Having discussed the history of Yugoslavia in my previous post, I will go over a workable itinerary that covers most of the locations that makes up the block. These include Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Kosovo.
My travel path around the former Yugoslavia region started in Slovenia and then made my way south traveling along the beautiful Adriatic coast to Croatia and Montenegro. Then I headed up north to Bosnia and Serbia. I skipped Macedonia, Albania and Kosovo due to volatile security situation at that time.
So when is a good time visit this region? I recommend either the Spring or Autumn season. Some places like Dubrovnik are absolutely packed during summer, so avoid the tourists by traveling during shoulder seasons. As far as visas as concerned, U.S, Canadian, EU, AU and NZ citizens can get visa on arrival and stay up to 60 days in most countries. Let’s go over the itinerary now.
Slovenia is one of the smaller breakaway country from Yugoslavia is part of European Union now. Slovenia uses Euro currency. If you like lakes, castles, mountains and nature then Slovenia is the right place to come.
Ljubljana – The capital city of Slovenia is famous for history, culture, street arts, shopping, canals, rivers and bridges. Most low cost airlines fly to Ljubljana. Frequent trains operate between Zagreb and Ljubljana. You can also connect from Vienna and Munich.
The city’s river embankments, tree-lined riverside walks, beautifully designed bridges and buildings owes it to the local architect Jože Plečnik. There are many lively cafes with outdoor seating along the river embankment.
Your trip to Slovenia is incomplete without a visit to Lake Bled and Lake Bohinj. Both are only a stone throwaway from Ljubljana. Lake Bled is the highlight of visiting Slovenia. There are plenty of opportunities to go for hiking, biking, bird watching, kayaking and boating. You can hike the Triglau mountains (only open in the summer months) near Lake Bled. Also consider a boat ride across Lake Bohinj. The best way to get to Lake Bled / Bohinj is to drive from Ljubljana. It will take about an hour or so.
Also, Slovenia is one of the cleanest places that I’ve ever come across in my travels.
The neighboring country Croatia is easy to reach from Ljubljana by train. Once you reach Croatia you notice the northern part of Croatia is not that much different to Slovenia in terms of culture, weather and food.
Go to the capital city of Croatia – Zagreb for its history, local food and unique museums (such as Museum of broken relationship). When you are in the Ban Jelacic central square you can witness a historical reenactment to remember the Croatian Governor Ban Jelacic.
Top things to see: Ben Jelacic square, St.Mark’s square (cathedral), Strossmayer Promenade, Museum of Broken Relationship, Zagreb City Museum, Zagreb Zoo, Botanical Garden and Technical Museum Nikola Tesla.
Plitvice National Park is home to easily the most stunning waterfalls in the world. Take the early morning bus from Zagreb to Plitvice and spend the day. A day is all you need.
I strongly recommend to take all the bus trips during the day so you can enjoy the beautiful coastline and Mediterranean towns along the coast.
From Plitvice park take a ride to Zadar, a historical Roman city on the Adriatic sea. Zadar is best known for some interesting architectural things like the Sea Organ, The Greeting to the Sun and
Zadar is a historic Roman city which offers spectacular Roman ruins and beautiful sandy beaches. The bus from Plitvice to Zadar takes about 2 hours. Don’t miss The Forum in Old historical center and The Greeting to the Sun. Try the Black cuttlefish risotto in any restaurant in the old town. It is delicious. Don’t be alarmed by the black color of risotto. It is black because of the ink color from Squid fish. Check out Sea of Organs which produces random harmonic sounds. Also worth visiting is the Solar Sun salutation that consists of three hundred multilayered solar cell plates that lit up when the sun goes down.
The second largest city in Croatia, Split is located midway between Zadar and Dubrovnik. The city’s old town is located on the eastern shore of the Adriatic sea. It is a transport hub to islands that are situated off the shore like Hvar and Vis. Many tourist cruise ships make a port call here which brings a ton of tourists to this location.
Split is home to the Roman emperor Diocletian’s palace. He built it in A.D 305 and you can still visit the palace for a small fee. Historically speaking Split has been part of many empires so it possesses many traditions and cultural influences from these occupations. The historic center of Split is included in the UNESCO list of World heritage sites.
Dubrovnik is the most iconic destination of Croatia. Best known from the HBO TV series Game of Thrones (GOT) is located here in Dubrovnik. I recommend taking a cable car ride up to the top of the hill to get some spectacular views of the city walls and the shore. I highly recommend going here to see the sunset.
If there is only one place to see in Montenegro then it is Kotor. It is a beautiful coastal town with scenic views of Fjords in the Balkan. Bus from Dubrovnik to Kotor takes about 2 hours. This coastal drive is one of the most beautiful drives you will ever take in your life time.
When you are in Kotor, take a hike up the hill to San Giovanni Castle. It costs 2-3 euros for entrance. The path is somewhat paved with cobble stones so it is easy to walk. Once you get to the top you will have a spectacular view of the Kotor bay. You can also see the fortification and holes through which the weapons were placed.
Budvar is less than half hour from Kotor, famous for its beaches, shopping and seafood. Frequent local buses exists from Kotor to Budvar.
Perast is another old town on the bay of Kotor in Montenegro. Best known for Our Lady of the Rocks – an islet off the coast of Perast. Frequent local buses from Kotor to Perast
Remember although Montenegro is still a EU candidate the currency used here is Euros.
If you are coming from Montenegro you can take a private van for less than 25 euros to reach Mostar. Mostar is the cultural capital city of Bosnia. One of the most iconic bridges in the world, Old bridge is located here. The bridge is built over the Neretva river that flows across Mostar. The water comes from the glacier and the water is so clean that you can literally drink the water from the river.
From Mostar you can take a historical and scenic train ride to Sarajevo, capital city of Bosnia. Sarajevo is truly a multi-cultural city as we noted in the first part of the article. You can witness representation of all the Abrahamic religions here – Orthodox, Cathedral, Synagogue, Mosque -all co-existing together in harmony.
The capital city of Serbia – Belgrade is filled with history and culture. You can hike up to Kalemegdan fortress, spend the nightlife at the world famous floating clubs also know as Splavs. Belgrade has been heavily bombarded by the NATO forces in the late 90s to stop Milosevic from his genocide campaign against the Bosnian muslims. You can still witness the remains of the bombings by the damaged buildings and bridges.
Novi Sad is a beautiful historic town. Petrovardin fortress is a must see for it’s beautiful views and creative workshops. Regular daily train services leave from Belgrade to Novi Sad.
I wrapped up my journey around the former Yugoslavian block in Novi Sad, Serbia. It was a great attempt to understand the multitude of the cultural and religious background. The people have more in common than they realize. Even though there is some friction between the different ethnic groups, and conflicts over land and resources, they learned to live together in harmony. I hope to see more integration and understanding and continued peace among the different groups. I am sure I will be coming back in a decade to see the progress.