Balkan road trip with Maatje and Frans

Last May we were visited by Maatje and Frans, sweet young couple from Netherlands who spent 22 days cruising around the Balkans. They had quite a ride and thankfully, left us with good vibes and a lot of tips for our yet to come lowriders. Big thanks to Maatje and Frans for sending us these lovely photos and such a thorough list of places they visited.

 

Day 1: We arrived in Split, picked up the van and did some inventory groceries to get our camping trip starting. We drove to Autokamp Krvavica and stayed there for the night.

 

Day 2: We spent the next day walking along the Croatian coastline – starting at the old centre of Dubrovnik and traveling downwards to Cavtat. We circled back to Camping Kate at dusk to set up the camper for the night.

 

Day 3 marked the moment of entering Montenegro. We were craving a nice restaurant experience, so we visited Catovica Mlini before heading to the bay of Kotor. The entrance to the restaurant and the small ponds around the restaurant are exceptionally beautiful. After visiting the old city of Kotor, we took the road less travelled up to Lovcen National Park. We parked the car near the Mausoleum, where we were greeted by two park attendants with wooly socks and raki.

Day 4: The long ride of the previous day paid off, because we had the whole morning and afternoon to do some mountain-biking in the area. We rented them from the national park centre and took in some of the lovely scenery. We left the park in the afternoon to drive to Pavlova Strana for some more beautiful views. We stopped in Cetinje for some delicious breaded cheese with vegetables at Kole and ended up in Virpazar near Skadar Lake. Big tip: OK Koral – the camping we slept at!

 

Day 5: OK Koral was so pleasant, that we decided to stay there for a longer period. We used the opportunity to rest and visit the village of Virpazar. Quaint as it is, we had some Dalmantian stew and fried doughnut balls with cheese, honey and pršut (ham) at the Silistria boat. 

 

Day 6 was largely spent in the van, because we wanted to make our way down south to the Albanian Riviera. A brief stop was made in Durres for local currency and a SIM, after which we drove to a secluded beach near Narte for some wild camping.

 

Day 7: We left Narte early to go to the first beach of the Albanian Riviera – Dhermi. No lie – one of best panoramas on the way down and one of the best beaches we visited on our entire holiday. Afterwards we drove back up the hill to sleep at Camp Paradise. Very basic but quiet, loads of space and a friendly owner.

 

Day 8: We heard great stories about a beach next to Dhermi – Gjipe. We didn’t take the car ride down, but instead decided to hike our way through the canyon in the blistering heat. Gjipe is a recommendation for all – very quiet, exquisite beach and water. You can visit a cave or just chill out. We ended the day in Ksamil in the South of Albania, where we stayed at Ksamil Caravan Camping. The owners were nothing short of amazing, pay them a visit. They epitomized the friendliness of Albania, a must-stay.

 

Day 9: Initially we wanted to travel to Thessaloniki, but we decided we were going easy on the kilometre – count. Our neighbors at the Ksamil camping told us about Parga and the Enjoy Lichnos camping, so we made our way to Northern Greece. It was the priciest place to stay so far, but it had everything we wanted – a beach, lots of nature, plenty of delicious tavernas with vino, olives and feta. 

 

 

Day 10: We fancied Enjoy Lichnos so much, that we decided to stay one more day to visit the town of Parga, go out for dinner at 5 Senses and buy some touristy soaps for friends back home.

 

 

Day 11: The weather took a turn for the worst near the coast – read thunderstorms of Zeus. Along the way we stopped at Acheron Springs, where we walked around to take in all the beautiful nature. We wished we had more time to walk through the river and the gorge, but we had to move on. Pit-stop in Ioannina and a road-side restaurant called Manklaras (honestly the best tzatziki and souvlaki we ever ate) to end up at a camping in Kalambaka.

