Earth Trekkers Montenegro

10 Epic Days on the Balkan Peninsula: Croatia, Montenegro, and Bosnia & Herzegovina

Julie Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro 16 Comments

For 10 awesome days we toured the Balkan Peninsula, visiting Croatia, Montenegro, and Bosnia & Herzegovina. What an incredible trip. From walking the medieval walls in Dubrovnik to viewing the spectacular landscapes of Montenegro to getting a history lesson in Sarajevo, this is one of our favorite trips of all time.

Here are the highlights from our whirlwind tour of the Balkan Peninsula.

Day 1: Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina

Our trip started and ended in Sarajevo. On a dreary, chilly day, we arrived in town. There was just enough time in the day to see several of the main sites.

Sarajevo hosted the Winter Olympics in 1984. Just eight years later, Sarajevo became a war zone, the site of horrific war crimes and loss of life.

High on a hill above Sarajevo sits the abandoned, somewhat eerie bobsled track from the Winter Olympics. Now, this is a place popular with graffiti artists. Walking along this abandoned track was our introduction to Sarajevo.

Sarajevo Bobsled

Day 2: Road Trip to Croatia

On day 2, we left Sarajevo behind for a surprisingly scenic drive to Croatia. Bosnia & Herzegovina is a gorgeous country, much prettier than we expected it to be, with a mountainous landscape that almost resembles parts of China in some places.

On the way to Croatia, we couldn’t resist an unplanned pitstop to Mostar to see the old bridge, Stari Most. Our visit today was kind of like opening your birthday presents early…we just had to see this old town now, even though we would be back one week later.

Tim and Kara Mostar

Once in Croatia, we drove on an almost brand new looking highway with barely another car in sight. Where is everybody? Not that we’re complaining…how often to you get an entire freeway to yourself? Welcome to Croatia!!

Croatia Highway

Just outside of the town of Split sits the Klis Fortress, an ancient fort with awesome views. For Game of Throne fans, this is the filming site for Meereen.

Klis Fortress

For several hours, we toured the tiny and very beautiful town of Trogir.

Overlooking Trogir

See more: Walking through the Beautiful Town of Trogir, Croatia

Our day ended with an overnight stay in Split, one of the largest towns in Croatia.

Walking through Split

Day 3: Split and the Island of Brac

Today we toured Split, taking in the view from Marjan Hill and the Cathedral of St. Domnius, as well as exploring Diocletian’s Palace.

Overlooking Split

In Split

In the afternoon, we took the ferry to the island of Brac. This was our somewhat “off-the-beaten-path” excursion in Croatia, going to Brac just to go hiking. The 24 hours we would spend on Brac would be one of our best memories in Croatia. For dinner, we ate at a wonderful, local restaurant in Bol, Konoba Dalmatino, dining on grilled octopus and veal.  The food is so good here, with lots of seafood, fresh fish, and risotto.

Day 4: Vidova Gora Hike and Zlatni Rat Beach

Vidova Gora is the highest point on the Adriatic Sea. From here, the views are spectacular, especially down to Zlatni Rat Beach, one of the most unique beaches we have seen.

Vidova Gora Hike

Zlatni Rat Beach

Read more: Why We Fell in Love with Brac Island, Croatia and Hiking Vidova Gora

In the afternoon, we bid farewell to beautiful Brac, taking a ferry back to Makarska on the mainland and then driving south to Dubrovnik.

Julie and Kara

Croatia Coast

Day 5: Walking the Walls of Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik, in our opinion, is one of the best spots to visit in Europe. This medieval city is so fun to explore and walking the walls is a must-do experience. Wander the narrow streets, go to the beach, and eat your heart out. The food and the wine is amazing here.

And by the way, for Game of Thrones fans, this is King’s Landing.

Dubrovnik

Tyler and Kara in Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik Walls

Read more: A Walk on the Dubrovnik Walls in 20 Amazing Photos

Day 6: Dubrovnik, Again

Originally, on this day we planned to make the day trip out to Korcula, yet another very pretty Croatian town, but we all loved Dubrovnik so much that we just wanted to stay here.

Stradun

Dubrovnik Croatia

Day 7: Montenegro, You are Just Gorgeous!

I knew that Montenegro was a beautiful country, but in the next two days, it blew away my expectations. Which is great, because we chose to put two days into seeing Kotor, Montenegro, rather than traveling north in Croatia to Plitvice and the Istrian Peninsula.

Like in Croatia, small, medieval towns sit along the water’s edge. In this case, many of the towns we visited were on the Bay of Kotor.

This is the Savina Monastery, located in Herceg Novi, and this was our first view of the Bay of Kotor.

