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8 Epic Balkan Road Trips for your Bucket List

Thinking of traveling the Balkans? Look no further. Check out this selection of the best road trips in the Balkans (with itineraries and tips).

The Balkans are such an underrated and diverse region, that many visitors often forget of when they plan their Europe road trips. And they shouldn’t! The region of the Balkans countries offers a mix of beautiful natural landscapes, buzzing cities, charming old towns and incredible beaches and islands.

Of course, these road trips are best completed by car, but if for any reasons you can’t or don’t want to drive, some of them would be possible by rail, maybe by buying a rail pass. Of course you’d have to tweak your itinerary a little, but this list can still be useful for finding inspiration.

When it comes to renting a car in the Balkans, some people worry it might be difficult, but it’s really not. I’ve personally rented a car in the Balkans without any issues multiple times. Also, driving in the Balkans is actually way less scary than you might think – I found the roads to be in pretty good conditions. Travelling in the Balkans can sometimes feel a bit frustrating as everything happens at a slower pace, but it’s totally worth it.

To avoid problems and scams, though, I usually rent cars in advance by using Discover Cars, a site that compares rentals from all the major companies to find the best deal. ➥ YOU CAN COMPARE PRICES HERE

I’ve asked a few fellow bloggers to help me create a list of the best Balkan road trips. This result is an incredible series of road trip itineraries for all tastes. No matter if you prefer the beach, mountains, castles or historical sites, you’ll find a bit of everything.

These road trips are mostly to be done in around one week, but they go from 3 days to 3 weeks in length, so I’m sure you’ll find something that fits just right for you. Check them out!

An Epic Balkans Road Trip: From Sarajevo to Istanbul

The Balkans offer a little bit for everybody. It would honestly take months to see all of it, but who has months? This 3-weeks Balkans road trip from Sarajevo to Istanbul will bring you through many of the best places to visit in the Balkans, minus the beaches (so it doesn’t necessarily have to be done during the summer).

Highlights of the trip:
• Learn about the tragic history of Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina.
• Visit the walled towns around Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina.
• Fall in love with the charming old town in Prizren, Kosovo.
• Enjoy the lovely city of Plovdiv, Bulgaria.
• Visit the Blue Mosque and shop at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul.

Start your Balkan roadtrip in Sarajevo, a really charming city where looking towards a bright future is mixed with the very-much-present memories of its tragic past and the war. You can’t leave Sarajevo without visiting the Tunnel of Hope and the Gallery 11/07/95 – Srebrenica exhibition to learn more about Sarajevo’s history. Other things to do include having a traditional Bosnian coffee in the Bascarsija Old Town, and go for a night out at Kino Bosna.

Your second destination is Mostar, famous for the Mostar Bridge. Wander around the Old Town and then drive to a few charming walled towns around the city. When driving from Sarajevo to Mostar, stop in Konjic and visit the once-secret underground bunker of Marshal Tito.

Head to Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, a buzzing city where you’ll find a mix of design eateries, street art, traditional restaurants and beautiful churches.

From here, head to Kosovo. Pristina doesn’t have too much to offer to visitors (although spending one day here to go chase waterfalls is worth it), but Prizren, the second city, does. This city is very pleasant and walkable with its cobblestone streets; it features UNESCO World Heritage Sites and a great documentary festival if you visit in August.

Skopje, the capital of North Macedonia, is next on the itinerary. This is a quirky/weird city full of statues everywhere, and it’s fun to just wander around. Make sure to also visit the Old Bazaar and climb up the Kale Fortress.

Next, head to Sofia, Bulgaria – one day will be enough to check out the city center and visit St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, one of the largest Eastern Orthodox cathedrals in the world. 

The Bulgarian city of Plovdiv, the next destination, for me is more interesting and should be on your itinerary. It was the 2019 European Capital of Culture, and here you’ll find a mix of old and new and plenty of things to do in Plovdiv. Think like colorful buildings, hipster cafes and eateries, historical sites, and even a beautiful wine estate not too far away.

From here, depending how much time you still have, you can head straight to Istanbul or make a little detour to the Black Sea. You can party it up in Sunny Beach or just relax and soak up the sun in Sozopol.

