The beauty of the Balkans

2015-12-10 15:30 - Gabriella Rego
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If “the Balkans” sounds new to you, let’s take a step back and put everything into context. You may be surprised to realise just how much you might already know about the countries that fall within the Balkan region.

Located in Southeast Europe, the Balkans are generally considered to include, in whole or in part, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, the Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia, Romania, and the European part of Turkey.

The area is connected to many coastlines: it meets the Adriatic Sea on the northwest, Ionian Sea on the southwest, the Mediterranean and Aegean Sea on the south and southeast, and the Black Sea on the east and northeast.

Of the countries that fall within the Balkan region, Croatia, Greece and Turkey seem to be the most popular as a holiday destination for South Africans. That said, it is interesting to note that when South Africans plan a holiday to these areas, they tend to spend their entire trip in ONE of the countries.

While that is perfect if you’re looking to relax to the max and not keen to venture around to a new site every few days, the fact that these countries are so close to each other makes it ideal to add a few into one trip.

If this sounds like your kind of holiday, the best option would be to head off on a pre-set tour. There are many travel operators who have a variety of options to make the most out of your Balkan quest. For the young traveller, a Contiki is a winner.

Their pre-set itineraries and adventures make it incredibly easy to explore the Balkan region. Are you keen to spend a good 1to 5 days hopping between Dubrovnik (yes, Game of Thrones fans, this is for you), Budva, Sarajevo, Budapest, Split and many other areas in the region?

Maybe your travel time is limited, in which case, a four-day mini Balkan adventure will suit you best. A bonus is that with a Contiki, you’ll have access to their local experts and Contiki guides on every tour – ain’t no better way to get to know a country than this, especially if it’s your first time visiting.

If sand and sea is your thing, sailing is another beautiful way to see the Balkans.

Take in some of the stunning coastlines of Croatia and Turkey, and experience possibly the best seafood you will ever taste IN YOUR LIFE.

For those looking for a bit more entertainment, you may want to get those glow sticks and tank tops ready and start planning a trip to Croatia for Ultra Europe – one of the biggest Electronic Dance Music festivals in the world. This usually takes place in July every year, with over 150 acts, and a yacht regatta (which heads out to Bol, one of the most heavenly beaches in all of the Adriatic sea) for another massive jol.

If that doesn’t get your blood pumping, the fact that Ultra also hosts a 5 000 people-strong beach party on the island of Hvar (also in Croatia) might be the tipping point to get you to book.

If you have no clue on where to start in planning an Ultra trip, travel operators like Busabout have packages which cover all of the logistics for you. Less time stressing about how to get from SA to Croatia and everything in between, means more time working on those biceps to display at Ultra. Suns out, ‘guns’ out!

If you’re the kind of traveller who enjoys casual paced exploration, here are a few more places that are definitely worth visiting on your next trip to the Balkans:

•Old City in Dubrovnik (Croatia) where part of Game of Thrones is filmed. This is really such a cool place to chill out, walk around, party hard (if you want to), and just enjoy life.

•The Sea Organ at Zadar in Croatia where the waves go through organ pipes underneath the pier, creating an eerie but cool harmony. (This puts a whole new spin on the “ear to a seashell to hear the sounds of the ocean” shebang, right?)

LISTEN: This Sea Organ uses the waves of the ocean to make incredible music

•The Island of Pag is just off of the mainland of Croatia and caters for all kinds of holiday activities, be it nightlife or beach-relaxing

•Greece. There’s not much more we can tell you about Greece to what you may already know, other than you NEED TO GO. The picturesque islands, the Greek food, and more islands. What’s not to love?

ALSO SEE: A foodie tour through Athens: Why it's a great time to visit Greece 

The Balkans really have so much to offer no matter your travel style or holiday preference; it’s just a matter of picking what most tickles your fancy, and booking that trip to one of the most adventurous and beautiful places on earth.

(Photo credit - Busabout)

(Photo credit - Contiki)

(Photo credit - Busabout)

(Photo credit - Busabout)

(Photo credit - Busabout)