Montenegro in April

Perast, also located on the Bay of Kotor, is the place to take a ferry out to Our Lady of the Rocks, a small church sitting all alone on its own tiny private island

Perast

Our Lady of the Rocks

And finally, our day ended in Kotor, with a hike up the Kotor Ladder, a trail with 72 switchbacks, offering stunning views over the entire area.

Ladder of Kotor

Kotor

Day 8: Montenegro Continues to Amaze Us

Could this trip possibly keep getting better? The answer is yes!!

From Kotor, we drove up twisting scenic roads to Lovcen National Park.

Overlooking Bay of Kotor

Lovcen is one of the highest peaks in Montenegro, offering phenomenal 360° views of the area.

Lovcen

Montenegro surprised us again, this time with Skadar National Park. To get here, Tim navigated some seriously tricky, almost dangerous roads in order to have this awesome view.

Skadar Montenegro

Skadar Montenegro Horseshoe Bend

Read More: Photographing the Famous View of Lake Skadar: Pavlova Strana

Our day ended back out on the Adriatic Coast to see Sveti Stefan. This walled town is now a private hotel.

Sveti Stefan

Day 9: Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina

Stari Most, the old bridge in Mostar, looks like something out of a fairytale. This was a place I fell in love with even before arriving here.

Mostar Bridge April

The old town is very small and can be visited in just a few hours. Tim and I spent most of our time photographing the bridge.

Mostar in April

Day 10: Sarajevo

Our trip came full circle when we arrived back in Sarajevo on a very wet and chilly day. While in Sarajevo, we hopped from museum to museum, learning about the war and its aftermath in Bosnia.

 

The Balkan Peninsula in April

In early to mid-April, Croatia and Montenegro are really just coming out of hibernation from the winter. In Bol, we were the first customers of the season at the Suncana Apartments. Many restaurants were just opening or planning to open within the next two weeks. Most of the tourist attractions were open, however several were still closed during our visit. And the ferries that zip back and forth between the islands of Croatia don’t really get going until June. So, is it worth coming here in April?

Absolutely!! Peak season is June, July, and August. More than one local person told us horror stories about crowds flooding the streets of Dubrovnik, making it torture and almost impossible to walk the walls. Prices are higher, temperatures are higher, and everything gets very, very crowded.

While we were here, daily temperatures were right around 70°F (21°C) with cooler nighttime temperatures. It is a little bit chilly to go to the beach (but you will have it almost all to yourself!), but we did see people swimming. Crowds were low, we never had to wait in any lines, over 90% of restaurants were open and we never had to make a reservation. This is a wonderful time to visit this part of Europe. May and September are also great months to visit.

Is this a trip you want to take? Comment below if you have any questions!

You May Also Like:

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Our Around the World Itinerary

 

Balkan Peninsula Itinerary Croatia Montenegro

 

Comments 16

    1. Post
      Author

      Nice video…love those mountains, is that Durmitor? Our next destination is Death Valley, USA, coming up soon. How about you?

  1. I’ve been planning nearly this same trip for quite some time! Great write up and glad to see someone else put the plans into action! Headed to Croatia, Montenegro, and BiH for 10 days toward the end of May!

    Hubby is a bit nervous going to Sarajevo, but it’s a huge bucket list item for me. Any comments to help reassure him? We travel with 2 kids under the age of 5, but they are well travelled.

    Where did you base yourselves while in Montenegro? My plans have us going a bit north and seeing Zadar and Krka National Park, Split, Mjlet island, Mostar, Dubrovnik, and around Montenegro – Kotor, Perast, Sveti Stefan, Skadar National Park.

    I’m glad I found your page!

    1. Post
      Author

      We felt very safe in Sarajevo, although we did stay mostly in the center of town and touristy areas. The four of us walked the city streets and rode in taxis and we never had an issues.

      In Montenegro we stayed in Kotor. From here we visited Zadar, Sveti Stefan, and Perast. Check out our Destination section for Montenegro for more information. We also have a lot of info about Croatia as well. The places on your list that we did not visit are Mjlet island and Krka National Park (just didn’t have enough time…but we did meet an American who said her favorite place in Croatia is Mjlet island).

      Cheers, Julie

  2. Beautiful pictures. I have been planning basically this exact trip for next year for awhile now. Did you run into any issues regarding the car rental itself? I know companies charge fees for crossing over country borders. Can you give an estimate for what you paid in total for the car? Also, what did you use for navigation? What I am really wondering is whether the driving times provided by Google Maps are reliable or if they should be, say, doubled due to bad road conditions. I hear traffic can be quite horrendous in Croatia during peak season but I plan on doing this trip in May, the end of the shoulder season.

