Sofia Adventures

Welcome to Sofia!

Sofia is an intriguing city, with corners that show at various times a glint of the splendor of Vienna, the charm of Istanbul, the quirkiness of Budapest, and the brutalism of Moscow. You’ll find Roman ruins in our subway stations, medieval icons in the church basements, and Thracian relics in the former presidential palace. Yet Sofia brings all of these seemingly disparate traditions together into one magical, inspiring city.

DISCOVER SOFIA

DISCOVER SOFIA

DISCOVER SOFIA

NEW ON THE BLOG

13 Gorgeous Souvenirs from Crete that You Can Bring Back Home

13 Gorgeous Souvenirs from Crete that You Can Bring Back Home

If your holiday on Crete is coming to an end, I’m certain you will want to take back home some beautiful memories of the island that will help you revive those unique moments once you are back home.

Here is a list of the best 13 souvenirs you can buy during your trip to Crete for yourself or for your friends and your family.

Can’t read now? Pin for later!

Where to Stay in Crete

Agios Nikolas - Crete - Greece. Beautiful village with blue water and colorful houses.

The island of Crete is so big and diverse that it’s almost impossible to make everyone happy when It comes to deciding on the best areas to stay on the island.

Since you will most probably be arriving at the capital, Heraklion, or spending some time in the wonderful western town of Chania, we have included here some of the top accommodations in both places. For more places to stay in Crete, check this site.

Here are our top suggestions for where to stay in Crete. In most cases, budget means hotel stays for around $40 a night, mid-range is from about $50-80 per night, and luxury will cost over $100 per night.

Budget: When it comes to Heraklion with a limited budget, check the great comfort of So Young Hostel. For Chania town, instead, we suggest Casa Latina, in the old town.  

Mid-range: With a more generous budget, discover the comfortable Lato Annex Boutique Rooms in Heraklion and El Greco Hotel in Chania.

Luxury: Want to splurge in Crete? We recommend a stay at the magnificent Artion City Boutique Hotel in Heraklion and Consolato Boutique in Chania.

Best Souvenirs from Crete

In no particular order… 

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Crete is well-known for the stunning quality of the olive oil produced on the island. Locally considered the liquid gold of Crete, olive oil production accounts, together with tourism, for the most important source of income on Crete.

Crete’s extra virgin olive oil is one of the key ingredients of the healthy Cretan diet, and it’s used to cook every possible dish you can imagine, often replacing less healthy sources of fat, such as butter and margarine.

Olive oil is produced by several traditional companies, cooperatives, and even some of the monasteries on the island. It’s a fantastic present to bring home from Crete and to use in your own kitchen when trying to emulate the local recipes.

Olive oil comes on the island comes from the two local varieties of olives: tsounato and koroneiki. While the first one produces a robust variety with notes of oak and walnut, the second olive variety gives a more pungent kind of oil, fruity and spicy, ideal to season fresh salads or simply to drizzle on top of freshly baked bread.

Olive Oil - Pixabay

Cretan Tsikoudia

The second staple of Cretan cuisine also comes in a bottle. But this time it’s not olive oil. It’s the local spirit which you will be served from day one on Crete. 

No matter the time of the day, the occasion, or the meal, Tsikoudia (also known as raki on the island), can be found on the table either before or after dinner, with a savory aperitif or with fresh fruit and spoon sweets.

Cretan tsikoudia is a typical drink served to welcome travelers and friends. It’s shared with plenty of conversation, and it’s a symbol of the legendary hospitality that has made Crete one of the most beloved Greek islands.

Take a bottle of tsikoudia back home, or choose a bottle of rakomelo, a variety of tsikoudia with delicious and authentic thyme honey from Crete.

Greece - Crete - Raki

Cretan Knife

Knives are one of the most traditional products you can buy on Crete to bring back home as a souvenir. Part of the typical dress of the Cretan mountain shepherd, the local knife presents a unique V shape specially designed for a better and safer way to grab the knife during the battle.

You can either buy a war knife or a kitchen knife with beautiful handles that can be made from olive wood, horn, or even bone.

Many of these knives feature a local poem engraved on the blade. The poem is called Mantinada and it another typical element of the Cretan culture.

When shopping for a Cretan knife, try to buy it from the producer, you will be able to get knives of excellent quality that will certainly last you for ages, even if you use them every day in your own kitchen.

greece -crete - chania - cretan knife

Leather Products

The Arabs that conquered and lived on the island between the two Byzantine periods did not stay on Crete enough time to leave monuments or memorable buildings. However, they left a variety of traditions and knowledge that the locals adopted and are still part of the local life.

Other than spices, coffee, and tobacco, the Saracens taught Cretans everything they knew about working with leather.

From the traditional tall boots that Cretans wear in the mountains (known as stivania), to the beautiful leather bags, jackets, and shoes, you will be able to find lots of leather products in Crete to take home with you.

Leather sandals are one of the best souvenirs you can buy, they are light and durable and will always remind you of the amazing weather of Crete anywhere else in the world you wear them. If you’d like to take part in a shopping experience where you can find the most authentic products in Crete, we recommend you to check this Chania shopping tour.

Greece - Crete - Stivania

Cookbook of Cretan Recipes

Cretan food is considered among the healthiest as well as the tastiest diets in the world. It’s at the base of the famous Mediterranean diet and features just a few simple ingredients that, according to the cooking method used, can produce an endless variety of dishes.

No matter the time of the year or the occasion, the Cretans will always have the perfect excuse to gather around a table to enjoy the authentic taste of Crete.

Herbs, vegetables, cheese, and just a moderate quantity of meat, everything with abundant olive oil and a strictly seasonal choice of ingredients, you will certainly love to emulate the dishes of the island once you’re back home.

What better souvenir then? Get one of the many Cretan cookbooks you will be able to find in the bookstores of the island and even in many of the souvenir shops in the most touristic cities of Crete.

Greece - Crete - Cookbook

Sariki, the Cretan Headscarf

A great souvenir that does not take lots of space inside your bag and that is certainly a Cretan token is the sariki, the scarf that Cretans normally wear on their heads. 

The word sariki finds its root is in the Latin word kerasikon, which was the overlay of Caesar’s head-worn to show off power.

The sariki is usually worn on wrapped around the head letting the edges (known as tears) fall gracefully to the side. Other people prefer to wear it on the shoulders creating two ends that join on the chest.

This special embroidered scarf has great traditional value on the island, it’s a symbol of the Turkish yoke on Crete. It can be knit in two colors, white and black, while the white sariki is worn on cheerful occasions, the black one is preferred on mournful occasions while it is also a symbol of honesty and pride.

greece - crete - chania - sariki

Cretan Lyra

Another great souvenir you can buy on Crete is a musical instrument. It can be a bit more expensive than the other souvenirs listed in this article, but be certain that if you intend to give this present to a music fan, it will certainly be much appreciated. 

The Cretan Lyra is a Greek instrument shaped like a pear, with three strings and played with a bow.

The instrument plays a leading role in the traditional music of Crete but it can also be found in other islands of Greece, for instance in the Aegean (Cycladic islands) and the cluster of the Dodecanese. 

Usually described as the most popular surviving form of the medieval Byzantine Lyra, the Cretan Lyra is the rightful ancestor of most European bowed instruments.

If you are uncertain as to which type to get, it would be useful for you to know that there are three major types of Cretan Lyra: The lyraki which is a small model of Lyra, very similar to the Byzantine era. The vrontolyra has a very strong sound and the common Lyra, also known as Lyra koine, has a design that shares features of the lyraki and the traditional violin.

Greece - Crete - Lyra

Local Herbs and Spices

Although the local diet is made of a limited choice of simple ingredients, the unique tastes, and mouthwatering flavors usually come as a surprise… how can the same ingredients always taste differently according to the dish you’re making? Well, herbs and spices seem to be the answer!

With such a simple diet, flavors needed to be enhanced in one way or another. Cretans learned to do so with the wise use of endless spices and herbs that add a different touch of flavor to every dish they cook.

Local herbs such as oregano, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, and sage are very much loved and abundantly used in pies, to season bread, with meat, vegetables, stews, and soups.

Spices such as sweet paprika, cinnamon, or cumin are also part of the traditional cuisine and they are so easy to carry with you as a present or souvenir.

For those who love teas, it’s a good idea to buy herbs such as malotira or dictamo to make a delicious cup of Cretan mountain tea once back home, you can either enjoy it hot with a spoonful lo Cretan honey or drink it cold in summer, with a few drops of lemon and a slice of fig left inside the jar to infuse.

Baklava and Other Greek Sweets

Those with a sweet tooth will be happy to take home all kinds of sweets of Middle Eastern origin that have become one more characteristic ingredient of the Cretan diet. 

Sweets and pastries of Turkish origin have been adopted by the locals after years of foreign occupation and have turned into traditional Cretan sweets served on any occasion.

Turkish delight, baklava, kadaifi… delicious pastries drenched in sweet syrup, or honey, sprinkled with pistachios, nuts, or almonds can be bought in very convenient boxes to take back home… if they ever make it to the final destination!

