X and I went on a 25-day trip to the Balkans from 30 September to 20 October 2016. The Balkans is a peninsula in Eastern and Southeastern Europe with various and disputed borders. As the borders are not official, the number of countries in the Balkans range from 10 to 13 - some countries do not want to consider themselves as part of the Balkans (for reasons that are too complicated to explain here). Also, some of the countries are only partially within the Balkans because of their geographical location. Anyway, we went to 5 different countries during our 25-day trip - Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Slovenia and Serbia. During our days in Bosnia and Herzegovina, most of Croatia and in Montenegro, we were joined by 2 friends.
Note: I will update this post with links to the individual posts as I blog the travelogues, so check back here often or sign up for the blog's newsletter so you won't miss future travelogues!
Update 18 May 2017: I've included our total expenditure for our 25-day Balkans trip at the end of the post, check it out if you are curious!
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Day 1 and Day 2: Our first stop, together with our friends, was Sarajevo, a beautiful yet bittersweet city - I could dwell for a long time on the history but I'll save that for the actual travelogue.
Blog post: 15 Things to Do in Sarajevo
Day 3 and Day 4: We took a bus and head to Mostar, a small city straddling the Neretva River with a unique old bridge - Stari Most. We also head out of Mostar the next day for a day trip to visit Kravice waterfalls.
Blog post: 8 Things to Do in Mostar
Day 5: We hired a private driver to Dubrovnik as the cost of sharing a private ride is about the same as the cost of buying four bus tickets, around €70. After reaching Dubrovnik and checking in to our AirBnb, we spent the rest of the day exploring the old town, hiking the city walls and enjoying the sunset.
Day 6: We rented a car and drove to Kotor for a day trip. As there were 4 of us, it was more economical to rent a car than to take the bus or a taxi. There, we hiked more - climbing up the Fortifications of Kotor, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and were rewarded with a stunning view of Kotor. With the help of BonAppetour, we had dinner at one of the most beautiful dinner settings imaginable - and of course with tons of delicious food (and wine)!
Day 7: We were back at Dubrovnik and the clouds decided to cry that day. We headed to St. Lawrence Fortress for a slight exploration decided to just have a long lunch as there wasn't much left for us to do. We then went back to our AirBnb, collected our stuff and took the ferry to Hvar.
Day 8 and Day 9: The rain persisted on our first day in Hvar so we chose to laze around in our accommodation a bit longer than usual. We hung out in the old town in the light drizzle but thankfully the rain stopped in the late afternoon and we were finally greeted by the sun! The next day we took a boat tour out of Hvar to visit 3 caves - Green Cave, Blue Cave, Monk Seal Cave. After returning back from the boat tour, we rushed to pick up our luggage to catch the ferry to Split.
Blog post: 9 Things to Do in Hvar
Day 10: Split is a nice, little town that was bustling with life when we were there. We strolled around the old town, climbed 250 steps up for a panoramic view of Split and ended the day with a beautiful sunset along the coast.
Blog post: A Day in Split
Day 11: We collected our rental car after breakfast, bade farewell to our two friends and headed off to Krka National Park, famed for its series of seven waterfalls. We took the easy 2-kilometre hike which was supposed to last only one hour, but we ended up spending 3 hours there! After our hike, we drove to Zadar, where we would be spending the night. We rushed to the Sea Organ, an architectural object which plays music by way of sea waves and tubes located underneath a set of marble steps, and were just in time to catch another stunning sunset (see a snippet here).
Day 12 and Day 13: We left early at 7 in the morning towards Plitvice Lakes National Park where we met up with our two friends again. The weather was unfortunately rainy and cloudy/misty/foggy - the visibility was so bad that we couldn't even see the trees outside our accommodation. Hence we decided to postpone our trip to Plitivice Lakes to the next day, hoping the weather would be better. Thankfully there was a supermarket near our accommodation where we shopped for some groceries to cook dinner.
