Published on March 19th, 2015 | by Tamsin0
Europe’s last frontier: Albania, Macedonia and Serbia
Affordable, exciting and ripe for discovery, the former Eastern Bloc countries are fast becoming some of Europe’s most enticing holiday destinations. From the beaches of Croatia to the city spires of Prague, travellers from around the world are coming in droves to take advantage of all the attractions the region has to offer.
However, away from the crystal clear waters of the Adriatic and the historic cities of Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia is a very different Eastern Europe, one not yet discovered by the masses and forming the continent’s last real frontier.
Bursting with character and even more affordable than their better known neighbours, Albania, Macedonia and Serbia have largely been overlooked as tourist destinations thanks to their troubled histories, lack of infrastructure and relative isolation. However, if you do make the effort to visit these European badlands, you’ll be rewarded by friendly people, great food and the chance to go somewhere before everyone else does.
Cut off for years by a staunchly isolationist regime, Albania has only recently begun to come out of its enforced loneliness.
With few direct flights to the capital Tirana, one of the easiest ways to reach the country is to catch a ferry to one of its southern cities from nearby Corfu. Alternatively, you can jump on a bus to Albania from several Montenegrin cities and from transport hubs in Macedonia.
Wherever you go in Albania, be prepared for a sensory overload with cars, horses, donkeys and range of other animals and machines clogging up many of the country’s towns and cities.
Though an influx of money has started to alter the landscape, with a few modern villas and several futuristic petrol stations now dotting the country, in general Albania is still very poor and the houses, infrastructure and amenities reflect this.
However, what Albania may lack in aesthetics it makes up for in warmth with many locals only too happy to invite you round for dinner, buy you a drink or tell you all about life in their country.
If you want a bit of sun, sea and relaxation during your trip, head to Albania’s southern beaches. Smack bang in between Greece and Montenegro, Albania actually has a spectacular and largely deserted coastline, making it easy to find your very own peace of Adriatic paradise.
Landlocked and mountainous, Macedonia managed to escape much of the fighting that tore the Balkan region apart in the 1990s and today is trying very hard to attract as many tourists as possible to it’s hilly cities, towns and villages.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the capital Skopje, where the city budget has been extravagantly splashed on a gaudy display of oversized statues, fountains and bridges (think Las Vegas meets Rome). Though the old part of the town is still pretty and charming, it’s hard to not to be overwhelmed by all the new development
If you want to see a more photogenic side of Macedonia, head south towards Lake Ohrid, the enormous 30km long water feature that separates Macedonia from Albania.
On the shores of the lake lies the incredibly beautiful city of Ohrid. With winding streets, ancient buildings and stunning views over the surrounding area, you’d be hard pressed to find a more spectacular place to spend a weekend break.
Coupled with the bad press that this former Yugoslav state received during the Balkan wars, the fact that Serbia has a lack of major attractions has meant that tourists have largely stayed away.
And though the capital Belgrade may not be as pretty as Prague, and beautiful as Budapest or as delightful as Dubrovnik, it does have a certain charm all of its own as well as a lively buzz you won’t find anywhere else in the Balkans.
If you want to party the night away, head to the city’s floating bars and clubs along the shores of the Danube and Sava rivers and experience and authentic eastern European party.
The city is also packed full of great restaurants, cafes and bars, and most people are more than happy to give you a few pointers about where to go and how to get there, so don’t be afraid to get up close and personal with the locals.
For those who want to get out and see a little more of this landlocked Balkan state, the second city of Novi Sad is well worth a look, as are the stunning Iron Gate gorges along the Danube that form the border between Serbia and Romania.
With a huge amount to offer and lot left to be discovered, Albania, Serbia and Macedonia are the perfect destinations for anyone looking for a holiday with a difference. And if you do make the effort to visit this frontier region, you’re guaranteed to have a holiday you’ll never forget.