Road Tripping in the Balkans: 18 Epic Self-Drive Itineraries

A windy road viewed from above.

Love road trips? The Balkans is one of the best regions in Europe for self-driving. This post brings together 18 tried-and-tested Balkan road trip itineraries to help you plan the perfect 3 -10 day adventure.

Short distances, safe roads and affordable car rentals – the Balkans is a great place for a road trip.

With your own wheels, you can cover a whole country in a couple of days. In a week or more, you can fit in a cross-border itinerary to get a taste for the region’s diversity.

Mountains, lakes, dynamic cities, UNESCO sites and some of the best beaches in Europe – all for a fraction of the cost, and with a fraction of the crowds. The driving style in the Balkans takes some getting used to, but that’s all part of the experience!

Please note: This post contains affiliate links, meaning I may earn a commission if you make a purchase by clicking a link (at no extra cost to you). Learn more.

Renting a car in the Balkans

When searching for a rental car in the Balkans, I highly recommend using Discover Cars. This comparison website allows you to easily browse and compare different rentals from a variety of international and local agents.

Discover Cars lets you filter by the exact features you need (for example, transmission type), and offers a full range of price and date options so you can find the best value for money. Visit Discover Cars and plug in your dates to see what’s available.

Balkan road trip: Suggested itineraries

Here are 18 of the very best Balkan road trip itineraries, tried and tested by me and other travel writers.

Kotor, Montenegro.

Montenegro road trip: The Bay of Kotor

Editor’s choice

  • Duration: 5-7 days
  • Distance covered: 280km (approx. 5 hours of driving)
  • Highlights: Kotor Old Town, Perast, Skadar Lake boat trip, Lovcen National Park

Montenegro is the perfect place for a Balkan road trip. This Montenegro road trip itinerary concentrates on the one and only Bay of Kotor, with a stopover at Skadar Lake plus a few nights on Montenegro’s southern coast.

The first day of driving from Podgorica, Montenegro’s capital, to the coast takes you over one of the most magnificent stretches of road anywhere in the region: the land bridge over Skadar Lake. This is the same route the famous Belgrade to Bar train takes. Spend a night in Virpazar where you can enjoy a boat trip on the marshy lake and do birdwatching. Or, continue straight to Petrovac, a small coastal settlement with a fortress.

Just 10km further up the coast, Sveti Stefan is quieter than other beach towns and makes for an ideal place to base yourself for a few nights. From here, you can day trip to Budva. Don’t miss the Church of St. Sava for the best views of the private island.

Cut briefly inland to reach Boka Kotorska. The Bay is dotted with cities and towns of various sizes – Tivat, Kotor, Perast and Herceg Novi are all worth spending a day in. In Kotor, hike to the castle and get lost in the old town. Perast is smaller and less touristy than Kotor, making it my favourite spot on the Bay. Don’t miss a boat trip to Our Lady of the Rocks, one of the most unique churches in the Balkans.

If you need a break from the coast, it’s a quick drive to Lovcen National Park and the iconic Petar Petrovic Njegos Mausoleum. From Herceg Novi, loop back to Podgorica, passing through Niksic and stopping off at Ostrog Monastery.

Check out my top tips for a successful road trip in Montenegro.

Pula Amphitheatre, Croatia.

Croatia road trip: Istria

Recommended by Maggie, The World Was Here First

  • Duration: 7 days
  • Distance covered: 200km (approx. 3 hours of driving)
  • Highlights: Pula Amphitheatre, Istrian wineries, Rovinj old town

One of the best places in the Balkans to go for a road trip is the gorgeous Istria region of Croatia. As one of the gastronomic centres of Croatia, Istria is an excellent place for food lovers and sun-seekers alike.

If you want to get the most out of Istria, plan to spend at least one week exploring this lovely region. This will allow you to see the beautiful coastal cities of ‘Blue Istria’ as well as explore the hill towns and culinary scene of ‘Green Istria’.

The easiest place to begin a road trip in Istria is in the biggest city, Pula. Famous for its imposing Roman Amphitheatre, it’s also worth taking the time to visit Pula’s bustling central market, learn about oil production at the House of Istrian Olive Oil, or take a day trip to the Brijuni Islands.