Thyme Honey

Another staple product on the island is the fantastic honey that is produced in different Cretan regions. Usually made from pine tree, orange blossom, or thyme, the honey made on Crete has a strong flavor and unique antiseptic and healthy properties

Cretan honey is fragrant, thick, very tasty but never overly sweet, and it can last for ages if kept in a dark place inside a glass jar.

Some of the best honey on the island comes from the region of Sfakia, in the White Mountains of Chania. You can get excellent honey in the Public Market of Chania as well as in the village of Chora Sfakion, near Loutro, on the south coast of Crete.

Greece - Crete - Heraklion - Souvenir Honey

Cretan Wine

Wines have been produced on the island for centuries, even since the Minoan times. In fact, one of the oldest presses in the Mediterranean has been found on Crete, as a witness of this century-long tradition.

At present, there are over 12 different grape varieties that give birth to unique wines with very characteristic fragrances and flavors. When visiting Crete, you cannot leave the island without taking with you a few bottles of local wine.

Go for white wines such as Vidiano and Vilana, if you want to take with your the best-selling wines of the island. 

Instead, if you love reds, go for a bottle of Liatiko or Kotsifali, or choose a bottle of Mantilari if you’re looking for a bold native grape, usually aged in oak barrels.

Efivos (Gavalas Crete Wines).

Embroidered Fabrics

Embroidered carpets, tablecloths, towels, and many other home decor pieces have long been a traditional skill that has kept women busy in the mountain villages for centuries.

If you visit the mountain settlements of Lasithi, for instance, Kritsa, or in the unique hamlet of Gavalochori, near Chania, you will be able not only to buy some of these delicately embroidered pieces decorated with hand-made lace.

In this village, you can also witness how women still handcraft some of that lace with the ancient technique known as kopaneli. We suggest you check this and other traditional crafts with this great tour of the Apokoronas region villages in Chania.

Greece - Crete - Embroidered traditional tablecloth at the tourist souvenir market of Crete, Greece

Wool Products

Another great souvenir you can buy in Crete is those wonderful handmade covers made of wool in traditional villages. They are normally bright red, green, or blue, and locals use them not only as covers but to dress beautiful tables, as a cover for their sofa, and even on their beds.

Locals call them veletza, which resembles the Italian word “beauty” and certainly relates to the years of the Venetian occupation of Crete.

Hand-weaving is a very old tradition on the island, especially in the mountains where women still weave beautiful pieces of cloth that are used to create the traditional shepherd bags (known as bouria), runners for tables, tablecloths, and more. 

Hand-weaving is a skill that has been passed from generation to generation during centuries on Crete. Although hand-weaving seems to be an art that is being lost on, it’s still possible to find fine products in the villages of Anogeia (in Rethymnon) and close to the Old Port of Chania.

Greece - crete - Traditional Greek bedding / blankets

Handmade Ceramics

The traditional art of pottery has long roots on the island. It probably started way back in time, during the Minoan period and it has, since then, been an important part of the lock traditions and economy.

You can get home any kind of ceramic object you can think of, from small appetizer dishes to salt and pepper sets, cups, salad bowls, and even pans that can be used in the oven!

greece - crete - chania - ceramics

Worry Beads (Komboloi)

Another local souvenir, particularly good for men, are these beautiful and colorful worry beds that Greek man usually handle and play with while enjoying a cup of Greek coffee or engaged in conversation.

They say they can work wonders for quitting smokers or to reduce levels of anxiety. However, the komboloi has a more spiritual origin, coming from the religious area of Mount Athos, one of the holiest places in the country. 

You can get any kind of komboloi, from the ones made with fragrant tree wood types such as sandal or patchouli to beautiful (although expensive) amber, including bone, ivory, acrylic, and plastic

greece - crete - chania - komboloi

As you can see, it’s not so hard to get rid of the obvious fridge magnets and to get some really original present from this wonderful Greek island. Have you made up your mind? What are you bringing back from Crete after your next Greek adventure? 

5 Things to Bring with You to Crete

Crete - Heraklion - Old Venetian Harbor Stephanie Selfie

If you’re planning a trip to Crete, you’ll want to pack all the normal essentials, but here are a few things we strongly recommend bringing that may not have crossed your mind. For more packing tips, check out our complete Greece packing list.

– A physical guidebook, in paper or on Kindle. We love Lonely Planet Greece for this region and strongly recommend it to supplement blogs. Blogs are great, but a combination of a blog and a guidebook is key to having the best access to information easily at your fingertips.

– A water bottle with a filter. While generally, the tap water in Santorini is drinkable, we generally recommend using a water bottle with a purifying filter to reduce your plastic consumption and ensure you won’t drink any funny-tasting water on your stomach that could make your trip unpleasant! There are places on the island where the water tastes like minerals.

We recommend the GRAYL water bottle – it filters water perfectly in an instant so that you can even drink from lakes, bad taps, etc.

– Motion sickness pills. Santorini roads are winding, especially around the coast. If you have a weak stomach as we do, save yourself and bring some non-drowsy motion sickness pills.

– Wet wipes, hand sanitizer, TP & other Balkan transit needs. Bathrooms in the Balkans tend to be… how can we say it?… not so well-stocked. Save yourself the disappointment and bring a mini-rescue pack of wet wipes & hand sanitizer.

 Travel safety items. We think Santorini is very safe to travel to, but at the same time, it never hurts to be prepared! Some people like to carry money belts, but neither Stephanie nor I use these. Instead, we both carry the same PacSafe anti-theft backpack.

It has locking zippers, slash-proof construction with metal mesh hidden in the fabric, and tons of other smart security features — all while being cute and stylish enough to be our everyday bag. We recommend it highly for both male and female travelers, as it’s neutral enough to be unisex. We also strongly recommend travel insurance! Our recommendation is at the bottom of the post.

More Crete Travel Resources

Crete - Rethymnon - Neratze Mosque or Gazi Hussein Mosque in Mikrasiaton Square

Most people who come to Crete explore different parts of this beautiful island. Here are additional Crete travel resources to help you with your trip. Start getting ready by checking what Crete is known for!

We have some great travel resources to help you with your trip. First read our guide to planning a trip to Greece, which covers visas, budgets, vaccines, and much more. We also have a Balkan currency guide that explains how money works in Greece and local tipping customs.

Since you’ll be in Rethymnon, check out our Instagram guide to Rethymnon next, our guide to things to do in Rethymnon, and the best Rethymnon hotels.

We also have Chania, Heraklion, and Rethymnon itineraries.

If you’re still trying to work out where to go on the island, check out our guide to the best places to visit in Crete and our favorite Crete beaches.

If this will be one of your first trips to the Greek islands, check out our massive Greek Island hopping guide as well as our recommendations for where to go in Greece and when is the best time to visit. 

We publish new content about the Balkans almost every day! For more information about traveling to Greece and the Balkans, bookmark our Greece and Balkan travel pages so you can find out what’s new before your trip.

Don’t Travel to Crete without Travel Insurance

Finally, make sure you always travel to Crete with a valid travel insurance policy. While Rethymnon is a very safe place to travel, you want to make sure you have your possessions covered if they’re stolen and your medical bills covered if you get sick or injured.

For travel insurance, I use World NomadsI’ve been a happy customer of theirs for almost three years, and I’ve never had an issue when making a claim. I’m happy to refer them to anyone I meet.

Get a travel insurance quote for your trip here.

Pin this Guide to the Best Souvenirs to Buy in Crete for Your Next Adventures!

15 Stunning Things to Do in Maribor

15 Stunning Things to Do in Maribor

Maribor, the capital of Slovenian Styria, is surrounded by Pohorje and wine-growing hills. It represents a perfect destination for wine lovers, for those longing for an escape to nature, and to enjoy sight-seeing medieval architecture.

The second-largest city in Slovenia, Maribor was first mentioned as a castle in 1164, as a settlement in 1209, and as a city in 1254.

Due to its favorable strategic location, it quickly developed and became an important industrial center by the 20th century. Maribor was also declared European Youth Capital in 2013.

Read on to discover the most wonderful things to do in Maribor, Slovenia!

Can’t read now? Pin for later!

Where to Stay in Maribor

Old Town center of Maribor historic town

Here are our top recommendations for where to stay in Maribor. Generally, budget means singles/doubles for around $40, mid-range is from about $40-100 per night, and luxury will cost over $100 per night.

Budget: If you’re looking for a nice place to stay in Maribor without spending too much, we recommend either of these places, Anna House or 4Rooms.

Mid-Range: If you want a nicer hotel in Maribor without breaking the budget, we recommend the bed and breakfast Guesthouse Hiša Budja or Pension Black Baron.

Luxury: For a luxurious stay in Maribor, we suggest Hotel Maribor & Garden Rooms or Hotel Vila Emei.

We are working on hotel guides for Slovenia’s major cities – after all, you’ve just read one! Ljubljana is still on the way, but if you’re visiting Bled, you can start with our guide to where to stay at Lake Bled and the best hotels near the Straza Lift in Bled

When traveling to Slovenia, we recommend checking out Booking.com as early as possible. The country is gaining in popularity as a tourist destination, so some of the best spots do sell-out early!

