Three Balkan Alternatives on the Cheap

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Bled lake, Slovenia

Once I return to London next year, I plan on covering the remaining countries in Europe that I haven’t yet visited. And a lot of them are in one of my favorite regions: the Balkans. What I love about the Balkans is that they offer some great budget alternatives to more expensive destinations.

Here are a few examples:

Instead of Austria — Slovenia

When I first visited Austria, I was blown away by the beauty — particularly within the Salzkammergut region, home to some astoundingly turquoise lakes dotted with sailboats and surrounded by snow-capped peaks.

If there’s any country that can compete with that, it’s an unexpected one — Slovenia. Slovenia is known for being the great success story of the Balkans, and as a result, it’s a very stable and easy place to travel. As for its similarities to Austria, Lake Bled is an absolutely beautiful destination in Slovenia (pictured above), with a perfect church-topped island crowning the

It’s also a bargain compared to Austria. You’ll pay far less for everything from lodging to transport to food, but you won’t be sacrificing any Alpine beauty.

Instead of Hungary — Serbia

Budapest will always be one of my favorite cities in Europe — and I also consider it one of the best value cities in Europe. Between the delicious food available for far less than you’d pay in other cities, an interesting nightlife with ruin bars out of hollow basements, and beautiful castles, it’s an absolute bargain.

Is there any other city that can compare to Budapest? Yes. Belgrade. Belgrade may be the wildest party city in all of central Europe, with river barges that convert into makeshift clubs all summer long, and a fun and varied cafe scene, not to mention all the historical monuments and beautiful parks.

You can find and compare cheap tickets with to Belgrade and elsewhere.

Instead of Greece — Albania

Albania over Greece? Who in their mind would choose that?

Truth is, Albania has some of the most beautiful beaches in southern Europe. Drymades is where you’ll find the bulk of them, with emerald-green waters of the Adriatic that turn cerulean when the light is right, pushed right  up against endless rocky beaches.

Sound familiar? It’s not unlike what you’ll find within a few hours’ travel time, to the Greek beaches of Corfu and Paxos.

Is this the Albania that you had in mind? Most likely not. And for around half the price of Greece, it’s worth visiting for that reason alone.