With the first direct flight in decades, heaps of new resorts, and better-than-ever tour options, the only question is... why haven't you booked your trip yet?

It's hard to believe, what with Croatia's status as a destination du jour (see: beachgoers, yacht-week revelers, "Game of Thrones" superfans) that there hasn't been a direct flight from the U.S. since the breakup of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s.

That's changing this month, as American Airlines launches a new route from Philadelphia to Dubrovnik. Most nations in the Balkans — an expanse that includes Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Slovenia, among others — have seen major tourism growth in the past decade, and are keeping pace with fresh travel offerings.

Ljubljana, Slovenia
Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia.
| Credit: Courtesy of Ker & Downey

The nonstop flight makes transfers easy for Natural Habitat Adventures' new Wild Croatia by Land & Sea itinerary (10-day trips from $8,995 per person), which features kayaking on the Dalmatian Coast and hikes through mountains and wetlands. Montenegro is a hot spot for Europe's high-society set, with new seaside hotels like Ānanti (doubles from $438), which has eight villas and 14 suites, and the country's first eco-resort, the 111-room Chedi Luštica Bay (doubles from $263).

Chedi Lustica Bay hotel in Montenegro
The private beach of the Chedi Luštica Bay, a hotel in Montenegro.
| Credit: Courtesy of The Chedi Luštica Bay

For an urban experience, head to Belgrade: Serbia's largest city has gotten an infusion of arty hotels, like Mama Shelter (doubles from $168), on Knez Mihailova Street (Belgrade's Champs-Élysées), and Saint Ten (doubles from $156), a 55-room property in a landmarked 1929 building.

No pressure to choose just one country, though: Ker & Downey has expanded its Balkans Heritage itineraries to include a stop in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in addition to museum-hopping in Zagreb, Croatia; a Danube cruise in Serbia; and exploring Old Town in Ljubljana, Slovenia (seven-day trips from $10,500). Eastern Europe specialist Gwen Kozlowski, a T+L A-List travel advisor, can plan custom itineraries even farther afield.

A version of this story first appeared in the June 2019 issue of Travel + Leisure under the headline The Balkans, Europe's Next Frontier.