Great Things to Do in Maribor

Slovenia - Maribor - View from the riverbank to the red bridge which reflection in the water. Maribor, Slovenia

What I like the most about Maribor is the variety of activities for all ages. In addition to the most typical tourist spots, Maribor features a large selection of wine labels for tasting, traditional gastronomy, and endless natural beauty.

And the best thing is that everything is so close by. So if you want to spend the day in nature, attend a festival, or go wine tasting you can do all that in one day. So here you have, in no particular order, the best things to do in Maribor…

Visit the Old Vine

So to start with, let’s go visit a place that everyone in Maribor is proud of: The Old Vine, the oldest vine in the world!

This vine can be found in the Guinness World Record since it’s the oldest noble vine in the world. and you can find it in the center of the old town of Maribor!

The Old Vine House offers visitors a wine cellar with a tasting room where you can sip top-quality wines from the wine-growing region of Styria in Slovenia.

They also offer guided tours through the rich wine heritage and museum exhibitions. In the souvenir shop, you can choose your favorite souvenir, including delicious Slovenian chocolate for yourself or your friends.

So if you are searching for some great wine tasting, you are at the right place. In case you travel in September you can take part in the Old Vine festival as well.

Discover Maribor Castle

Since you are already in the center of the old town, why don’t you just stop for a peaceful visit to Maribor Castle? This is one of the most remarkable monuments in the city.

The castle is the largest and most beautiful building in the city, it has three doors outwards and a fourth one that opens to a lovely garden. It was built by Emperor Frederik III in 1478.

Once inside, you can discover the wonders in Maribor Regional Museum and check out some exhibitions. Entrance is free on February 8, May 18, the 3rd Saturday in June, and December 3.

The castle is closed on Mondays, on public holidays, on December 24, and on December 31. The entrance fee is € 5.

Check Maribor’s Main Square (Glavni Trg)

The main, central square in Maribor is a beautiful place to visit when walking around the city, it’s really old as it was first mentioned back in 1315.

Throughout the Middle Ages until the first half of the 20th century, the place has witnessed a very lively commercial activity.

In the middle of the square stands Mary’s sign which was built in 1743. It was made by Joseph Straub at the request of Maribor citizens in appreciation for the end of the plague in the city.

You can also find the Townhall or Mariborski Rotovz in the same main square area. All around, there are many cafes, restaurants, shops, bakeries, and more

Admire the Water Tower

Old Water tower Vodni Stolp in Maribor city in Slovenia. Scenic view of medieval fortified tower, Old State bridge and swans on the Drava river

Take a walk in Lent, which is the oldest part of Maribor and is the best example of the town’s rich cultural heritage.

On the left bank of the Drava River, right next to the water, a mighty Renaissance fortification has been standing since the 16th century. It has an unusual, pentagonal shape that once defended the walls of the Styrian capital.

The Water tower stands on the banks of Drava River, in fact, next to the huge reservoir lake of the Zlatoličje Hydroelectric Power Plant. It was built in 1555 out of stone and has massive walls with firing lines.

Although it seems like is only a monument, that’s not the case. The water tower is the intersection of Maribor’s past and present as well as the city’s past and future.

The ground floor of the Water Tower has been transformed into a modern wine cellar, where, since May 2009, they offer a tasteful combination of top quality wines with a pleasant, intimate, and innovative atmosphere. 

They also prepare a variety of snacks, dishes that are chosen specifically to ensure that the experience in the winery meets the taste of guests surrounded by modern and friendly vibes.

Enjoy a Visit to Maribor Synagogue

Image Credit: Janezdrilc, Wikimedia, CC.0

Luckily, Maribor is quite small compared to other European cities. So once you are in the center, you can find many interesting and historic monuments to visit. One of them is the only synagogue in Slovenia.

This building is one of the most important monuments of the Jewish culture in the country.

And it’s also one of the oldest European synagogues as well, counting over 600 years! Since 2011, it has been the home of the Jewish Cultural Heritage Center.

The Synagogue hosts various cultural events on the subject of Judaism and Jewish culture, and the restored cultural and historical monument is also an interesting place for visiting students.

Increasingly, local and foreign travel agencies are also taking part in the program. The Synagogue particularly inspires tourism from Israel.

Explore the Basilica of Our Mother of Mercy

Continuing with religious monuments, make a point not to miss the most beautiful church in Slovenia. Situated in the old town of Maribor, the Franciscan Basilica of Our Mother of Mercy is worth a stop in your itinerary in town,

The basilica presents a really rich interior. Built in Neo-Romanesque style, the building is 57.5 meters long, 24 meters wide, and 17.5 meters high.

You can enter any day from 7 am to 9 pm. In 1906 Pope Pius X elevated the former pilgrimage church to the status of a minor basilica, an event commemorated by the coat of arms on the front of the church, carved by the academic sculptor Viktor Gojkovich.

It was the first church with this title in the Austria-Hungarian Empire.

Have a Cuppa at Moja Kavarna (My Café)

Since you are there, right across the street from the Basilica, you can find one of the best coffee places in town, Moja Kavarna (which translates into my café).

It’s in the heart of Maribor and they serve one of the best coffees in town and some great gourmand desserts. It’s elegant and has a nice atmosphere. On the plus side, the staff is really welcoming.

I specially love to visit it during December as they have the best Christmas atmosphere in Maribor. During the merry season, don’t miss the Christmas carols that you can even hear as you walk past the cafeteria.

Prices are a bit expensive for local standards, but it’s worth a visit.

Have Dinner at Ancora Restaurant

I have eaten in many restaurants in Maribor, if not all, since I really love food and like to try new dishes in every place I explore.

Generally, I would say whichever restaurant you choose in the old part of town will provide excellent value for money, trust me, you won’t regret any! You can find anything from Slovenian to Mexican, Italian, Balkan, and Middle Eastern food.

Most of them offer both vegetarian and vegan options top.

I personally love to eat at a café & restaurant known as Ancora. They have many options, including delicious Italian dishes such as pasta, pizzas, and more.

My friends love to order patata con Pollo (or potatoes with chicken), while my favorite food is risotto with seafood,  the best risotto with seafood I’ve ever eaten.

The staff is friendly and the prices are fair. The dining room is spacious and there’s also a lovely rooftop terrace.

Check Out the Local Gastronomy at Gostilna Maribor

Slovenia, Maribor - Portion of traditional Beef stew - goulash on wooden table

For those who want to try Slovenian food, I recommend checking out Gostilna Maribor. The restaurant is located on the Main Square of Maribor and they offer local Styrian cuisine.

They serve freshly baked bread, beef soup, fried curry, esigflays, buns, and goulash. They also take pride in their apple strudel and apricot dumplings as well as in other delicacies typical in Slovenian cuisine.

I personally love the way the restaurant is set, the decorations… but most of all the truly delicious food.

You’ll find many options for vegetarians too. The staff is also friendly and the prices affordable. This is definitely one of the best restaurants in the Styrian region.

Take a Walk in Calvary

For those who love to spend their day in the open, I highly recommend going for a walk in Calvary, which is a favorite walking point both for locals and visitors.

Calvary is a 375-meter-high hill from where you have a wonderful view of the city. from the bottom of the stairs, it takes about 20 minutes to get up to Calvary. After the short path through the forest, you can see the church of Saint Barbara.

Other than the nice views, this is also a great way to get some exercise and prepare yourself for some more exploring in the rest of the city.

Hike Up to the Pyramid

Another great place quite similar to Calvary is the hill known as called Pyramid, one of my favorite places in Maribor.

I think the path is much easier than the one going up to Calvary, and more enjoyable too.

It’s a 25-minute wall from the old town to get by the foothills of Pyramid. The view from up there is also fantastic! Just imagine watching the entire town and the slopes of the vines as you also breathe some fresh air.

At the top of the hill, there’s a gorgeous chapel with a statue of the Virgin Mary.

Spend Some Time at the Three Ponds

Another favorite of mine in Maribor is the Three Ponds or Trije Ribniki (in Slovenian). They are located north of the city center, near Maribor City Park and Pyramid hill.

The ponds are man-made lakes filled with water from nearby streams. The first pond features a fountain, the second has an artificial island for nesting ducks and swans, and the third one is the warmest and freezes only occasionally in winter.

This is an awesome place for walking, jogging, cycling, doing yoga, or just enjoying the beauty and peace of the place.

Although the ponds are beautiful in all seasons, I mostly prefer them in fall, when the warm color of the season lightens up the whole atmosphere.

Check Pohorje

You can’t mention Maribor, without mentioning Pohorje. Maribor Pohorje is just a short drive from the city and offers various activities in the area including skiing, hiking, cycling, and wellness. Wine roads stretch across Pohorje, offering visitors various culinary pleasures.

Pohorje is surrounded by natural sights such as waterfalls and rainforests, with hiking and biking trails leading through the forests.

If you are searching for some adrenaline you can check Pohorje Adrenaline Park taking a ride in the summer sleighs. Pohorje is a green oasis of beautiful nature and countless opportunities for relaxation and recreation.

Here, you’ll find one of the largest winter resorts in Slovenia. It has about 45 kilometers of ski slopes and 20 different ski lifts. Pohorje is suitable for all skiers and has established itself as a family ski resort.