What better end to your big Balkan road trip than the city of Istanbul? Spend a few days in  the Turkish capital. There are tons of things to explore here, but definitely don’t miss the Blue Mosque and the Grand Bazaar. Check out Taksim Square and the bridge on the Bosphorus, and for something different go cycle around in Princes’ Island.

READ ALSO: The Ultimate Balkans Road Trip Itinerary

Recommended length: 3 weeks. You could do it in less time by cutting a few destinations, but 3 weeks is the time I recommend to truly enjoy this road trip through the Balkan peninsula.

Montenegro Road Trip

by Cassie, Cassie The Hag

Montenegro, a country of sweeping nature, coastal roads and historical towns, is a wonderful choice for a road trip. I recommend picking up a car from Podgorica (the capital) and travelling to Lake Skadar, Durmitor National Park, Mount Lovcen and Kotor.

This Balkan trip would be perfect if you are looking for a one-week itinerary. If you are visiting in Summer, you may prefer a coastal roadtrip from Kotor towards Ulcinj. 

Highlights of the trip:
• Gaze over the Bend Lake viewpoint at Lake Skadar.
• Visit Europe’s deepest canyon in Durmitor National Park.
• Hike to the top of St John’s Fortress in Kotor.
• Drive the insane Kotor to Lovcen pass with 25 hairpin bends.

Start your road trip in Lake Skadar. Here I recommend checking out the Virpazar and Pavlona Strana lookout points. The latter is famous for the ‘Bend Lake viewpoint’, one of the most photogenic spots in Montenegro.

Durmitor National Park is the must-see for any nature lovers, home to 18 glacial lakes, 48 peaks over 2000 foot high and five canyons. The most famous is Tara Canyon, which is actually the deepest canyon in Europe. You can take a raft along the river below or a high-speed zipline across it from above. 

Kotor, a charming historical town overlooking the Bay of Kotor is perhaps Montenegro’s most well-known hot spot. Driving around the bay itself is a treat, but after this, you can also explore the fortified old town on foot. The best view is from St John’s Fortress and the city walls – as long as you don’t mind the 1400 steps!

Finally, the most unmissable road in Montenegro is the Kotor to Lovcen pass, which boasts an impressive (and jawdropping) 25 hairpin bends. 

Recommended length: one week.

Athens Loop Road Trip, Greece

by Whitney, Designs For Travel

Greece is not just islands and beautiful beaches, and you don’have to get out of the mainland to be able to visit some incredible places. Check out this ultimate one-week Balkan road trip through the Peloponnesian area of Greece. 

Highlights of the trip:
• Visit the Acropolis and Parthenon in Athens.
• Check out the Temple of Apollo in Delphi.
• Explore Olympia, home to the original ancient Olympic games.
• Relax at the beach in Nafplion.
• Visit the beutiful Hydra Island.

On this Greece Itinerary, you’ll start in Athens, the capital city of this incredible country and home to some of the best historic sites in Europe, including the Acropolis and Parthenon, as well as the Acropolis Museum. 

Rent a car here then take a slight detour to the ancient site of Delphi. Once an Oracle, this 4th century BC site is home to the Temple of Apollo. 

The next stop is Olympia, where the original Olympic games were held in 8th century BC.  You won’t want to miss running on the original Olympic track!

Your next destination will be the beautiful sea town of Nafplion. This is the perfect home base for a few days- go out and see top sites for half of the day, then spend the rest of the day lounging at the beach and strolling through the quaint old town. 

The top outings from Nafplion are the ancient city of Corinth, the Ancient Theatre of the Asklepieion at Epidaurus, and the must-see island of Hydra.  Back in Nafplion, climb the 999 steps (or drive) to Palmidi Castle for one of the best views ever!  At sunset, stroll the popular 1 km “Arvanitia Promenade,” then choose from one of the many tavernas to have a typical Greek dinner. 

Recommended length: one week.

Transylvania Road Trip, Romania

If Croatia and Montenegro are known for their beaches, and Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina are known for their tragic history, Romania is mostly known for its castles. And while Romania has many regions that are worth a visit, most people head to Transylvania, a region mostly known for Dracula and vampires. Transylvania is a real gem. Not only it does, in fact, offer fairy tale castles and legends, but also beautiful natural landscapes -there are so many things to do in Transylvania!

