The Balkan Peninsula, or simply the Balkans, is still somewhat of the hidden gem of Europe. The natural beauty is unexpectedly stunning, the people are friendly, the food is absolutely delicious and abundant, it still has not been as explored as other parts of Europe. Some of it has to do with civil unrest in the region in the last few decades and some with accessibility.
In this 10-day Balkan Peninsula Itinerary we visit Croatia, Montenegro and Bosnia. The itinerary is designed as a road trip that begins and ends in Dubrovnik and renting a car is necessary. Hiking, boating, wine tasting, and many other adventures are included in this itinerary.
Best Time to Visit Balkans
The summer is the most popular time to visit the Balkans – mid-June to the end of August. During this time you can expect longer border crossing, much bigger crowds and prices for attractions to go up. My favorite time to visit is early June or September. The weather is still really nice but it is much less crowded.
Be aware that September is a harvest season in Croatia, and a lot of wineries may be completely closed or require booking for wine tasting and tours.
Croatia, Montenegro and Bosnia – 10-Day Balkan Peninsula Itinerary
Day 1 & 2: Dubrovnik, Croatia
Dubrovnik is the most popular tourist destination in Croatia. The city is stunning, beaches are beautiful and there is a lot of history here, but it can get overwhelmingly crowded.
Upon your arrival, take a cable car to Panorama Restaurant and Bar for a bird’s eye view of the city and neighboring islands. Afterward, you can explore the Old Town and walk the City Walls. Or just hide in secluded Sveti Jakov beach to catch some sun rays and refresh in the amazing Adriatic Sea.
The following day, I recommend kayaking around Lokrum Island which gives you unique views of the Dubrovnik City Walls as well. If kayaking is not your thing, you can take a 15-minute ferry ride to Lokrum Island and spend a day exploring and swimming.
There are many beaches in and around Dubrovnik to enjoy the pristine Adriatic seaside or short one-day excursions to explore other areas in the region.
Where Did We Stay: Hotel Kompas Dubrovnik – we stayed in the Lapad neighborhood. It is a short walk or bus drive from the Old Town. There are a lot of restaurants and bars in Lapad if you want to stay away from the crowds.
Where Did We Eat: Lady Pi-Pi, Taverna Loggia and Nautika.
Day 3: Pelješac, Croatia
Pelješac, a peninsula, only 34 miles north of Dubrovnik is where some of Croatia’s best wine is produced. Plavac Mali (Little Blue), ancestral Zinfandel, is the main grape that grows in Pelješac and Dingač region, the most prestigious wine-making region, on the South side of the peninsula.
Recently one of the big attractions that brings a lot of tourists to Pelješac is Edivo Winery. The first underwater winery where bottles and clay jugs are stored underwater is Mali Ston Bay. Here you can enjoy a traditional winery tour and tasting or join the divers on a tour of a submerged sunken ship and the wine stored around it.
Some other more popular wineries from the peninsula are Grgich Winery, Korta Katarina and Matuško Winery. But the beauty of this peninsula is that in recent years a lot of smaller family-owned wineries are popping up – Winery Bezek being a perfect example of that.
Outside of amazing wine, the peninsula is known for pristine pebble beaches, kite surfing and delicious oysters, mussels, squid, and fresh fish.
Orebić is the biggest town on the peninsula with all the amenities and easy ferry access to surrounding islands. Viganj is a great town to visit if you are interested in kite surfing, located at the vortex of the wind tunnel halfway along the Korčula channel. Drače and Janjina are two sleepy little villages next to each other. Drače has direct access to water and is where Edivo Winery is located, and just a few minutes north is Janjina with endless vineyards and olive trees. Divan, Duba and on the other side of the peninsula Željana are great locations for pristine white pebble beaches and crystal-clear water.
Visit to Trstenik, where the Grgich Winery is located, is a must with a stop at Vitaceae where they serve freshly caught seafood and local wines.
Where Did We Stay: Apartmani Branka in Drače with amazing views of neighboring islands and the bay. However, since the next day’s adventure takes us to Korčula and the ferry leaves from Orebić you may want to stay there. It’s a 30-minute drive from Drače to Orebić.
Where Did We Eat: Vitaceae and Konoba Dalmatinska Kuca
Day 4: Korčula, Croatia
Korčula is easily accessible for a day from Orebić via car ferry. Grab an early morning ferry and plan to spend a full day here. Pick one of the many amazing beaches to spend the morning at in Korčula, we went to Žitna. The town of Brna is a good choice too.
After the beach, we suggest a delicious lunch at Konoba Albert and a visit to a winery or two. Pošip (white varietal grape) is everything on Korčula. You will see signs everywhere. Even if you are not a wine drinker a lot of wineries also make olive oil you can taste and buy. The town of Smokvica is where a lot of wineries are located around.
For the afternoon I would recommend heading back toward the old town and spending the rest of the time exploring Korčula old town. Or if you are a wine lover stop in Lumbarda to taste Grk wine. Unique white wine to Korčula.
In the old town, you can climb the bell tower for amazing views of the port and neighboring Pelješac. Visit Marco Polo’s house, he is rumored to be from Korčula. Or just sit at one of the bars and restaurants by the water.
Return the same night and spend a night in Pelješac before heading to Kotor the next day.
Days 5&6: Kotor, Montenegro
The drive from Pelješac to Kotor is about 3.5 hours, maybe longer depending on where in Pelješac you are staying. You will be crossing a country border so the exact time may vary. The drive to Kotor is along the beautiful Adriatic coastline and the Bay of Kotor with endless views. It is one of the most beautiful drives in the region.