    1. Post
      Author

      We did not have any issues with the car rental process. We compared prices and terms of the global car rental agencies that offer service at the Sarajevo airport and made an advanced reservation online. We were down between Avis and Europcar but their online prices didn’t include the cross border fee nor the after hours drop off fee, so we called both agency’s airport locations and asked them about these fees directly. In the end, Europcar was the better option for us at the time. We paid about $340 USD (include cross border fee) for a 10 day rental with a pickup and drop off at the Sarajevo airport. We were able to drop off the car during normal hours so we avoided the $25 USD after hours fee. Rental car prices and fees change frequently so make sure you do your own comparison of prices and terms before making your selection.

      As for navigation, we use Google Maps. You can cache your maps for the day while using hotel wifi if you do not have a SIM card for the country you are in. Driving times provided by Google were accurate based on our experiences. The roads we drove in were in great condition and traffic moved very quickly. However, we were here in April when tourism is low. Maybe you will still get lucky being there before peak season. Cheers!

  3. You have to come back for the Plitvice Lakes and Istrian Peninsula in Northern Croatia. They are out of this world beautiful. Google Rastoke, Rovinj, Motovun and Groznjan and you will be booking your next trip

    1. Post
      Author

      Yes, we plan on combining northern Croatia with Slovenia on a future trip. The Istrian Peninsula is high on our list of places to visit…it looks phenomenal!!

  4. Hello there,

    Nice write up about the road trip! I am looking into driving around the Balkans, not too sure which country that I will cover, however I am looking at car rentals that allow cross countries drive and if possible, to return it in another country (sounds too good to be true) to avoid going back to the first city that I took the car from.

    If you have any good reference/links, I would really appreciate it!

    Cheers from Kuala Lumpur

    1. Post
      Author

      I think it is going to be challenging to find a rental car company that will rent a car in one country and let you drop it in another country in the Balkan Peninsula. It’s much easier to return the car to the country of origin. Here is link to a forum on Lonely Planet that might help.

      Just for reference, we used Europcar. I recommend talking the rental companies directly to see what their policies are. Good luck! Julie

  5. Hi,
    Your trip looks amazing. I am planning a trip for next April.
    I am wondering about Bulgaria?
    For some reason, we have it in our head! I looks beautiful.
    Is there a reason you didn’t go there?

    1. Post
      Author

      Yes, Bulgaria does look amazing. We took this trip over Tyler and Kara’s Spring Break so we only had 11 days. Croatia was number one on our list to visit and Bosnia and Montenegro made sense to add in because they were so close. We just didn’t have enough time for Bulgaria (or Albania and Slovenia, they look great too!). Someday… Cheers, Julie

  6. Hi I would like to take ten days trip of Balkan Peninsula in the mid October 17 month, Is this the right time to visit and also I would not like to drive down to the destinations hence what are the other options, could you please guide me.

    1. Post
      Author

      The end of September, early October is around the time when tourism slows down and restaurants and hotels close for the off-season. From what I know, restaurants and hotels in the smaller towns and islands will shut down around this time. The larger cities, like Split and Dubrovnik, will still be open. Less ferries will be running this time of year so that may impact any plans you have of visiting the Croatian islands. So, the Balkan Peninsula will be quiet, but that can be nice, too. We had a similar experience, being there in April, right when everything was opening up. Not every restaurant was open, but we did not have to deal with large crowds of people.

      I am fairly certain that public buses run between the larger cities, however, since we rented a car, I cannot offer any real advice on how to use them. You could try using Rick Steve’s travel guides for advice or hire a travel agent who may be able to give you more details on public transportation. Cheers, Julie

  7. hey 🙂 this looks like a great trip! Some boring questions… where do you get your info from to plan the trips? what accommodation did you use and do you not book in advance? Since you were driving is parking easy and workable with a tight budget?
    Thanks

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi Adam. Croatia and Mostar are places I have wanted to see for awhile. We had about 10 days to use for travel over our kids’ Spring Break, so we came up with this itinerary, incorporating these places. I do a lot of research about where to go and what to see, using other travel blogs for information and inspiration. On this trip, we mostly stayed in hotels, booking everything in advance. We like to use Trip Advisor and Booking.com to find good places to stay and eat. Parking in towns like Dubrovnik, Mostar, and Kotor can be a little tricky, since the old towns are pedestrian only, but we found parking garages just outside of town. In these countries, we drove on a lot of very narrow, winding roads, so you would have to be comfortable driving on roads like this. The Balkan Peninsula is more budget friendly than most places in Europe. To keep costs down, avoid going during the busier and more expensive summer months. Cheers, Julie

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