Balkans Holidays – complete 2 weeks road trip guide

When you think about “road trip” images of freedom, dirt and sunglasses pop up in your head. We put togehter a complete 2 weeks holidays roadtrip guide through the Balkans. Expect days full of sunshine, excellent food, intense history, heart-warming hospitality and funky Balkan Beats.

Holidays on the balkans

Begin of your Balkans Holidays

We start our road trip holidays to the Balkans from Berlin. If you consider doing the same but do not have a car, rent one in e.g. Bratislava. Clearly you will need some documents to drive within the EU as well as outside the EU. Make sure you have your valid driving license and a proof of third party liability insurance. Apart from this check the requirements of the countries you want to enter before. Sometimes additional documents are required on short notice. Furthermore check if you require an international driver’s license. A Green Card for the vehicle is required at border crossings to Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Get a Green Card before departure from your chosen insurance company. Having one ease the passage through border control a lot. In addition most of the highways require a toll. You can grab one at any gas station on the highways.

Day 1: Start your journey

Depending on your starting point the first day pass mostly in the car. Check if it makes sense for you to fly into Bratislava or Praha and take the first day organizing your car, your papers, along with checking your route as well as baggage.

Route for the day: arrival in Bratislava

What to bring: Toll for highway. Purchase the toll at any highway gas station. A jolly road trip singalong playlist.

Where to stay for the night: Airbnb in Bratislava Štefánka (our recommendation). The city’s best-known sights and museums are all within walking distance. 

Day 2: Stroll around Bratislava

The capital of Slovakia inspires to dive directly into the cities’ sightseeing opportunities and museums. A visit to the Bratislava Castle is highly recommended. Stroll around the impressive castle and get to know all the interesting stories about it and its former rulers. Finally appreciate the great gardens and artwork exhibited there. Feeling hungry? Great! A lot of hipster cafés and bars mushroomed in the area around the Main Square. You will not leave hungry. Hit the road in the late afternoon for Belgrade.

Route for the day: Bratislava – Belgrade

Distance: 570 km

What to bring: Bring your passport and vehicle papers to enter Serbia. Prepare for some waiting time at the border as Serbia, for the time being, is not part of the EU.

Where to stay for the night: Hostel in Stari Grad (Old Town), you are close to all the touristic spots for the next day as well as clubs and party.

Good to know: There are plenty of hitchhikers on the highway. They are usually young folks from all over the World travelling on a small budget. Clearly it is ok to take some with you if you feel like it. However we advice to ask if they have the needed visa particularly if you plan to take them through border control. You as driver are liable for your passengers. If you try to bring in people without a valid entry permit it might get unpleasant. Trust us – you absolutely don’t want to get any queries with those ladies and gentlemen at border control.

Day 3: Belgrade – The White City

Belgrade is not the most beautiful city on this list but but nevertheless the most partyable one. During last years it became one of Europe’s most vibrant cities and turned into a recognizable newcomer for techno music. If you have enough from the snappy Berlin Berghain queue you will love Belgrade. You find true underground techno parties taking you to a leap in time to Berlin in the 90’s. Especially in summer do not miss out to hop on one of the splavs (rafts) on the river Sava for an open air techno party.

Nightclubs you might want to check out:

  • Splav 20/44 – Savski kej BB, 11070, New Belgrade open all year round Thu-Sat. Located at the Sava river. The 20/44 offers a good music selection ranging from Detroit techno and soulful to disco, funky, house and dub step.
  • Barutana – Donji grad, Kalemegdan, 11000 Belgrade. Open air club only open in spring/summer. During the fall/winter season Barutana is closed and the crowd moves to the DOT club.
  • Drugstore – Bulevar Despota Stefana 115 – Poenkareova, 11000 Belgrade. The ”new” Drugstore is a homage to Berghain Berlin: dark, raw and rough around the edges, located in a former slaughter house. Brace yourself for a night full of underground acts from local and international scene.

Take it easy the next day and start with a good Serbian breakfast. Try the various sorts of pastries (often with cheese or meat or filled with jam) and hit the road for your next destination – the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Route for the day: Belgrade – Sarajevo

Distance: 300 km

What to bring: Prepare for another border control and make sure you have your Green Card. The Bosnian officers put a lot of emphasis on this document.

Where to stay for the night: Airbnb in Bascarsija Sarajevo’s old bazaar and the historical and cultural center of the city.

Day 4 and 5: Sarajevo – A place steeped in history

The capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina is the highlight of the journey and should be on the very top of each holidays list through the Balkans. Take some days to explore the city and plan to leave with the utter wish to return. Undoubtedly Sarajevo is one of the rare places where you see places of worship for the most important religions site by site: Catholic and Orthodox churches, mosques and synagogues. Sarajevo was for hundreds of years the meeting point of two great empires – the Ottoman and the Austro-Hungarian. As a result you can feel the mix of both traditions giving Sarajevo a unique flair and cultural mix.

