It's our 40th Birthday! Take a look at our birthday offers page here

Travelling solo in the Balkans: how I explored this region across 3 incredible adventures

At KE, we think travelling solo is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have, which is why we love that over 50% of our travellers go solo ... Read more
Travelling solo in the Balkans: how I explored this region across 3 incredible adventures

At KE, we think travelling solo is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have, which is why we love that over 50% of our travellers go solo on our adventures. In this blog Emily from the office, takes a closer look at travelling solo in one of our favourite places to explore, the Balkans, across the 3 solo adventures she’s completed there.

Plenty of people will tell you that solo travel will broaden your mind, push you out of your comfort zone and you will make new friends through shared experiences. 

I had travelled alone a few times before I visited the Balkans, and by that, I mean without my usual travel buddies – partner, friends, family and work colleagues. Now through my work, I have had the opportunity to explore BulgariaMontenegroSerbia and Albania by joining KE’s small group, guided adventure holidays.

As soon as you start to travel in the Balkans you will realise each country is remarkably different. It’s worth reading up as best you can on each nation’s unique history – I find the history sections at the back of Lonely Planet guides the best place to start. I am especially interested in this region of Europe as people my age (I was born in 1989 after former Yugoslavia broke down) have a seemingly different preconception of the Balkans to the generations above me. My first television memories of the Balkans are traditionally dressed music entries in Eurovision, not watching scenes of Siege of Sarajevo or the after-effects of the fall of the Berlin Wall. When you begin to travel and meet locals – including your guide, you’ll be fascinated to hear first-hand how much each country has changed in the last 30 years.

My first journey to the Balkans was a week in Bulgaria, trekking in two mountain ranges; the pine-covered Rila Mountains and the smooth, rocky Pirin Mountains on the Ridges and Summits of Bulgaria adventure. On this trip, I experienced my first mountain hut, the ominously named Dark Lake mountain hut, which was much less scary in reality! Sitting in this remote dwelling, with no Wi-Fi or phone signal, it was great to gather around the large wooden table and listen to the other guests on my holiday (one couple and two other solo travellers) talk about their experiences of mountain huts in the AlpsPoland and Slovenia. This of course opened up new conversations about the walking routes in these areas and my mental tick list of ‘places that sound lovely and I need to visit next’ started to grow.

My next trip to the Balkans was the most challenging and therefore very rewarding. I joined the High Peaks of the Balkans adventure. This time we were a full group of 12, one couple, two friends travelling together and the rest of us solo travellers from the UK, USA and Australia. We spent 7 whole days laughing, hiking, summiting the highest peaks in the area and sleeping in a whole host of different places, from a fancy hotel in Tirana to camping, a shepherd’s hut and a spectacularly drafty guest house where the beer was just €1 so no one was complaining. 

My latest (but definitely not my last) adventure in the Balkans was joining the 8 day Through the Heart of the Balkans holiday in Montenegro, Serbia and Bosnia. Here I travelled with two couples, two friends travelling together and another solo female traveller. Again, our nationalities varied between the UK, Denmark, Poland and Australia. My two highlights of this adventure were 1. Watching the once elusive griffon vultures gracefully circling the Uvac Canyon. This was on day 6, after a very pleasant walk through blankets and blankets of wildflowers, we reached a viewing platform which we had to ourselves that overlooked the canyon. We sat here for an hour, eating our lunch in the sun and watching up close the vultures soaring overhead. 

The second highlight (there were many but I don’t want to spoil it for you) was staying at the Katun Vranjak camp. The balance in this accommodation is perfect. It’s remote – yet there is a new road meaning you have access to your main bag. It’s charmingly basic; meaning if the showers aren’t working (they were cold when we visited) you have a communal sink wash with your fellow travellers which is always a hilarious bonding experience. There was a fire pit which you all naturally gravitate towards in the evening and spend a happy hour here chatting about the day, and there is no electricity so sola lamps are provided. You sleep in two-person huts which smell lovely of pine and there are proper beds with fresh white linen so really you’re glamping – which is just fantastic. 

Best of all was the food here which was plentiful, delicious and humbling. By that I mean the vegetables are grown behind the main hut so the food miles are zero, the berries for the jam are grown just down the hill and the cheese, yoghurt (and meatballs) come from the cows which roam freely amongst each little two-person hut (just watch the cow pats if you need to walk to the toilet block in the middle of the night). The lovely women, who served us freshly grown herbal tea when we arrived, led the cows away for milking in the afternoon and we watched them stirring and sieving the milk for butter and cheese that evening.

Throughout each trip we had a local KE guide from the area, Ivo from Bulgaria, Micheal from Montenegro and Ardit from Albania. They would each be with the group from start to finish, picking us up from the airport, guiding our walks and telling us about their personal history of the area. On each holiday we also had a driver who would transport our bags to our accommodation or sometimes meet us at the end of our walk and drive us for a couple of hours to our next location. This is a huge benefit as these logistics would be a bit of a head ache to arrange on my own and there would be no way I could have fitted in so much walking and exploring into one week.

Time in the minibus is actually a blessing. It’s a bit of time to yourself to read a book, watch the scenery, or listen to a podcast. On a long drive, we would always stop for petrol and a leg stretch. Usually next to any petrol station, there is a little fruit and veg business and I would always recommend buying a piece of fruit at one of these stands. The climate in this region of Europe means fruit, oranges, nectarines, strawberries etc can be grown locally and it is always much bigger, way cheaper and taste more delicious than what can be imported and bought in the UK.

Most of all, I enjoy travelling solo, within a group, because of the safety net. I would encourage all of my friends to travel and visit as many countries as possible – it really does broaden the mind. By joining a group, especially with a guide, it just takes away any concern and hassle. You will instead leave a destination with a week full of just fun memories.


Footer logos
Your Wishlist
No Wishlist Items

Start your next adventure.

Click the heart icon on the search or holiday pages to save a holiday to your wishlist.

Holiday Search