Marvel at the Beautiful Svecina

For romantic souls and wine lovers, Svečina is a small town about 18km away from Maribor and one of the best tourist spots in the Styrian region.

The beautiful view on the heart-shaped road opens on the edge of the hill near the Dreisiebner Touristic farm, where you can also find a monument of St.Yuri. Dreisiebner Tourist Farm is also known for its long tradition of viticulture and winemaking.

On this often sun-kissed position of Špičnik, they produce white wine varieties including Laško and Rhine Riesling, Yellow Muscat, Sauvignon, Traminer, Kerner, Chardonnay, White and Gray Pinot, Risan and Zemling. In addition to wine, they also prepare several homemade delicacies.

So, what better way to spend your day than drinking delicious Slovenian wine and sampliny delicious food while watching the sunset with the amazing view of a romantic heart? This tour from Lubljana takes you there to spend the day.

Boat Trip on the Drava

Enjoy Maribor from another perspective and embark on a Drava boat trip. This way, you’ll pass by many historic monuments while drinking a cup of coffee and enjoying the landscape.

The course of the river goes from Quay to Lent, passing the Studenška footbridge, and then back towards Lent, under the railway bridge, to the two-level bridge, and back to the starting point.

The boat ride is about 45 minutes and you have to book in advance when traveling from October to March.

If you travel from April to September, they offer regular rides on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays for around € 5 per person.

As you just could see, plenty are the things to do in Maribor during your time exploring the area. Bookmark this post for your next adventures in Slovenia and come back for more Slovenia content soon!

5 Things to Pack for Slovenia

Slovenia - Airport woman on smart phone at gate waiting in terminal. Air travel concept with young woman sitting with carry-on hand luggage trolley - Image

We have a full Slovenia packing list, but in case you just want the quick version, here are a few essentials you shouldn’t forget to pack!

A good guidebook: While travel blogs are great, we still think a good guidebook is always handy. We suggest Lonely Planet Slovenia if you’ll be traveling quite a bit around the country, or if you are planning a multi-country Balkan trip, Lonely Planet Western Balkans includes Slovenia and many of its neighbors.

Pacsafe Citysafe or Other Anti-Theft Bag: This is the bag both Allison and I use (it’s unisex, so even men can enjoy it). It has a pouch with RFID technology so our credit cards can’t get scanned from afar, interlocking zippers to make it harder to pickpocket, slash-proof mesh inside, and it’s roomy enough to be a perfect sightseeing day bag. We also think it’s stylish enough that it’s just our everyday bag!

A Sturdy MoneybeltIf you don’t want to get a new bag with anti-theft features as I use, you can use a money belt instead. I prefer to have these features built into my bag instead, but I know for a lot of people a money belt is a less expensive investment than a new bag. 

Grayl Water FilterWhile the water in Slovenia is safe to drink, you’ll want this if you plan to do a lot of hiking or you’ll be spending a lot of time outdoors (or if your stomach is sensitive to tap water from different countries). If you don’t want to be buying millions of plastic water bottles, you can get a reusable water bottle that comes with a water filter so that you can stick to the tap water and reduce your plastic waste. 

Rain jacket: Did you know Ljubljana is one of the wettest cities in Europe? It’s also quite rainy in Maribor and other destinations around Slovenia, so pack wisely! I strongly recommend this Marmot PreCip jacket (here’s the women’s version; here’s the men’s), which is totally waterproof and will keep you going strong throughout whatever weather is thrown your way. If you don’t want to carry a rain jacket, at least pack a travel umbrella.

Read Next: Essential Slovenia Packing List: What to Wear & Pack for Slovenia

More Slovenia Travel Resources

Slovenia - Piran - View of Piran and Coast Stephanie

If you’re just starting to prepare for your trip to Slovenia, read our guide to planning a trip to Slovenia which features an 11-step checklist!

If you’re an avid photographer, you’ll find our Instagram guide to Bled helpful (Ljubljana on the way!). For more info about places to stay in Maribor, check this Maribor hotel guide too.

If you need more Slovenia travel inspiration, check out the best places to visit in Slovenia, the best Slovenian castles, the most breath-taking Slovenian waterfalls, and what Slovenian souvenirs you should bring home.

If you’re headed to Slovenia in the off-season, check out our guide to what to do in Slovenia in winter. We also have a guide to visiting the Lake Bled Christmas Market and the best Lake Bled winter activities if you’ll be here from the end of November through the beginning of January!

We publish new content nearly every day! Bookmark our pages on Slovenia and the Balkans so that you don’t miss out on any new info or resources that we publish before your trip!

Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance!

I’m sure you’re aware that travel insurance is a good idea for traveling in Slovenia (or really, any part of the world)! Stephanie and I have both been paying customers of World Nomads for the last three years. We love the peace of mind it gives us in case of emergencies, accidents, illnesses, theft, or trip cancellation or disruption.

While the Balkans are perfectly safe to travel around, there’s always a risk inherent in everyday travel – so it’s better to play it safe.

>> Get a travel insurance quote for your trip here << 

Pin this Guide to the Best Things to Do in Maribor

Cretan Wine Guide & Wine Regions (+ Bonus Best Wine Tours on the Island)

Cretan Wine Guide & Wine Regions (+ Bonus Best Wine Tours on the Island)

 

Winelovers and wine aficionados should make a point to discover different local wineries and labels when visiting the Greek island of Crete.

Local wine production can be considered among one of the most striving industries on the island with an important development of wine tourism as well.

In this article, you’ll be able to read about the history of wine on the island, as well as about the different characteristics of Cretan wine in the different regions of Crete.

Can’t read now? Pin for later!

Where to Stay in Crete

Agios Nikolas - Crete - Greece. Beautiful village with blue water and colorful houses.

Staying in Heraklion is probably the best idea when focusing on Cretan wine. Heraklion is the capital of the region (also named Heraklion) with the most important wine production on the island.

We have a complete guide on where to stay in Heraklion here, with suggestions for every budget category and type of traveler, but we’ve chosen our favorites here for you to peruse when planning your Heraklion itinerary.

Budget: Intra Muros Boutique Hostel 

Crete - Heraklion - Hostel
Stephanie stayed at this boutique hostel in Heraklion and loved it!

The hotel is named after the Latin phrase that translates as “within the walls,” and you’ll love how they work to make the space between their walls a home away from home.

Backpackers and group travelers will enjoy this boutique hostel; not only is it strategically located in the heart of the city (and close to most tourist spots) but it also has a nearby bus stop so you can save on transportation expenses. You can also walk to the port if in case you want to ride a ferry and go to other locations and dreamy islands near Crete.

They have dormitories with shared bathrooms available for as low as $13 for a night with bunk beds with privacy curtains. You can choose from a mixed or all-female dorm room.

There’s also a shared kitchen equipped with a stove, oven, refrigerator, and utensils. You can cook quick meals here since there is a nearby mini market outside! The service desk is not open 24 hours, but if you inform them of your late arrival then they can arrange someone to meet you at the said time.

>>Check guest reviews, prices, availability, and more photos here.<<

Mid-Range: Infinity City Boutique Hotel 

Infinity City Boutique Hotel is a very modern hotel that features contemporary style and comfort. The hotel is a bit narrow due to the building’s structure, but it has spacious and soundproof rooms. It has 6 floors and a total of 21 rooms that have their balcony with a view of the amazing blue sea plus a private bathroom with complete amenities.

Each room has flat wooden ceilings and tiled floors to match the contemporary and modern style of the hotel. Guests love how the hotel design balances style and comfort, with a mini-fridge and other in-room amenities. The private bathrooms are a bit small but comfortable, with toiletries included.

You can try their free continental breakfast and have some of their coffee, juice, and some tasty croissants. Of course, for many people, mornings aren’t complete without eggs, which they make to order!

>>Check guest reviews, prices, availability, and more photos here.<<

Luxury: Stella Palace Resort and Spa 

The pool view of this resort hotel is marvelous – actually, everything about the hotel is! It has its water park, bars, spa, and so many more world-class features to offer its guests. They have rooms, suites, and maisonettes where you can even have your private pool or hot tub.

They have 4 restaurants on-site which means you have many options of what to eat (though every restaurant in Heraklion is delicious as well). Elia serves Greek dishes, Enso offers yummy authentic Asian dishes, La Veranda treats you to an Italian dinner or lunch plus a good selection of wines, and lastly, Poseidon, which offers a huge selection in their buffet. A night of fun won’t be complete without checking their different bars where each offers a different ambiance and a different selection of drinks and snacks.

Fitness freaks will love their gym because it has everything you could ever look for when it comes to getting your daily exercise. You might not find some of the treatments they offer at their spa elsewhere, because most of the ingredients they use are locally sourced in Crete. Highly-skilled therapists and massage practitioners will bring you the ultimate relaxation experience here!

>>Check guest reviews, prices, availability, and more photos here.<<

Cretan Wine Guide

Discover everything there is to know about wine on Crete.

Minoan Wine in the Ancient World

Wine history spans way back in time on the Greek island of Crete, dating back to the Minoan period, a time when this advanced civilization not only created impressive palatial complexes but also traded with different other cultures in the Mediterranean.