Stop in Sarajevo, a must do when on holidays on the Balkans

Visit the museums and get a tour about the Sarajevo siege. Although not easy to digest it is worth to deep dive into the Bosnian War and the connected siege. The Sarajevo siege was the longest of a capital city in the history of modern warfare.

Take a guided tour

Take a city tour for extra information on historical events. We got the 4-hour “War tour and Sarajevo siege” via the Get-Your-Guide-App. During the tour we accessed the bobsleigh track from the Olympic Winter games hosted in Sarajevo in 1984. It was so much fun to climb and walk around the sleight!

If you are a foodie try the country’s national dish Ćevapi: minced meat formed into sausages and served inside a flatbread with onions and sauce. Obviously the best location to try some is the Food Market.

Route for the day: Sarajevo – Tara River Canyon 

Distance: 110 km

What to bring: Prepare your camera for scenic routes through majestic mountains. In addition gravel routes and potholes make the journey going on a rather slow pace.

Where to stay for the night: GRAB Riverside Ethno Village and Camp is the place to be. With amazing views of the surrounding mountains and the Tara river the place tops it all. Additionally multiple activities on the Tara river or in the Durmitor National Park are available in the camp. You can directly book them in the camp after arrival. They are organized by the trained and fully licensed camp staff. Fun ahead! 

Day 5 to 7: Tara River Canyon – Outdoor Paradise     

Besides the scenic view of peacefully resting mountains and turquoise shining water, the Tara River canyon with 1,300 meters is the deepest canyon in Europe. Moreover after the Grand Canyon even the second deepest in the World. The Tara river is also known as “Tear of Europe”. This name is an hommage to its clear water. Also the Tara river is one of the “must do” in the world of rafting. We booked our rafting tours directly via the Grab camp and they offer different routes depending on your skill level. It is also possible to do a several days tour if you like. However it can get quite intense depending on your skills and water level.

Stop at the Tara river on our holidays through the Balkans

If you still can’t get enough? Spice up your holidays with a hike through Balkans most iconic mountaints. All around Tara River you can find different hiking routes with levels from “easy” to “tough”. For some you will need appropriate shoes to master rocky and slippery terrain. We did an easy half day hike to the Sokoline peak, a place with the beautiful panoramic view of the landscape of the Tara gorge, Durmitor and Piva mountains.

Option: Take a short break at Priva Lake near the town of Pluzine and do a fun and thrilling slip line across the lake. This zip line claims to be the longest in Montenegro and should be on your list for the unforgettable Balkans holidays.

Route for the day: Tara River Canyon –  Podgorica (capital of Montenegro and an easy half a day stop on the way down to the coast) – Budva

Distance: 210 km

Where to stay for the night: Hostel in atmospheric Stari Grad the beautiful old town of Budva

Day 8 to 10: Budva and surroundings

Budva is truly a very ambivalent place. However it is particularly well located and a naturla choice for a home base for the next two days.

The Old Town of Budva – Stari Grad dates back to the 5th century BC. In Stari Grad you will find plenty of cute little streets with tiny restaurants. Sit down and enjoy the best sea food ever (much recommended!) and wash it down with great local red wine. Unlike the Old Town the town itself is very new and shiny. The mass tourism ramped up super-fast over the last years. In high season you will find the town and the beaches packed with tourists enjoying their holidays ont the Balkans. Besides it gets quite tricky to find a spot which is more private.

Secret spot near Old Town Beach

Swim north from the Old Town Beach for approximately 10-15 minutes to get to an entrance to a stunning cave formation. There is a tiny entrance which you can swim through and you will be inside a cave swimming pool which is really cool! The water is stunning and warm so you can float around there for a bit. We strongly advice to bring a pair of swimming shoes as the corals and rock formations are really sharp around the beaches in Budva. You can get some everywhere around the beach area or in the city.

Bay of Kotor

The Bay of Kotor is another dreamy destination which is easily accessible from Budva. It is the most gorgeous and breathtaking place you will come across on the whole trip. Already the geographic description is a struggle. The Bay of Kotor looks like a Norwegian fjord but with cobalt water surrounded by steep cliffs of the Dinaric Alps. The bay is inhabited since antiquity and is scattered with small, cute photogenic medieval towns: Kotor, Risan, Tivat, Preast and many more. The Bay of Kotor is UNESCO World Heritage Site and the Orthodox and Catholic Churches around the bay are important sites for numerous pilgrims. 

Kotor Bay our highlight when visiting the Balkans during holidays

Sveti Stefan

When in Budva a trip to the beach near Sveti Stefan is much recommended. Sveti Stefan is approximately 10 km to the North and definitely the money shot of the Adriatic shoreline. The small fortified island village is connected via a narrow bridge with the mainland and dates back to the 15th century. Today it hosts a 5-star luxury resort and is unfortunately only open for the guests of the resort. Unlike the island the beach is open for everyone and offers you incredible turquoise water and a perfect view on Sveti Stefan.