Highlights of the trip:
• Visit Peles and Bran Castles (straight out of a fairy tale).
• Check out the picture-perfect main square of Brasov.
• Wander around the fortified citadel of Sibiu.
• Be charmed by the narrow streets of Sighisoara, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
• Get into the art and food scene in Bucharest.

On this trip, you’ll start by visiting Bucharest, which if often (wrongly overlooked). You’ll discover that Bucharest offers a vibrant art scene, hipster restaurants, and some incredible thermae. Plus, it offers a pretty great nightlife. You’ve got quite a few reasons to visit Bucharest!

Next day, it’s Transylvania time! Head to Peles Castle, which has nothing to envy to Germany’s fairytale castles, and to Bran castle, where the fable of Count Dracula first started.

The next day, explore Brasov. This city is a mix of old and modern, and it’s a good place to learn more about Romanian food and the Communist history of Romania. Plus, its medieval historic center (and the Piata Sfatului, Council Square) are so picture perfect!

On day 4, head to Sibiu – personally my favorite place in Transylvania. Spend one day and a half just taking it slowly, and wander around the cobbled streets of this town,  which is one of the seven fortified citadels constructed in the Medieval Ages by the Transylvanian Saxon. Sibiu also offers tons of romantic cafes and restaurants, and food and music festivals if you visit during the summer.

On day 6, take a day trip to Sighisoara, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s one of Europe’s most beautiful medieval cities, and it’s a joy to visit it on foot. Finish your trip once again in Bucharest.

Recommended length: one week (or more).

READ ALSO: 22 Epic Road Trips in Europe to Take this Summer

Lakes and Mountains of Slovenia Road Trip

by Claire, ZigZag On Earth

Slovenia is a great place to enjoy a road trip, especially around the mountains of the Triglav National park (reaching up to 2864m). At every turn in the road, you are rewarded with splendid views.

Highlights of the trip:
• Walk along the Vintgar Gorge at Lake Bled.
• Hike to Savica Waterfall near Lake Bohinj.
• Drive up to the Vršič pass for some incredible views over the Alps.
• Check out the emerald color of the Soca River.

You can start and finish your Slovenia itinerary in Ljubljana by doing a loop which includes the following spots and attractions.

Check out the famous Lake Bled, its castle and its island. My favorite attraction here is the Vintgar gorge that you can explore thanks to a wooden platform that was built above the turquoise green river. Bled is famous for its cream cake as well, so don’t miss it.

If you prefer to get away from the crowds, head to the wilder Lake Bohinj with its cable car and the hike to the Savica waterfall (once again the color of the water will mesmerize you!).

Drive up to the Vršič pass, the highest mountain pass in the Eastern Julian Alps, and stop at Lake Jasna. On a clear day the green color sparkles under the impressive peaks. Then, the drive is downhill with 50 sharp bends to reach the Soca Valley where the river color is emerald!

On your way back via the South part of the National park, don’t miss the walking loop in the impressive Tolmin Gorge.

Recommended length: I recommend planning 5 to 7 days to enjoy the area and do a little bit of walking or hiking.

➤ You’ve got more time? You can also try glamping in Slovenia and explore Bela Krajina, an undiscovered region in the heart of Slovenia.

A West Balkans Road Trip Down the Adriatic Coast

by Arabela, The Spicy Travel Girl

If you want to witness stunning natural beauty and at the same time experience a frequently overlooked part of Europe, a best of the Balkans road trip down the Adriatic Coast might be perfect for you.

The challenging drives along curvy seaside roads, up steep and narrow mountain passes, and through chaotic cities may be a true test to your driving skills. However, the views you’ll be rewarded with on this tour of the Balkans are definitely worth the struggle!

Highlights of the trip:
• Get your fill of alps and lakes in Slovenia.
• Soak up some sun in the beautiful islands of Croatia.
• Admiring the impressive Bay of Kotor in Montenegro.
• Get off the beaten path in Albania.
• Visit the beautiful Mostar Bridge in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

For an optimal degree of natural and cultural diversity, start your Balkan tour in Slovenia and drive down the coast all the way to Greece. Then, return over a slightly more inland route through Eastern Montenegro, Mostar, and Ljubljana. This way, you’ll pass through at least six different countries!