Don’t have a car? Here’s how to travel between Rovinj and Pula by bus.

From Pula, head north to the coastal town of Umag. This charming seaside village is pleasant to stroll through and, though it doesn’t have a lot to offer in terms of tourist sites, it makes an excellent base to explore some other parts of the region. 

From Umag, you can visit some of Istria’s best wineries or take a day trip to the beautiful hill towns Motovun, Buje, or Groznjan. Here, you can feast on truffle-laden dishes while enjoying all the charms of a Tuscan hill town with a fraction of the crowds. You can also drive down the coast and visit the beautiful old towns of Porec or Novigrad and take in the stunning Lim Fjord.

Finally, no trip to Istria is complete without a stop in Rovinj. The Old Town is perfectly preserved and the pedestrianised streets will make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. Though Rovinj can get very crowded in the summer months, it still retains its charm and is very much worth exploring.

Related: 8 beautiful places to visit in Croatian Istria.

Brasov, Romania.

Romania road trip: Bucharest to Brasov

Recommended by Victor, Victor’s Travels

  • Duration: 7-10 days
  • Distance covered: 670km (approx. 10 hours of driving)
  • Highlights: UNESCO-Listed Sighisoara, Peles Castle, Brasov

Romania is one of those countries you can easily underestimate due to the lack of tourist attractions. Sure, you have the Transylvanian region with Dracula’s castle, but the country has a lot more to offer!

Our Romania road trip started in Bucharest, where we rented a small car for about 50 Euros for a little over a week. When booking in advance, I definitely recommend getting the ‘worry-free’ option with full coverage, as you will encounter potholes and loose gravel on many of Romania’s roads.

Our first stop was Sibiu, a charming little city about 4 hours’ drive from Bucharest, with little bakeries, orthodox churches, and colorful buildings.

The next brief stop was the city of Sighisoara, which has a UNESCO-Listed walled old town. You can almost hear the buildings creak and crumble, most of them being at least 300 years old.

More Transylvania goodness: My guide to the handsome walled city of Sighisoara.

Brasov was next, with its many hip cafe’s, excellent (and cheap!) restaurants, and friendly locals. I recommend hiking up to the Hollywood-like ‘Brasov’ sign for a breathtaking view of the city.

Romania’s famous castles were next on our itinerary. We decided to stop only briefly at Bran Castle (the famous Dracula’s castle) for a quick walk around the exterior. Instead, we drove another hour to check out Peles Castle, which is considered to be one of the most stunning castles in Europe. The tour is interesting too, as every room has a completely different interior.

Sinaia was our last stop before heading back to Bucharest. This ski-resort town was nice and quiet, as we did the trip at the end of March: too late for ski season, too early for hiking season. The beautiful mountains of Bucegi Natural Park still had lots of snow.

If you’re planning a Balkan road trip, be sure not to overlook Romania!

Lake Ohrid, North Macedonia.

North Macedonia road trip: Skopje to Ohrid

Editor’s choice

  • Duration: 5-7 days
  • Distance covered: 600km (approx. 9 hours of driving)
  • Highlights: Skopje Old Bazaar, Tetovo Mosque, Lake Ohrid, Krushevo

Another classic Balkan road trip, the Skopje loop route in North Macedonia covers all the country’s must-sees. After a few days in capital observing the contrasts between Skopje’s sculpture-dotted city centre and the old Ottoman-era bazzar, drive west to the small town of Tetovo, home to one of the most stunning mosques in the Balkans region.

Head south, Skirting Mavrovo National Park, to reach Lake Ohrid. Ohrid is a great base for exploring the monasteries and churches around the lake and wineries and villages further inland. Make a stop in Bitola to visit the ruins of Heraclea Lyncestis, an ancient Greek city, before heading into the hills.

A few days in charming Krushevo, my favourite place in North Macedonia, will recharge your spirits. Wander the cobbled streets, eat at the local cafes, and be sure to visit some of the craftspeople in town.

Return to Skopje via Prilep with an option to stop over in Veles on the way back.