Route for the day: Budva – Dubrovnik

Distance: 120 km

What to bring: Don’t forget to charge your camera, you will hop out the car every 10 km to take stunning pictures of the Adriatic coastline.

Where to stay for the night: Airbnb in quarter Lapad Dubrovnik close to Lapad beach.

Day 11: Dubrovnik – Or should we call it “Kings Landing”?

Dubrovnik was a touristic hot spot well before the series “The Game of Thrones”. Following Dubrovnik being one of the series key sites the number of vistors exploded. Dubrovnik subsequently joined the ranks of the stars of European cities, attracting travelers from all over the world. Therfore it needs to be on every list for holidays on the Balkans

However there are options to get the most magnificent spots just for yourself: be an early bird and explore the city in dawn. There is another benefit to start your day at 6am: the temperature is very comfortable when wandering around the old city and climbing the old city walls. After being consumed by the crowded Old Town of Dubrovnik take an afternoon off at the Lapad beach to enjoy a refreshing swim and a sun downer. Find our highlights of things to do in Dubrovnik in our special blog post.

Visiting Dubrovnik on our holidays through the Balkans

Route for the day: Dubrovnik – take a stop in Mostar for half a day – Plitvice Lakes

Distance: 510 km

What to bring: You will be re-entering into Bosina and Herzigovina again to visit Mostar. Prepare for another potentially lengthy boarder control episode. And again – Green Card wins!

Where to stay: Family House Ana, Rakovica 46, Rakovica, 47245 Croatia is close to the main gates of the National Park Plitvice Lakes

Day 12: Mostar – City of “Stari Most”

Mostar by all means should not be missed out. It is close enough to Dubrovnik for a de-tour when on the way to Plitvice Lakes. Mostar is definitely an insider spot to visit on the Balkans during holidays. The Old Bridge (Stari Most) was built in the 16th century and is one of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s most visited landmarks. It is considered an exemplary piece of Islamic architecture in the Balkans.

Mostar was named after the “Mostari” which means as much as Bridge Keepers today. For hundreds of years the around 20m high (depending on the height of the water) and 28m wide bridge has stood as an icon of the multicultural coexistence, connecting the Muslim in the east and west Catholic communities. Unfortunately the original Stari Most which managed to stand for almost 430 years was blown away in the Croat-Bosniak War in 1993. In 2004 it was rebuilt stone by stone according to the original architecture and became UNESCO World Heritage Site shortly after.

Mostar bridge is a must see when on holidays in Dubrovnik

Mostar Legend

It is a legend that jumping off the Stari Most is how a boy becomes a man. Most boys jump off the bridge only once. However there are some daredevils, members of the local diving club, called the Mostarski Ikari. In summer they take turns jumping off the bridge for money. Besides it is a fair deal of 25 Euro for a jump as the divers still risk their lives for the thrill. In fact the diving club Mostarski Ikari offers to teach you the arts of bridge diving for a bargain of 35 Euro. In the end you recieve a certificate proving your courage and your name will be added into the Diving Clubs record book. Furthermore you are allowed to jump off the bridge whenever you want – clearly a cool feature to have in ones resumé! Try it yourself and make your Balkan holidays unforgettable.

Day 13 and 14: National Park Plitvice Lakes

This area is one of Europe’s most beautiful natural sites. The national park contains of a series of sixteen lakes connected by hundreds of streams and waterfalls. Watch the water glow in every shade of blue as the limestones reflect the sky.

Within the Balkans area Plitvice Lakes are a very popular holidays destination. It get super busy (almost as busy as in Dubrovnik) very fast. Therefore we recommend to start the day early. There are two entrance points and the tickets can be purchased directly at the entrance. We recommend you target the second entrance and as it is usually less busy. In the park itself it can be quite crowded at the most scenic spots. However you also always will be able to find hidden spots for a recreational break between the hikes.

Route for the day: Plitvice Lakes – Zagreb (and back to your start location)

Distance: 140 km

What to bring: Start early on your last day and arrive in Zagreb for breakfast. Zagreb is the capital city of Croatia and has many fine sites and plenty restaurants. Firstly take a stroll around the city to stretch your legs finally have some Štrukli. Štrukli are dough filled with cottage cheese and sour cream and are the most Zagreb-like dish there is.

Summary of the full road trip Balkans holidays

  • approx. 2,500 km (starting from/ ending in Bratislava)
  • 6 countries: start in Slovakia, transit Hungary, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzogovina, Montenegro and Croatia
  • 9 border crossings
  • approx. 34 hours of driving, adding loads of hours at border crossings ūüėČ

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