We meet on Friday evening in Ljubljana, the capital city of Slovenia. It will take you two days to get there from the UK. We book your Dover to Calais ferry to suit your requirements, or we can delete the ferry cost in which case you will need to make your booking. I travel via Hull to Zeebrugge on P&O Ferries overnight because Hull is convenient for where I live. On arriving at our hotel on Friday, we have time to explore this beautiful city. It also gives us the chance to get together before we start our road journey through the Balkans.
After breakfast, we refuel and buy supplies for a picnic lunch before travelling from Ljubljana to Zagreb. We cross over into Croatia and run along the border through forests until reaching Samobor where we stop for a wander around this attractive village. We then have a short distance to travel to the centre of Zagreb, where we stay the night.
After breakfast, we refuel and buy supplies for lunch before travelling to Slavonski Brod. It’s Sunday, and there will be few places open on the route. Today we go to a world heritage area with wooden houses where the rooftops are home to hundreds of storks. The rickety timber-framed dwellings look like they are out of the ‘game of thrones’ film set. The farmers still drive tractors made in the 1950s that appear new. In the afternoon we head towards Croatia’s wine-growing region Nova Gradiska, but not before running into areas where you will see evidence of the Balkans war, Slavonski Brod is where we stay for the night and taste the odd glass of wine.
It’s a short day as we travel from Slavonski Brod to Belgrade. We will go on the motorway through the border into Serbia where we will spend the evening in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia. We spend the evening on the river Danube in a floating hotel. There is a car park charge of 10 Euros for the overnight stay. Some bug repellent spray will be needed to fend off the bugs this evening.
After breakfast and a photo opportunity on the deck of the floating hotel overlooking the Danube, we head out of Belgrade and over the Danube to drive through a national park consisting of forest and sandy tracks. We are now starting to head into the real Balkans, and in the afternoon we drive along a short section of the Danube’s riverbank finishing at a Castle and a slightly dodgy ferry across to Romania that we don’t use. We carry on towards Veliko Gradiste for a coffee and then head to Pozarevac to our hotel for the night. Pozarevac is a small town and the birthplace of Slobodan Milosevic, the Serb leader in the Balkans war. The hotel is an excellent family-owned hotel that serves good food in its courtyard restaurant.
After an excellent breakfast and purchasing supplies, we leave Pozarevac and drive to Kopaonik along a road that takes us through fields of sunflowers and tobacco plants and onto Serbia’s wine-growing region. You will drive through villages with stunning but empty homes, and it’s like travelling through land that time forgot. We start to ascend into the mountains towards Serbia’s ski resort of Brzece to our hotel for the evening, which is of the Soviet Union era and a place where the USSR trained their young athletes. You certainly get a sense of the past and a feeling for the USSR’s commitment to excellence in teaching their young athletes.
We leave Kopaonik and drive to Sjenica on a toll road into the Kopaonik National Park, then up to Ski resort which is taking forever to build. Surprisingly there are some 5-star hotels here. The road summit peaks at over 2000 meters. The journey takes us out of the park and into another mountain range through villages with multi-coloured houses. At times you would be forgiven for thinking you were in the Alps. We are heading towards Sjenica, not from the Kosovo border and the scene of intense fighting during the Balkans war. Over time the town has changed hands many times and is now a Muslim town, where you will hear calls to prayer.
We leave Sjenica and travel to Zabljak and en-route visit the Tara Canyon before the hoards of tourists arrive. We need to be in Montenegro before 3 PM to purchase vehicle insurance for the two days in Montenegro. It’s an action-packed day with great tracks, views and the jewel in the crown Zabljak will be our base for two nights and one day, which we spend exploring the Durmitor mountain range.
We are in the middle of the Durmitor National Park, and it’s time to either relax or we can take you to the bottom of the Tara Canyon, which is one hell of a journey.
Today we head to Sarajevo on a road that takes us through the Mountains where you will see an abundance of wild horses. We travel single track roads and tunnels through the mountain before driving along the canyon and cross the border into Bosnia. It is here where we purchase insurance for those who have not got a green card. The difference in the quality of roads in Montenegro and Bosnia is shocking; in Montenegro, it’s quality tarmac that transitions to a dirt track in its poor neighbour Bosnia. Tonight, we stay in our 4th capital city, Sarajevo, and it’s a time to reflect on the not too distant past when Sarajevo was war-torn. Bullet-ridden buildings are everywhere, and there is a certain sadness about the place. It was, after all, under siege for years during the war. We have time in the evening to wander the streets of the old town, visit the museums or find a café.
We leave Sarajevo and head for Mostar. Twenty-five years ago, the route we will be travelling was deemed the most dangerous in the world because of the likelihood of being ambushed. Land mines were everywhere, and you will see evidence of this on the road to Lukomir, a village high up in the mountains. We stop at Lukomir for lunch where the locals still practise crafts from the past. From here it all changes as we wind down the mountain towards Mostar to our hotel, which is in the town centre with off-street parking and views of the old town.
It’s time to experience the hustle and bustle of the town. Our hotel is only 200 meters from the Mostar bridge and the old town, and the day is yours to enjoy how you wish. There are excellent Museums that are well worth a visit.
We say goodbye to Mostar and head towards Livno back through the mountains where we will get a view of Mostar from a high on the very first track we join. It’s a slow climb to the top towards Livno, and we travel through some beautiful meadows and valleys full of wildflowers alongside mountain top lakes.
Today we drive to Bihac, and our route provides plenty of evidence of the Balkans conflict of not so long ago. It allows us to appreciate the beauty of the Balkans, and understand the impact of the war as we see signs warning of land mines, see bullet-ridden villages and towns, and roads that become emergency runways. It is all mixed in with stunning flower meadows and crystal clear rivers and waterfalls. Tito’s caves are just above the town of Drvar which saw the worst of the ethnic cleansing. We have to appreciate the conflict happened not too long ago, and most of the damage occurred after the war when families returned to their homes.
We leave Bihac and head over the border to Croatia, and it’s a long last day as we travel the famous smuggler’s route over the border to the coast. We then drive one of the best coastal roads in the world. We will see beautiful islands, yachts, speed boats and people enjoying their holidays. We finish the day in Trieste and have a bit of a party before we say our goodbyes in the morning.
We are homeward bound.