Budapest to Belgrade the Long Way: An Introduction to the Balkans

ITINERARY SUMMARY 

(Hungary) Budapest (Slovenia) – Maribor – Ljubljana (Croatia) – Zagreb – Zadar – Spilt – Dubrovnik (Bosnia & Hercegovina) – Trebinje – Mostar – Sarajevo – Visegrad (Serbia) – Zlatibor – Belgrade

This Budapest to Belgrade itinerary spends around three weeks travelling from Hungary, through Slovenia and Croatia, into Bosnia and Hercegovina before ending in Serbia. It’s the perfect introductory itinerary to the Balkans.

Leaving Budapest, Maribor is a great place to break the journey to the Slovenian capital, Ljubljana itself is not only a lovely city in which to while away a day or two but also the jumping off point for visiting the Julian Alps’ two star attractions – Lake Bled and Lake Bohinj. It’s a mystery why Zagreb doesn’t receive more visitors than it does and personally, we thought both Zadar and Split were nicer than Dubrovnik, but you definitely shouldn’t miss the latter if you haven’t been before. Trebinje in Bosnia & Hercegovina was a real find and Mostar is one of those cities in which you could linger for ages. East meets West in Sarajevo and the recent history is fascinating, while Visegrad, on the Bosnian/Serbian border, is home to one of the most attractive, arched bridges in the Balkans. Zlatibor is all about skiing in the winter and hiking in the summer and the Serbian capital, Belgrade, certainly needs no introduction.

Number of countries: 5

Number of UNESCO sites: 5

Best time to travel: MidApril to early October but don’t travel in July and August if you want to avoid the bulk of the tourists on the Dalmatian Coast and steer clear of the hottest part of the year

Recommended duration: 3 weeks

Best places to slow the itinerary down: Mostar and Split

Mode of transport: Train and bus

HIGHLIGHTS

Travelling along Croatia’s Adriatic coast – although perfectly feasible by bus, having your own transport for this part of the journey would be worthwhile

Belgrade – one of the coolest cities in the Balkans

The rugged scenery between Trebinje and Mostar

The Mokra Gora/Sargan 8 gauge narrow railway, which is situated between Visegrad and Zlatibor. Getting seats can be tricky as the train is often fully booked  but the journey is definitely a highlight if you can get them (try the tourist board in Zlatibor if all else fails – they managed to get us two seats at the last minute)

FURTHER READING
OTHER TRAVEL PLANNING RESOURCES

Balkan Viator is a useful resource for finding bus and train schedules in the region, although it’s not 100% reliable so double-check timings locally.

Depending on our itinerary, often we just find our accommodation as we go, particularly in smaller places. In big cities, we tend to make a reservation in advance using Booking.com.

There are a lot of guidebooks to this part of Europe available but we’ve always used Lonely Planet and it’s hard to change a habit of a lifetime!

Lonely Planet’s guides: Eastern Europe | Budapest City Guide | Slovenia Travel Guide | Croatia Travel Guide 

Although the Eastern Europe guide is sufficient for a short trip like this one, we think Lonely Planet are missing a trick by not having guides to Serbia or Bosnia and Herzegovina. If you like more detail, Bradt travel guides are excellent and have just published an updated guide to Bosnia and Herzegovina and a new guide to Serbia due out in September.

 

And if you need a few more reasons to follow this Budapest to Belgrade itinerary…

Hungarian Parliament Building, Budapest

Maribor, Slovenia

Zagreb, Croatia

Split, Croatia

Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina

Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina
Trebinje Old Town, Bosnia & Herzegovina
Sargan Eight Railway Mokra Gora, Serbia
Street art in Belgrade, Serbia

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