The Minoans were also engaged in agricultural activities, raising livestock, cultivating cereals, olives, and grapes on the fertile land of Crete. Therefore, both wine and olive oil were the products that made their economy flourish and that brought prosperity to the Minoans.

The wine made in Crete was well known and appreciated in the Mediterranean basin, reaching places such as Egypt, modern Syria, and Turkey.

One of the world’s oldest wine-press was found in Crete and it has been proved to be about 3500 years old. Wine also played a key role during the Roman period of Crete, with Cretan wine being exported to other centers of the Roman Empire. 

Wines of Crete during the Venetian and Ottoman Times

The Byzantine period was a dark time all over Europe, with wars being fought not just on Crete. It was not until the conquest of Crete by the Venetians (1204 AD) that the wine industry on the island began to flourish once again.

Powerful Venetian merchants dominated the trade of the Mediterranean sea, and it didn’t take long for Crete to be once again a leader in the winemaking industry of those times.

By the end of the Venetian rule and before the Ottomans conquered the island, Crete was responsible for the sales of over 60.000 barrels of top-quality wine to the rest of Europe.

Everything came to a sudden end when, in 1669, the Ottoman Empire took possession of the island. Crete was now under Muslim domination, a fact that put a stop to the thriving wine industry on Crete.

Cretan Wine in the 20th Century

The Turkish rule over Crete came to an end in 1898, after 267 years of oppression and continuous battles for freedom. Independence also brought along a desire to grow and to improve ancient cultivation techniques that have not been updated for ages. 

Crete became part of the Greek State in 1913, however, Greece’s turbulent and continuous wars did not help in the further development of the Cretan wine industry.

The business remained a family affair in which homemade wine was produced as one more of the family traditions and for everyday use. Massive tourism made it to Crete in the early 70s when travelers from different parts of the world discovered the beauty of the island.

To please the foreign palates, Cretan producers introduced foreign grape varieties in the belief that visitors wouldn’t have found Cretan grapes up to their standards.

That’s how Crete still produces excellent Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, and other varieties that little have to do with Crete’s wine identity.

A New Generation of Cretan Wines

Many of those winemakers from the 70s are the parents of a young generation of winemakers, many of which studied abroad but returned to Crete with new ideas and fresh enthusiasm for their land.

Those who left as wine passionates came back as technicians, viticulturists, enologists, chemists, and -most importantly- they came back winemakers with a renovated passion.

They had understood that Crete’s unique soil and climate were a key valuable resource that couldn’t go lost. A unique land, a deep winemaking tradition, and a large number of local varieties were a set of unique premises to create amazing wines.

It took very little for the rest of the world to notice what a wonderful wine Renaissance was taking place on the island of Crete.

Cretan Varieties

Greece  - Crete  -CRETE arrow and wine barrels along rural road

There are 12 different indigenous varieties of wine grapes on Crete. Among the whites, the most famous are Vidiano, Vilana, Malvasia di Candia, and Dafni, while the reds include varieties such as Liatiko, Kotsifali, and Mandilari.

The special climate of Crete has also created good conditions for international varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay among the whites, and reds such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah, among others.

Wine Tourism on Crete

It was not going to take long for wine tourism to start booming on an island where there’s such a thriving wine panorama and where tourism remains one of the most important sources of economic growth. 

Today, there are over 30 wineries open to the public offering wine tasting experiences that can include anything you can imagine. They go from simple cheese degustation and wine pairing to three-course dinners, picnics, vineyard visits, wine and food pairing courses. You can also go for cooking classes in wineries, wedding celebrations in wineries, and some of the most creative wine tours you could imagine.

Wineries and Regions

Greece - Crete - Fresh green and yellow grapes in a bush, Crete, Greece

It would be impossible to mention every winery worth a visit to Crete, and we are aware that it’s not fair to mention just a few.

There are island four other PDO appellations (Peza, Dafnes, Archanes, and Sitia), as well as six more regional appellations (Chania, Rethymno, Lasithi, Kissamos, Heraklion, and the island of Crete itself). 

We will simply outline the ones you should take the time to visit, and then it’s up to you to discover more. And if you do… well, let us know sown in the comments section below!

Wines of Heraklion

Efivos (Gavalas Crete Wines).

Heraklion is the most important wine region of Crete. It is home to a unique microclimate which makes it one of the regions with more wineries to visit.

The best places in Heraklion include the PDO regions of Peza, Dafnes, and Archanes. In the area, we strongly recommend visiting the following places.

  • Minos Cretan Wines – Miliarakis Winery (Peza village)
  • Gavalas Crete Wines (Vorias village)
  • Silva Daskalaki (Siva village)
  • Paraskevas Winery (Sarchos village)
  • Stilianou Winery (Kounavai village)

 

Wines of Rethymnon

Rethymnon plays an important role in the wine panorama of the island as it’s the region where Crete’s best-known grape, Vidiano, comes from.

These are the wineries you can check in the area.

  • Klados Winery (Panormos village)
  • Zoumperakis (Kali Sikia village)
  • Kurkoulos Winery (Patsos village)

 

Wines of Chania

Agia Triada Monastery (Chania).

Chania is home to the regional appellation of Kissamos. Chania’s predominant variety is Romeiko, however, the area also sees the cultivation of both local and international varieties, including Santorini’s Assyrtiko, Sirah, and Grenache.

  • Dourakis Winery (Alikampos village)
  • Manousakis Winery (Vatolakkos)
  • Anoskeli Olive Mill and Winery (Anoskeli village)
  • Karavitakis Winery (Pontikiana village)
  • Agia Triada Winery (Agia Triada Tzagaroli Monastery, Akrotiri Peninsula)

 

Wines of Lasithi

Toplou Monastery (Lasithi).

Despite being a region with just a handful of wineries, some of the best wines of Crete belong to these two producers.

  • Moni Toplou Winery (Toplou village)
  • Domaine Economou (Ziros plateau)

 

Best Wine Tours on Crete

greece - Crete - Wooden barrel of wine and table in outdoor cafe. Street cafes in in Crete, Greece.

Here’s a list of some of the most interesting tours you can book on Crete if you’re curious to learn more about the wines of Crete. Take a look

Wine Pairing and Lunch: check this tour proposing a unique pairing of wine and brunch, a tour of the winery and the vineyards.

Heraklion Cretan Wine Tasting Tour and Gourmet Lunch: in this tour, you can taste 15 different wines from Crete at a private wine tasting and an olive oil tasting in a gourmet restaurant. 

Minoan Paths and Wine Experiences: this tour includes a meeting at the Minoan Palace of Knossos, a winery visit in the region of Peza, and a visit to a folklore museum.

Toplou and Vai Palm Beach Day Trip: on this day you will visit the palm tree beach of Vay, visit the Holy Monastery of Toplou for wine tasting, and discover other beaches of East Crete. Check the itinerary here.

 

Full-Day Herbs, Tea, and Wine Tour: This tour takes place in the region of Chania and includes a visit to an organic herb garden, a breathtaking natural attraction, and a famous winery.

What to Pack for a Crete Beach Vacation

Greece - Crete - Heraklion - Old Venetian Harbor Luggage

If you’re planning a trip to Crete, you’ll want to pack all the normal essentials, but here are a few things we strongly recommend bringing that may not have crossed your mind. For more, check out our Essential Crete Packing List.

– A Physical Guidebook – While travel blogs are great, we also definitely see the benefit of having a good paper guidebook in hand to refer to in your on-the-ground travel. We own and recommend the Lonely Planet Greece book as a starter, but you may also want to pick up the Lonely Planet Crete which covers the island more in-depth. 

– A water bottle with a filter. While generally, the tap water in big cities on Crete is drinkable, we generally recommend using a water bottle with a purifying filter to reduce your plastic consumption and ensure you won’t drink any funny-tasting water on your stomach that could make your trip unpleasant! We recommend the GRAYL water bottle – it filters water perfectly in an instant so that you can even drink from lakes, bad taps, etc.

– Motion sickness pills. Crete bus rides can cause motion sickness! If you have a weak stomach like we do, save yourself and bring some non-drowsy motion sickness pills.

– Wet wipes, hand sanitizer, TP & other Balkan transit needs. Bathrooms in the Balkans on trains and buses tend to be… how can we say it?… not so well-stocked. Save yourself the disappointment and bring a mini-rescue pack of wet wipes & hand sanitizer.

 Travel safety items. We think Crete is very safe to travel, but at the same time, it never hurts to be prepared! Some people like to carry money belts, but neither Allison or I use these.

Instead, we both carry the same PacSafe anti-theft backpack. It has locking zippers, slash-proof construction with metal mesh hidden in the fabric, and tons of other smart security features — all while being cute and stylish enough to be our everyday bag. We recommend it highly for both male and female travelers, as it’s neutral enough to be unisex. We also strongly recommend travel insurance! Our recommendation is at the bottom of the post.

Read more: Essential Crete Packing List: What to Wear & Pack for Crete

More Crete Travel Resources

Crete - Heraklion - Old Venetian Harbor Stephanie Selfie

Headed to Crete? We have some great travel resources to help you with your trip. First read our guide to planning a trip to Greece, which covers visas, budgets, vaccines, and much more. We also have a Balkan currency guide that explains how money works in Greece and local tipping customs.

