Destinations

Croatia

croatia1In Croatia, where the Mediterranean, the mountains and the Pannonian plains come together in a unique harmony of natural beauty, within just a little more than a hundred kilometers, you can come across excitingly different landscapes.

The Adriatic, with one of the most indented coastlines in Europe with its 1,185 islands and islets, of which only 66 are inhabited, is undoubtedly the most popular tourist destination. Continental Croatia, however, also abounds in beauty: it is a land of forests, rivers rich in fish, swift mountain streams and deep gorges of Gorski Kotar, and the magnificent Plitvice Lakes in Lika. It is a land of golden wheat fields, oak woods and wide rivers of Slavonia and Baranja, a land of quaint little villages, romantic castles and manors, and picturesque rolling hills and vineyards of the Croatian Zagorje.

The most popular possibilities for travel and tourism, of course, is summer tourism. You can also enjoy the benefits of rural tourism in many of the villages in the continental region of Croatia, as well as of health tourism in a number of spas and thermal and mineral springs, such as Varazdinske, Tuheljske, Stubicke and Krapinske spas, Lipik, Daruvar or Topusko in the continental region, and along the coast : Losinj, Umag, Opatija, Crikvenica, Hvar, Makarska, Vela Luka and Istarske Spa in Istria.

croatia2If you are a gourmet and a connoisseur of fine food, or simply like tasty and healthy food, you will certainly more than enjoy Croatia. Another attraction certainly worth exploring are Croatia’s wine cellars. Red wines are best along the coast – Teran, Cabernet and Merlot in Istria and Opolo, Plavac, Dingac and Postup in Dalmatia. In the coastal area, some quality white wines are also produced, such as Pinot, Malvazija, Kujundzusa and White Muskat, while continental Croatia produces Traminac, Burgundac, Gras¡evina and Kraljevina.

Slovenia

The Central European nation of Slovenia offers tourists a wide variety of landscapes in a small space: Alpine in the northwest, Mediterranean in the southwest, Pannonian in the northeast and sloveniaDinaric in the southeast. The nation’s capital, Ljubljana, proudly shows its Baroque and Art Nouveau influence, and the work of native born architect Jože Plečnik. Other attractions include the Julian Alps with the picturesque Lake Bled in Bled and Soča valley, as well as the nation’s highest peak, Mount Triglav.

Perhaps even more famous is Slovenia’s karst named after the Karst plateau in southwestern Slovenia. More than 28 million visitors have visited Postojna Cave, while a 15-minute ride from it are Škocjan Caves, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Further in the same direction is the coast of the Adriatic Sea, with a jewel of Venetian Gothic, Piran. The hills around the nation’s second-largest city, Maribor, are renowned for their wine-making. Even though Slovenes tend to consume most of the wine they produce, some brands like Lutomer have made their appearance abroad. Geology has made the northeastern part of the country rich with spas, with Rogaška Slatina being perhaps its most prominent site.

MonteNegro

negro1Tourism in Montenegro is one of the main contributors to Montenegrin economy. The location of this small Mediterranean country, architectural and cultural heritage, diversity of landscapes and climates and relatively well preserved nature makes Montenegro suitable for tourism.

In the year 2005, approximately 820,000 tourists visited Montenegro, of which some 272,000 were from abroad. This represents nearly a 17% increase over the prior year, and Montenegro is considered one of the the fastest-growing tourist destinations in recent years. The biggest problem of Montenegrin tourism is inadequate infrastructure, most notably obsolete road network and difficulties with water and electricity supply in the coastal area. For that reason, main investments of the government is building new and reconstruction of the current road infrastructure.

Kotor – This region is of main interest to tourists. The Montenegrin Adriatic coast is 295 km long, with 72 km of beaches, and with many well-preserved ancient old towns. The main attractions are:

  • Old town of Kotor, listed with UNESCO world heritage sites.
  • Boka Kotorska (Bay of Kotor), some say most beautiful bay in Europe, with ancient small town of Perast and its islets.
  • Old town of Budva, very well preserved old town.
  • Sveti Stefan, a small hamlet on an island turned into a luxury hotel.

Besides these, every other coastal town, especially south of Budva, is very popular among tourists, primarily because of sandy beaches and vibrant nightlife.

Central region – Although it is most densely populated area of Montenegro, it has fewer tourist attractions. Notable are:

  • Ostrog monastery, a famous pilgrimage site.
  • Archeological remains of Duklja (Doclea) from Roman times outside Podgorica.
  • Skadar lake, a popular wildlife reserve.
  • Cetinje, historical capital of Montenegro.
  • Mount Lovćen, national park and Petar II Petrović-Njegoš’s Mausoleum afford breathtaking views of the surrounding country.

negro2Northern region – Northern region is centre of Montenegrin mountain tourism. It has ski resorts, and is popular for its untouched nature. Destinations in the north are:

  • Town of Žabljak on mountain Durmitor, the most popular mountain tourism destination in Montenegro.
  • Town of Kolašin, also popular destination, near national park Biogradska Gora, mountain Bjelasica and ski-resort Bjelasica.
  • Tara River Gorge, second-deepest canyon in the world. Tara river is a popular rafting destination.
  • Biogradska Gora, with Biogradsko Lake, a national park and untouched virgin forest.
  • The entire area of Durmitor mountain and Tara river canyon is protected as a national park.