Plovdiv, Bulgaria.

Bulgaria road trip: Ruse to Smolyan

Recommended by Daniela, Ipanema Travels

  • Duration: 7-10 days
  • Distance covered: 900km (approx. 15 hours of driving)
  • Highlights: Veliko Tarnovo, Rhodope Mountains, Plovdiv

This road trip takes you from north to south visiting some of the most beautiful places in Bulgaria, including two UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The whole trip is a bit over 900km. If you travel slowly, taking the time to see everything along the way, you can easily spend a whole week or more on the road.

The trip starts in Ruse on the Danube River. On the next day, continue via the Rock-Hewn Churches of Ivanovo (a UNESCO Site) and Nikopolis ad Istrum (an ancient Roman city) to Veliko Tarnovo

Veliko Tarnovo is perhaps one of the most beautiful cities in Bulgaria, being the old capital of the country in the period 1185-1396.  Spend a whole day in Veliko Tarnovo, including a detour to the nearby village of Arbanasi.

From Veliko Tarnovo, the road trip continues to Kazanlak, crossing the Balkan Mountains and the Shipka Pass. Stop at Shipka Pass and climb to the top of the Monument to Freedom for some amazing views.

Afterwards, continue to Kanzanlak stopping at Shipka Memorial Church on the way. Spend the evening in Kazanlak and visit the famous Thracian Tomb (another UNESCO World Heritage Site) the next morning. In the afternoon head to Plovdiv – another contender for the crown of the most beautiful city in Bulgaria.

After Plovid, head further south to Smolyan – a lovely city in the heart of the Rhodope Mountains – stopping at Pamporovo, a famous ski resort, on the way. While you’re there, take the chair lift to Snezhanka Peak or climb the Snezhanka TV tower for breathtaking views. Stay the night in Smolyan and the next day, take a mini road trip to the nearby authentic village of Shiroka Luka and the stunning Trigrad Gorge leading to the Yagodinska Cave.

You can start and end this trip in Sofia, travelling to Ruse on the first day and back to Sofia on last day via Devin and Plovdiv. Or, you can make it a longer Balkan road trip by starting in Romania and continuing south to Greece.


Albania road trip: The Albanian Riviera

Recommended by Rohan and Max, Travels of a Bookpacker

  • Duration: 4-7 days
  • Distance covered: 460km (approx. 8 hours of driving)
  • Highlights: Albania’s beaches

If you’re into beaches, you can’t go past the fantastically scenic route stretching along the coast of Albania. The road is easy to drive and provides lots of great places to stop for a swim or detour off to see the sights inland.

We travelled this route over three weeks, taking our time to relax and enjoy the beaches. Realistically, you could drive the Albanian coast in a few days if you were pressed for time.

Start your drive from the capital, Tirana, and head straight out to the beach town of Durres. From there, follow the highway south and turn off to the beach whenever you fancy! Some of the best beaches are located at Vlores, Himare and Dhermi. The hidden beach at Gjipe is well worth a visit but requires a 4×4 or a 20 minute walk to reach.

Alternative route: How to get from Italy to Albania by ferry.

There are guest houses, hotels and even a few hostels in most beach towns. By far, the best experience is wild camping on the coast of Albania. There are so many amazing spots to pull up with your campervan (or tent at some of them) and enjoy beach views from your back door. The Italian influence, felt from just across the sea, is evident in the availability of great pizza and gelato. You’ll also find a great range of affordable restaurants selling fresh seafood.

Subotica, Serbia. Photo credit: Eternal Arrival.

Serbia road trip: Nis to Subotica

Recommended by Allison, Sofia Adventures

  • Duration: 3-5 days
  • Distance covered: 430km (approx. 6 hours of driving)
  • Highlights: Belgrade, Art Nouveau architecture in Subotica

If you’re planning a road trip through the Balkans, don’t discount Serbia! This beautiful Balkan country often gets the short end of the stick, with people only spending a couple of days in Belgrade. But Serbia deserves a lot more than that!