Before you get to Kotor, make a stop in Perast for coffee or lunch. Perast is a town of less than 300 people and 19 churches, beautifully situated between Sv. Ilija hill and Bay of Kotor. Two islets in the bay, that feel hand reach away from Perast, are the main attraction. You will have an opportunity to visit them from Kotor, the next day.
After the stop in Perast, continue your drive to Kotor. Spend the afternoon/evening exploring the old town, possibly even walking the city walls and enjoying entertainment and delicious food in the old town.
For the next day, you can fit both of my suggested adventures or just pick one if it’s too much. I recommend starting the day early and hiking the Ladder of Kotor. It is a 6.1 mile relatively easy hike above the old city and city walls with amazing views of the bay. Less crowded way to enjoy the view than city walls.
After the hike, jump on a speed boat and visit the Church of Our Lady of the Rocks (one of the islets, the other one is privately owned) and then go for a dip in a blue cave. You will need it after the hike. The tour is 3 hours long.
It is a packed day, full of adventure but definitely worth your time and effort.
Where Did We Stay: Solaris Lux Apartments – the cleanest place we ever stayed at.
Where Did We Eat: Marenda Steakhouse and Konoba Scala Santa
Day 7&8: Žabljak
Žabljak is less than 3 hours away from Kotor and a base for exploring Durmitor National Park. Durmitor is part of the Dinarica Mountain Range and is a paradise worth exploring for hikers. On your way to Žabljak, you will drive through Nikšic, where Nikšićko beer is made, and you can stop here for lunch.
Once in Žabljak, I would suggest driving past the town to Durmitor National Park to the trailhead for Tara Canyon Viewpoint. The hike is only 1.9 miles but very steep and offers amazing views of the Tara Canyon from the Montenegro side.
After the hike, I would suggest coming back to Žabljak and visiting Black Lake. You can walk around the lake or even go for a swim. There is a restaurant at the lake where you can enjoy dinner afterward.
The next day starts early, and we recommend hiking to Bobotov Kuk, the highest peak in Durmitor National Park – 2,523 meters (8,278 ft.). There are multiple ways to attempt this hike and none of them are easy. The trailhead is in Sedlo and the most common way this hike is done is in and out of Sedlo. However, it can be done in and out of Žabljak or as a loop that starts in Sedlo and finishes in Žabljak.
We did the loop, Sedlo to Žabljak and it was a very tough hike. The Žabljak part of the hike must have had a recent rockfall and the trail was completely wiped out. It was close to 10 miles total with 3400 ft. ascent and 4900 ft. descent. Knees were not happy.
If we were to do it again, we would stick to the common way in and out of Sedlo. The hike is not easy and gets a little sketchy to make it to the peak but the views will leave you in awe. You will hike through green pastures, with limestone dolomite-looking peaks, alpine lakes, and vast mountain views all around. It is one of the most picturesque day hikes we ever did.
For those that are not interested in hiking, you can drive a Durmitor Ring – a 76 km drive around the Durmitor National Park with breathtaking views or go whitewater rafting in Tara River or zipline over the canyon.
Where Did We Stay: Peak of Durmitor Panorama
Where Did We Eat: Restaurant Or’O
Day 9: Trebinje or Mostar
Today you can choose where in Bosnia to stop and explore. Mostar and its Old Bridge (Stari Most) over the River Neretva attract many tourists. On the other hand, Trebinje is much quieter and quaint with a lot of historical monuments to visit and delicious wine to try. Trebinje is also much closer to Dubrovnik and will significantly cut back on driving.
If you decide to visit Mostar, I suggest spending the morning exploring the city, walking through city bazaars, eating delicious food, walking across the Old Bridge and watching young guys jump off the bridge. In the afternoon, you can drive to Kravica Waterfalls to refresh or just enjoy this natural beauty.
If you decide to visit Trebinje, it will feel a lot more authentic and off-the-beaten-path experience than Mostar. I would suggest getting to Hercegovacka Gračanica Monastery for panoramic views of Trebinje, walking by Trebišnjica River while admiring views and old buildings, exploring the old town, visiting wineries and indulging in delicious food. Trebinje has a bridge from the Ottoman Empire as well. Not as popular as the one in Mostar but stunning, nonetheless.
Where Did We Stay: We spent a day exploring and a night back in Dubrovnik
Where Did We Eat: Mostar – Restoran Sadrvan; Trebinje – Restaurant “Humsko”
Day 10: Fly Out
Depending on where you are flying out to, you still may have a morning to explore Dubrovnik. Most flights to the US are very early in the morning.
Flying in and out of Sarajevo is also an option, sometimes a cheaper option.
Tips for the Best Experience in the Balkans
The best way to enjoy this itinerary is to rent a car and drive yourself. With that, make sure that the rental company allows you to take the car to these three countries. Sometimes there are restrictions. If driving off the beaten path, you may run into narrow and unpaved roads, especially in Bosnia.
Croatia is in the European Union, meanwhile, Montenegro and Bosnia are not, which means you will have to cross international borders. Make sure you have your passport and car documents handy. Most of the time, crossing the borders is seamless for tourists.
All three countries speak the same language with different dialects, even though they call it different names. It is not an easy language to pick up, but knowing a few basic words goes a long way.
The currency in Croatia and Montenegro is the Euro, while the currency in Bosnia is the Bosnian Marks. Credit cards are widely accepted and ATMs are the best way to get the cash if needed.
People in the Balkans are very welcoming and love to share their culture and food with visitors.
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