Balkans tour

Discussion in 'travel and world' started by miss direct, Jun 9, 2017.

  1. miss direct

    miss direct misfungled

    I'm thinking of going on a little trip around some Balkan countries next month. It'll be with my boyfriend, who's Turkish, so we're restricted to visa free places for him (i.e., most of the Balkans). Thinking of flying in to Sarajevo and out of Skopje. Want to go to Mostar and lake Ohrid but don't have many other ideas.

    Is it going to be roasting hot everywhere? I'd really like to do some proper walking but don't cope well with heat. Any other suggestions? I don't care about beaches but like green, natural places and swimming in fresh water.

    Is it worth renting a car, and is that feasible - or should we stick to public transport?
  2. not-bono-ever

    not-bono-ever Alles hat ein Ende nur eine Wurst hat zwei

    miss direct likes this.
  3. not-bono-ever

    not-bono-ever Alles hat ein Ende nur eine Wurst hat zwei

    it can be hot- we were hitting 38c 2 years ago in Mostar. But this is not too bad, as there are wonderful mountains and ice cold alkes and rivers full of trout a few KM outside mostar itself. like seriously cold alpine water if that if your bag- too cold for me. the River Buna emerges from caves in the hills and is beautiful- have a look around there for ideas.

    Neither Mostar nor Sarajevo are pretty these days , have been rebuilt, but seriously interesting. Trains are slow and haphazrs due to the borders although great to travel on. If tyou have a car, then the karst scenery and hills are utterly wonderful.
    Spymaster and miss direct like this.
  4. not-bono-ever

    not-bono-ever Alles hat ein Ende nur eine Wurst hat zwei

    balkans seem to be a hot topic on the boards these days
    Spymaster and miss direct like this.
  5. miss direct

    miss direct misfungled

    Thanks a lot, not - bono!
  6. iamwithnail

    iamwithnail Well-Known Member


    Renting a car for a one -way will be ludicrously expensive. We're paying £120 for 4 days in August round Mostar. Was double that to do a one-way, and nowhere seemed to do it except the big American rental places, picking up and dropping off at airports.

    Edit: I've actually just updated this to pick up from Sarajevo and drop off in mostar, the one-way fee was 70E , so it's a about £200 all in for four days, including two drivers. Less bad than I thought.

    Into Sarajevo and out of Skopje will work fine if you're going down the coast and back in. (Sarajevo-Mostar-Trebinje type routes) The routes going East from Sarajevo to Serbia are pretty terrible, and 12 hour bus rides.

    BalkanViator is your best bet for timetables - DO NOT trust Rome2Rio in the Balkans, we got burned a couple of times with that. Buses are cheap, frequent and generally surprisingly good. Trains only really run on the Banja Luka - Sarajevo - Mostar line in Bosnia. The international train from Zagreb is off at the moment, has been since November.

    We're staying in Blagaj just outside (20min drive) Mostar, and it's the most lush green place I've ever seen. Go rafting/swimming and hiking anywhere along the Neretva, there are loads of places. We're going in Konjic, between Sarajevo and Mostar.

    On the way to Albania, you'll go through Montenegro, which is mostly beaches and sea - Kotor bay is lovely, but incredibly touristy, and the traffic is also horrendous, so from your description, probably not for you. Make sure you get a bus that gets the ferry across the bay at Tivat instead of going round. 20 miles an hour the wholllllle way.

    In Albania, the TIrana-> Orhid trip is supposed to be pretty hairy, lots of winding roads, scary buses. There is or has been a ferry to cross the border over the lake (rather than going round from Pogradec in Albania to Orhid via the crossing at Rrajce), but I couldn't work out if it was still running last year.

    Skopje is nice enough, although a bit weird. I wouldn't spend more than a couple of days there, there's not that much to do.

    It looks half finished (which it is, basically), and you go from incredibly impressive polished marble greco roman buildings (all built in the 1970s!) to rubble and abandoned houses in a few steps. There's a big mall on the edge of the city centre that's useful for basically everything. If you want to hike or knob about on boats, you can go to Matka Canyon which is about a half hour outside the town on local buses - although lots of people hike there, i wouldn't recommend it, there was rubbish everywhere along the trails and it really wasn't scenic - do the boats instead, you can swim, and the scenery is incredible. (And don't leave your wallet on the bus like I did.)

    Strong recommendation - if you're in Skopje, go over to Pristina. It's about 90 minutes/2 hours on a bus/furgon minibus thing, and it's the most incredible city. It was my favourite place on our whole trip. (Pristina is also higher up, and a little cooler than everywhere else - which yes, it will be baking hot. It was 36 degrees when we were in Nis and Skopje at the end of August last year.)

    Generally, public transport is buses, but it's safe and reliable, and timetables are pretty accurate in the bus stations (use Balkanviator as above for rough planning, and the bus station website for more accurate planning, but double check everything when you get to a place. The getting burnt I mentioned above was basically getting a bit stuck in Peja in Western Kosovo, and there being 1 bus a day that took 7 hours, to Podgorica, despite Rome2Rio saying there were buses every 2 hours and it took 4...)

    Everyone uses the buses, and they're mostly pretty modern coaches, with a few Yugo-era bangers thrown in, mainly local buses. There was 1 train a day Skopje -> Pristina (6am), 1 a day from Podgorica to Budva... you get the picture. :)
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2017
  7. not-bono-ever

    not-bono-ever Alles hat ein Ende nur eine Wurst hat zwei

    iamwithnail likes this.
  8. iamwithnail

    iamwithnail Well-Known Member

    not-bono-ever likes this.
  9. Riklet

    Riklet procrastinación

    The waterfalls and pools in Jajce are meant to be very cool and worth checking out.