While Western Serbia is full of beautiful natural wonders like the Drina River and Tara National Park, this road trip in Serbia focuses on four important Serbian cities that are all easily connected by the best highway in the country, making it an easy route.

Start in Nis, the largest city in southern Serbia. Nis is a wonder for history lovers. You should visit the Skull Tower, a ghastly relic of the Ottoman occupation, and Nis Fortress, as well as the Crveni Krst (Red Cross) Concentration Camp Museum. There is a large spomenik dedicated to those who died in Nis during World War II on Mount Burbanj. If you visit these sites, please do so respectfully.

After Nis, head north to Belgrade. There’s so much to do in Belgrade that it practically defies belief, but I suggest taking a communist tour, exploring the night life, checking out the food and street art scene, going for a river cruise on the Sava and Danube, and visiting Kalemegdan Fortress. Belgrade has a ton of traffic and parking can be a bit of a nightmare, so I suggest picking a place to stay in Belgrade that is outside the downtown area: Vracar, Novi Beograd, and Zemun are all fantastic neighborhoods.

Finally, head up to Vojvodina, an autonomous region of Serbia which used to be part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Novi Sad should be your first port of call here, although a side trip to nearby Sremski Karlovci to try some of the delicious Fruska Gora wineries would be a wonderful addition.

Novi Sad is Serbia’s beautiful second city with uniquely beautiful architecture and a funky vibe. There are wonderful cafes and restaurants to enjoy, candy-coloured architecture everywhere you look, and the gorgeous Petrovaradin Fortress which is definitely a can’t-miss.

Find your way around Serbia’s second city with my Novi Sad city guide.

End your Serbia trip in Subotica. This stunning Art Nouveau city is most famous for the gorgeous Raichle Palace, which is easily the most beautiful building in all of Serbia. It’s now been converted into a museum.

The main square with the town hall, library, and the most beautiful McDonalds I’ve ever seen (no joke), is also a must visit, and be sure to also stop by the synagogue and Subotica Cathedral, which is famous for a large crack in the middle of the cathedral!

Ulcinj, Montenegro.

Kosovo, Albania & Montenegro: Prizren to Shkoder via Ulcinj

Recommended by Erika, Erika’s Travelventures

  • Duration: 3-7 days
  • Distance covered: 230km (approx. 5 hours of driving)
  • Highlights: Prizren, the Accursed Mountains, beaches around Ulcinj

In order to get a taste of just how diverse this conglomerate of countries is, try a Balkan road trip from Prizren, Kosovo, to Shkoder, Albania, and Ulcinj, Montenegro. This route takes you from a sleepy Islamic town to a mountainous Albanian one, then finally to a beachy Montenegrin destination.

You can do this road trip in a minimum of three days, that’s how close each of the towns are. However, I recommend taking it slow and spending maybe two days in each place. Spend three days in Shkoder if you want to make a day trip to the mountain village of Theth.

First stop, Prizren, Kosovo. Kosovo is a tiny country that should not be skipped on any Balkan road trip because of how culturally and historically unique it is. Prizren in southern Kosovo is a gem of a town and is a more cultural version of Kosovo’s capital, Pristina.

Prizren is home to a large fortress located atop a hill – the perfect sunrise or sunset spot. There is an old bazaar area that will transport you to the heart of any Islamic country, if the sound of the central mosque’s call to prayer hasn’t done so already.

From Prizren, it’s about a 30-minute drive to the Albanian border, then 2.5 hours until Shkoder.

Shkoder is the economic and political centre of northern Albania and is close to some beautiful natural landscapes, including lakes and mountains. Take a tour or day trip drive to Theth, a tiny mountain village surrounded by impressive jagged mountains. Shkoder itself has many charming pedestrian pathways where you can relax on a cafe terrace or go for drinks at a quirky pub.

Stretch your legs: My tips for the Valbona to Theth hike.

From Shkoder, it’s no more than an hour of driving to Ulcinj, a quick hop over the Montenegrin border. Montenegro has endless towns along its coastline that are famous for their beaches. Ulcinj is no exception, although it is far less known.

Bask in the sun, go for a stroll under the palm trees, or explore the maze-like old town located at the top of a small hill. Find relaxation during the day, and go out for some dancing during the night at the many bars and clubs.

