Balkans itinerary: the ultimate guide to a 3 week road trip

A while ago, I received an email from a reader: asking if I could share my route for the Balkans. That’s when I realised that though I’ve posted a lot about that trip, I’ve never actually shared my itinerary for the Balkans. Which is too bad, because more people might find it useful. The Balkans is such a beautiful, diverse region, that I highly recommend visiting! It’s still one of my favorite trips ever.

In the meanwhile, it has been two years since my visit, so the details of our trip and how long we stayed where are slowly starting to become hazy. However, I did my best to share our Balkan road trip itinerary anyway. 

Calculate roughly 3 to 3.5 weeks for this route. You can of course leave out or replace some of the stops, but that’s up to you. The summer is by no means the best time to make this road trip, because the weather is scorching hot and, like in other parts of Europe, it is also overflowing with tourists. If you go I would go during the shoulder season: April/May, or September/October. The number of days I recommend is a guideline, by the way. If you were to follow this guide completely you would be completely burned out at the end of your trip, so it’s also important to schedule some rest days for relaxation.

Munich

I’d recommend starting here and take a flight. If you’re smart, you don’t take a car without air conditioning on day when it’s 36 degrees Celsius in Germany :-). (don’t be us). Munich is a really nice city. Be sure to spend a full day here before continuing. The city center is really nice, and the beautiful park of Englischer Garten is well worth a visit.

Stay: We stayed in the stylish and affordable MotelOne München Ost.

Zagreb

Read: 5 reasons why Zagreb should be your next city trip destination

We chose Zagreb as our next destination, because it was located between Munich and the Plitvice Lakes (our next destination). And looking at the pictures, it seemed like a nice city. We did not know anything about it, to be honest. But this was really the surprise of the trip, it is such a cute and relaxed place. It’s not that big, so you can see a lot in one day. Of course you can also decide to stay a little longer.

Stay: We stayed in a very nice hostel (Hostel Chic Zagreb) where we had a private room, and a very friendly receptionist who gave us all kinds of great tips on where to eat in town.

Plitvice Lakes

Scroll through Instagram, or watch one of those popular videos on Facebook and you will surely come across the azure lakes of Plitvice National Park. These spectacular waterfalls/lakes are located in the east of Croatia, almost against the Bosnian border. The park has six routes for hiking, and yes, in summer it is pretty busy. But a visit is still worth it. You will need about five or six hours if you want to do a lot of hiking, so this is great for a day trip.

Stay: We stayed in a friendly and simple bed and breakfast, where we got drinks all the time, called Pension House Vukovic (for about €30 a night).

Split

There is a lot of rivalry between Split and Dubrovnik, and it’s not hard to see why: both cities are incredibly beautiful. Split has a beautiful historic center and a great seafront location, which makes the city seem like something out of a Mediterranean dream. Parts of Game of Thrones have been shot here, so if you’re interested, you can also follow a tour. There was a big festival going on during our stay, which influenced our trip a bit, but overall I think it is a beautiful and interesting city, where you can easily spend two days.

Stay: We stayed in Trogir and visited Split as a day trip, but if you prefer to stay in Split, there is this beautiful b&b right in the city center.

Trogir

Trogir is a slightly lesser-known place in Croatia, but we chose to spend three nights at this location to take a break for few days from our first week travelling, and at the same time it was also a convenient location for a day trip to Split. Trogir is a beautiful medieval town surrounded by water. Super charming, and we ate a pizza there, that I’m still dreaming about (so good). The surrounding area is incredibly beautiful, but because the town is located on an island with only one access road, it is very busy during summer. Either way, worth a visit.

Stay: We stayed at Villa Katarina, a comfortable hotel with swimming pool, a super sweet receptionist who gave us all kinds of tips for beautiful local beaches that only few tourists knew about.

Mostar

Mostar was one of my favorite destinations, probably because it didn’t feel European to me. Mostar has a lot of mosques, so when you take a stroll over the beautiful ancient bridge  in the dark you can hear the call to prayer coming from every side. Real magic. After the sun sets, the streets of the old city center is bubbling with people enjoying some cevapi. Exploring Mostar yourself will take only an afternoon, but we stayed two nights.

Stay: We stayed at Pansion Oscar Summer Garden. I think it is it a great stay, but you should be able to handle the disco.

