Where: Hiking the Via Dinarica.
Why: This is the perfect trip for keen hikers, who will gain a fascinating insight into local mountain life and remote shepherd communities.
The Via Dinarica is a ‘mega trail’; it takes in seven Balkan countries as it winds for nearly 1,250 m,miles through the Dinaric Alps from Albania to Slovenia via Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia.
Popular focuses for trips include the northern section starting in Slovenia and the southern stretch out of Albania. Some of the most challenging, yet rewarding sections are in Bosnia & Herzegovina, where the route ranges from 650ft to rugged karst peaks that reach heights of 7,200ft. According to the official trail website this section is ‘perhaps the sexiest of all’, with the added bonus of further adventure opportunities such as whitewater rafting on the Neretva, Tara or Una rivers.
While the main White Trail takes in all the Dinaric Alps’ loftiest peaks, work is ongoing on two more accessible options; a Green Trail though the mountains’ forested lower flanks and a Blue Trail featuring some scenic coastal hiking.
HOW TO DO IT
Exodus Travels’ 14-day guided Best of the Via Dinarica tour starts and ends in the Albanian capital of Tirana, and also takes in Kosovo and Montenegro. From £1,799pp including flights and accommodation.
Macs Adventure’s seven-night High Peaks & Lakes of the Rila & Pirin in Bulgaria features some of the Balkans’ most spectacular alpine scenery, including its highest summits. From £635, mid-June to mid-September.
Just as Bulgarian mountain resorts such as Bansko and Pamporovo gained a reputation as affordable skiing options in the noughties, Romania’s stretch of the Carpathian Mountains is gaining a loyal following for its affordable, hi-octane micro-adventures, from hiking and wildlife photography tours to mountain biking.
Other choices include Slovenia’s Julian Alps with the self-guided Slovenia — Capital to Coast featuring among cycling specialist Saddle Skedaddle’s current trending options. Another country enjoying an uplift in interest from cyclists is Albania.
Q&A: Fiona Marshall, Head of Product, Macs Adventure
What makes the Balkans so special?
The region has the perfect ingredients for adventure travel, from towering mountains and wild rivers to fascinating history and tasty food. And the range of activities available, from whitewater rafting through to hiking and cycling, means the area is suited for all adventure travellers. In many countries, there are trails and networks of mountain huts as well as quiet roads and tracks perfect for cycling.
Any top tips?
The area is fascinating as it sits at the crossroads of Western and Eastern Europe, so make sure you check out some culture as well as the outdoors. For a dash of gastronomy, head to Istria and cycle the wine roads. There are some amazing capital cities too.