WHO ARE UNDISCOVERED BALKANS? Meet the company, meet the team
Undiscovered Balkans is a new venture from Undiscovered Montenegro, a UK-registered adventure travel company founded in 2008 by British husband and wife team and Balkans aficionados, Emma and Ben Heywood.
Between us, we have travelled to over 50 countries worldwide. We like to think that when it comes to taking the road less travelled in search of untouched, natural beauty, we’re hard to impress – so when we first visited the Balkans, our immediate impression was disbelief that such epic, African-style natural beauty had been hiding on our own doorstep in Europe.
From that moment, came our inspiration to bring a taste of safari to one of Europe’s wildest regions. We started out in 2008 by renovating our own property – Villa Miela – to become our ‘Activity Base’ for week-long hosted holidays at Lake Skadar – and have now expanded our group of specialist Tour Leaders to offer the same experience of adventurous activity holidays in the surrounding Balkan nations, too!
With the help of our team of expert guides, some of the best company you could hope to keep and with unrivalled knowledge and passion for the lesser-known gems, you can now discover some amazing, pristine locations in Albania, Kosovo, Croatia, Bosnia as well as Montenegro!
We have been committed from the beginning to bringing a responsible, sustainable approach to tourism to the region. Our small group activity and nature holidays are high impact in experience but low impact on the environment – and also, crucially, are designed to give back to local people and wildlife. Undiscovered Balkans actively supports local conservation, environmental action and community regeneration, so when you choose us, you’re giving back too. Read even more reasons why to choose us.
Come on our amazing adventures and we’ll introduce you to a world undiscovered!
A seasoned backpacker, Emma’s itchy feet have taken her across Africa, Asia, Australia and America in search of adventure and new experiences. She worked as a conservationist in Zambia, a press officer for the British Government and for the US oil industry before deciding her future lay in sustainable tourism in the Balkans. Inspired by this region’s incredible, ever-changing scenery, Emma is able to indulge her love of travel, yoga, art and photography to the full running Undiscovered Balkans’ Montenegrin adventures. In her spare time she volunteers her publicity skills to local conservation projects and initiatives and enjoys strong Turkish coffee. She speaks English, Serbian/Montenegrin and French.
Born in Scotland, raised in Venezuela, Germany, the UAE and the UK, Ben speaks English, German, French and Serbian/Montenegrin, and is a BCU qualified kayak coach. Prior to setting up Undiscovered Montenegro and Undiscovered Balkans with Emma, he spent a 15-year career in international publishing – then a round-the-world trip back-packing with Emma convinced him that the world had more to offer than just a desk job! Lake Skadar’s incredible backdrop is now his office, where he can indulge his passions for snowboarding, kayaking, occasional carpentry and organic home-cooking, while also helping to organise holidays in our new destinations.
Gigo – Tour Leader, Montenegro
Gigo is probably one of the most intrepid and experienced adventurers in the whole of Montenegro! Not content with running regular kayaking tours on the Tara and Morača rivers, as well as at Lake Skadar, he is also one of the prime organisers behind the annual Tara Kayak Fest and is Tour Leader for our other multi-activity holidays in Montenegro. He speaks Montenegrin, of course, fluent English and is a fully qualified kayaking, rafting and mountain guide.
Alma – Tour Leader, Albania
Alma covers the second half of our activity weeks in Albania. She and her husband Zamo were among the first people in Albania to become qualified rafting and canyoning guides. When it comes to outdoor action, they have it all covered from their awesome family-run hotel in Berat! She speaks excellent English.
Andi – Tour Leader, Albania
Andi covers the first half of our activity weeks in Albania. His enthusiasm for his country and all outdoor pursuits is infectious! Whether hiking, kayaking or getting his hands dirty in the kitchen, he’s ready to go the extra mile to make sure you have a good time. He lives in Tirana and speaks superb English.
Vera – Tour Leader, Montenegro
Vera is one of the most respected hiking guides in the country, and has a passion for the outdoors and her roots in the north of Montenegro in particular. Popular with parents and children alike, the more remote the area, the more likely she is to be found exploring it! Vera speaks excellent English and is a fully licenced tour guide.
Nenad – Tour Leader, Montenegro
Nenad is an outdoor adventurer whose ambition is to visit every corner of this spectacular country – he is happiest when biking, hiking or kayaking, making him a natural fit for Undiscovered Balkans! He speaks excellent English and Montenegrin/Serbian.
Ana – Tour Leader, Montenegro
Ana has over a decades’ worth of experience guiding tour groups around her country, and has earned her reputation as one of the funniest and most quotable tour guides in Montenegro! She speaks near-native English and has full tour guide qualifications.
Fatos – Tour Leader, Kosovo & Albania
Fatos has over three decades of experience guiding guests around his native lands. He is a qualified mountain guide, loves caving, canyoning and hiking and is probably the most knowledgeable Tour Leader in the whole country! He speaks superb English.