Albania

In the heart of the Mediterranean, on the Adriatic and Ionian Seas, Albania is fast becoming one of the world’s most interesting getaways. Still relatively unspoiled by globalization, tourists will notice an inspiring mixture of civilizations and cultures – making this European country truly unique.

albaniaNestled in between Greece, Macedonia, Kosovo, and Montenegro, and across the Adriatic from Italy, Albania boasts blue and turquoise seas, beautiful beaches, snow peaked mountains, rivers, lakes, and forests. As well as stunning nature, Albanians themselves are famous for their hospitality, and tourists are welcomed with heart-warming generosity.

Albanian history and culture is fascinating. Butrint, one of the world’s archeological wonders – and a UNESCO World Heritage site – in the south of Albania provides a glimpse of Mediterranean civilization from the Bronze Age through the Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Venetian and Ottoman periods – all atop a cliff overlooking Corfu. It’s not to be missed!

Home of both Mother Theresa and the great 15th Century hero Skanderbeg, Albania today offers not only beach and mountain holidays, but also a vibrant city life, a relaxing outdoor cafe culture and you will see that it’s quickly evolving in a myriad of directions.

Macedonia

Macedonia – that unforgettable name evoking images of ancient, great civilizations and exotic adventure – is also a warm and welcoming modern-day republic in the very heart of southeastern Europe.

macedonia1While easily accessible from all points abroad, and boasting all the amenities of the Western world, Macedonia remains one of Europe’s last great undiscovered countries: a natural paradise of mountains, lakes and rivers, where life moves to a different rhythm, amidst the sprawling grandeur of rich historical ruins and idyllic villages that have remained practically unchanged for centuries.

Macedonia’s geographical and cultural position as bridge between East and West, as the crossroads between Christian Europe and the mystical Orient, is attested to today in its inhabitants. The Macedonian people – a mixture of ancient Macedonians and Slavic tribes that settled here starting in the 5th century C.E. – make up the greatest part of a country where that mixed population is a vibrant reminder of Macedonia’s rich and lengthy history. Minority populations include: Albanians, arriving first from mountains of Albania and Kosovo; a Turkish population established during Ottoman times; The Roma, hailing ultimately from far-off India; Serbs, Bosniaks and Croats; and Vlachs, famous tradesmen and likely descendants of ancient Romans.

In essence, today’s Macedonia is a unique patchwork of cultures, where Balkan bloodlines have mixed with others more exotic still. Macedonia resonates with the names of the many peoples who have set foot on its eternal soil: from Armenians, Avars and Ashkenazi to Hellenes, Peonians and Gorani; from Kumans, Montenegrins and Jews to Dardanians, Ukrainians and Bulgars.

macedonia2Such a diverse range of peoples has co-existed for thousands of years in Macedonia, a place where hospitality always welcomes visitors and it comes from the heart. And indeed, the country’s charms have not been lost on an increasing number of Westerners today who are now choosing it as their second home!

In addition to its diversity,, Macedonia’s cultural richness is expressed in its archaeological legacy. Although just a little country, it holds many antique theaters, Byzantine churches and Ottoman mosques, in addition to relics from the Stone Age and even earlier periods of human civilization.

The oldest traces of human habitation in Macedonia are the cryptic, 30,000 year-old stone engravings or “rock art” unearthed in the Kratovo area, as well as the astronomical observatory/ religious ritual site of Taticev Kamen, dating back almost 4,000 years.

The word Macedonia instantly conjures up memories of Philip II and his son Alexander the Great, legendary emperor of the 4th century B.C.E. who brought great expanses of the known world under Macedonian rule. In this period, and the Hellenistic and Roman ones that followed it, Macedonia reached the apogee of its influence and power. Today, many ruins remain to attest to this ancient heritage, in the sites of cities such as Heraclea, Stobi and Skupi, strewn with amphitheaters and temples, and decorated with intricate mosaics and frescoes.

The missionary Apostle Paul brought Christianity to Macedonia for the first time. Nine centuries later, his Byzantine successors Cyril and Methodius created a brand new alphabet, the precursor to Cyrillic, to expedite their missionary work with the Slavic-speaking Orthodox Christians of the Balkans. Macedonia’s experience of Christianity has thus always been linked with literacy and education. In fact, the first Slavic university was established in the 10th century, in placid Ohrid – famous during Byzantine times for its 365 churches, one for each day of the year.
Today, Macedonia’s Christian heritage is visible everywhere, from the myriad churches that fill up the landscape throughout the country to the enormous “Millennium Cross” that lights up the Skopje night sky from high atop nearby Mt. Vodno.

Following the decline of the Byzantium Empire, Macedonia and the entire Balkans came under control of the Ottoman Turks. Macedonia owes its Oriental influences to five centuries of Ottoman rule, a phenomenon that affected everything from cuisine and language to architecture and religion. The mosques of Tetovo and Skopje and the latter city’s grand castle (Kale), and Stone Bridge exemplify vividly Ottoman aestheticism.

While firmly rooted in its traditions and nostalgia for the past, today’s Macedonia is also a forward-looking country that has embraced its diversity and is becoming integrated within European political and economic institutions, continually expanding its links to the greater global community and economy. It thus provides the curious traveler with the best of both worlds: age-old traditions, historical treasures, and a pristine natural environment, as well as all of the modern amenities, services and consumer goods that today’s sophisticated travelers need. Macedonia today is an undiscovered jewel in the heart of Europe, offering something for tourists of all ages, nations, interests and desires.