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 filled with good vibes and memorable moments, and were happy to share their 3 week itinerary with starting and ending point in Split, Croatia.

 

ITINERARY

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 in between 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 trav­el­ers 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 Zabl­jak 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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