9 Books to inspire your next trip to the Balkans
woman reading outside

If you’re in search of some armchair travel or inspiration for your next trip, we’ve rounded up nine of our favourite books set in the western Balkans. 

Whether you’re looking to escape to the idyllic mountainscapes or understand the region’s complex past, these books will have you gripped – and perhaps even inspire you to visit the Balkans.

Our carefully curated reading list will whisk you away to Mostar’s cobbled streets, Croatia’s turquoise lakes, and Albania’s timeless mountain villages.

Meet Europe’s native Muslim communities in Tharik Hussain’s travelogue, follow ethnic Serb writer Mary Novakovich as she traces her family’s roots in Croatia, or watch four centuries of turbulent history play out on the Drina River in Nobel prize winner Ivo Andrić’s novel.

Books set in Albania 

Albanian coastline.

High Albania by Mary Edith Durham

Follow intrepid Edwardian explorer Mary Edith Durham into the Balkans, a region few dared to cross at the turn of the 20th century when war and violence loomed over a collapsing Ottoman empire. 

Durham’s most famous book, High Albania, is a remarkable account of her adventures in the remote mountains of Albania and Montenegro where tribal communities lived untouched by modernity and foreign influence. You’ll be amazed by the stories and customs of the people she met. 

Free: Coming of Age at the End of History by Lea Ypi

Albanian writer Lea Ype gives an honest and insightful account of her life under the communist regime and after its collapse in her memoir Free

A fascinating read about one of the world’s most misunderstood countries, you will learn about the challenges and joys of living in Albania, which has long been overlooked by the rest of the world. 

Books set in Bosnia and Herzegovina 

View of the old bridge in Mostar, Bosnia

Logavina street: Life and Death in a Sarajevo Neighborhood by Barbara Demick

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Barbara Demick, paints a powerful and moving picture of the people who lived and died on a single street in Sarajevo during the siege of the city in the 1990s.

A must-read for those who want to understand the Bosnian war, you will witness the courage, resilience, and humanity of Logavina Street’s residents as they simply tried to preserve their dignity and sanity amid the horrific violence.  

The Bridge on the Drina by Ivo Andrić

In the quaint town of Višegrad in what’s now the Republika Srpska in Bosnia, a stone bridge on the Drina River bears witness to four centuries of history, from its construction during the Ottoman era to the genocide during the Bosnian war. 

Born and raised in Travnik, 90 km west of Sarajevo, Ivo Andrić won the Nobel Prize in 1961 for his writings about Bosnia. Through this fictional masterpiece, you will witness the events which shaped the region and the lives and fates of the characters who crossed the bridge. 

Books set in Croatia

My Family and Other Enemies: Life and Travels in Croatia’s Hinterland by Mary Novakovich

This part travelogue, part memoir is set in Lika, a little known but breathtakingly beautiful region in central Croatia, where British-Serbian journalist Mary Novakovich’s parents were born. She first visited as a child during the supposedly golden years of Tito and has returned many times to research her family’s fate during and after the breakup of Yugoslavia. In fact, Novakovich wrote a part of her book while travelling on assignment with the Undiscovered Balkans team.

Bringing light between the shades of darkness are the eccentric and witty characters, anecdotes about the Balkan sense of humour and glimpses into Croatian daily life, which revolves heavily around food. 

Books set in Kosovo 

Travels Through Blood and Honey by Elizabeth Gowing

Part travelogue, part memoir and part historical non-fiction, British writer Elizabeth Gowing shines a light on Europe’s newest country as it continues to recover from the war. 

Gowing, who lives in Kosovo with her partner, introduces readers to the beauty and diversity of Kosovo, its people, traditions, and cuisine, as well as the challenges and hopes of the young nation. 

Books set in Montenegro 

The Land of the Black Mountain: The Adventures of Two Englishmen in Montenegro by Gerald Prance and Reginald Wyon

This memoir provides equal measures of escapism and history from two male adventurers who visit Montenegro in the early 20th century, when the country was completely landlocked. 

A little-known classic in the travel literature genre, Prance and Wyon’s vivid descriptions of the alluring landscapes and hospitable locals will hit you with a serious dose of wanderlust while also introducing you to the history and politics of the nation.

Books about ex-Yugoslavia 

Books about the Balkans on a bookshelf, including Black Lamb and Grey Falcon by Rebecca West

Black Lamb and Grey Falcon by Rebecca West

This monumental work of literature by British writer and critic, Rebecca West, will take you on a journey through the Balkans shortly after the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1930s. 

First published in 1942, Rebecca West’s epic masterpiece captures what was then Yugoslavia right before the Second World War. An essential read for anyone attempting to understand the history of the Balkans, West’s travelogue paints a vivid portrait of the region, its people and destiny.

Books about The Balkans 

Minarets in the Mountains: A Journey into Muslim Europe by Tharik Hussain

Award-winning Britis-Muslim travel journalist Tharik Hussain provides a fresh perspective on the Balkans by shining a light on its forgotten Muslim communties.

Hussain’s mission is to write the untold story of Islam in the Balkans back into its narrative – and he achieves it with the help of the inspiring and hospitable people he meets on his travels. Throughout his witty and perceptive travelogue, Hussain, of Pakistani heritage, grapples with his own stereotypes about Islamic identity after meeting blond-haired, blue-eyed Muslims.

Feeling inspired to visit? Check out our tours and latest offers. Happy reading!


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