If you’re still trying to work out where to go on the island, check out this perfect 2 days Heraklion itinerary as well as our guide to the best places to visit in Crete and our favorite Crete beaches.

If you’ll also be spending a few days in Chania, here is our guide to visiting Seitan Limania from Chania (which is our favorite beach in Crete) and Chania’s best Instagram spots. 

If you will be spending time in Heraklion, check out our guides to the best Instagram spots in Heraklion and the city’s best restaurants and cafes. 

If you’re interested in taking a day trip to Rethymnon, check out our Instagram guide to Rethymnon next, and perhaps our guide to things to do in Rethymnon and the best Rethymnon hotels.

If this will be one of your first trips to the Greek islands, check out our massive Greek Island hopping guide as well as our recommendations for where to go in Greece and when is the best time to visit. 

We publish new content about the Balkans almost every day! For more information about traveling to Greece and the Balkans, bookmark our Greece and Balkan travel pages so you can find out what’s new before your trip.

Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance!

I’m sure you’re aware that it’s a good idea to have travel insurance for traveling in Crete, the Balkans, or anywhere in the world! We have both been paying customers of World Nomads for the last three years. We love the peace of mind it gives us in case of emergencies, accidents, illnesses, theft, or trip cancellation or disruption. 

Pin this Cretan Wine Guide for Your Next Greece Adventure! 

13 Useful Driving Tips for Montenegro (+ Bonus Outstanding Montenegro Scenic Drives!)

13 Useful Driving Tips for Montenegro (+ Bonus Outstanding Montenegro Scenic Drives!)

 

Montenegro is a country of contrasts. It’s home to unique landscapes that are better discovered and seen when embarking on a road trip adventure along the breathtaking roads of the country.

If you are thinking about a trip to this underrated Balcan land, and also a fan of scenic drives, then these driving tips for Montenegro will de a perfect read when planning your next Montenegro adventure!

Can’t read now? Pin for later!

Where to Stay in Montenegro

Perast - Montenegro - Red flowers and blue sea with tower in background in Bay of Kotor

Finding good and accessible accommodation is not as hard as you might think. There are plenty of nice and cozy places to stay all over the country at very affordable fees.

Although a road trip implies that you stop in different cities along the way every night, we assume that you will certainly start and end your trip from the capital, so the places down here refer to Podgorica. However, if your itinerary includes an overnight stay in other cities in Montenegro, then head directly to this site to find the best fees for your stay.

Here are our top recommendations for where to stay in Podgorica. Generally, budget means hotel stays for around $30 a night, mid-range is from about $50-100 per night, and luxury will cost over $100 per night.

Budget: A very convenient place in Podgorica is Hotel Keto, while another great option for a very small price is Seven Hills Bed&Bike BB.

Mid-Range: If you can count on a more flexible budget, we recommend Perla Residence Hotel & SPA or Hotel Aurel.

Luxury: There are some great luxury places in Podgorica, we recommend you to check Boscovich Boutique Hotel and Hotel Ziya.

Useful Driving Tips for Montenegro

Montenegro - Aerial view on the Old Road serpentine in the national park Lovcen, Montenegro.

Old Road in the national park Lovcen, Montenegro.

Geographical diversity, unspoiled wild nature, mind-boggling contrasts, and rich cultural heritage put Montenegro at the top of the bucket lists of travelers from all around the world.

Extending over only around 14 000 square meter area makes it pretty obvious why many visitors opt for exploring Montenegro by car.

There are quite a few additional reasons why driving might be a perfect choice for getting a better grasp of this tiny country in the Balkans.
Montenegro is home to some of the most rugged mountains in Europe, glacial lakes, some of the deepest canyons in the entire world as well as virgin forests with impressive biodiversity.

In this regard, Montenegro is one of only a few countries where it’s completely possible to go skiing in the high mountain tops and swimming in the sea, the same day only a couple of hours apart.

On top of that, long and incredibly turbulent history left Montenegro with charming old towns and stunning monumental architecture thoroughly worth seeing when embarking on a journey around the tiny ‘pearl’ of the Balkans.

No other means of transport will allow you to take in all the untamed, dazzling natural beauty, as much as the driving does.

While its size and the amount of breath-stopping sights seem like obvious reasons for visiting this country by car, the most rewarding way of discovering Montenegro may as well be the most challenging one. So, are you ready for a bumpy ride?

Keep Your Maps Updated

Montenegro - A picturesque journey along the roads of Montenegro among rocks and tunnels.

Synchronically with becoming an aspiring tourist destination, the road infrastructure has been blossoming in the last decade in Montenegro. New roads are constantly emerging and each visitor should research the routes thoroughly before hitting a road to make sure all maps are up to date.

Montenegro is most likely the only country in Europe that still has no meter of a highway within its territory. Luckily, that is going to change soon, since the first highway is scheduled to be finished by September 2020.

The highway is without any doubt going to make driving around Montenegro a lot easier and more convenient for anyone not used to narrow lanes, numerous altitude changes, and winding serpentines.

Beware of Narrow Lanes

Montenegro - Wonderful view to mountains in the national park Durmitor in Montenegro, Balkans. Europe. Beauty world.

Narrow lanes are certainly one of the biggest and most unpleasant surprises for foreigners planning to drive through Montenegro for the first time. Mostly due to the inaccessibility of the terrain, a lot of road lanes in Montenegro will seem pretty narrow, so it may take some time to get used to them.

Adding the fact that the majority of the roads are only 2-lane or 1-lane for each direction, you’ll need to be extra cautious when passing the car in front of you or, in general, when speeding up.

Take it Slowly

Montenegro - View of Tara river Canyon with bridge over the river

Another thing that frequently takes foreigners by surprise is the incredibly large number of winding serpentines that exist all over Montenegro.

Sudden altitude changes caused by the rugged and bumpy terrain resulted in winding roads with numerous curves and turns require drivers to be watchful and attentive and to respectively reduce the speed when entering the curves along the way.

Keep a Close Eye on Traffic Signs

Montenegro - MONTENEGRO road sign against clear blue sky

Landscapes with many abrupt altitude changes, copious amounts of sharp curves as well as narrow lanes can be quite a challenge for those used to driving around wide flat land, multiple-lane roads, and highways.

When in Montenegro be sure to stay focused on the traffic signs at all times and adjust speed accordingly to ensure a safe and comfortable trip.

Beware of the Road Constructions

Montenegro - Warning road sign with an exclamation mark in red triangle on mountain highway

Regardless of the time of a year or even the number of tourists traveling around the country, road constructions are always a possibility to occur even in the most crowded places.

It seems that the well-known stereotype that Montenegrins prefer to do things slowly might be true when it comes to road construction and maintenance as well.

Due to road work in progress, roads can often be either completely closed to the traffic or open only during specific hours during the day. It’s always a good idea to double-check beforehand if there’s any maintenance work scheduled at the time of your travel.

Go for an SUV

Montenegro - young man sitting near suv car at seaside with beautiful view of sea bay with mountains. road trip

If you’re seeking to drive around more remote, less touristy parts of Montenegro, or if you’re visiting snow-covered areas in the north, choosing an SUV over a regular car should definitely be an alternative to keep in mind.

Though placed in the Mediterranean, many places in Montenegro get a fair amount of snow during the winter season each year. Snow will make reaching certain areas in the north pretty difficult or even impossible with a regular car.

Since nobody wants to miss the winter idyll of the frozen lakes and rivers, snow-covered mountain tops, and ski resorts, choosing the right vehicle for a trip around Montenegro has to be on everyone’s priority list.

Be Prepared for the Snow

Montenegro - Montenegro snow landscape, Durmitor. Layers of mountains and clouds. Montenegro national park Durmitor. Nature autumn view. Cloudy beautiful landscape.

Snow on Mount Durmitor.

Starting from mid-November all the way to the end of March, having winter equipment when driving around Montenegro is obligatory. This law implies the use of specific types of winter (snow) tires or snow chains on the roads where snow is a possibility. Not obeying this law could mean a fine of up to € 150!

For the sake of safety, first and foremost, but also for your own convenience, ensure having all the required equipment ready in your car when visiting Montenegro in winter.

Roads Can Get Pretty Crowded in Summer

Montenegtro - cars on hairpin turn mountain road in Montenegro

One would think that traffic jams are not a common occurrence in a country with only 650 000 citizens. Well, that is certainly not the case with Montenegrin roads during the summer season. Since becoming one of the most popular spots for summer vacation around the Balkans and this part of Europe, the number of tourists visiting Montenegro each year is rapidly growing.

During summer, traffic jams are pretty usual. This applies mostly to the coastal area of Montenegro, though the traffic jams do occur in other areas as well, especially around the capital city.

Traffic jams are most likely to happen during the daytime as well as in the early evening. If you choose to visit Montenegro in the summer, you’ll need to arm yourself with patience and consider alternative routes during the peak hours.

