Everybody’s Going to Croatia — But the Rest of the Balkan Countries Are Worth a Visit, Too (Video)
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.
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).
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.