Whether you’re an experienced mountaineer with hiking boots that feel like second skin or just a mere mortal looking for a hiking adventure on the beautiful Balkans, our vast peninsula has a lot to offer. Picturesque waterscapes, ever-green forests, icy cold mountain springs, gorgeous canyons, steep valleys… the list goes on and on.
Here are the best hiking destinations on the Balkans – all of them feature hiking trails for inexperienced travelers, as well as lesser known trails off the beaten paths for the bravest hikers out there. And all of them definitely deserve a spot on everyone’s to-visit list.
Sedemte Rilski Ezera (Bulgaria)
The 7 Rila Lakes located in Bulgaria are one of the country’s most well-known natural landmarks and are nestled in the highest mountain range on the entire Balkan Peninsula – Rila. It should come to no surprise that with rich sceneries like this one there are tons of hiking trails to choose from and gorgeous sights to see at each lake.
Perućica rainforest (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
Here comes one of the few remaining primeval rainforests in all of Europe – the Perućica forest. Apart from the evergreen landscapes (the tallest Norway Spruce can be spotted here) the forest also offers the lovely Skakavac waterfall, which falls 75 meters from the brink of a natural karstic precipice. Due to the fact that the biosphere of the Perućica forest is so rare, you can hike it only when accompanied by a local ranger. It may sound off-putting for those mountaineers who are fans of solo-traveling, but being escorted by a ranger guarantees preserving the nature, as well as your own safety.
Bijele i Samarske stijene (Croatia)
Croatia has some pretty gorgeous mountains, but nature’s creativity knows no bounds when it comes to Velika Kapela (“great chapel”). It’s part of the Dinaric Alps, overlooks the Adriatic Sea and welcomes hikers from all over with its fascinating Bijele i Samarske stijene – the White and Samarian rocks. Truly astonishing, these limestone rocks are completely natural and one of their most fascinating formations is a set of 5 natural sculptures, which are shaped exactly like a hand that is reaching towards the vast blue skies. Even though the rocky formations are extremely difficult for hiking on their own, there are several hiking trails leading to the Bijele I Samarske stijene and the surrounding landmarks.
Mosor Mountain (Croatia)
Speaking of mountains spreading across the beautiful Croatia, here’s another one – the Mosor mountain. Situated just across the lively city of Split, Mosor is full of hiking spots and mountaineering trails. One of its most beautiful destinations is the mountaintop, of course. The Mosor peak and some other areas offer splendid views of the Adriatic Sea and townscapes of the nearby Split.
Stara Planina (Serbia)
It’s Serbia’s highest mountain (not counting Kosovo). Forests and meadows divided by mountain rivers and streams, and sprinkled with high cliffs, caves and waterfalls. This unspoilt beauty has it all. The most impressive part of Stara Planina are probably its powerful rivers that flow through their beds in red sandstone. Those rivers form many impressive waterfalls, highest in all of Serbia. This route follows the Toplodolska river, and passes all of its waterfalls, Piljski, Čunguljski, Kurtulski…
Matka Canyon (Macedonia)
If you happen to find yourself in Macedonia, make sure you check out the Matka canyon. Hiking on its numerous trails from April to November promises breath-taking sceneries, ancient monasteries and numerous caves. One of them, the Vrelo cave, is believed to be none other than the deepest underwater cave on the globe! Be mindful, though, and don’t stray too much off the beaten hiking trails – the canyon is famous for its Viper population (the most venomous and fatal snake species in South Europe).
A fun trivia fact is that the Lovćen mountain triggered the inspiration for Montenegro’s name (Black Forest) due to the mountain’s rocky, gloomy appearances. Another fun fact is that out of all plant species found in the region, which is also a national park, four of those species are endemic. Besides its sceneries and unique biosphere Lovćen also offers local and foreign hikers the mausoleum of Petar Petrović Njegoš – one of the most influential contributors to Montenegrin and Serbian literature.
Musala Peak (Bulgaria)
Last, but not least, is the Musala peak in Bulgaria. It’s not Everest, but with its impressive 2,925 meters in height it’s in fact the highest mountaintop on the Balkans! And that alone makes it an absolute must-visit for amateurs and for professionals. A word of advice – whichever hiking trail to Musala you choose, be prepared to meet lots of interesting folks along the way from Slavic and non-Slavic countries because it’s a popular destination.