Europe will be busier than ever this fall, especially when temperatures are yet to go down and seasonal routes are still operational.
Interestingly, while Americans will be flocking to the likes of Italy, France, and Spain, other lesser-known spots are still flying under the radar of most visitors.
In fact, Europe’s hottest destination in the post-restrictions world is not France’s overpriced Cote d’Azur, nor Spain’s Balearic Islands: Southeast Europe is where it’s at, or more specifically, the hugely underrated Balkan Peninsula.
Home to a diverse collective of countries, including the increasingly popular sunny hotspots of Albania and Montenegro, which have been topping the summer travel charts this year, and numerous other gorgeous off-path locations, there is simply nowhere trendier than the ‘Balkans’ right now.
Here are 5 reasons why:
It Is Diverse
First of all, the Balkans are probably Europe’s most unexpectedly diverse sub-region. With countless ethnic groups residing across the territory, 11 countries that are either partly or fully within it, and at least 7 languages, not to mention their dialects, it is a melting pot of cultures:
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- North Macedonia
- European Turkey
One of the reasons why European countries are so popular among American tourists is how different they can be from one another in spite of being close neighbors.
In the Balkans, for instance, Slavs live alongside Romance-language speakers, Albanians, Hellenic peoples, and even Turks.
There is truly nothing more fascinating than crossing the state border between Romania and Bulgaria and seeing the road signs drastically change from a Latinized alphabet to Cyrillic, or taking the ferry from modernist Albania towards the more traditional Greek island of Corfu and admiring the sudden, striking changes in architecture.
The Western Mediterranean is Europe’s top fall destination due to its unique blend of ancient heritage and coastal zones. A little-known fact among Americans, however, is that the Mediterranean extends far beyond Spain’s, France’s, and Italy’s contiguous coasts.
The Balkan Peninsula also has a coastline on the world-famous sea, lapped by one of its most stunning sections: the Adriatic.
Adriatic beaches are either pebbly or a mix of pebbles and white sand, and the waters are probably the clearest you will find anywhere in the Med, particularly in Croatia’s Dalmatian coast, Montenegro, or Albania’s Southern Riviera.
Other than the Adriatic, the Balkans are the gateway to Europe’s next trendy coastal spot: the Black Sea, which in spite of its misleading name, it’s a warm, beautifully azure basin.
In this article, we’ve covered some of the most promising vacation destinations on the Black Sea, including Bulgaria’s ever-trendier Sunny Beach, and Romania’s unheard-of Eforie Nord.
Beaches on the Black Sea are best known for their elongated, golden-sand crescents and a not-as-developed resort scene.
Whether it’s the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean that make your heart beat faster or the mysterious Black Sea that piques your intrigue, the Balkans make for the perfect off-season getaway.
Overtourism is back in Europe once again, but not all European countries are reporting dangerously disruptive levels of tourism in 2023.
In the Balkans, Croatia and Greece have notoriously battled overtourism in recent years, yet a majority of the peninsula’s sovereign states not only are not awash by visitors, but they are actively promoting tourism in hopes of catching up with their most famous counterparts.
That is the case in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a country once ravaged by war that’s become a fairly stable, safe tourist destination in the past decade and where locals are now eager to host foreigners and cash in on their tourist dollars.
Except for the powerhouse trio of Croatia, Montenegro, and Greece, all other Balkan states remain virtually crowd-free – by Western European standards – offering guests a more relaxed and less stressful vacation than had they booked instead of a trip to the South West.
Locals Are Friendly
While it’s important not to generalize, as kindness is not restricted to territorial borders, as one of our writers has witnessed first-hand, Balkan friendliness is truly hard to rival, especially in not-so-touristy Albania or Bosnia and Herzegovina.
From sharing a drink with inviting locals in central squares to being invited to their family home, she quickly learned that the locals’ hospitality knows no bounds.
The Balkans’ level of friendliness is directly linked to the absence of overtourism in the region, as this has been noted to increase anti-tourism attitudes elsewhere in Europe, particularly in hugely popular vacation spots like Italy and France.
In Bosnia, for instance, locals are excited to see new visitors, with a Bosniak running cooking lessons for tourists since 2018 stating that ‘tourism can offer u hope’, referring to the much-needed influx of tourist dollars and the country’s openness to the outside world.
The Balkans Are Cheaper
Finally, there is the Balkans’ high affordability. We could argue they are by far the cheapest vacation destination in all of Europe, as a majority of nations are neither in the European Union nor its associated Schengen and Eurozones, and consumer prices are far lower than the overpriced West.
According to BudgetYourTrip, a travel website where rough estimates of tourist expenses are given, visitors should set aside around $45 per day traveling in Albania, where accommodation can be extremely accessible – with overnight rates as low as $20 for a room in a mid-range hotel – and food is fresh, plentiful, and cheap.
In Kosovo, reportedly one of the cheapest destinations in Europe, a single person’s estimated monthly costs are $449.60, according to crowd-sourced Numbeo, with a cost of living that is on average 60.4% lower than in the U.S.
The trendy Montenegro is a lot more expensive than the Balkan average, with BudgetYourTrip estimating daily costs at $115 per person, but it still falls below the much higher Western European threshold of $170 and above.
On average, beachgoers have spent $40 on meals for one day and only $17 on local transportation while traveling Montenegro’s Dalmatian coast.
Learn more about this beautiful part of the world and why it is surging in popularity in this post-crisis era here.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com