Make Frequent Stops and Admire the Scenery

Montenegro - Kotor - Kotor great city in Montenegro

While driving around Montenegro is surely a lot different from driving on a highway. It can turn out to be quite energy-consuming, but the beautiful scenery and breathtaking nature undeniably make up for it.

The best scenic viewpoints are actually the ones located next to the roads. Taking a break from driving with the incredible sights over the mountains, picturesque lakes and drives, renowned Adriatic Seashore, or 1300-meter deep canyons will make all the hassle worth it.

The stops next to the roads are also perfect spots to take pictures and record videos surrounded by this glorious nature.

4 Scenic, Hassle-Worthy Montenegro Scenic Drives!

In no particular order, these are four of the most beautiful drives in Montenegro that you should consider when planning your adventures!

Reach the Imposing Ostrog Monastery

Montenegro - Ostrog Monastery - Ostrog monastery - Montenegro - architecture travel background

With over a million visitors and pilgrims each year, Ostrog Monastery is certainly one of the most significant religious destinations in the Balkans. The sight of a monastery almost carved vertically on the wall of a giant rock rising above the Bjelopavlići plain, certainly explains why many people perceive this place as holy.  

Located only a half an hour drive from the capital city, the monastery is one of the not-to-be-missed spots for the majority of tourists visiting Montenegro, regardless of their religious beliefs.

The road leading over the edges of the giant rock climbs all the way up to the monastery it basically consists of a very narrow path that can often fit only one vehicle at a time.

Most visitors prefer to reach the monastery on foot, but if you decide to drive, you ought to have a great deal of patience and concentration. The view over the large plain and contrasting mountains on the other side will be rewarding for sure.

Drop by the Charming Mount Durmitor and its Spectacular Lakes

Montenegro - cyclist on a mountain road in Durmitor national park, Montenegro

The highest mountain in Montenegro is Durmitor, with its peak, Bobotov Kuk, standing at 2,522 m (8,274 ft). There are also 18 glacial lakes spread around the mountain. The place is a UNESCO-protected national park that has been named after the country’s tallest mountain.

Situated in the northwestern part of Montenegro, Durmitor National Park represents the focal point of Montenegro’s mountain tourism.

Depending on the time of your travels, you may either try out the most popular winter activities such as skiing or snowboarding, or hiking and mountaineering during the rest of the year.

From the capital city Podgorica, it takes about 2 hours driving along curvy roads and constant drives up to reach Zabljak municipality.

The view of lakes within the Durmitor mountain area are collectively called the mountain eyes since they look like eyes emerging from the dense evergreen tree forest.

This incredibly beautiful drive will make this bumpy road truly worthwhile.

Cruise Around the Magnificent Boka Bay’s Coastline

Montenegro - Panoramic view of Kotor's bay and old town, Montenegro

The most prominent tourist attraction of Montenegrin’s shore must be Boka Bay. The bay is made of a couple of smaller bays connected by narrow channels and surrounded by the glorious massifs of the Dinaric Alps. This is probably a must on any visitor itinerary.

The view of the steep high mountains diving into the sky blue the Adriatic Sea, tiny church islets emerging from the sea, and stunning sights of Venetian-style old towns will make this drive memorable and breathtaking. 

Swing Through the Moraca River Canyon

Montenegro - Canyon of the Moraca river. Montenegro

The road that goes along the Moraca River Canyon is known to be the most challenging and statistically the most dangerous road in Montenegro.

Moraca River Canyon is a unique natural occurrence and it’s quite easy to be mesmerized with the view of numerous giant rocks interweaving on both sides of the road dividing the two giant mountains: Moracaand Sinjajevinamountain ranges.

One of the deepest canyons in Europe which contrasts against the high mount tops reaching as far as the eye could see is certainly a work of nature that should not be missed.

On another note, driving down the road full of sudden cliff-side bends and tunnels won’t be an easy task since you need to be extra cautious and also concentrated, constantly adjusting the speed to the unapproachable terrain.

What to Bring with You to Montenegro

Kotor - Montenegro - island church with trees

If you’re planning a trip to Montenegro, you’ll want to pack all the normal essentials, but here are a few things we strongly recommend bringing that may not have crossed your mind. For more, check out our complete Montenegro packing list. 

– A physical guidebook, in paper or on Kindle. We recommend the Lonely Planet Western Balkans which includes Montenegro but also Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Albania, North Macedonia, Kosovo, and Serbia. Blogs are great, but a combination of a blog and a guidebook is key to having the best access to information easily at your fingertips.

– A water bottle with a filter. While generally, the tap water in touristy cities in Montenegro is drinkable, such as in Kotor and Budva, we generally recommend using a water bottle with a purifying filter to reduce your plastic consumption and ensure you won’t drink any funny-tasting water on your stomach that could make your trip unpleasant! We recommend the GRAYL water bottle – it filters water perfectly in an instant so that you can even drink from lakes, bad taps, etc.

– Motion sickness pills. Montenegran bus rides can be hot and cause motion sickness! If you have a weak stomach as we do, save yourself and bring some non-drowsy motion sickness pills.

– Wet wipes, hand sanitizer, TP & other Balkan transit needs. Bathrooms in the Balkans on trains and buses tend to be… how can we say it?… not so well-stocked. Save yourself the disappointment and bring a mini-rescue pack of wet wipes & hand sanitizer.

 Travel safety items. We think Montenegro is very safe to travel to, but at the same time, it never hurts to be prepared! Some people like to carry money belts, but neither Allison nor I use these.

Instead, we both carry the same PacSafe anti-theft backpack. It has locking zippers, slash-proof construction with metal mesh hidden in the fabric, and tons of other smart security features — all while being cute and stylish enough to be our everyday bag. We recommend it highly for both male and female travelers, as it’s neutral enough to be unisex. We also strongly recommend travel insurance! Our recommendation is at the bottom of the post.

Read more: Essential Montenegro Packing List: What to Wear & Pack for Montenegro

More Montenegro Travel Resources

Montenegro - Durmitor National Park - Bobotov Kuk

Atop the highest peak in Durmitor National Park, Montenegro

We are in the process of writing up all of our Montenegro city guides, but for now, you can check out our 1-week Montenegro itinerary and our Montenegro packing list.

We also have a guide on things to do in Budva and things to do in Ulcinj.

Also, visiting Kotor? Check out where to stay in Kotor and our Kotor Instagram and photography guide. 

We also have a post on the best places to visit in Montenegro to help inspire you before your trip, as well as a post on the best Montenegrin beaches to visit in the summer!

If this will be one of your first trips in the Balkans, check out our massive list of things to know before traveling the Balkans as well as our Balkan busroad trip, and itinerary guides. 

Finally, if you’ll be headed to Montenegro as part of a larger trip around the Balkans, check out our Balkan currency guide which explains how money and tipping work in the different countries here.

We publish new content nearly every day! Bookmark our pages on Montenegro and the Balkans so that you don’t miss out on any new info or resources that we publish before your trip!

Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance

Finally, make sure you always travel to Montenegro with a valid travel insurance policy. The country is a very safe place to travel, but accidents or theft can easily ruin your trip if you don’t have travel insurance coverage to recover the losses. Recently my aunt fell on a train in France and needed surgery, but luckily her travel insurance covered the costs in full. Thank goodness!

For travel insurance, I use World Nomads. I’ve been a happy customer of theirs for almost three years, and I’ve never had an issue when making a claim. I’m happy to refer them to anyone I meet.

>>Get a travel insurance quote for your trip here.<<

Pin this Guide to the Best Montenegro Driving Tips and Scenic Drives for Your Trip!

Wonderful Things to Do in Antiparos, Greece

Wonderful Things to Do in Antiparos, Greece

 

Right opposite the bigger island of Paros, there’s a small Greek Island, unspoiled and tranquil, ideal for a relaxing vacation. It’s Antiparos. Many travelers usually overlook and consider the place just a one-day destination, however, there are several things to do in Antiparos that make it a great place to visit in Greece.

Let’s take a look at the most beautiful things you can do in Antiparos, but first, let’s learn some basic facts about the island.

Can’t read now? Pin for later!

Where to Stay in Antiparos

There are several hotels facing the beaches or the port, as well as some apartments to rent, studios, and even villas for those with a higher budget. Being the island so small, the offer is limited and places tend to be booked quite early, the best thing to do to secure yourself the place you want is to book your place as soon as you can.

Here are our top recommendations for where to stay in Antiparos. Generally, budget means hotel stays for around $65 a night, mid-range is from about $50-100 per night, and luxury will cost over $100 per night.

Budget: One great budget place to stay in Antiparos is Ktima Zantidi, a comfy and cozy rental place. Another great option for a small price is Ergina Summer Resort close to Soros Beach.

Mid-Range: With a more flexible budget, we recommend Villa Peristeri, on the southern coast of the island.

Luxury: There are some great luxury places on the island, incredibly beautiful and featuring every comfort you need. Our favorite ones are Windmill Antiparos and Ostria Villa.

Where is Antiparos

Greece - Antiparos - Restaurant Antiparos Greece

Right in the heart of the South Aegean region, in Greece, Antiparos is a small Cycladic island located less than one nautical mile (about 2 km) from the island of Paros. The trip takes about 10 minutes from the port of Pounda, or a little more than 20 minutes from the capital of Paros, Parikia.