Sarajevo

Read: Top tips for visiting Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Sarajevo is one of the most fascinating capital cities of Europe. You can clearly see that Islam is the largest religion in this country, which gives us beautiful architecture and culture. It is also a city with many scars. The wounds of the war can still be seen everywhere: the bullet holes in the buildings or in the mass graves you encounter in different places in the city. Definitely worth a visit. You can easily enjoy two full days with all the interesting sights.

Stay: We stayed in the small, but well kept Samm Seher Hotel. This bed & breakfast is located only a few minutes from the city center.

Durmitor

Read: Durmitor: one of the most beautiful places in the world

The most surprising destination of our trip was Durmitor: a nature park in northern Montenegro. The journey to the park was one big adventure driving along beautiful fjord-like scenes, across a winding mountain road, and where I felt my heart throbbing in my throat multiple times, but it sure was an adventure. Durmitor turns into a ski area during winter, and during summer into an area with beautiful green plains, lakes and a pretty gorge. Highly recommended. We stayed there for two days. So peaceful.

Stay: We stayed at the small campsite Camp Apartments Razvrsje. Do not expect luxury, because your shower is nothing more than of a bucket of water. Another option, something a bit more luxurious (ánd with a shower) are these cottages from Lodge Mountain Views.

Kotor

The Bay of Kotor is a beautiful bay surrounded by spectacular mountains, making it almost feel as if it were a Norwegian fjord. Because of the beautiful villages with terracotta roofs, and busy streets, it gives a Mediterranean vibe. Highly recommended. It is a popular destination for cruise ships so during the summer months it’s overflowing with tourists. I found it all a bit too busy, the people very unfriendly, almost aggressive even, and of course the intense heat and tourist prices did make it any better. But it should be less intense outside the high season. This is also a very nice place to relax and take a break from your busy travel schedule.

Stay: We stayed in the amazing apartments Nikcevic, with pool and a beautiful view over the bay. The owners were super sweet, and I really enjoyed my stay here.

Dubrovnik

Read: 4 reasons why Dubrovnik is the most beautiful city you will ever visit

There aren’t many fairy tale destinations more beautiful than Dubrovnik. If you like Venice, then you will definitely love Dubrovnik. It’s logical that many parts of Game of Thrones is filmed here, because this city has a very rich and royal appearance. Not so strange: it had been an independent country for a long time. Read more about that in my blog post. You can certainly spend two days here, even if it’s not that big.

Stay: I can’t find our b&b on Booking, but this B&B Dubrovnik Garden looks alike, the only thing that is missing is the swimming pool. We thought the garden of our guesthouse was pretty and special, and this accommodation has that as well.

Ljubljana

One of the most charming and cute capital cities I have ever been to, is Ljubljana. The lovely colored houses, the beautiful canal, and the nice terraces make it very cozy. In addition, the castle is well worth a visit. Moreover, since it is a student city, the city is extremely affordable. We stayed here for two nights, which is enough.

Stay: Hotel Park was the place we stayed at, and it couldn’t have been better. It was comfortable, had a central location, and friendly staff. Highly recommended if you’re looking for accommodation in the city.

Bled

Lake Bled is also a real must visit if you are in Slovenia. It’s a popular holiday destination (and has been for a long time), and it’s not hard to see why since it’s so charming. Take a boat to the church located in the middle of the lake or take a cool SUP-lesson. We only stayed one night at Lake Bled, which is long enough. But you can of course also stay longer and go camping for example.

Stay: We stayed at Guesthouse Tulipan, a very nice guesthouse with very friendly staff, and in a central location (if you have a car).

Salzburg

Read: Salzburg: 7 tips for a surprisingly lovely city

If you like static, monumental cities with palaces, castles, princesses and famous musicians, then Salzburg is a destination you will love. It was our last stop before returning back home. Salzburg is beautiful, and feels magical. It is full of culture. We drank beers in one of the many Biergartens and even attended a puppet show. Two nights are long enough for visiting this beautiful city. The perfect end of our trip.

Stay: It is not super centrally located, but it’s a nice hotel anyway, and certainly within walking distance of the modern city center, the Bergland Hotel. It is a beautiful, well-kept hotel with a delicious breakfast.

That’s it: our road trip itinerary! Although the Balkans were a bit hectic at times, I enjoyed the trip a lot, and we still look back at the many memories made during this trip. Highly recommended. Do you have more questions? Leave them down in the comments!

Have you ever traveled to the Balkans?

This is the ultimate itinerary for a three week road trip in the Balkans.

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