Topping most travel lists is an island-hopping escapade through Croatia and Montenegro, as both countries offer a slew of stunning coastlines and Old World charm where cobblestoned streets and castles prove common. But unbeknownst to most, these countries are just the outset of exploration into the Balkans region, home to a number of culturally vibrant and naturally impressive countries where you won’t run into troves of tourists: You can dine alfresco at family-run, waterfront restaurants, and you don’t have to dodge selfie sticks while enjoying castle-top views. Here, discover six destinations in the Balkans you need to visit now.
Locals stroll along a cobblestoned walkway, canoes drift in the lake’s oscillating waters, and a choir practices on the Church of St. Sophia steps as dusk begins to set: Welcome to Ohrid, Macedonia, an utterly perfect town full of Old World charm, set on the banks of brilliant Lake Ohrid. This UNESCO World Heritage Site sits at the intersection of three national parks, attracting hikers, bikers, and climbers to town, as well as those in search of a holiday, and it’s also the perfect place to enjoy Macedonia’s flourishing wine harvest. Stay in one of Ohrid’s many lakefront properties like Hotel Tino
, or opt inland at Villa St. Sophia
or Vila Mal Sveti Kliment
. Wander Ohrid’s old town: Pass homes decorated with bougainvillea, flower pots, and ivy until you reach Kaneo Beach, home to family-run Restaurant Kaj Kanevche
. End the night at Jazz Inn
, a dive-bar-meets-live-music venue where locals convene. Visit Ohrid’s most photographed landmark, Church of St. John at Kaneo, and view the city from atop Samuel’s Fortress. For scenic views, take a drive through National Park Galičica to neighboring Lake Prespa, and enjoy an evening boat cruise to Restaurant Ostrovo
set near the Black Drim River and the Monastery of Saint Naum.
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