Did you know that March is traditionally known as the month of oysters when they’re at their most tender and delicious? 🦪It’s such an important food and asset for the Mali Ston community who host our Croatia activity holiday, and celebrated every year with a big festival which took place last weekend!The tiny village of Brijesta was packed out with locals savouring the taste of the freshest oysters. You’ll get to do the same on our Croatia break, but having kayaked to see the oyster farms close-up. It makes for a pretty unique foodie adventure – and is best accompanied by some fine Peljasac wine 🍷 (after the kayaking of course)!😄Oyster farming is a tradition which has existed in Mali Ston Bay since the Romans ruled this area. So come and kayak, hike and cycle in the footsteps of history on our multi-active Croatia adventure week. 🛶🚵♂️🥾Hit the link below to book for this Spring, Summer or Autumn!undiscoveredbalkans.com/tours/dalmatia-multi-activity-holiday-croatia-7-days/#undiscoveredballkans#maliston#malistonoysterfestival #visitcroatia... See MoreSee Less
Adventure Mums, this one’s for you! Happy Adventure Mother's Day! 👣 🥾 🛶 😄We host many adventure-seeking mothers on our Balkans trips, and we’re in awe of your energy, spirit, enthusiasm, and, let’s face it, sheer determination to get the kids off screens and addicted to adventure for life! Whether it's rafting and sea-kayaking in Croatia, SUP-boarding and mule-trekking in Albania, cave-trekking in Kosovo or canyoning in Montenegro, you embrace the unknown and create lifetime memories with your loved ones. And you do it while making sure everyone's got sun-cream, snacks and a water bottle. As a business co-founded by an Adventure Mum of three, we know it can be full-on taking a break from your daily routine to explore new places and try exciting activities. But Adventure Mums are up for the challenge and will always come out on top! (especially on a group adventure holiday with a tour leader to do the organising 😉)So, to all the Adventure Mums who have travelled with us or are planning to visit this year, we want to say thank you. Thank you for choosing to spend your holidays with us and for sharing your love for of adventurous travel with your families. 🙌If you’re celebrating today’s Mother’s Day in the UK, we hope your day is filled with joy, love and appreciation from your mini-adventurers!#undiscoveredbalkans... See MoreSee Less
Isn't April a bit cold for outdoor adventures like canoeing, hiking and cycling? NO WAY! 😂 We get asked this a lot, so let’s end the myth. As part of Southern Europe, warm Spring days arrive early in Western Balkan countries like Albania, Montenegro and much of Croatia and Bosnia/Herzegovina.With fewer tourists around too, here's a secret - the early season's actually the best time of year to visit! Imagine sunny days, warm enough for outdoor fun in t-shirts, with blooming spring scenery all around (just look at our Spring adventure pics!). 🛶🚴🌼And for the more adventurous, you can even take an early season dip 💦 (wetsuits & thermal gloves/socks allowed 😆). Looking for a getaway this April or May? We've got you covered! Join one of our multi-activity holidays in Albania, Croatia, Bosnia or Montenegro and we'll give you 10% off per person. 😉Check our website and book now! 👇undiscoveredbalkans.com#undiscoveredbalkans #activityholidays ... See MoreSee Less
A week’s kayaking, wild camping and bushcraft at Southern Europe's largest and most beautiful lake? Yes, please!And no, it’s not Garda or Ohrid, it’s Lake Skadar straddling Montenegro & Albania. We have 4 spots left to join our co-founder Ben on a week’s total nature immersion at Lake Skadar National Park (Montenegrin side), kayaking by day, camping by night, departing July 2nd. 🛶 Paddle the serene, shimmering waters of Southern Europe’s largest lake and its connected lily-clad rivers.🔥 Take a break mid-week for a 2-day bushcraft masterclass in the willow forest, learn foraging skills and make your own bivouac.🌟 Get remote, camping wild under the stars and swimming in idyllic, hidden beauty spots.This trip is a must-do for anyone looking to try a new way of enjoying the great outdoors!Don't miss out - contact us today or learn more at the link below. 👇🏽undiscoveredbalkans.com/tours/kayak-wild-camp-and-bushcraft-lake-skadar/#undiscoveredbalkans#lakeskadar#kayak#bushcraft... See MoreSee Less
Let's take a moment to celebrate some inspiring women in the Western Balkans, past and present! 💪 🇦🇱 Take Alma, our Albania country expert and partner for adventures around Berat. Alma's passion for outdoor sports, family and food is second to none, and she’s rightly known as a pioneer of Albanian adventure travel. Mother Teresa is the Albanian woman who inspires her most, "because of the love she gave to people in need without asking for anything in return.” 🇭🇷 Sara, from Croatia, is someone you might meet over email as our virtual assistant extraordinaire. She’s smart, principled and determined to forge her own path, whether travelling solo or working while completing her masters. The Croatian woman who inspires her most is Marija Jurić Zagorka. “She was a true feminist in every sense - the first female journalist... and politically involved against German and Hungarian oppression.”🇬🇧 Emma, host of our Lake Skadar activity holidays and our company co-founder, is a multi-talented businesswoman, hiker, kayaker, yoga lover, wife, mother, musician and artist! Her deep love of nature, sustainable tourism, adventure and the Balkans is infectious. She picks Kosara, an 11th century Bulgarian princess who married Vladimir, King of Doclea, an ancient realm in now Montenegro, rescuing him from her father’s prison and once again in death. She symbolises the power of love and loyalty.🇧🇦 Valida co-owns Hotel Halvat in Sarajevo, an accommodation on our new Bosnia & Herzegovina Activity Holiday. The level of hospitality and courtesy she shows to guests is outstanding, as are her home-cooked breakfasts. Valida finds inspiration in all the ordinary Bosnian women who maintain peaceful spirits despite their struggles during the war and after. 🇲🇪 Last but not least, Ana, tour leader for our Montenegro Family Adventure Breaks, is an indefatigable, witty, utterly lovely person who can bond a group from the 1st meeting. Dina Vrbica, a war hero, inspires her the most from Montenegro - a Partisan fighter in WW2, she also organised committees for women and youth and was tragically killed in action in 1943.Happy #InternationalWomensDay to all our female guests, partners, followers & friends! 🎉 ... See MoreSee Less
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