    The west of Serbia is fantastic btw. Down towards where Guca happens. Around Ujice. Highly recommended. And further south there is an interesting area with muslim villages and different culture i think around Novi Pazar.

    Montenegro is absolutely amazing but was pretty rammed and popular in 2011 so I'd imagine it's cray cray now. Avoid Budvar at peak times if you dont want the crowds. Herzeg Novi in the north was one of my fav places tho. Oh and btw I thought Mostar and Sarajevo were both beautiful and amazing, in very different ways.
    miss direct likes this.
  10. KatyF

    KatyF Well-Known Member

    Bit late to this, and not with any practical advice but I've just got back Ohrid which was one of the best places I've been. Absolutely loved it, stunning place.
    Riklet and iamwithnail like this.
  11. Riklet

    Riklet procrastinación

    Yeah I went to Ohrid on bus through Albania and then stayed on the Macedonian side before heading on to Skopje. Great place. Stunning and nowhere near as crazily bhsy and touristy as the coast etc in Montenegro and Croatia.

    Ahhh this is making me wanna go back to the Balkans!!
    not-bono-ever and iamwithnail like this.
  12. Riklet

    Riklet procrastinación

    Ok I'm suddenly really tempted to go back to the Balkans. Nostagia for a long shitty old train journey!!

    Obvs would like to see some Croatian islands but money/people put me off. Def keen to go to the rather different South West of Serbia to the villages and area near Novi Pazar.. lots of Ottoman influences there and meant to be fascinating.

    But would love to go hiking this time especially. Anyone else done much walking in this region? Just seen about the multi-day Peaks of the Balkans trail in the mountains of Kosovo, Montenegro and Albania... pretty new trail and looks fantastic.
  13. Idaho

    Idaho blah blah blah

    Enjoying my holiday here. Mostar was excellent. Just what I like in a place - bit of everything, relaxed, beautiful, historic, an axis point of events and cultures. Very good value too. You can get a good meal and a pint for £7 -which is half/third what you'll be paying in France, Spain or Italy this summer.
    The buses are fairly grueling though. Dubrovnik to Mostar took 5 hours and it's barely 180km. Borders are very slow. Air con is non functioning. And with midday heat at 35ish, that requires some fortitude.

    The bus from Mostar to Kotor was 7 hours and had all the same issues. Kotor bay (Montenegro) is very dramatic. Bit more expensive than Bosnia, but not bad. Perhaps 5% cheaper than UK.
    We are staying in a very nice place for free (it was a token in a complex series of intra family favours and obligations).

    Was thinking about nipping down to Albania for the day. Meant to be 3 hours each way - and I'm not eager to commit to 6+ hours on another bus.

    We're going to get a taxi back to Dubrovnik, and have a day and night there late next week. There are 5 of us, so it's not that much more than the bus, and we want to maximise that one day in the town.

    Dubrovnik is much more expensive than either Mostar or Kotor I think. Certainly accommodation is very pricey. It's going to be £220 for a nice apartment for a night. Mostar you can get something for £50. Summer holidays with big teenagers is a costly business.
  14. MsHopper

    MsHopper New Member

    I really like albania. I've been their twice now. The roads are in good nick and i don't think the border crossing with Montengro took long when last visited in May. It's a long way to go in a day though and there aren't many buses that run in the evening in Albania so getting back mightbe tricky unless you are on an organised day trip.
    Idaho likes this.
  15. iamwithnail

    iamwithnail Well-Known Member

    My view of the Albanian coast from dinner tonight. It's great, and about 25% the cost of Croatia.

  16. Idaho

    Idaho blah blah blah

    Last night in the Balkans. Staying the night in Dubrovnik -which is beautiful, ridiculously over touristed, and expensive. Still worth a stroll around.
  17. iamwithnail

    iamwithnail Well-Known Member

    We're off the coast and towards the mountains - in a single (3h15!) Taxi ride, our driver managed to prang into anothe car (minor, no damage, but still), and get a ticket for speeding. Can't wait to see what the jeep ride into the mountains is like...

    Car hire was going to be £240, and we're spending half that on taxis, and I don't have to drive, which had proved to be an absolute sodding great decision. Feels ridiculously extravagant to be getting taxis for several hundred kilometres though, but it was £48 for the one this morning, and about the same this evening. And I don't need to drive, and can take photos, and occasionally put my foot through the floor when they don't brake early enough.
    Idaho likes this.
  18. Idaho

    Idaho blah blah blah

    The Montenegro drivers were terrible* while all the time professing their expertise. I asked one taxi driver "so why do all the cars here have dents on the side?" That shut him up :D

    *To be fair, they were ok on decent sized roads. But on narrow roads with pedestrians walking they were terrible and almost negligently homicidal in one case.
    iamwithnail likes this.
  19. iamwithnail

    iamwithnail Well-Known Member

    We've had some super sedate driving from Albania tbh, Kosovo was hairier. We got stuck in traffic on the way to shkodra and the driver was fed up and got done for speeding in the last 10km, overtaking a melon truck. Peak experience tbh. The bump was because he was rummaging in the glove box for spare fags.

    We're currently in thethi in the mountains (near borders of Montenegro and Kosovo) and it was the wildest ride. Perilous mountain tracks, to call it a dirt track would do a great disservice to dirt tracks.

    (Feel free to tell me to out the photos in another thread btw.)

    Road while it was still road.
    View just before the road stopped.
    Worth it for the view from the waterfall alone.
    JimW, Idaho and clicker like this.
  20. Idaho

    Idaho blah blah blah

    Looks awesome. I really want to do a proper road tour of the region.
  21. iamwithnail

    iamwithnail Well-Known Member

    You're not coming up here in a car unless you've got a pretty serious 4x4! :D:D:eek: Not looking forward to the return journey tomorrow.
    not-bono-ever likes this.

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