Travelers who have stepped foot in the Balkans would know that there is simply no shortage of beautiful places in the peninsula.
Whether you are into gorgeous lakes, magnificent mountains or historical buildings, you’ll be able to find your next adventure destination in this “forgotten part of Europe”? Here’s a selection of 9 stunning places in the Balkans that will make your jaw drop!
1. Blagaj Tekke, Bosnia and Herzegovina
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This could arguably be the most beautiful location in all of Bosnia. With the unique architecture of a tekke (Sufi monastery) situated on an emerald green river, it is truly a sight to behold. This site definitely tops our list of jaw-dropping places in the Balkans!
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The Blagaj Tekke monastery was built in the 17th century so it's impossible to separate historical heritage of the place, and breathtaking natural beauty. The houses there have distinct patios and courtyards that are intended to detach from the outside world. Other than the culturally significant architecture, this location is also home to a diverse flora and fauna. It is truly a stunning place where nature, heritage and architecture all coexist together. Oh, and don’t forget the majestic mountains – rivalling those of the Swiss Alps ?
2. Lake Bled, Slovenia
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Lake Bled in Slovenia is picture perfect. With a fairytale medieval castle perched up high on a cliff with some of the highest peaks of the alps as a backdrop, and a glacial cobalt-blue lake, Bled is a sight that will stay in your memory. How can this postcard photo not make your jaw drop in awe?!
This quaint town has long been a destination for those who seek relaxation. Many also come here for its history, and activities including mountain hiking, biking and canyoning. What makes Bled more special is a tiny island where you can visit museums, and a 15th-century church. You can even ring the wishing bell there for yourself ? At the end of the day, you can sit and stare at the lake for hours as its beauty is so captivating!
3. Split, Croatia
A perfect combination of natural and man-made beauty, Split is emerging as one of the must-visit places in Europe. This city has been under the French, Italian and Roman control – just imagine the history present in this place ?
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With its rocky Dalmatian mountains as a backdrop, and the dreamy Adriatic Sea lapping its shores, the attractions here will make you want to travel to Split now. There’s a magnificent blend of antiquity and modernity here. You will definitely be awed by UNESCO World Heritage sites, a 4th-century palace, and gorgeous limestone caves. Don’t miss the islands along its coastline too!
4. Rila Monastery, Bulgaria
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Standing gloriously out of a forested gorge in the mist-swirled Rila Mountains, the Rila Monastery has been the hub of spiritual influence since the 11th century. It was under the Ottoman Empire back then, and today it is considered a symbol of 19th century renaissance in Bulgaria. This monastery is perched 1147 metres atop the highest mountain in the Balkans - just imagine how splendid this place is ?
5. Valbona Valley, Albania
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Imagine a stunning panoramic view every corner you turn. For all the hiking lovers out there, THIS is the destination for you when in the Balkan peninsula! The Valbona Valley National Park is indeed the gem of Albanian Alps. With rugged, remote but incredible mountain peaks, lush green forests and crystal clear river, Valbona Valley looks like a piece of art ☺️
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There are superb well-marked hiking trails and opportunities for fishing, swimming and canoeing at this paradise. The mountainous terrain, glacial springs and alpine landscapes will definitely make your visit here a true adventure. Lying 1000 metres above sea level, the little village of Valbona is worth a visit and has plenty of camping places and chalet accommodation.
6. Peles Castle, Romania
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This building is a true wonder, with sculpted wood and stained glass windows. For a castle built at such a time, Peles Castle has very modern facilities, including a theatre room with 60 seats and is the first electrified castle in the region. Pretty bizarre, isn’t it?
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Another unique feature of Peles Castle is that each of its rooms, hallways and foyers reflect different themes, and you'll be able to see Turkish, Moorish and Venetian influences. There are also other buildings annexed to the castle, such as the Guard’s Chambers, The Foisor Hunting House and The Stables. One look at the exterior, and you know the castle is well worth a visit ?
7. Ohrid, Macedonia
The pearl of the Balkans, this place offers the best of both worlds. You can explore impressive historic monuments one minute, and then lounge with your feet in the water the next. With an atmospheric old quarter on a hill next to cobbled streets with charming cafes and located right on the edge of Lake Ohrid, this city has that holiday atmosphere all year round ?
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This destination is one of UNESCO's protected towns for both its historic and natural attributes. One of the top attractions is the Church of St. John, which overlooks the majestic Lake Ohrid. It is believed to be constructed before the rise of the Ottoman Empire, and features Armenian and Byzantine influences. The lake itself is stunning and so massive, it feels like an ocean.
Once you have finished exploring the cultural side that Ohrid has to offer, it’s time for some mother nature. Ohrid sits between 3 national parks, where you'll be able to do some hiking, rock climbing and paragliding!
8. Hagia Sophia, Istanbul
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Turkey is such a mysterious place, that's rich with history and culture. Only the European side of Turkey is in the Balkans, so that means the wonderful city of Istanbul would make a good start for your Balkans trip. One of the most famous spots that is a must-see is none other than Hagia Sophia, and for a good reason ?
Holding much significance culturally, historically and architecturally, it just HAS to be in the list of jaw-dropping places in the Balkans. This gem had been transformed from a Greek Orthodox church to a mosque and now a museum. It was the largest cathedral constructed by the Byzantines back then, and when Mehmed the Conqueror ruled Istanbul, it became a mosque.
9. Durmitor National Park, Montenegro
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If your idea of a perfect travel adventure is endless road trips with amazing views all around you, then this is the place to visit. You will certainly not run out of scenic panoramas when you are in Durmitor! Countless lakes dot the landscape, with underground streams and the diverse beauty of mother nature will leave you breathless ?
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During summer days, Durmitor National Park is perfect for rafting, trekking and other activities but in winter, it transforms into a popular ski resort where you will experience the real winter charm of the Balkans.
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Some of the dramatic elements of this place in the Balkans are the ice cave, and also the deepest canyon in all of Europe called Tara River Gorge. Time to explore some ice caves and canyon through the deep gorges of Durmitor!
The Balkans never fail to impress us with its mix of ancient history, natural scenery and mother nature that will make your jaw drop. Wherever you are in the Balkan peninsula, you'll be sure to make unforgettable memories. So, time to plan out your next best adventure in the Balkans ?