In the far northwest of the region, Slovenia often feels like part of Central Europe rather than the Balkans. It’s an easy conclusion to draw: it shares borders with Italy and Austria; the Julian Alps shape its horizon. The latter fact is particularly evident at Lake Bled, whose mountain beauty has become the country’s undisputed postcard.
And yet there’s plenty to see beyond the obvious, including Ljubljana, one of Europe’s smallest and most attractive capitals, and the Skocjan Caves, listed as ‘outstanding’ by UNESCO . There’s also a sort of Adriatic coast – just 47km long, wedged between Italy and Croatia, but perfectly charming, where the resorts of Piran and Portoroz adorn a slender bay.
How to do
Black Tomato (020 7426 9888; tomatenoire.com) offers an eight-night Slovenia highlights tour that introduces the caves, capital and coast, and adds the Goriska Brda wine region in the far west of the country, from £4,600 per person, excluding flights.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
The Yugoslav Wars caused the most damage on the western coast of the Balkan Peninsula, where Bosnia and Herzegovina was destroyed by shellfire and the capital, Sarajevo, suffered a brutal four-year siege . But this magical and mountainous country is beginning to emerge from its shadow.
Sarajevo is a historical gem – part Ottoman relic, part Austrian echo, but entirely Bosnian in its energy and effort. There are minarets and churches, the market stalls of Bascarsija, the classical buildings along the Miljacka River; and an iconic cable car rising to the top of Trebevic Mountain.
Mostar, another target of the unrest, also got its old totem bridge rebuilt in 2004. There is also another story to tell; that of thrills and possible spills. And if summer has closed the stunning ski resorts located on the outskirts of Sarajevo (Jahorina and Bjelasnica), then a day of rafting on the rapids of the Neretva River will get the heart racing.
How to do: The country’s growing importance for travelers is evident in the launch of a new expedition to Bosnia and Herzegovina by adventure travel experts Intrepid Travel (0808 274 5111; intrepidtravel.com) – an eight-day group trip including Sarajevo, Mostar and the Neretva River. From £1,188 per person, excluding flights