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The Balkans - The final frontier for adventure in Europe

This is Europe, but not as we know it... In May, KE Director Tim Greening cycled from Dubrovnik in Croatia, through Montenegro and&n... Read more
The Balkans - The final frontier for adventure in Europe

This is Europe, but not as we know it...

In May, KE Director Tim Greening cycled from Dubrovnik in Croatia, through Montenegro and Albania, to Ohrid in Macedonia and was blown away by the diversity, the friendliness and wilderness of this forgotten corner of Europe. He was on his way to join a conference organised by the Adventure Travel Trade Association where all the countries of Southeast Europe uniquely collaborated to build a future on adventure tourism.  Take a closer look at why Tim thinks 'Borders are no longer barriers' and why 'Albania is fresh'...



There is no longer any real hassles travelling between borders, we crossed 4 countries with ease never waiting longer than 15 minutes at a crossing. The new generation of Balkan leaders are collaborating with their neighbours and at the same time opening up new adventure frontiers. Even remote mountain trails are now open for international crossing which are making new treks such as our Balkan Borderlands possible for the first time.


All over the world areas open and close due local safety problems, at the moment much of the once popular deserts of Egypt and Libya have become non travel zones. The Balkans where in a similar position in the 90's, but since they have become one of the most welcoming and safest areas in the world to travel. In Macedonia I left my new iPhone in a taxi never expecting to see it again, an hour later a smiling driver returned it to the hotel reception, where else would this happen?


There are few that can even agree which countries do belong to the Balkans. It is accepted that Albania, Bulgaria, Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia and Montenegro are entirely within the Balkans. While Croatia, mainland Greece, Serbia, Slovenia and Romania are mostly Balkan states but do we also include parts of Italy and Turkey? Do not expect spoken English everywhere but without a guide do expect to get slightly lost, note trying to get the right directions is not easy.


This slogan was on the front of a t-shirt given to me by an extremely enterprising agent from Bosnia & Herzegovina and sums it up nicely. Encircled by mountains Sarajevo is one of the most mystic cities on the planet, a true clash of east meets west and at this moment there are no hordes of package tourist just “adventure tourists” like us. Join our Mostar to Sarajevo hiking holiday in the Dinaric Alps and find out.


This is probably the most developed of all the countries I recently visited and historic Dubrovnik is a really accessible city to fly into with many low cost airlines using it as a gateway into the Balkans. Its jewel is the fantastic Dalmatian Coast which offers some of the most dramatic coastal walking in Europe. Our relaxed Croatia Coast and Islands walking holiday is the best way to sample the sun and Mediterranean ambience of this stunning area.


The further south you travel the quieter it becomes. The coastal strip around Kotor and Budva are certainly already close to being overdeveloped but the dramatic mountains rise straight from the sea and you only have to travel a few miles inland to step back in time. A few years ago I joined our Balkans Bash mountain bike holiday which traverses the north of the country from the Kosovo border to the rugged Durmitor National Park, we never met another cyclist on the whole route!


Some of us may remember the outlandish Communist country where they were brainwashed into believing the west were going to invade any day and Norman Wisdom was a national hero? It has totally changed, tourists are welcomed everywhere and in some ways it’s similar to the Costa Blanca in the 1960s when Benidorm was still a fishing village. Our most popular trip here is a relatively gentle trek across the Accursed Mountains of Albania’s Alps although there will be a much tougher trip available next year.


The best countries are usually the most surprising and this was certainly my impression of Macedonia and especially the walled lakeside town of Ohrid. With an impressive castle and 365 churches it is known as the “Jerusalem of the Balkans” and has a history to match. At 700 metres it is reasonably cool even in summer but it is the huge lake surrounded by mountains which makes it so impressive. Our ever popular Macedonia – Off the Beaten Track walking holiday spends a couple of nights based here.


We now operate in all the Balkan countries and started in places like Bulgaria, Romania and Slovenia over 10 years ago. The Adventure Conference I attended in Ohrid had nearly 300 representatives from more than 30 destinations worldwide with many adventure tour operators looking to expand here. Take a look at this short video of the conference and you will see that things are going to change in the near future. It has never been more appropriate to say now is the time to go. 


>> View all Balkan Holidays

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