and back to middle Vodno.
- St Pantelejmon Church – Admire the stunning frescoes at St. Pantelejmon church
Day 12 Ohrid, North Macedonia
Day 12, embark on a day tour to Ohrid. Ohrid is a resort town in North Macedonia. Located on the shores of Lake Ohrid, it is a charming town with a walkable old town, medieval churches, monasteries and ruins.
- Drive: The drive from Skopje to Ohrid takes about 2 hours.
- Tour: Full day 8 tour. Click to view the tour. In this tour, all of the city highlights are covered.
Here is what is covered in this tour, (plus the sightseeing to do in Ohrid)
- St Sophia Church – Visit the church of St. Sophia, dating back to the 11th century.
- Roman amphitheater – The Ancient theatre of Ohrid of the Hellenistic period or the Roman amphitheater dates back to the 3rd century, and is known for the Hellenistic-type architecture
- Next is the Icon Gallery, which is home to a range of famous and valuable icons in the world.
- Church of St. Clement’s – This church dates back to the 13th century and is home to the most beautiful frescoes, renowned in the Balkans.
- Other attractions include – Tsar Samoil’s Fortress, Plaosnik, and the newly built St. Clement’s Monastery Church, Church of St. Jovan at Kaneo
- Spend time at the St. Jovan Church and admire stunning cliffs above the lake. You can hang out here or relax at the old town, before returning to Skopje
Day 13 Day tour to Prishtina, Kosovo
Day 13 is to explore Prishtina, the capital of Kosovo. Embark on another day tour. Public transportation is also an option, and it takes about 3 hours by bus. But instead of wasting the travel time, we found this day tour an ideal solution that combined the highlights of Prishtina and the nearby town of Prizren.
- Tour: Here is a tour we booked and we recommend.
- Drive: Distance between Pristina and Skopje is only 1.50 hours, one way. So totally doable by road as a day trip, if you are road tripping.
Here is what you can explore in Prishtina and Prizren in a day.
- Gračanica Monastery – The tour stops at the 14th-century Gračanica Monastery on the way to Prishtina. It is a Serbian Orthodox Church built on the ruins on a basilica.
- Pristina highlights – Discover the new Cathedral of Saint Mother Teresa, along with highlights such as the National Library and equestrian statue on Skanderbeg Square.
- Stroll the pedestrianized Nane Theresa and visit the Old Bazaar in Prishtina.
- Prizren – In Prizren, explore the Old Stone Bridge and medieval Church of St. George.
- Most notable attractions in Prizren are the 7th-century Sinan Pasha Mosque and Bajrakli Mosque.
- Go souvenir shopping and stop for meals at Shadervan Square.
The tour brings you back to Skopje in the evening.
Day 14 Fly to Zagreb
On day 14, fly to Zagreb from Skopje. We were able to book a ticket via Croatia Airlines for $100 CAD/85 USD, which was a good deal, and it saved us a lot of time.
In the afternoon, we explored Zagreb a bit. You can embark on an evening walking tour (this starts at 05:00 pm), or head to Zagreb 360 for dinner and drinks enjoying night lights!
Balkans Travel Itinerary 10 days | Highlights of Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Montenegro | Sample 3
We wanted to share a shortened version of Balkans’ travel itinerary 10 days. This is perfect if you are traveling from overseas, and your flying time/connectivity is crazy.
This 10-day Balkan itinerary will cover the capital city highlights, and it can be done via multiple day tours, instead of driving or using public transportation. This way you will save time, and explore 4 countries in the Balkans.
Day 1 Zagreb Croatia
Arrive in Zagreb and spend 2 nights here (read our guide to where to stay in Zagreb). On your first day, venture on a walking tour of the historic city centre and go on the shortest funicular ride. Click to view the tour.
Day 2 Ljubljana and Lake Bled Tour, Slovenia
The next day start from Zagreb to Lake Bled and Ljubljana in Slovenia. This is a day tour, so you don’t have to book a hotel in Slovenia. We had embarked on this tour, and stayed back in Slovenia (didn’t return to Zagreb). If you intend to do this, please check with the operator ahead of time. Book this tour here
Day 3 Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes National Park to Split Croatia
Plitvice Lakes National Park is a must-visit. It can be explored from Split or Zagreb. We are recommending the day tour we booked, which covered the national park as well as the nearby town of Rastoke. The tour is for 10 hours. Click to view this tour
For this itinerary, we recommend arranging for a visit to the National Park with a transfer to Split, that way you don’t have to return to Zagreb. Click to book this tour
By evening, you will be in Split.
Day 4 Split Croatia
Wake up in Split and spend an entire day in the city. You can also opt for a 2-hour walking tour of the old town.
We have written a detailed one-day itinerary for Split, you can also follow that if you do not wish to book a tour.
Day 5 Hvar town, Trogie, and 5 Islands Tour Croatia
Embark on an amazing day tour from Split. Explore more of Croatia – Hvar and old town, 5 Islands, Trogir, and tons of blue waves. It makes for a long day, but well worth it. And when a local guide takes you around, all you have to do it soak in those mesmerizing views!
Day 6 Mostar, Bosnia Herzegovina
Split to Mostar is about 2 hours by road. It makes it easy for a day trip from Split (than Dubrovnik). Mostar has a ton of things to do, however, for a quick 10 day trip to the Balkans, consider a day tour to Mostar from Split.
Day 7 – 8 Dubrovnik Croatia
On day 7 start for Dubrovnik from Split. Travel time is 5 – 6 hours with buses/ public transportation. Use the remainder of the day to hang out in the old town. Day 8 is all about exploring Dubrovnik intimately – take a walking tour, ride the funicular, walk the city walls, visit Buza bar, Rector’s Palace, Sponza Palace to name a few.
Day 9 Kotor Montenegro
Dubrovnik is a perfect base to explore Montenegro. Montenegro is a Balkan country, and its capital is Podgorica. From Dubrovnik, you can explore the popular Kotor Bay on a day trip.
Montenegro borders Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo, Albania, and Croatia. So this can be a great base to explore more of Balkans (for your future trips). You can actually see Montenegro from the Dubrovnik funicular. Head on a day tour (9 -10 hours) to Kotor and the tiny village of Perast.
For a day, book this day tour to explore Kotor and Perast.
Other popular places in Montenegro include Sveti Stefan and Budva. It is very rare to find a tour that combines Kotor and Budva, this is definitely on our list for next time!
If you are driving to Montenegro, many travelers love to visit Durmitor National Park in Montenegro. Known for its rugged beauty and natural-scape, visiting Durmitor is a good idea if you plan on staying overnight in Montenegro. Driving distance from Dubrovnik to Durmitor is about 3.50 hours away.
Day 10 Dubrovnik (or return to Zagreb)
Final day in Dubrovnik is perfect for another island tour. If you are flying out the next day (day 11), then most likely you will have to travel to Zagreb, and will have to skip sightseeing.
Booking a flight to reach Zagreb from Dubrovnik is a good idea, or you can opt for an overnight bus trip, as it takes about 7 – 8 hours to reach the capital city via public transportation.
Here are some options for day trips from Dubrovnik for your final day
So that’s a wrap! We hope you enjoyed our 2 week Balkan Itinerary. The Balkans are worth a visit in your lifetime. The history of the region is complex and would require a few trips to soak it in. However, if you are looking to explore capital cities and experience their cultural highlights, 10 to 14 days in the Balkans is good enough time to enjoy!
Balkans are super affordable in terms of hotels, and tours, and makes for a great holiday idea!
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