I’m a travel journalist – Here’s why I’m looking at the Balkans in 2024
Balkans - Theth,Albania

This week, we invited award-winning journalist and travel writer Laura Sanders to be a guest blogger and tell us why the Balkans are on her radar in 2024. Laura explored Bosnia, Croatia and Montenegro last year. After being wowed by Mostar’s Ottoman architecture on holiday, she returned and dug deeper for assignments from Conde Nast Traveller, The Sun and The Telegraph Travel.

Laura SandersFew places are real “hidden gems” in today’s world when seemingly everybody has been there, done that and posted it on Instagram. But last summer, my faith in a truly intrepid escape was restored when I ventured beyond the familiar frontiers of Croatia to see more of the Western Balkans. It was a breath of fresh air (in every sense) and left me wanting more.

‘Authentic experience’ isn’t a buzzword here. Other than parts of Croatia, the region remains largely undeveloped for tourism. That pure, unfiltered interaction between guest and host happens organically. Hotels and restaurants are locally owned and excursions are, for the most part, led by natives. 

In the depths of a cost of living crisis, and with lots happening in the Balkans, here’s why the region is on my radar this year.

Albania, the new ‘rising star’ in the Balkans

Some 15 years after Croatia’s emergence on to the global tourism market, Albania steps into the limelight. Deemed ‘Europe’s rising star’ by National Geographic, several publications have primed it as the next big adventure travel destination for 2024. For good reason; the Accursed Mountains are brimming with new thrills from kayaking on the mystical Lake Shkoder to exploring villages that time forgot.

Albanian Tourism Minister Mirela Kumbaro is already getting ahead of the curve on overtourism, vowing ‘you will not have mass-market holidays on the beach at Albanian resorts,’ reports The Independent. But the fact remains, at least until Kumbaro fills it with five-star hotels, that it’s one of Europe’s cheapest holiday destinations boasting untouched wild beauty as far as the eye can see.

NEW for 2024: 7 Day Activity Holiday in North Albania

Serious hikers, head to Kosovo

In the 25th year since the war in Kosovo ended (11th June 1999), Kosovars are finally granted visa-free travel into the Schengen zone for leisure purposes – hurrah! That’s perfect timing for Kosovars wanting to hike the new High Scardus Trail which crosses into Macedonia and Albania. 

Even if you’re not a Kosovo national, this is exciting news. Opened late last year, 2024 will see the trail’s first full season and a brand new guidebook to it from esteemed travel writer Rudolf Abraham. This challenging hike opens up a world of possibilities in its virgin mountainscapes and twee towns untouched by modernity.

New developments in Montenegro

Kotor Bay, Montenegro
Kotor Bay, Montenegro

For those fly and floppers, there’s lots to be excited about in Tivat, where I’m told the shiny new hotels and beach clubs I saw being built last year are set to open their doors this season. It follows the introduction of better air links between the UK and Montenegro in the past few years. The hotels are largely dotted around boujee Porto Montenegro. On the other side of the peninsula, a new cable car in Kotor Old Town is now fully operational. 

Of course, if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle, Montenegro is linked to seven other Balkan states by the new Transdinarica Cycle Route which will finally fully open this year. A worthy inclusion on Lonely Planet’s Best In Travel list for 2024, this revolutionary 3,364km (2,090 miles) trail connects Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Slovakia.

Feeling inspired? Check out our range of adventure travel holidays in the Balkans and sign up to our monthly newsletter for  updates, inspiration and special offers.


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