The Slovenian Alps.

Slovenia road trip: Brda to Ljubljana

Recommended by Karen, Local Holland

  • Duration: 10 days
  • Distance covered: 300km (approx. 4 hours of driving)
  • Highlights: Predjama Castle, hiking in Triglav National Park, Lake Bohinj

Slovenia is the perfect spot for a Balkan road trip. In 10 days, we experienced the best western Slovenia has to offer. We started and ended near the Italian border to take advantage of affordable flights into Venice.

One of the unexpected highlights near the beginning of our trip had to be the stunning Brda region, which sits directly next to the Italian border. Here, you can enjoy local red and white wines in stunning hilltop towns such as Smartno na Pohorju.

If you’re a wine lover, it’s worth taking a day (or two) to explore the various wineries and learn about the unique history of this region. We also loved stopping off at small towns along the beautiful Soca River.

After exploring Brda, we drove down to Predjama to experience the stunning castle built in the mouth of a cave. The castle itself has an amazing history and some shocking features, so be sure to enter the cave! The next day, we enjoyed the beautiful Skocjanske caves, a less-crowded alternative to Postojna cave.

The next two days were spent exploring the beautiful Triglavski National Park and the stunning Tolmin Gorge. While driving up, I wondered if we were in Yosemite National Park in the US. The hiking here is first-class and Triglav is a popular day hike among Slovenians. I also loved exploring the picturesque Tolmin Gorge with its beautiful aquamarine water.

After some hiking, we rested up for a day of relaxation at Lake Bohinj, the little sister to Lake Bled – again without the crowds. It’s located at the foot of Triglav National Park, so the views are absolutely stunning. You can take a dip in the water or go SUPing. After a relaxing afternoon, we ended our evening with sunset at Lake Bled.

No car? Here’s how to travel to Bled from Ljubljana by bus.

Depending on how much time you have, you might want to give yourself several days in Ljubljana to experience one of Europe’s greenest capitals. Slovenia has a thriving experimental craft beer culture, so be sure to try a pint of the local brew. After you’re done sightseeing, you can return back to your starting point along Slovenia’s very well-maintained highways.

Side trip: Visiting Skofja Loka as a day trip from Ljubljana.

Driving in Slovenia is fairy straightforward. Anyone who’s not used to hills should practice driving in manual. If you will be driving on smaller narrow roads, especially in the mountains, it’s best to avoid driving at night.

Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Croatia & Bosnia and Herzegovina: Split to Sarajevo via Mostar

Recommended by Coni, Experiencing the Globe

  • Duration: 10 days
  • Distance covered: 315km (approx. 5 hours of driving)
  • Highlights: Waterfalls, Pocitelj open-air museum, Mostar bridge

This Balkan road trip is a dream because it includes all the main highlights of the region: turquoise beaches, Roman and medieval towns, stunning nature, and interesting history. I’d recommend setting aside 10 days to fully enjoy it.

Start in Split, Croatia, where you can explore Diocletian’s palace (a 1700-year-old fortress where the Roman Emperor lived), enjoy the forest and the beaches of Marjan Park, and visit a few art museums (don’t miss the Mestrovic Gallery).

From Split, you can add on a few day  trips. My recommendation is to visit medieval Trogir, Krka waterfalls, and at least one of the islands (there are island hopping tours to cover more in less time).

After Split, drive along the coast to Croatia’s capital of adventure, Omis, where you can have fun doing zip-lining, rafting or rock climbing.

After a few days on the Adriatic coast, head to Bosnia and Herzegovina. Your first stop will be at Kravica Waterfalls. Spend a few hours wandering around and go for a quick swim in the cold water before moving on to Pocitelj. This is the first indication that you’re entering a Muslim country. Pocitelj village is an open-air museum: medieval towers and mosques set in a cliff overlooking the Neretva river.

Check out my guide for exploring Pocitelj.

The next stop is Blagaj, where a historical tekija (a Dervish monastery) is set in a cliff near a spring of the Buna river.

