Spreading west to east from the Adriatic to the Black Sea, the Balkans are a mountainous, mesmerising mix of nations, contrasting and complementing each other in nature and culture, customs and cuisines, towns and tempos, islands and forests.
The Turkish word ‘Balkan’ translates as ‘mountain’, and there is certainly no shortage of those in this super-scenic collective. While the landscape formed physical boundaries which separated the ethnic groups, it was invasions that shaped their history; so that each developed its own character and culture, variously adopting influences of their ancient, medieval and more recent rule.
Sandwiched between the mountains and the sea, Albania spent many years in isolation, topographical and political. It now reveals its former secret world to be a treasure trove of coastal coves, Roman ruins, Ottoman houses, Venetian castles, Byzantine churches and time-warp villages.
Bulgaria’s landscape spreads from the forest lairs of wolves and bears to the golden domes of ornate churches, from Black Sea shores to misted mountain monasteries; its capital, Sofia, mixing medieval and modernity, Plovdiv displaying the eras from Roman cities to Ottoman mosques.
Croatia is a cultural feast and contemporary classic, where palaces and castles meet promenades and cafés, modern Adriatic marinas hem Middle Ages towns, flora and fauna are abundant amid the rocks and waterfalls of Plitvice Lakes, and coastal cliffs look out to offshore islands.
Landlocked Kosovo is Europe’s youngest nation, now independent after hundreds of years of fluctuating fortune. With its modern capital, Pristina, exuding a palpable optimism, it is quickly establishing itself as a country of charming people, tranquil villages, and medieval enclaves.
In Montenegro pretty towns perch on mountain heights and bask beside Adriatic beaches, ancient forts look out to sea, and monasteries, minarets and Roman mosaics share its little landmass with Europe’s most southerly fjord, Kotor, and its last virgin forest, Biogradska Gora NP.
With hills on every horizon and mile upon mile of rural tranquillity, much of North Macedonia is off the beaten track but its two main attractions are pure delight, the beauty and serenity of Lake Ohrid, and Skopje’s clash of culture, modern monuments mimicking neoclassical grandeur.
Romania is cut through by the Carpathian Mountains, criss-crossed by rivers, and hemmed by the Black Sea. From Bucharest, its lively capital, to lovely medieval towns and seven Saxon citadels, it is famed for its countless cultural events, and for Bran Fortress, aka ‘Dracula’s Castle’.
Serbia’s borders wrap around Danube islands, ski slopes and sylvan landscapes; the malls, museums, and massive cathedral of metropolitan Belgrade; the Baroque façades of Sremski Karlovci and Roman ruins of Viminacium; blending a long historic heritage with forward-looking enthusiasm.
Slovenia has its back against the mountains, a toe dipped into the Med, and a rural landscape of rivers and rolling hills, fabled caves and glacial Lake Bled; this scenic splendour framing hilltop churches, rustic villages, medieval castles, and leafy Ljubljana, its picture-perfect capital.
There are huge variations in climate across the spread of the Balkans, and even within the regions of each country, from sunny Mediterranean shores to chilly mountain heights. As a very general summary, northern and central areas have cold winters, warm summers, and more wide-spread rainfall. Southern and coastal countries enjoy milder winters, hot and dry summers, and comfortably cool temperatures in spring and autumn.
With departures from May to October, Jules Verne’s journeys are timed for the seasons which best suit the type and destinations of each tour.
With relics of Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, and Soviet rule across the Balkans, history buffs can time-travel through the centuries; UNESCO sites and cultural landmarks litter the landscape from Old Town enclaves to frescoed churches; and fabulous scenery accompanies every journey from forests, lakes, and riverbanks to gorgeous shores and islands.
Choose the tour that most meets your curiosity and, on our small-group tours, you know that your fellow travellers will share your interests.
With 45 years’ experience and a passion for creating extraordinary adventures, Jules Verne takes you to iconic landmarks and lesser-known sites, with expert tour guides who share their local knowledge, and show you hidden gems. Delicious interludes on our Balkan journeys include tastings of local produce, from Istrian wines to cheeses, honeys, and prosciutto; ‘rakias’ in a retro bar in Sofia, coffee & cakes in Belgrade’s oldest Kafana, and lunch in the Romanian ‘village where time stood still’, Malancrav.
All our guided tours to the Balkans are ABTA and ATOL protected, and we offer a 100% price guarantee, so you can book with complete confidence.
Treasures of Transylvania
A remarkable tour of Romania, this journey begins at Bucharest’s majestic monuments and takes you to medieval towns and rural villages, legendary castles and iconic ‘painted churches’, via mountain roads, river gorges, idyllic landscapes and inspiring heritage
Touring Montenegro from medieval towns to Mediterranean bays, via Europe’s most southerly fjord and its last virgin forest, this journey explores the ancient history of the young country, revealing its culture, customs and cuisine, at a relaxed, refreshing pace.
The Balkans Revealed
Covering three countries’ capitals and a kaleidoscope of colours and cultures, this bountiful tour of the Balkans crosses borders and beautiful landscapes, to reveal the ancient sites, artistic treasures, and medieval monuments of Bulgaria, Serbia, and Romania