With many diverse countries, spectacular mountainous scenery, hot beaches, and lots of cities that are both dripping in history and very fun to hang out in, the Balkans is an amazing place to go interrailing.
We’ve come up with a recommended route that takes in all of the major capitals as well as a few smaller cities, and even a ‘hidden gem’ or two. This route has a few long train journeys that can be taken overnight and slept through, or experienced during the day when the fantastic views from the window can be best enjoyed. The route could be rushed through in about two weeks, but if taken at a more leisurely pace it could take anything up to one month.
So have a look through our suggested route for interrailing through the Balkans and put the journeys and locations that most appeal to you in your BUCKiTDREAM planner!
Fly Into Ljubljana, Slovenia It is easy and cheap to fly into Ljubljana airport from all major cities in Europe, so if you are traveling from North America, Australia or New Zealand, a simple transfer in London or Munich will get you into the Slovenian capital in no time!
Ljubljana is one of Europe’s greenest and most relaxed cities. Most of the city center is pedestrianized, and there is lots of lovely parkland and vegetation. The Ljubljanica River flows elegantly through the center of town, and its banks are buzzing with cafe and bar terraces all summer long. The architecture here is breathtaking; much of it is the work of Slovenia’s early-modern, minimalist designer, Jože Plečnik. Ljubljana is a big student town and so is very lively every night of the week.
From Ljubljana, It’s Only a Short 2 Hour 50 Minute Train Ride To Zagreb, Croatia Zagreb is teeming with culture, art, music, and great bars and restaurants – it’s a super-vibrant world capital. Tourist numbers are soaring as Zagreb is finally realized as the hot city destination that it is. The cafes are always full, and much of the summer nightlife is centered around Jarun Lake where people swim and sunbathe by day and party by night.
Head From Zagreb Southwest On a 7 Hour Train Ride To Croatia’s Second City, Split Split is an exuberant metropolis and Croatia’s second largest city. Diocletian’s Palace is a Unesco World Heritage site and one of the most impressive Roman monuments to be found anywhere. This city is a wonderful mix of the ancient and the new. Busy restaurants and pumping disco bars are packed with people late into the night, under the ancient Roman walls. Split is modern and sparkly, yet shabby and old all at once – it works hard and it plays hard, and it offers a real insight into the Croatian way of life.
From Split, Take a 4 hour 15 Minute Train Ride South Along the Adriatic Coast To Croatia’s Southern-Most Major City Dubrovnik The Old Town in Dubrovnik is crammed with atmospheric marble streets, baroque buildings, awesome restaurants and bars, and strange and wonderful shops and homes. The city has many excellent museums, and the Adriatic sea is a constant source of turquoise, shimmering, cool joy.
Take the 3 – 4-hour Bus Ride Inland From Dubrovnik To Mostar in Bosnia-Herzegovina This ancient town contains the Balkan’s most famous bridge and medieval towers. It’s an enchanting place with a fairytale atmosphere, full of cobbled lanes, and boasting a beautifully restored Ottoman quarter. Lovely little Balkan restaurants abound, this gem is definitely worth spending a night in.
Jump On a Train and Make the 2 hours 45 Minutes Journey From Mostar To the Bosnian Capital Sarajevo Sarajevo’s historic center is packed with cafes and restaurants. The scars of its violent past have largely healed, the bullet holes long ago plastered over. The city’s architecture is an interesting mish-mash of Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian and Yugoslavian styles. The Old Town in Sarajevo has some of the best Turkish coffee outside of Istanbul.
The Only Long Bus Journey On Our Route is Sarajevo To Podgorica, Montenegro, and It Takes 7 Hour 45 Minutes Podgorica is not Europe’s most glamorous capital. It is small and sleepy, but with some beautiful parks, excellent galleries and a vibrant cafe and bar scene, it is still a very fun place to visit. The city is also a little bit off the tourist trail, so it’s very welcoming.
One Of the Region’s Most Spectacular Train Journeys Next – Podgorica to Belgrade, Serbia Is 11 Hours Of Wondrous Terrain and Amazing Tunnels Belgrade is up there with Berlin, Istanbul, Paris, and London as a truly bold and brilliant European capital. This city moves to its own rhythm. It is gritty, often rundown, and always atmospheric and exuberant. It is packed full of crumbling socialist structures, as well as modern wonders of engineering and architecture, art nouveau oddities, and ancient Ottoman relics. The center of the city is wild, raucous and incredibly fun after dark, with piles of awesome bars, restaurants, and nightclubs staying open deep into the early hours.
From Belgrade To Skopje, Macedonia By Train Is 9 Hour 55 Minutes The Macedonian capital is one of the most friendly and welcoming places in Europe. The people are warm and keen to chat. The city is in the midst of a building frenzy with new monuments and huge fountains being built all over the place. It all looks quite bizarre next to the Ottoman and Byzantine relics that have called this city ‘home’ for centuries.
The Final Long Train Journey South Is Skopje To Athens, Greece, and It’s 14 Hour 39 Minutes Athens is not in the Balkans, but it is certainly in the same neighborhood, so ending your journey with a long trip south to experience this gargantuan megacity in all of its wilds, ancient, fiery glory will be the perfect end to your Balkan interrailing experience. And the airport in Athens is very easy to fly out from to all destinations in Europe, and many beyond.
So that was our suggested route for interrailing through the Balkans. Make sure to add your amazing Balkan experiences to your Instagram,