Stay in Mostar, the best place to learn about the history of BiH, especially the Yugoslav wars. The contrast between western Croatia and eastern Bosnia is really palpable here. The river divides the town in two different worlds.

The last stop is Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s capital. Walk around town to discover layers of Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian and socialist history.

Biertan, Romania.

Romania road trip: Transylvania & Maramures

Recommended by Corina, Another Milestone

  • Duration: 5-8 days
  • Distance covered: 760km (approx. 13 hours of driving)
  • Highlights: Fortified churches, the Merry Cemetery, Turda Salt Mine

The classic tour of Transylvania includes the big cities of the region, some traditional villages, important natural attractions and landscapes that will amaze you. Five days are enough to see it all. Add an extra three days for Maramures and you will remember this holiday forever!

Start your trip in Sibiu with a long walk in the old town. The next day, go to Cluj Napoca, stopping on the way to see Alba Iulia, the white citadel, and to explore the salt mine amusement park in Turda.

Dedicate your third day to Cluj Napoca, the largest city in Transylvania, for its old town, modern restaurants and botanical garden. On day four, you can visit the wooden churches of Maramures and stop in Sighetu Marmatiei.

The next day, visit the main attractions around the area: The Merry Cemetery and a prison transformed in museum. Don’t leave Maramures without a ride on the mocanita, a steam train that takes you deep into the woods. In the evening, you can stop in a traditional village.

Coming back to Transylvania on your seventh day, visit Targu Mures, another medieval city. On the way back to Sibiu, spend your last day discovering the fortified churches of Transylvania, UNESCO Heritage sites Biertan and Valea Viilor.

The Buzludzha, Bulgaria. Photo credit: Sofia Adventures.

Bulgaria road trip: Sofia to Buzludzha

Recommended by Stephanie, Sofia Adventures

  • Duration: 1-3 days
  • Distance covered: 500km (approx. 6 hours of driving)
  • Highlights: Buzludha Monument, Shipka church

One of my favorite Balkan road trips is to rent a car and spend the day driving the five hours from Sofia to Buzludzha and back. While I usually make the drive there and return in one day, you can also choose to stretch this out into a two-day or three-day day road trip if you don’t want to tackle that much driving in one day.

Leaving from Sofia, the drive winds through the Central Balkan Mountains in the Central Balkan National Park, which has the distinction of being a Tentative UNESCO World Heritage Site.

You can plan your itinerary to include stops at several additional Communist Monuments. The mountains in this part of the country are dotted with them.

Make sure to give yourself enough time to visit Shipka, which is about thirty minutes from Buzludzha. The town’s gorgeous Russian Orthodox Church was built to serve the Russian troops who stayed behind after the Russians helped expel the Ottomans from Bulgaria.

The main event, of course, is Buzludzha. This former Monument House of the Bulgarian Communist Party sits atop a mountain and is only truly accessible by car. Famous for looking like a Communist UFO, give yourself time to get out and walk around the site.

If you want to turn your road trip into a multi-day affair, spend the night in nearby Stara Zagora, where you can take in another one of the country’s most famous Communist Sites and add a trip to the Thracian Tomb of Kazanak, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Otherwise, the drive back to Sofia will be beautiful, but possibly tiring. It helps to share this journey with another driver if you’re going to attempt it in one day.

Prokletije National Park, Montenegro. Photo credit: Moon & Honey Travel.

Montenegro road trip: Komovi to Durmitor National Park

Recommended by Sabrina and Kati, Moon & Honey Travel

  • Duration: 7 days
  • Distance covered: 560km (approx. 13 hours of driving)
  • Highlights: Hiking, Bobotov Kuv

This Montenegro road trip highlights the country’s most impressive mountain ranges and national parks: Komovi, Prokletije and Durmitor.

It’s best to start this trip in the capital city, Podgorica. After picking up your rental car, begin your journey inland to the Komovi mountains. Base yourself in Stavna, a high alpine pasture dotted with traditional herdmen’s settlements (aka Katuns). Here, you’re well-positioned to hike to the summit of Kom Vasojevićki, one of the highest peaks in the Komovi Range.

