Croatia ~ Bosnia ~ Montenegro
This former Yugoslavian region skyrocketed to the top of everyone's international bucket list when it became the backdrop for Game of Thrones, but beyond the "Red Keep", the Istrian Peninsula is a confluence of Italian, Slavic and Ottoman cultures, dense forests, sapphire beaches, wine, food and history. Easily reached through any European gateway, the Adriatic is safe, beautiful and the dollar stretches FAR!
Dubrovnik "the Pearl of the Adriatic" was once an off the radar destination, but those days are over! With its perfectly intact medieval wall, busy cruise port, and winding streets filled with unique shopping, food and museums, this could be your one Croatian city stop. But then you would miss Split - a former Roman enclave with an intact colosseum to rival Rome, Plitvice Lakes National Park - a fairy land of boardwalks among magical waterfalls, and capital city Zagreb - an edgy Eastern European hub of arts and culture. Croatia's own island chain makes it a yachter's paradise and proximity to neighboring Italy, Slovenia, Bosnia, Montenegro and Hungary make it a dream destination for sampling off the radar culture.
Just a short drive south from Dubrovnik is former Yugoslavian neighbor Montenegro. Centuries of Venetian rule have left a strong mark on the tiny coastal country which remains mostly off the radar for American travelers. Its stunning medieval city, Kotor, can be done as a day trip, but we recommend taking time to hike the fortress walls, have long sunbaked meals of fresh seafood in Perast, or hop on a local's boat for a private fjord tour and a swim in the Blue Cave. Plenty of "communism-kitsch" is available in flea markets & old submarine hide outs from WWII are accessible for you history buffs. Although not an EU member they do use the Euro, and who doesn't love an extra passport stamp!
Bosnia and Herzogovina
As the furthest point that the Ottoman Empire reached, Bosnia's Islamic influence is evident in its minarets, mosques and "Turkish" bazaars. Haggle over copper, glass and scarves for brag-worthy souveniers. In the countryside, you stumble over Greek-Macedonian ruins with a distinct Hellenic feel. While evidence of the war is still visible, and recovery has been slow, rest assured Bosnia is safe and the people are as warm and welcoming as any we've experienced anywhere. Bonus: Nice meal, $6 US. Nice Hotel, $35. C'mon!