Danube valley Veliki Kazan on the Serbian-Romanian border The Tsar city of Plovdiv On the scary lake trek in Bulgaria Trekking to Musala peak Bulgaria Central Balkan NP 2019 UTR BG RO (6) The Bosphorus in Istanbul |  <i>Erin Williams</i>

Active Trips in the Balkans by Bike, Foot and Boat

Mighty mountains, rivers, and forests within arm's reach

If you’re lucky enough to find yourself surrounded by the diverse landscapes of the Balkans (aka the Balkan Peninsula), you should go on an active trip to truly immerse yourself in the uniqueness of this southeastern region in Europe. The region is so named thanks to the Balkan Mountain range which runs 560 km from eastern Serbia eastward through central Bulgaria. From the postcard-perfect villages of Croatia to the forest-covered mountains of Bulgaria, there’s no shortage of sights and activities for the active traveller to explore. 

Despite its turbulent history with several major wars raging throughout the region, the Balkans remains a remarkable travel destination for active travellers hungry for adventure and new experiences. Charming multicultural towns, impressive monasteries and citadels dotting hillsides, gorgeous mountains sprinkled with beautiful forests and lakes, and traditional folk music will make you feel like you’ve been transported to a different world. With hundreds of kilometres of coastline on both the Adriatic and Black Seas, beach lovers will feel right at home here.

On the scary lake trek in Bulgaria Cycling the Parenzana Rail Trail Bran Castle |  <i>Lilly Donkers</i> The ancient Acropolis in Athens is a sight to behold

5 Things You Should Know About the Balkans

1. The Balkans region is made up of a diverse group of countries.

Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, mainland Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, a part of Turkey and Slovenia are all a part of this region in Europe. As you can see, there are many countries in this area, each one offering something unique to the active traveller, like the natural diversity in Bulgaria or the culinary flavour of Greece. It’s important to note that there are varying definitions of the Balkans. There’s the pure geographical definition as we have just outlined, but if you take into consideration historical and cultural factors, the list of countries considered a part of the Balkans changes. In any case, an active trip in the Balkans will expand your horizons and create memories that you won’t soon forget.

2. The Balkan peninsula is covered in stunning mountain ranges.

In fact, the word Balkan is Turkish for mountains. The main mountain ranges include: 

• the Balkan Mountain range (Stara Planina in Bulgarian) which runs from the Black Sea coast in Bulgaria to its border with Serbia
• the Rhodope mountains which can be found in southern Bulgaria and northern Greece
• the Dinaric Alps which runs along the Adriatic coastline
• the Pindus Mountain range which spans from southern Albania into Northern Greece and the Albanian Alps
• the Šar Mountains extend from Kosovo and the northwest of North Macedonia to northeastern Albania

3. The Balkan peninsula is surrounded by several major bodies of water.

While the mighty mountains are arguably the most impressive characteristic of the Balkans, the surrounding bodies of water could give them a run for its money. To the west is the Adriatic Sea, to the south you will find the Mediterranean Sea (which includes the Ionian and Aegean seas) and the Marmara Sea and to the east lies the Black Sea. These vast bodies of water will make your active trip - whether you do it on two wheels, by boat or on foot – one you’ll always remember. Explore Turkey on a guided walking and sailing trip or enjoy the dramatic Croatian landscape and seascape on bike and by boat.

4. The Balkans is home to many of the oldest continually inhabited cities on Earth.

If you’re a history buff, an active trip to the Balkans will certainly take you back to “the good old days” and feed your soul. You’ll have an amazing time discovering the many ancient cities that are still inhabited located in the region. Some of them include: 

• Plovdiv, Bulgaria
• Sofia, Bulgaria
• Zadar, Croatia
• Athens, Greece
• Argos, Greece
• Chalcis, Greece
• Mangalia, Romania
• Constanta, Romania
• Istanbul, Turkey
• And more…

5. You can find incredibly stunning architecture in the Balkans.

There’s no surprise here - from churches and mosques to castles and museums, you’ll find awe-inspiring architecture sprinkled all over the Balkans. Below are just a few of the seemingly endless examples of the beautiful landmarks that you can find in the region. 

• Belgrade Fortress in Belgrade, Serbia
• Cathedral Saint Alexandar Nevski in Sofia, Bulgaria
• Avast Twist Tower in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
• Diocletian’s Palace in Split, Croatia
• City Walls in Dubrovnik, Croatia
• Krujë Castle in Krujë, Albania
• Church of St. John at Kaneo in Ohrid, Macedonia

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