Some of the things you’ll get to see and do while you roadtrip the Balkans along the Adriatic Coast include:

  • Taking a breath in the refreshing climate of the Slovenian Alps, visiting Lake Bled, and getting up close to the famous horses of Lipica.
  • Pushing your way to through the crowds in Croatia to be rewarded with a calm crystal-clear sea, beautiful islands, and a panoramic view of the most adorable towns.
  • Admiring the impressive Bay of Kotor, then driving up the mountains to experience great Montenegrin hospitality.
  • Learning about one of Europe’s most unique histories, languages, and cultures in Albania.
  • Experiencing a beautiful and diverse side of Greece that you won’t find on the cover of a luxury travel magazine.
  • Visiting the stunning Bridge of Mostar and shopping in Bosnia’s bustling bazaars.

Recommended length: This road trip is perfect in summer and should ideally last at least three weeks, although you could transform it into a 2 weeks in the Balkans road trip by cutting a few destinations. In any case, the region is absolutely stunning at all times and always worth a visit.

South Albania Road Trip

by Ann, The Road is Life

The south of Albania is the perfect destination for an off the beaten path road trip in Europe. If you’re looking for beautiful landscapes and stunning beaches that aren’t crowded and delicious food at affordable prices, look no further! Albania is also full of incredible history including many UNESCO sites and old towns to explore.

Highlights of the trip:
• Be amazed at the color of the water in Ksamil Beach.
• Wander around the ancient village of Gjirokaster.
• Explore the amazing UNESCO heritage town of Berat

Highlights of the trip:

This road trip starts in the port town of Saranda, passes through some of the best highlights of southern Albania and then finishes up back in Saranda. This is what you’ll get to experience if you decide to go on this road trip:

  • Swim in the turquoise waters at the beach town of Ksamil, it has some of the most beautiful white sand beaches in all of Europe with some of the least amount of crowds! 
  • Taste the delicious and fresh seafood at one of the many beach bars that line Ksamil beach.
  • Wander the streets of the ancient village of Gjirokaster which is like a time capsule with its traditional buildings and hilltop fortress that overlooks the valley and mountains that surround it.
  • Take a step back in time as you explore the amazing UNESCO heritage town of Berat, where you’ll find a charming town with picturesque stone houses on the steep hillsides.
  • Enjoy the breathtaking landscape views as you drive along the winding roads that weave through the mountains.

Recommended length: the perfect amount of time you should allow to complete this road trip is at least one week with the potential to extend the trip if you wish to.

Road Trip through the Croatia Dalmatian Coast

by Noel, Travel Photo Discovery

A fantastic road trip to experience would be to travel around the entire Dalmatian coastline from South to North or the other way around.

Highlights of the trip:
• Walk along the medieval city walls in Dubrovnik.
• Drive the coastal highway D8 through the Dalmatian coastline.
• Visit Diocletian Palace in Split.
• Explore the islands of Hvar, Brac and Solta.
• Wander around Zadar’s old town.

If you decide to start south from the tourist city of Dubrovnik ,you can easily follow the coastal highway D8 through the gorgeous Dalmatian coastline and pass through little villages like Zaton, Orasac, Tresteno, the Port of Ploce. Continue by visiting the historic city of Split with its famous Roman ruins of the Diocletian Palace and the historic city center.

It’s worth to spend a few days in Split to and explore the town and fabulous harbor and beach areas. From Split, you can also go on a nice island tour of Hvar, Brac and Solta, which are just a short boat ride away.

Continue your road trip by stopping at other historic places of interest like Trogir, Primosten and then finish in the other beautiful city of Zadar. You’ll love this drive through the various coastal communities and getting to stop anywhere for fabulous views, a delicious seafood restaurant meal or just meandering through this unique and charming villages.

For more inspiration, check out this post on the best of the Dalmatian coast vacations here – it’ll help you plan a visit through the area.

Hopefully you’ll be inspired by this list of the best road trips in the Balkans. This area of Europe is so underrated, and the perfect region to go on one (or two, or three) road trip this summer and explore all the Balkan highlights. Have you packed your bags yet?


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  • Stefania Guglielmi

    Stefania Guglielmi is the founder of Every Steph. Originally from Bologna, Italy, she's been traveling full-time since 2016 and has visited over 50 countries across 6 continents. She believes sustainable travel and luxury travel can go hand in hand and has been advocating for responsible tourism since 2014. Stefania's advice and travel experiences have been featured in important publications such as Business Insider, Refinery29, and Yahoo Money.