Guys, before I tell you everything about my Balkans road trip, have you read my ABC of the coolest things to do on a road trip in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Montenegro? Not yet? OK, go ahead, I’ll wait here until you get back! And stay tuned ‘cause I’ll be publishing one for Albania shortly.
OK now that you’re dying to go after reading those posts, let me give you an overview of my 18 day itinerary, to help you plan your own trip.
TOP TIP: don’t follow this itinerary blindly and don’t plan too much in advance. There’s so much to see and so much fun to be had along the road that it would be a pity to have to rush to get to some hotel you’ve booked 4 months in advance and can’t cancel anymore. I visited the Balkans in July and August – high season – and we never booked anything more than 1 day ahead.
LET’S HIT THE ROAD – 18 DAY BALKANS ROAD TRIP ITINERARY
DAY 1 – SARAJEVO
Walk through the old town of Sarajevo and head to one of the bridges for spectacular views of the city. Relax a bit before hitting the road in the afternoon and drive towards Konjic. It’s a 60 km drive and there’s heaps of places to stop and watch the views along the way.
DAY 2 – KONJIC
Stroll around the town of Konjic, with its amazing sunrise and sunset and jaw dropping city center. You can do several half-day trips around Konjic too, just ask your hotel, they’ll tell you where you can go depending on what you want to do.
DAY 3 – DRIVE FROM KONJIC TO MOSTAR
Take the long road that passes by Jablanica, Prozor and Tomislavgrad. Along the way, stop at Lake Jablanica, Lake Rama (*) and witness how suddenly the scenery changes from lakes everywhere to scenes that you might expect to find in some kind of US road trip movie but definitely not in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
(*) To reach Lake Rama drive west from Prozor until you reach Ripci, turn left there and head to Scit which is located in the middle of the lake.
Once you’re in Tomislavgrad, instead of heading straight to Mostar, drive west for a quick stop at Lake Jezero. In the evening, stroll through the center of Mostar and go check out the famous bridge by night.
DAY 4 – MOSTAR
Get up at crazy-ass-o’clock (can you tell I’m not a morning person?) and drive to Hum Mountain, the highest point of Mostar, to watch the sun rise from behind the mountains, illuminating the city with its first rays of light. Still too tired to take off your pyjama’s and change into something more decent? No worries, we spent almost 2 hours up there and saw nobody. Obviously after this blog post EVERYBODY is gonna want to go so maybe you shouldn’t take this advice too seriously 😉
Drive back to Mostar for breakfast and some strolling through the city. Or spend the whole afternoon just hanging in one of the bars like we did… #BosnianBeerIsJummie
DAY 5 – TIME TO GO TO MONTENEGRO
If you have your own car (or lots of money) you can obviously just drive, if you don’t it might be a little bit more complicated. We switched cars in every country to avoid huge one-way fees – and when I say huge I mean almost as expensive as the car rental itself – so we decided to cross the border by bus. But hey, why am I telling you this, you just read my ABC of the coolest things to do on a road trip through Montenegro, so you already know all about it!
Drive to the area around Kotor and Budva and sleep in one of these 2 cities or somewhere in between. My top tip: Ivetic Apartments in Radanovice.
DAY 6 – BUDVA AND THE COAST OF MONTENEGRO
Start the day walking around Budva, have breakfast in the harbor and fall for its tiny cobbled streets. Then drive all the way along the coast towards Albania and stop at some of the beaches – just pick one that looks nice and not too crowded.
DAY 7 – KOTOR, TIVAT AND DRIVING TO PLUZINE
Probably the most visited area of Montenegro together with Budva and the coast, Kotor is cute. Really cute! Tivat is less interesting but can be a nice stop before you head further to the north.
And you should! Head to the north that is. Easily my personal favorite part of Montenegro, the north is nothing less than breathtaking! Leaving Tivat, keep following the road next to the water until you reach Lipci, from there take road P11 until you reach road M6. Follow this one until you reach Niksic – stop at Lake Slansko – and from there head north towards Pluzine.
