The Balkans is a fantastic part of the world to discover and, being surrounded by water on three sides, is a natural cruise destination. And of course, the beauty of travelling via cruise is that it makes it easy to explore several Balkans destinations with minimal effort, and visit other regions along the way.
This website is a good place to find out more about the various cruise options around the Balkans, while we’re going to tell you a little about the region’s history, as well as places you can visit here, below.
The Balkans defined
Officially known as the Balkan Peninsula, the Balkans is a geographical region in south-east Europe that takes its name from the Balkan Mountains within it. It’s home to lots of independent countries, including Greece, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Albania and Kosovo, as well as parts of many other countries, such as Croatia and Turkey.
Now, it’s worth bearing in mind that, like many geographical regions that cross national borders, its exact parameters are somewhat debated. For instance, some scholars believe that the entire of Croatia is in the Balkans, though most claim the country lies only partly in the region.
A quick history of the Balkans
A big part of the Balkans’ identity is defined by its geographical position. You see, historically it’s been somewhat in the middle of other cultures – such as being the meeting point for Christianity and Islam, as well as Greek and Latin cultures back in the days of the Roman Empire. It’s this that has meant various peoples have vied for power here throughout its history, with the Ottoman Empire seizing control in the 16th century.
And it is the presence of the Ottomans and the wars they waged that, broadly speaking, kept the Balkans somewhat cut off from advances in Europe, particularly in economic terms. So, the Balkans has by and large been seen as Europe’s least developed area. The bulk of the region’s nation-states only gained independence during the 19th and 20th centuries.
Places to visit
The Balkans is home to some fantastic cities, and you can visit these during a cruise. Among the possibilities is Varna in Bulgaria, which is one of the largest cities in the country. Travelling around here, you can go to the fabulous open-air Naval Museum, as well as the striking Cathedral of Assumption.
It’s well worth taking a guided tour of the cathedral if you can (and, should you opt for a cruise, this is likely to be among the excursions offered), which will give you a chance to admire its stained-glass windows, gold-plated domes and wooden chandeliers. As well as being beautiful, it’s also important in historic terms – it was built as a way of thanking the Russians for liberating Bulgaria from Turkish forces.
Also well worth a visit is the Archaeological Museum, where you can find out all about the city and see an impressive collection of locally discovered artefacts – including some of the oldest artefacts of human civilisation ever found.
Athens is somewhere everyone should visit at least once during their lifetime. By visiting here on a cruise, you’ll have the added advantage of being able to pick from a fab selection of excursions that’ll whisk you to the city’s highlights. Plus, you’ll get the extra treat of seeing some of the amazing sights between the local port (Piraeus) and Athens, which include Mikrolimanon’s waterfront.
In the city itself, you’ll get to discover how the past mingles with the modern, with the Acropolis standing on a rock right in the heart of the city. Take a walk up it through the Propylaia to explore sights like the Temple of the Wingless Victory and the Parthenon.