After exploring Komovi, it’s time to venture further inland to Prokletije National Park, otherwise known as the Accursed Mountains. Base yourself in Grebaje Valley and/or Ropojana Valley. You can access a number of day hiking trails from these valleys, though trail markings aren’t always ubiquitous, or clear. Note that there’s a 1 Euro entrance fee per person per day.

After a few days in the Accursed Mountains, begin the 3.5-4 hour drive to Durmitor National Park. The best base for exploring Durmitor is the town of Zabljak. There are numerous hiking options, including Bobotov Kuv and Planinica.

Your journey continues along the scenic Sedlo Route P14 through the heart of Durmitor National Park to Pluzine. The P14 is arguably the most beautiful road in all of Montenegro.

From here, you can make your return journey to Podgorica.

Rethymno, Greece.

Greece road trip: Chania to Rethymno, Crete

Recommended by Chrysoula, Travel Passionate

  • Duration: 7-10 days
  • Distance covered: 360km (approx. 8 hours of driving)
  • Highlights: Beaches, fishing villages, natural baths at Loutro

One of the best ways to explore western Crete is to take a road trip from Chania to Rethymno. These towns are two of the highlights of the island of Crete, and travelling between them by car gives you the freedom to stop off at some fascinating spots along the way.

My road trip route between Chania and Rethymno took me through Balos, Elafonisi, Loutro, Samaria Gorge, Falassarna, Preveli Monastery and beach, Margarites Village and Argyroupoli. I felt this route gave me a good mix of nature, history, culture and relaxation – which is what exploring the Greek Islands is all about!

The picturesque town of Chania, with its stunning Venetian harbour front, meandering streets of Old Town and eclectic combination of European, Egyptian and Ottoman influences, is a fantastic place to start this Balkan road trip. From here, you’ll move into Balos Beach, arguably one of the most beautiful beaches in the whole of Greece (and that’s saying something!).

Elafonisi Beach is next, and is another island beach connected to Crete by a sand bank across shallow waters. After Elafonisi you can stop for a swim at yet another beautiful beach called Dalassarna.

The fishing village of Loutro is another harbour-side stop. This one is known for its ancient natural baths. As Loutro can only be reached by boat, it is relatively unexplored, meaning you can have a relaxing few days here away from the crowds.

The next stop is Samaria Gorge, a great spot for hiking lovers. You will spend the next days  visiting the Preveli Monastery, Margarites Village (known for its pottery) and Argyroupoli, the town that was once Ancient Lappa.

End your trip in Rethymno, a lovely Cretan city with a fortress, lighthouse and, of course, plenty of traditional Greek tavernas!

Giving yourself between 7 and 10 days to complete a road trip between Chania and Rethymno should allow you enough time to get a taste of the towns and an insight into Cretan culture.

Prizren, Kosovo.

Kosovo road trip: Pristina to Prizren

Recommended by Paulina, Paulina on the Road

  • Duration: 3-5 days
  • Distance covered: 160km (approx. 3 hours of driving)
  • Highlights: Kosovo’s two biggest cities, Prizren and Pristina

Despite its small size, Kosovo is home to many different cultures, spectacular landscapes and warm-hearted people. One of the best ways to discover the beauty of Kosovo is by doing a road trip through the county.

This Balkan road trip will take you from the capital, Pristina, to the most scenic town, Prizren, via Peja – gateway to the most breathtaking mountain scenery in Kosovo. Calculate at least three days.

After enjoying what Pristina has to offer, start your road trip by driving to Prizren via the M9. The ride only lasts a little over an hour, but you’ll already get fantastic views. When arriving in Prizren, take at least one day to explore Kosovo’s most picturesque city. It has plenty of charming bars, too!

Planning a trip to Kosovo? Check out my city guides for Prizren and Pristina for more tips.

After Prizren, it’s time to drive to Peja in the northern part of Kosovo. Pec is home to a large Serbian community and hosts the Peja Patriarchate, the spiritual seat and mausoleum of the Serbian Patriarchs. It’s also the gateway to the jaw-dropping Rugova Valley, a heaven for outdoor sports lovers.

