With tumultuous, exciting and sometimes turbulent histories, rich cultures, delicious food and locations on the very fringes of Europe, at first glance the Balkans and the Baltics seem to have a lot in common.
However, take a closer look and you’ll see that these two frontier regions are as different as vodka and rakija or borscht and gulaš.
Not only are these two regions distinct from each other, they are also very different from the rest of Europe and so they make the perfect destination for anyone seeking a holiday with a difference.
Why go to the Balkans?
Stretching from the Mediterranean to the Black Sea and the Danube to the Bosphorus, the Balkan states encompass a vast area that for thousands of years has formed the crossroads between East and West.
The result is an incredibly vibrant, diverse and exciting region that, even today, remains one of the least explored and most unspoilt parts of the European continent.
This makes the Balkans the ideal destination for anyone who likes to take the road less travelled and provides the perfect holiday for the adventurous and the inquisitive.
Due to both the deeply entrenched cultural identities and diverse geography of the region, visitors to the Balkans can see and experience a vast amount in just a few days.
Travel from the stunning Dalmatian Coastline of Croatia to the vibrant Serbian city of Belgrade. Experience the breathtaking views of Macedonia’s Lake Ohrid to the stunning beauty of ancient Dubrovnik - the Balkans boast some of the very best sights and attractions anywhere in the world.
Plus, as almost the whole Balkan region enjoys long, hot summers, it’s the perfect destination for anyone who wants to top up their tan while soaking up some culture.
Why go to the Baltics?
Bordering Scandinavia, Russia and Eastern Europe, the Baltic states also occupy a unique frontier position on the European Continent and, as a result, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia all have unique cultures and rich, though often troubled, histories.
With cobbled streets, stunning architecture and a welcoming population, Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius, are all capital cities with character and visiting all three is a great way to get to know the region.
Like the countries that they head, all three cities are a very manageable size, making them easy to explore on foot in a day or two.
In between these pretty capitals you’ll find a region stuffed with castles, churches and historical sites, as well as friendly people only too keen to share their delicious cuisine or even a local home-made tipple with passing visitors.
The top sights of the Balkans
Perched on the northern shore of the colossal Lake Ohrid, the city that bears the same name is one of the most stunning places on earth.
The beauty of the cobbled streets, ancient buildings and hidden coves is made all the more stunning by the city’s location sandwiched between the glimmering lake and the imposing mountains.
Another city that is likely to take up your camera’s entire memory card is Dubrovnik which, despite being under siege during the Balkan Wars, remains one of the most photogenic places you’re ever likely to see.
Other highlights include the lively Belgrade, Mostar’s rebuilt bridge and the beautiful Bay of Kotor.
The top sights of the Baltics
For first-time visitors, the main must sees of the Baltic region are the three capitals. Each is packed full with history, brimming with great food and pretty in their own unique ways.
From the capital of each country it’s easy to explore nearby sights and join day trips to neighbouring towns and cities. Some of the most popular places to visit are Tartu, the oldest town in Estonia, the Rundale Palace in Latvia and the wild Curonian Spit National Park in Lithuania.
Though these two regions on the fringes of Europe are poles apart, they both offer visitors the chance to experience something a little bit different. So why not pack your bags and head east this summer to see if you’re up to the frontier challenge? View our holidays in the Balkans and the Baltics.