 

 

Day 12: We started the day early by visiting 3 of 6 local monasteries up the mountains of Meteora to avoid most tourists. In the afternoon we drove towards the Albanian side of Lake Ohrid to sleep at Abri Camping, which was great. Along the way, we made a stop at Diamantis Winery. If you love wine, pay Dimitris a visit. He’s very knowledgable and knows how to host. Call beforehand to make sure he’s in!

 

Day 13: We left Albania pretty quick to cross over to Macedonia. Just on the border, we visited the Sveti Naum monastery – most remarkable are the peacocks. Breakfast at Ostrovo after – really nice eggs and cheese. The rest of the day was spent in hammocks with beers.

 

 

Day 14: Time from the city of Ohrid itself, so we packed up and drove up north. We made a neat circle around most of the viewpoints, with the Kaneo church and restaurant (get the Macedonian platter) alongside the coast. We walked back to the car along the water and stopped in between for a cocktails and some sun-bathing on beach beds. 

 

Day 15: Mavrovo National Park was located inbetween Ohrid and Kosovo, so it made sense to see some of the Macedonian highlands. We made an appointment at a local ranch there to do some horse-riding. We almost didn’t make it because we got stuck behind a huge amount of sheep making their way up to the mountains for the summer season. We did make it at the end and the 5-hour ride was great. Some Spanish and German fellow travellers ended up there as well, so we did a joint dinner in Galicnik with a beautiful view.

 

Day 16: The morning was spent along Lake Mavrovo, where we visited some black-and-white churches. Kosovo was our next destination – we drove via Tetovo to Prizren, which had lovely views from the top of the hills. Kosovo was really different from all the other Balkan countries. Lots of Arabian/Islam influences, even though the city did feel very crowded at the beginning. We needed to acclimatize, so we drank some beer at Te Kinezi. Afterwards dinner at Beska (try the salty Sar cheese).

 

 

Day 17 was all about discovering Prizren. We visited the oldest mosque in town Sinan Pasha and the Prizren castle, overlooking the city. Afterwards, we strolled down the local markets and had some döner at Aurora. The next destination was Durmitor National Park in Montengro. The weather was really nice, so we took some time to chill at the Drini river and ate some fish at a local spot near the Ura e Shentjë bridge. We ended in Montenegro at the Zeleni Raj, just across the border.

 

Day 18: We read great things about Durmitor, so it was crucial for us to spend some time here. The weather was great and Eko Oaza was the perfect camping for us to set up shop. The road along Tara Canyon is so beautiful, highly recommended for all driving through the country. After setting up our tent, we hiked up the mountain towards one of then national park’s lakes. We were told the hike would take 2 hours, but we can confirm this is not really the case. The weather turned pretty fast and we were forced to move down. The rain subsided and we ended up cooking from the van. Early night for us, since we were tired from the long walk and a next day to looking forward to.

 

Day 19: The sun starting off shining bright, which made the hike to the river of the canyon quite enjoyable. We started to realize that the next few days would bring bad weather starting around 13:00. The decision was made to drive to up to Zabjlak to rather some information about local activities and weather forecast. Rainy clouds and thunder made us decide to travel towards Split sooner than initially thought, because we wanted to end the trip with sunny skies. It was a long ride through Bosnia and via an faulty border post to end up in Ploce at Camping Bacinska Jezera. Good choice! Small family-run camping near the lake – 100% relaxation.

 

Day 20: Relax day at the camping all about swimming, napping, reading and food. Soaking up the quiet surroundings on the last day before going to Split.

 

Day 21: It was time to the last stop: back to Split to visit the old centre. It’s a bit touristy, but no so much to the point of bother. Lots of beautiful architecture to see and less hysterical than Dubrovnik. Tip: eat cevapi at Kantun Paulina: fast food to save you some bucks without saving on taste.

 

 

Day 22: We flew back to Amsterdam in the afternoon, so we had some time to soak up the last rays of holiday sun at Kasjuni Beach. Take a dip with the locals early in the day, you will not regret it.

 

 

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