This itinerary is the perfect way to spend 3 days in Kosovo.

Korcula, Croatia.

Croatia road trip: Zagreb to Dubrovnik

Recommended by Inma, A World to Travel

  • Duration: 7 days
  • Distance covered: 600km (approx. 8 hours of driving)
  • Highlights: The walled city of Dubrovnik, Dalmatian Coast, Korcula Island

A few years ago, I became infatuated by travelling by train in Europe. When I arrived in the Balkans and realised that it wasn’t so easy, I decided to rent a car instead.

I travelled from inland Croatia down the Dalmatian Coast over seven days. My first stop was Zagreb, the capital of Croatia. It normally doesn’t have a very good reputation (compared to the beautiful coastline) but it’s worth spending at least one night in Zagreb.

From there, I continued on towards Plitvice lakes. This part of Croatia is something else. Who can avoid falling in love with the unreal turquoise waters? It’s certainly one of the highlights of the country for me.

As I made my way down the coast, Krka, Split and other small towns all made for excellent stopover points. When I finally arrived in majestic Dubrovnik, I dropped off my rental car to continue on by bus.

If you decide to travel through Croatia from north to south, I recommend you to visit the wonderful Korcula island (less than two hours by car and ferry from Dubrovnik). Normally people skip it, but it’s well worth a visit!

Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Bosnia and Herzegovina & Montenegro: Sarajevo to Zabijak

Recommended by Arzo, Arzo Travels

  • Duration: 3-5 days
  • Distance covered: 170km (approx. 4 hours of driving)
  • Highlights: Sarajevo, rafting on the Tara River

The Balkans has some amazing driving routes, and one of my favorite scenic drives is from Sarajevo (the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina) to Zabijak in Montenegro.

This route is different from everywhere else I have driven and one of the most beautiful trips I’ve ever done. Start from Sarajevo and take the M5 to Foca. The streets are mostly in good condition and the views are nice. Bosnians tend to drive fast and a bit reckless (I have seen several accidents), so be careful.

From Foca, take the M20 and then the M18. Close to the Montenegrin border, you’ll see the stunning Tara River. If you’re into water rafting and the season is right, this is the place to do it. Your route then passes through the Pluzine and Pliva Lake – one of the most beautiful places in the Balkans.

Driving here is stunning (though streets tend to be narrow in parts). The nature is a mix of Switzerland and Norway. Make sure to plan at least one day at Pliva Lake – there are good cafes, but a picnic somewhere high in the mountains is the best way to enjoy your breaks.

Ksamil, Albania. Photo credit: Christine Abroad.

Albania road trip: Saranda loop

Recommended by Christine, Christine Abroad

  • Duration: 4-7 days
  • Distance covered: 360km (approx. 7 hours of driving)
  • Highlights: The Blue Eye, beaches, UNESCO sites Gjirokaster & Butrint

The South of Albania has become quite popular in recent years – and for good reason. The Albanian riviera is full of beautiful beaches and bays with crystal clear water and white sand.

Many of the coastal towns are also in reach of beautiful and historical places such as The Syri i Kalter (the Blue Eye), Butrint (an archeological site), Gjirokaster (UNESCO town), and other interesting sites.

Related: Gjirokaster city guide.

I recommend this one week road trip, starting and ending in Saranda where there are ferry connections to Corfu, Greece. The best route is a circle, driving north first with stops in Himare and Gjipe Beach on your first day, then staying in Dhermi for two nights if you want to spend some time on the beach.

Next stop is Gjirokaster, which is situated inland. Head here on the morning of your third day and stay one night. On day four, make a day trip to Syri i Kalter, and then spend your last days in Saranda.

From Saranda, you can visit Butrint and Ksamil on a day trip, which is very easy if you have a car. Then you can drive around the various bays and beaches around Ksamil. Dedicate one of your last days to exploring historic Butrint, another UNESCO site.

The roads are fine in this part of Albania, and you won’t be driving more than one or two hours per day.

Have you ever done a road trip in the Balkans? Do you have any tips to share? Which of these Balkan road trip itineraries takes your fancy?

Balkan road trip inspiration: Pin it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *