Why the Balkans should be your next travel destination (Croatia - Greece):

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Why the Balkans should be your next travel destination:

When you think of a trip to Europe, what countries come to mind? If you forgot that countries like Bosnia, Macedonia, and Montenegro existed for a minute, then you need to join us on our trip through the Balkans this summer! From Croatia to Greece, the Balkans are an incredible blend of Central, Southern, and Eastern European cultures. Though the nations may be small, they’re all culturally rich and distinct in their beauty. Break out from the Western Europe mold and experience life from the Eastern side of the continent-- you won’t be disappointed!

Croatia: Dubrovnik is one of those towns that never loses its charm-- between the Old Town’s marble streets, baroque architecture, and white stone walls, you’ll never tire of walking around the city. Get to know Dubrovnik’s storied past by wandering through the multitude of museums, take a cable car up to Mt Srđ for stunning views of the city, and get lost roaming the narrow streets that are full of local color. Once you’ve exhausted yourself, take a dip in the shimmering Adriatic sea to relax.

Bosnia: The Stari Most -- or Old Bridge -- of Mostar, Bosnia is a world-famous UNESCO heritage sight. Rebuilt in 2004, the bridge symbolizes the nation’s rich trading history, and draws the focus of everyone who visits. Head out during golden hour for some spectacular photo opportunities, as the pale-colored stone perfectly throws back the light of sunset. Even better, the Stari Most is dotted with numerous cafes and restaurants, so you can sit back and enjoy some delicious Bosnian cuisine while you take in the view in front of you.

Montenegro: Travel along the Adriatic coast to Montenegro, a tiny country packed with a powerful amount of history and culture within its walls. The town of Kotor is a perfect example of Montenegro’s living history and brooding atmosphere-- wedged between mountains overlooking the bay and filled with medieval architecture, you can’t help but feel transported to another time. During your stay, you can visit the famous St. Tryphon Cathedral, pop into some of the numerous local artisan shops, and take in the buzz of street life from a cozy cafe.

Albania: It took a while for Albania to launch itself as a tourist destination, but now it’s done so with full force, and has put together a range of unique attractions that are sure to enchant you. The mountain scenery is to die for, so be sure to take in the spectacular views along the coastline. Feeling a little worn out after your travels? Head to Saranda, a charismatic beach town where you can relax on the sand and swim in the turquoise waters. After you’ve rejuvenated, stop by Tirana, Albania’s capital and one of Europe’s quirkiest cities. New buildings are highly modernized and painted in bright primary colors, but many Ottoman and Communist relics still dot the streets-- creating a fascinating contrast that will compel you to fall in love with this crazy city.

Macedonia: Macedonia is truly a hidden gem among the many hidden gems of the Balkans-- the country is typically overlooked by tourists, meaning that you can enjoy the scenery without being jostled by thick crowds. Macedonia is perfect for nature-lovers, with plenty of hiking paths in the mountain forests that reward with stunning views. For a taste of history, head to the bazaars for a look into Ottoman culture, or simply wander around the many ancient churches and mosques that fill the winding streets. And of course, don’t miss out on visiting Lake Ohrid, with its translucent waters and gorgeous cliff-backed setting.

Bulgaria : Bulgaria is best known for its beautiful capital, Sofia. Don’t mistake the laid-back vibe of the city to mean that it’s nothing special-- as one of the world’s oldest cities, Sofia offers an array of Ottoman mosques, Red Army monuments, and awe-inspiring cathedrals like the massive Alexander Nevski Cathedral. The city also contains many pleasant parks and gardens to stroll through, and plenty of markets to visit if you want to shop and talk with locals.

Greece: Top off your trip to the Balkans with a visit to the Greek islands. Known as the birthplace of Western civilization, the Ancient Greek culture is an important one that everyone should experience at some point in their lives. Though all the islands offer something new, you can’t beat Athens: take in the view from the Acropolis and Parthenon, wander through the Roman Agora, and scour for handcrafted items at the Monastiraki Flea Market. If you need a break from the city after all that walking, head to the coastline and bask in the warm Greek sun. And of course, budget time for numerous stops into local restaurants to get your fill of delicious Mediterranean cuisine!

Author:  Hannah Hunt