My top tip for a good place to stay in Pluzine? Holiday Bungalows. I arrived, drank a glass of rakkia with the owner and never wanted to leave again…
DAY 8 – PIVA CANYON AND DURMITOR NATIONAL PARK
These places deserve a post of their own so stay tuned for that one and let me give you some eye candy to make the waiting easier.
DAY 9 – PODGORICA AND HORSESHOE BEND
Continue your Balkans road trip by driving from the north towards Podgorica in the morning, taking the road that passes the Tara River Canyon (the deepest canyon in Europe) and Biogradska Gora national park. Before reaching the center of Podgorica, head east towards Rijeka Crnojevica to see the amazing Horseshoe bend.
Podgorica isn’t really a not-to-miss destination but it’s close to the Albanian border and therefor a good end to the Montenegrin part of this road trip.
DAY 10 – HEAD TO ALBANIA
Seeing we hadn’t digested the adventure of getting from Bosnia and Herzegovina to Montenegro by bus yet – at some point you just get too old for that kind of shit – and especially since it was hardly more expensive than the bus for 3 people, we decided to take a taxi to get to Albania. For only € 40 he dropped us off in Shköder, the most southern point of Lake Skadar which lies on the border between Montenegro and Albania. The whole trip took 2-3 hours, most of which were spend waiting at the border, seeing it’s only a 50 kms drive and the roads are in good condition. Don’t get too excited yet, as things are about to change. Drastically…
There’s not much to see or do in Shköder, so use the afternoon for some relaxing, getting your car sorted and things like that.
DAY 11 – LAKE KOMANI
One of my absolute highlights of this whole trip! Check out my full post about Lake Komani to see how stunning it is and to read all about the quite adventurous journey to get there.
DAY 12+13 – DRIVE FROM LAKE KOMANI TO TIRANA AND BERAT
Aaaaaah the what-the-hell-are-we-doing-here-moment… (that lasted 2 whole days). I think we just didn’t expect it to be like this and I can’t quite put my finger to what was ‘wrong’ with it, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend taking the small roads this time – and I basically ALWAYS recommend taking the small roads. But hey, you can’t get from the north to the south without driving to the center first, so take the main road in the morning and enjoy a walk around Tirana in the afternoon. At night, head to the Sky Tower for some jummie cocktails and a relaxed vibe in the rooftop bar. The next day, continue your drive to Berat.
DAY 14 – BERAT AND BOGOVE WATERFALL
Alright, now we’re talking again! Berat and Bogove waterfall are amazing and deserve their own article, so stay tuned!
DAY 15+16 – DRIVE FROM BERAT TO SARANDE WITH A STOP IN HIMARE
Well helloooooo Albanian riviera! With the bluest water I’ve ever seen in all of Europe the coast of Albania is just sexy as. The bigger cities didn’t win me over but the little beaches you can find in between, when you leave the highway and drive down some tiny path you’re not even sure your car is gonna manage to ever get out of again, it gets beyond stunning.
In the summer it gets quite crowded but you can still find beaches like the one below if you keep your eyes open and stop often to go check things out. To sleep, Villa Blu in Himarë might not be very luxurious, its owners turn it into a little piece of heaven just with their kindness.
DAY 17 – DAY TRIP TO SYRI KALTER (BLUE EYE) AND GJIROKASTER
So this is the kind of day trip where you’re gonna be happy there isn’t actually any big main road! It turns and gets steep but it’s totally worth doing! The Blue Eye is quite fascinating and Gjirokaster super lovely and cozy, so make sure to spend a few hours here!
DAY 18 – DAY TRIP TO KSAMIL BEACH
The last day – boohoo! – is made for relaxing –’cause that’s what last days are for! – and a good place to do that near Sarande is Ksamil Beach. It’s only a short drive and once you get there, you can take a small boat to some islands of which I don’t know the name but it’s pretty obvious. Boat tours can also be booked in Sarande but we found them pretty expensive compared to our solution which cost only € 5 each.
So, that’s it, my whole 18 day Balkans road trip itinerary. Any questions? Please let me know in the comments! Or do you have places to add for people who have more time? I’d love to hear about them!