Fortunately, the weather cleared up and we headed to Plitvice Lakes National Park as soon and as early as we could because we only had half a day to visit the place! Plitvice Lakes National Park is famous for the chain of 16 terraced lakes that are joined by waterfalls, which is extended into a limestone canyon. There are numerous hikes available and we hiked there for about 4 hours before heading back to our accommodation to check out. We said goodbye to our friends again, as they were headed to Zagreb while we were heading to Pula, a seafront city, for the night.
Day 14: We drove across border to Slovenia to Sečovlje Salina Nature Park in Piran, an active saltwork with salt-pans more than 700 years old. We learned the tedious art of salt-making there and I got myself some fleur de sel as souvenir and as gifts. We then drove into Piran, a small, coastal medieval town. We explored the town a little and stayed there for the night.
Day 15: In the morning, we drove to Škocjan Caves, a massive underground canyon, for a guided tour. After which we head to Postojna Cave, a 24,120-metre long cave system, the second-longest cave system in Slovenia. Both caves are incredibly stunning and incredibly beautiful - you will have to be patient and wait for their individual post, oops! We stopped by Predjama Castle (didn't go in though) before heading off to our accommodation.
Day 16: We had gloomy and wet weather for the past few days so we were extremely thankful when the skies cleared today! Early in the morning we drove to Tolmin Gorges for a 3-hour hike. After the hike, we drove towards our accommodation for the night, stopping along the way at a few viewpoints along the Soča River and a short hike to Boka Waterfall.
Day 17: We checked out of our accommodation and went for a morning hike to the source of Soča River, which was a pretty challenging (and adrenaline-rushing) hike for me (see a snippet of the hike here!) We continued towards Lake Bled, but not before stopping at Vintgar Gorge, a 1.6-kilometre gorge carved by the Radovna River, for a 2-hour hike.
Day 18: We were blessed with a nice weather for the day as we strolled around Lake Bled before hiking up to Bled Castle, the oldest Slovenian medieval castle.
Day 19: The day was spent at Lake Bohinj, only about 30-minute drive away from Lake Bled. The weather was a huge contrast to the previous day - gloomy and drizzling non-stop - so the photos didn't manage to turn out as well 🙁 We returned to Lake Bled at the end of the day for a good night's rest.
Day 20: We continued on our journey to Logarska Dolina, a valley in the Kamnik Alps in Slovenia. After booking our apartment from the tourism office, we drove around the 24.75 square kilometres big landscape park and hiked up to a small waterfall in the rain.
Day 21: We woke up and were surprised to see that it's snowing outside (which also meant it's super cold)! After checking out, we drove to Ljubljana to return our rental car then spent the rest of the day exploring the city.
Day 22: We took a morning train to Zagreb, left our luggage in the lockers at the train station, and head off for a day of exploration in the city. At night, we collected our luggage and took the overnight train to Belgrade.
Day 23: We arrived at Belgrade at dawn, and as it wasn't time to collect our rental car yet, we left our luggage in the lockers at the bus station that is located next to the train station. We walked through Belgrade for a few hours, had an early lunch and caught a taxi back to collect our luggage and to the car rental office. After collecting the car, we drove for 4 hours to Tara National Park, stopping by at Kućica Na Drini along the way, a solitary house on the Drina River in Serbia.
Day 24: We woke up for a 2-hour hike to Banjska stena viewpoint in Tara National Park, and were rewarded with a incredibly stunning panorama of Drina river canyon and Perucac Lake. We then head off to take a train, Šargan Eight, a narrow-gauge heritage railway running from Mokra Gora village to Šargan Vitasi station. Back at our accommodation, we were treated to a night sky full of stars - definitely the best way to end the trip!
Day 25: We left Tara National Park and drove back to the airport - it's time to go home!
Just in case you are curious, we spent a total of approximately €2,876, excluding airfare for 2 people. The amount is approximate as during some parts of our trip we were with our friends so we tend to offset some costs here and there.