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Adriatic adventures: a sun-soaked journey through the Balkans

Scenic coastal view of Lovran, Kvarner Bay, Croatia

Photo: Lovran coastline, Kvarner Bay, Croatia

The Balkan region of southeastern Europe boasts a wealth of culture, natural beauty and diverse landscapes. Explore azure coastlines, hike rugged mountains and bask under the warm Mediterranean sun, with each Balkan country offering a unique range of experiences. Immerse yourself in rich history and vibrant local culture, with welcoming historic hotels ready to greet you at every destination.

Croatia: jewel of the Adriatic

A crowded beach with clear blue water, colorful umbrellas, and people sunbathing and swimming, surrounded by rocky hills and sparse vegetation is an ideal spot for Adriatic adventures.

With its stunning Adriatic coastline, Croatia is a haven for sun-seekers. Dotted along the coast is Lovran, highlights include the historic Old Town with its narrow streets and medieval architecture, the stunning Lungomare Promenade offering scenic coastal walks, the picturesque Medveja Beach for sunbathing and swimming, and the charming cafes and restaurants serving delicious Mediterranean cuisine. Don’t miss a visit to the famous Opatija Riviera known for its elegant belle époque villas and lush parks, the Učka Nature Park for hiking and panoramic views of the Adriatic Sea, and the hilltop town of Mošćenice with its medieval charm and stunning vistas. Other noteworthy spots are the islands of Krk and Cres offering pristine beaches and secluded coves, as well as the Istrian peninsula known for its olive groves, vineyards, and truffle forests.

Where to stay: Overlooking the glittering water of the northern Adriatic, Hotel Villa Astra is a stunning Venetian Floral-Gothic hotel in the village of Lovran on the Opatija Riviera.

Greece: Land of myth and sun

Coastal village with white buildings and vibrant blue roofs set against rocky red cliffs, overlooking a blue sea with small boats and colorful wildflowers in the foreground—perfect for Adriatic adventures.

Photo: Ammoudi Bay Port, Oia, Santorini

Greece needs little introduction as a world-famous sun destination. Partially located in the Balkans, it offers visitors sun-drenched beaches, ancient ruins and mouth-watering cuisine. Its legendary scattering of islands are dotted across the Aegean and Ionian Seas, each with its own unique identity: admire the postcard-perfect setting of Santorini‘s iconic whitewashed buildings and deep blue seas or lose yourself in one of the renowned beaches that showcase the island’s unique volcanic landscape. One such gem is Ammoudi Beach, nestled at the foot of towering cliffs near Oia. For those seeking a more secluded and off-the-beaten-path experience, White Beach (Aspri Paralia) is a must-visit .

Where to stay: Aigialos Hotel Santorini and Esperas Santorini are two historic establishments on this enchanting island, offering a fusion of luxury, comfort, and authentic Greek hospitality. These hotels ensure a memorable stay where guests can deeply engage with the island’s captivating history and allure.

Montenegro: mountainous mystery

The Adriatic coastline of Montenegro is a hidden gem just waiting to be discovered. If you’re hoping to combine sunshine with peace and tranquility, the spectacular Bay of Kotor, with its fjord-like scenery and mediaeval towns, offers the perfect escape. Budva, known for its sandy beaches and lively atmosphere, is a trendy destination for beachgoers and party enthusiasts alike. In search of adventure? Don your gear and head for the rugged beauty of Durmitor National Park (a 2.5 hour drive from Kotor) or take a boat tour to the pristine beaches of the Lustica Peninsula. With its blend of natural wonders and historical charm, Montenegro will enchant you with its beauty at every turn.

Where to stay: A boutique beauty inside the walls of Kotor’s old town, the historic Hotel Cattaro offers you the perfect base for exploring this magical region of Montenegro.

Albania: Mediterranean delights

Redon Staue, Durres, Albania

Albania’s emergence as a sun holiday destination has been nothing short of remarkable. Its wondrous coastline, framed by the Ionian and Adriatic Seas, offers an array of unspoiled beaches and secluded coves, each one offering unique adventures. The port town of Durrës is known for its huge Roman amphitheatre and the sweeping sands of Durrësi Beach. Head north of Durrës to explore the rugged terrain of the Albanian Alps or go south to discover UNESCO-listed cities like Berat and Gjirokastër, brimming with authentic cultural experiences. A blend of warm hospitality and untouched landscapes make Albania a holiday destination with true character.

Where to stay: An iconic Albanian landmark, the Adriatik Hotel (built in 1957 during the country’s Communist regime) prides itself on first-class hospitality and a warm, welcoming atmosphere.

Bulgaria: Black Sea beauty

Roman theatre in Plovdiv, Bulgaria
Roman theatre in Plovdiv, Bulgaria

Bulgaria: where sun-drenched relaxation meets outdoor adventure. Resorts like Sunny Beach on the Black Sea Coast offer miles of golden sand and crystal-clear waters, while coastal cities like Burgas combine culture and nightlife. As a 2019 European Capital of Culture, the ancient city of Plovdiv (a 2.5 hour drive from Burgas) reflects its Roman, Persian and Ottoman influences, and offers a vibrant cultural scene in Kapana, its new creative quarter. Climb Bunardzhik Tepe, one of the hills in Plovdiv’s Old Town, to witness the spectacular view from the top — or stumble into a lively open-air party, often held in summer. Wherever you go, Bulgaria, with its blend of sun, sea and cultural heritage, will beguile and seduce.         

Where to stay: Located in the historic Old Town of Plovdiv, the Revival-style Hotel Hebros is a merchant’s house decorated with antiques and boasting a 19th-century garden and award-winning restaurant.

Romania: home of the Danube Delta

The capital of Romania: Bucharest

Romania’s beautiful Black Sea coastline is home to the historic city of Constanţa; as the nation’s largest and most important Black Sea port, it’s also the gateway to its seaside resorts. Travel inland to the west and you’ll find Bucharest (a 2.5 hour drive from Constanţa), capital city of Romania and home to trendy galleries and art deco boulevards perfectly designed for strolls in the sunshine. A three hour drive from the capital, the rich history of this region comes to life in the mediaeval town of Brasov in northern Bucharest, where cobblestone streets and centuries-old architecture cast magic spells. Peles Castle (2 hours from Bucharest) is a Neo-Renaissance palace in the Carpathian Mountains surrounded by forest and well worth a visit for its fairytale vibes. One hour away is Bran Castle (known outside Transylvania as “Dracula’s Castle”), rumoured to be the home of the title character in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Perched on an imposing cliff and soaked in mystery, Bran Castle’s intricate towers and turrets are a beautiful sight.

Where to stay: A family-friendly escape in the heart of Bucharest, Suter Palace Heritage Boutique Hotel offers world-class service, five-star amenities and stunning views of Romania’s capital from the relaxing rooftop terrace.

The Balkans offer so many unforgettable sun holiday experiences, each with its own combination of natural beauty, historical intrigue and vibrant culture. Whether you choose to lounge on the beaches of Croatia, explore the ancient ruins of Greece, or discover the pristine landscapes of Montenegro and beyond, the Balkans promises sun-soaked adventures and unforgettable memories.

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