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Balkan Holiday

Croatia has been a popular holiday destination for a while now, but slowly the interest has been rising for the countries in the south as well. More and more people find their way to Montenegro and Albania.

It’s just something about this wonderful mix of history, delicious food and drink, beautiful scenery and a tempting sea.

Montenegro

Let's look at this little mountainous country first. Montenegro has a beautiful and popular coast, which rests at the base of the steep mountains behind. It is mainly the coast tourists aim for when visiting this region. In addition, Montenegro has what is known as Europe's southernmost fjord ‘the bay of Kotor’. Here you can find cosy quiet little places, where life goes on as it always has and you can stroll down to the sea to take a morning bath in peace and quiet. If you want a busier vibe, you can head for the popular ‘Budva Riviera’ with its beautiful sandy beaches.

Porto Montenegro offers the jet-set a port hosting one impressive yacht after the other, while the richest can hide away on the small island of Sveti Stefan.

Sveti Stefan: A haven for the rich.

Kotor city is UNESCO listed and famous for its beautiful old town with Venetian architecture, well protected by the steep mountains behind. In the high season it can be cramped in the narrow streets, when the cruise ships line up in the bay. We didn’t have our best experience of food in Kotor, but we were happy to stay nearby, so we could experience the old town when ‘everyone’ had returned to their cruise ships and neighbouring cities. Read our article about Kotor here.

It's oh so quiet ...

Podgorica is Montenegro's capital, but does not have a big city feel. The town has an interesting but small centre you can stroll around, before sitting in a nice cafe or restaurant to eat. We visited the city on a Sunday and the atmosphere was pretty relaxed.

Browsing at a market in Podgorica.

In this little country you’re really close to everything if you are in Podgorica. Located between the mountains and sea, not forgetting the beautiful ‘Skadar Lake’, a mecca for birdwatchers, it really doesn’t take long to get anywhere.

In Durmitor National Park, the ‘Tara Gorge’ is the second longest ravine in the world after the Grand Canyon. The canyon is, of course, on UNESCO's list and in some places the mountains cling together so that it becomes really narrow and dramatic. For those not content with admiring the view and taking pictures, there are possibilities for rafting and zip line here.

In the same national park you will find ‘Crno jezero or ‘Black Lake’, just outside the small sleepy town of Zabljak. It’s a popular tourist destination and many make it a day trip from the Kotor area.

We skipped the lake and just relaxed in Zabljak itself. While we studied the menu at Papagaj, a cow suddenly walked by in the street outside. We were not the only ones raising our eye brows, when we realized that you are still allowed to smoke inside at the restaurants here. Being from Northern Europe, this was strange.

At the time, the TV series Twin Peaks came to my mind. A sleepy little village in the mountains, surrounded by forest, where every home seemed to prepare for cold winters by storing huge piles of logs. Luckily, little dancing men and elderly ladies carrying their logs were not in sight.

Not so bad for being cursed ...

Albania

This unpolished gem, which for many years was a closed communist regime, has so much potential today! Beautiful sandy beaches, historic buildings and dramatic mountains are just some of what Albania has to offer.

The ‘cursed mountains’, Albania's Alps, rise in the north and can bring a tear to your eye with their impressive nature. If you have a four-wheel drive vehicle, you can make it all the way to Theth, where blood feuds have been set aside to receive the increasing tourism to this wonderful secret, far into the Albanian mountains. Don’t worry, the people here are warm and welcoming. Hike around and take a refreshing dip in the ‘Blue Eye’ lagoon, surrounded by these cursed mountains.

Tirana is not known as a beautiful capital, but yet can still charm the visitor. When today’s president was the mayor of the city, he had several of the buildings painted in multi-colours to brighten up the old communist blocks. The city has many parks and in the district of Blloku the cafe density is great.

In our article about Tirana, you can read about our visit to Bunker Art, one of the many ‘mushrooms’ in concrete that are scattered throughout the country.

You will find impressive gorges in Albania too, ‘Osumi Gorge’ being one of them. The river with the same name carves its way through the landscape, passing the town of Berat. UNESCO has put the ‘white city’ on its list because of the Ottoman architecture that is so well preserved here. Berat is also called ‘the city of a thousand windows’.

Albania's coastline offers beautiful beaches, especially in the south. It is also further south, you will find it more developed for mass tourism. This may be due to it’s proximity to Greek Corfu, where a ferry has transported tourists between the two countries for some time now.

Driving south to Sarandë from Vlore, you find the beautiful ‘Llogara Pass’. The road winds itself through the woods, where there are plenty of great hiking opportunities and at the top you’re rewarded with a great view over the Ionian Sea.

Created By
Jeanette Hanvik
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