One of the best road trips I have done is across the Balkans in June 2009.
Here is the itinerary of our trip:
Ruse, Veliko Tarnovo, Shipka, Plovdiv, Sofia.
Kumanovo, Skopje, Prilep, Bitola, Resen, Ohrid.
Niki, Florina, Meteora, Kalambaka
Gjirokaster, Berat, Durres, Tirana, Kruje
Scepan Polje (rafting), Tara Canyon, Herceg Novi, Kotor
Sarajevo, Jablanica, Mostar, Trebinje, Bihac
Dubrovnik, Split, Trogir, Sibenik, Plitvice National Park
Hungary (not in the Balkans but had to drop off the car there):
Pecs, Lake Balaton, Budapest
How did we do it?
Back during my university days, I remember always checking the UNESCO World Heritage List to see spots we needed to visit. There was a lot of planning involved (to this very day with all the trips I do). One of the biggest hassles was finding a car rental company that would allow us to pick up the car in Romania and drop it off in Budapest.
Needless to say, we did a lot of driving. Some days we drove up to 8 hours – the only way we could have done the route we did in Bulgaria in one day. That meant short one hour stops in different towns.
We didn’t book any accommodation beforehand and alternated sleeping in the car and a random hotel we might come across as we are diving on another. I do not know how my dad managed our crazy student/budget way of traveling.
We saw many different landscapes in the 9 days: mountains, lakes, canyons, rivers, rias, islands, etc. We saw and visited castles, churches, cathedrals, mosques, palaces, coastal towns, capital cities and more during this trip too.
Something interesting we managed to do on this trip was having 3 meals in 3 different countries in a day:
Breakfast in Bulgaria (Sofia), Lunch in Macedonia (Skopje), Dinner in Greece (Niki).
Some highlights for me personally:
1) Plitvice National Parks in Croatia (my second visit)
2) Kotor in Montenegro. (Kotor Bay is the deepest natural fjord-like bay in the Mediterranean Sea)
3) Suddenly finding ourselves in Greece TWICE! The second time was particularly special as we entered Meteora from the north (we drove up to Meteora from the south 2 summers before that – a very special place for me)
4) Going back to Mostar in Bosnia a second time (I am in love with Mostar)
The year before (2008), my friends and I took a train from Krakow to Budapest. From there we did a road trip covering Hungary, Slovenia, (crossed into Trieste in Italy for a gelato) Croatia and Bosnia. We planned to go to Belgrade but alas as the passport I sent to the Serbian Embassy in London never arrived, till today, Serbia is a country I have yet to visit.
Have you been to the Balkans? Any places we missed you’d recommend I check out in the future?