There are few regions of the world like the Western Balkans and the countries of the former Yugoslavia, which – thanks to a wealth of natural beauty – can boast of having such a rich and diverse tourist offer that would satisfy the expectations of world’s greatest travellers and the most discerning guests
Just as Europe is justifiably dubbed one of the most fascinating continents and the unfulfilled dream of the peoples of North America, Asia and faraway Australia, so the countries of the former Yugoslavia – thanks to their natural beauty, historical attractions, hospitable locals, cultural contents and irresistible food – are considered top tourist destinations. The Croatian coast, and particularly its islands that are able not only to compete with the likes of Corfu, Santorini and Mykonos – representing the very pinnacle of the Greek tourism offer – but even surpass them in terms beauty, the stunning mountains of Bosnia and Herzegovina that successfully rival the Italian Dolomites, while the Bay of Kotor, this gem of Montenegro that’s framed by the towering mountains of Lovćen and Orijen, is unrivalled anywhere around the world, never mind in European circles.
Meanwhile Serbia, despite being landlocked, is becoming an increasingly popular tourist destination because of its spas and mountain resorts that have a great offer for all seasons, thanks to their cultural contents, numerous festivals like the famous Guča and Exit, rural tourism, the world-renowned nightlife of Belgrade and delicious food. An incredible gastronomic experienced is also offered by our neighbours from North Macedonia, who also have the majestic lakes of Ohrid, Dorjan and Prespa, as well as Slovenia, whose breathtaking mountain peaks, spas with healing waters and the Postojna Cave, which is unique around the world, leave no one feeling indifferent.
New roads and hotels entice guests
Every corner of this realm, which stretches across the entire territory of the former Yugoslavia, is unique and beautiful in its own right, thanks to which even the most demanding of world travellers can find something to feed their soul here. The most popular tourist destinations in Serbia for decades, among both domestic and foreign tourists, have included places like Sokobanja, Vrnjačka Banja, Zlatibor, Kopaonik, Stara planina and Fruška Gora. Thanks to huge investments in infrastructure projects, Serbia is today traversed by a network of new roads and highways that shorten journeys and make them safer.
It is today faster and easier than ever before to reach all mountain resorts that boast a rich offer not only during winter, but also in other seasons, as well as the country’s most popular spas, monasteries, water parks, cultural and historical monuments like Golubac Fortress and Lepenski vir. Over recent years, Serbia has been able to boast of ever-improving conditions for the development of cycling and nautical tourism, as well as ethno-villages that offer respite from the hustle and bustle of the city and a break from hectic modern life, while the country also boasts 17 wine routes that reveal the richness and diversity of Serbia’s historical and wine tradition, but also the ever-richer offer of Belgrade nightlife, while the city is also slowly becoming a top shopping destination.
An offer that includes much more than beautiful beaches and clean seas
If the essence of tourism can be boiled down to aromas, flavours, touches, sounds, pictures, memories and reminiscences, it is no wonder that Croatia is among Europe’s most beautiful and most popular tourist destinations. A seaside summer holiday in Croatia is something that’s never forgotten and is remembered for the unique blend of the scents of the sea and pine trees, the sounds of chanting crickets and breaking waves. Each Croatian island represents a unique gem of the Adriatic, a fusion of fairytale nature, rich culture and sumptuous gastronomy, and one of its “musts” is Dubrovnik, which ranks among the world’s most beautiful cities and is a fashionable resort with streets that are happily strolled by tourists arriving from all over the world. For the most discerning guests who settle only for the best, Croatia has ample luxury hotels, marinas and restaurants, but also unique tourist complexes located off the beaten track.
“Wild beauty” is the tourism slogan that’s used to described the charms Montenegro, which is one of Europe’s youngest countries and is rightly said to be too small to possess such a wealth of natural beauty. Despite being home to the unique Bay of Kotor, which ranks among the world’s most beautiful places, the boundless beach of Ada Bojana, and the Budva Riviera that entices tourists from all over the world, Montenegro is much more than a beautiful coastline. The stunningly beautiful alternative side of Montenegro differs completely from lounging on a beach and comprises enchanting landscapes, rivers and mountains, canyons and glacial lakes. That’s why Montenegrins correctly note that their guests can bathe in the beautiful blue Adriatic in the morning, then spend the afternoon hiking through mountains with peaks that remain covered in snow throughout the year, try their hand at whitewater rafting or canyoning, navigating the narrow Nevidio Canyon…
Offer tailored to suit the most varied tourists
The region’s most famous tourist destinations undoubtedly includes the charms of Bosnia-Herzegovina, a land of incredible nature and numerous cultural and historical monuments. Thanks to the beauty of its national parks and mountains, and the cultural heritage of its cities representing a unique fusion of the cultures of East and West, Bosnia-Herzegovina is the perfect choice for all types of holiday – from short weekend breaks to full summer holidays and winter getaways at its ski resorts. Apart from the famous mountains of Jahorina, Bjelašnica and Igman, tourists coming from surrounding countries, but also from distant lands, show greatest interest in its larger cities that can boast of their own specific contents and attractions. Among the gems of its tourist offer are certainly Sarajevo, representing the perfect blend of oriental and European lifestyles, the spirit of bygone times and modern trends, Neum, a small town on the Adriatic coast, Mostar, with its incredible architecture, Trebinje and Višegrad.
Although its Adriatic coastline covers an area of just 45 kilometres, Slovenia can boast of its loyal guests, who year after year spend their summer holidays in Koper, Portorož and Piran. Nevertheless, the beating heart of this alpine country’s tourism sector is represented by its mountain resorts, the region’s best wellness centres and spa facilities, and the world-famous Postojna Cave.
With winter resorts like Kranjska Gora and Maribor Pohorje, Slovenia has for years been known as an outstanding ski destination that proves equally attractive to young people, families with children and experienced skiers seeking good runs, while it is also considered as being among the destinations with the best thermal spas, unforgettable wine routes, hiking trails and top gastronomic specialities and delicacies.
Predjama is one of the most extraordinary castles in the world, built in the mouth of a cave complex at the end of a valley in southwest Slovenia. Set halfway up a 400-foot (123-meter) vertical cliff face, it appears in records from 1202 and is listed by Guinness World Records as the world’s largest cave castle.
At the other end of our former country is North Macedonia, which is so named despite being in the extreme south of the lands of Yugoslavia. This is a country that has begun working more intensively to develop and promote its tourism potential after several decades of stagnation. Here tourists are most interested in cultural, religious and rural tourism, but also Macedonian gastronomy and domestic wineries, and particularly the majestic lakes of Ohrid, Prespa and Dojran. Over the previous few years that have seen young people from Western Europe start getting to know North Macedonia, there has been an increasing need to develop options for active, adventure and adrenaline-driven tourism, with the country boasting outstanding natural conditions to develop these types of tourism, such as mountain trails ranging from gentle to steep, rivers ranging from calm to turbulent, flat plains and high cliffs etc.
The greatest development is yet to come in the years ahead
Despite it having not been part of the former shared country, we shouldn’t forget Albania, which is becoming increasingly interesting as a tourist destination in the region. Guests from Serbia and other parts of the former Yugoslavia, but also from other parts of Europe, primarily opt to spend their summer holidays in tourist centres on the Adriatic and Ionian seas, which have seen more than 150 of the most modern hotels spring up in recent years. For those who aren’t satisfied with merely lounging on the beaches of Durrës, Sarandë or Vlorë, locals will offer tours of Tirana or Berat, a city that best depicts the history of Albania, as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a veritable “open-air museum”.