Hidden Gems in the Balkans

It’s time to let the old stereotypes die. Time to clear away the outdated misinformation that, 30 odd years after the end of the Cold War, continues to endure.

The Balkans is actually quite an appealing place for many reasons. Forget Soviet era gray apartment blocks and grim unsmiling residents in drab clothing. Look past the tumultuous history in the post-communism period.

Croatia has already caught the attention of many savvy travelers. But its neighbors are quite appealing, too.

Think stunning beaches with turquoise waters on the Adriatic, Ionian, and Black Seas…alpine vistas that wouldn’t be out of place in Switzerland. Chic beach towns and medieval villages…picturesque wine regions…verdant pastures and rolling hills…delicious national cuisines. Island hopping by boat. Roman and Greek ruins. Surprisingly temperate weather—with glorious sunshine-filled summers.

This region, between Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, is a crossroads that experienced influences on language, religion, cuisine, and more from all sides—which makes each country’s culture quite unique and a joy to experience.

Lured by low-cost flights, travelers from around Europe (Croatia and Slovenia are part of the EU, by the way, and several other countries are candidates) have long been aware of the Balkans’ charm.

It’s time this region found a wider audience. And, as my team has discovered, there are plenty of options for low-cost real estate throughout the region, including appealing rural and seaside locations.

Planina pri Sevnici, Slovenia
Listing Price: $106,975

The small country village of Planina pri Sevnici, which has origins going back to the 15th century, is set amongst fields and forests covering rolling hills, with views of distant mountains. As you can imagine, there is great hiking here. But it’s also close to Celje, the third-largest city in Slovenia, so you have all the conveniences there that you need for a comfortable life.

This three-bedroom home is on 1.1 acres (plenty of space for a garden) surrounded by vineyards and is just down the hill from the ruins of the local lord’s castle. In fact, the home is built over the old barns for his lordship’s horses. It’s downright bucolic. And it’s ideally located—one hour to local ski resorts and Austria, 2.5 hours to the coast and Italy.

Saranda, Albania
Listing Price: $67,691

Saranda is in the heart of the Albanian Riviera in the far south of the country. Set on the Ionian, just across the water from the Greek island of Corfu, Saranda’s beaches are white sand. The water a clear azure. And the rocky hills that rise dramatically from the water offer a scenic backdrop.

As a bustling beach town, you have your pick of restaurants, water sports, and other fun things to do. It’s a popular beach getaway in summer for visitors from the capital, Tirana, as well as Eastern Europe. The pleasant seaside promenade is perfect for an evening stroll.
Less than 200 feet from the beach, with sea views, this one-bedroom apartment comes fully furnished. On the outskirts of town, it’s less than seven minutes from the center. That gives you quiet and convenience.

Sveti Vlas, Bulgaria
Listing Price: $84,392

As beach destinations go in Bulgaria, this Black Sea vacation hotspot is fast becoming one of the best thanks to recent infrastructure and the construction of new hotels. A big focus is the well-known full-service marina, which has slips for 300 craft, including large yachts.

There are three separate beaches in town, all golden sand. And it’s just down the road from much-busier Sunny Beach, which is known for its nightlife.

This one-bedroom apartment, inside a resort development, offers sea views from its fourth-floor perch. It’s right on the water. And it’s a quick walk to the beach, marina, and two swimming pools. There are also restaurants, shops, a gym, and green areas. Comes fully furnished and ready to move in.

P.S. If you’re interested in any of these listings you should hire an attorney and do your own due diligence. I haven’t visited these properties in person or done any due diligence on them.

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