Antiparos is just 39 square kilometers and has an irregular coast with beautiful sandy beaches. There’s just one main road that connects the north to the south of the island and the landscape is hilly, but not mountainous, 

The small capital of the island, the Chora, can be explored in a short time too. From Antiparos, it’s possible to sail to the small islet of Despotiko that’s uninhabited and home to an important archaeological site.

Although renting a car is always a great idea in Greece, especially on such a little island which has just one bus line available, the best way to discover Antiparos is by renting a bicycle.

When to Visit Antiparos

Like any other Greek island, Antiparos enjoys a Mediterranean climate with long, dry summers, and short winters. Since the beginning of May and until the end of September, the temperatures are pleasant and there’s almost no rain.

The sea starts warming up at the beginning of the season, reaching its highest temperatures at the end of August. The island is never really very crowded, however, more tourists visit in July and August. To have a very quiet experience, give September a try.

Best Things to Do in Antiparos

Antiparos, the port.

The highlights of Antiparos are the stunning beaches, the wonderful landscape, and the whitewashed Chora, with its ancient castle and the beautiful cobblestone alleys.

A few windmills add a touch of white to the evergreen landscape, and there’s also a unique cave that you should definitely visit when traveling to Antiparos.

Relax at Antiparos’ Beaches

You can enjoy quite a few different shores on the island. Start by heading to Soros, a well-organized bay with a beautiful beach bar renting sunbeds and umbrellas. The bar also serves great cocktails from early morning until the sun goes down.

Soros is probably the most famous beach on the island and a great place to spend the day. It’s just 10 minutes from the port of Antiparos, and it can be reached by car, by bike, or with the local bus.

On the southern tip of the island, Agios Giorgos is a solitary bay facing the small islet of Despotiko, with a pristine, turquoise sea, and a few tavernas along the coast.

Here you can spend a day in complete solitude, and also taste the freshest seafood on the island. It’s from the small harbor of Agios Giorgos that you can jump on a boat to explore the sea caves, Despotiko Island, and all the southern coast of Antiparos.

The beaches of Despotiko, only reachable by boat, are a real gem. They are often completely deserted, so you need to pack everything for the day. The waters are shallow, but the area can sometimes be affected by the winds.

Theologos.

On the north, Camping Beach is a shallow shore, ideal for small children and for those whose swimming skills are not so advanced. In the same area, the small bay of Theologos is as flat as a pond, waveless, and extremely shallow too. A long line of tamarisk trees provides shade so you don’t really need to rent an umbrella.

Discover the Chora of Antiparos

The tiny center of Antiparos is easy to visit in under an hour, Small and very picturesque, you will love the whitewashed architecture and the front yards adorned with bougainvillea. It’s the only and main center of the island where you’ll also find most souvenir shops, traditional tavernas, and picturesque cafés.

In Antiparos town, there are also a few tiny churches you can visit and the main square, right next to the Kastro. The Kastro is an ancient, tiny castle that once protected the island against pirate incursions.

A walk along the main street of Chora hardly takes more than 30 minutes, however, the souvenir shops decorated with Cycladic shades of blue, the pink flowers, and the colorful doors and windows offer a surprise every step you take.

The alleys of the small village are the place where everyone meets in the evenings, enjoying a traditional Greek meal, or having a cold beer in one of the many cafeterias.

Spend an Afternoon at Sifneiko Beach

This part of the island is known as Sifneiko because it directly faces the island of Sifnos which, on clear days, can be easily spotted in the distance.

Sifneiko is known for being the best spot on Antiparos to have a great view of the sun setting directly in front of you. To enjoy the experience, you can either sit at the small beach of Sifneiko and even enjoy a picnic while the sun goes down.

As an alternative, Sifneiko Cafe is one of the most visited bars on the island. You can order a cocktail and patiently wait until the sun completely goes down. You can either have a light dinner and spend the rest of the evening listening to music in Sifneiko, or you can head back to the village and enjoy a traditional Greek dinner.

Explore the Cave of Antiparos

The Cave of Antiparos is often included among the most impressive and biggest caves in Europe. It’s a perfect morning excursion which you can easily take by catching the main bus that connects Chora and the port with Agios Giorgos, in the South.

Antiparos’ Cave is one of the few stops, ask the driver and he will let you right at the beginning of the path that takes you to the cave. There are four rides per day, it’s a great idea to depart with the first one in order to have more time to explore.

The path that takes you up to the entrance of the cave is a paved uphill road. The somewhat tiring journey is rewarded by the stunning vistas of the Cyclades, the sea, and the green hills of Antiparos.

Once you pass the small church of Saint John of the Cave, you will spot one of the oldest stalagmites in Europe, about 45 million years old! Right after, you access the actual cave and need to go down over 400 steps to get to the heart of it.

Once inside, you can spot the unique stalagmites and stalactites that shape the mysterious interior of the cave which has attracted visitors since ancient times.

Many of the formations have been signed by famous visitors, some of which even took pieces to take back home as a memory of the visit. Something completely banned today.  

The cave is open every day from 10 am to 3 pm with the last public bus departing at 3.15 pm. You can take photos inside provided you don’t use a flash. The fee to access the cave is €5.

Sail to Despotiko Island

A visit to Despotiko Island can be a fantastic adventure. Every boat trip to Despotiko starts by making a stop at the seaside caves in the south of the island where you will admire the impressive blue color of the sea and the volcanic formations along the coast.

The next stop is at the archaeological island, where you can enjoy a guided tour through the abandoned temples, ancient classic columns, and unique discoveries of Despotiko.

Comparable to the sacred island of Delos, close to Mykonos island, Despotiko has all the characteristics of a sacred island which probably functioned as a place of worship in ancient times.

On the site, there’s an important Archaic sanctuary is one of the most remarkable findings in the area. All the objects that have been discovered in Despotiko, such as vases and figurines can be seen in the Archaeological Museum of Parikia, on Paros island.

The third and last stop after the visit to the site is the nearby beach of Despotiko, where you can spend from 1 to 2 hours, after agreeing with the captain of your boat.

The place is completely deserted, there’s a small chapel right by the sea open to visitors, and a wide beach perfect for swimming or sunbathing in complete loneliness.

Check the Kastro of Antiparos

Back in Chora, take some time to explore the ancient walls of Antiparos’ castle. This old fortress is located right in the center of the village. 

The Venetian castle dates from the mid 15th century, and it’s a fairly small structure with Medieval traits. Today, only the base of the castle is still standing. The houses surrounding the area were built as a continuous block to offer protection against external threats from the sea.

The outer walls of the houses functioned as the defensive walls of the fortified settlement. The only entrance to the fortified area was a Gothic arched gateway which you can still see when accessing the main square of the castle.

Where to Eat in Antiparos

There are many tavernas and cafes to explore, probably the most traditional one is Pavlo’s, which has been serving homemade dishes and wine for decades and has made a name on the island. Over there, do try their chicken and the unique Greek stuffed meat, such as lamb and goat.

Antiparos is simple the most perfect place to spend some time relaxing and recharging, with its laid-back vibe and fantastic landscapes, you will enjoy every minute of your stay!

5 Things to Bring with You to Antiparos

Greece - Crete - Heraklion - Old Venetian Harbor Luggage

If you’re planning a trip to Antiparos, you’ll want to pack all the normal essentials, but here are a few things we strongly recommend bringing that may not have crossed your mind. For more packing tips, check out our complete Greece packing list.

– A physical guidebook, in paper or on Kindle. We love Lonely Planet Greece for this region and strongly recommend it to supplement blogs. Blogs are great, but a combination of a blog and a guidebook is key to having the best access to information easily at your fingertips.

– A water bottle with a filter. While generally, the tap water in Santorini is drinkable, we generally recommend using a water bottle with a purifying filter to reduce your plastic consumption and ensure you won’t drink any funny-tasting water on your stomach that could make your trip unpleasant! There are places on the island where the water tastes like minerals.

We recommend the GRAYL water bottle – it filters water perfectly in an instant so that you can even drink from lakes, bad taps, etc.

– Motion sickness pills. Santorini roads are winding, especially around the coast. If you have a weak stomach as we do, save yourself and bring some non-drowsy motion sickness pills.

– Wet wipes, hand sanitizer, TP & other Balkan transit needs. Bathrooms in the Balkans tend to be… how can we say it?… not so well-stocked. Save yourself the disappointment and bring a mini-rescue pack of wet wipes & hand sanitizer.

 Travel safety items. We think Santorini is very safe to travel to, but at the same time, it never hurts to be prepared! Some people like to carry money belts, but neither Stephanie nor I use these. Instead, we both carry the same PacSafe anti-theft backpack.

It has locking zippers, slash-proof construction with metal mesh hidden in the fabric, and tons of other smart security features — all while being cute and stylish enough to be our everyday bag. We recommend it highly for both male and female travelers, as it’s neutral enough to be unisex. We also strongly recommend travel insurance! Our recommendation is at the bottom of the post.

More Greece Travel Resources

Mykonos - White houses with pink fowers and red window shutters

Headed to Greece? We have some great travel resources to help you with your trip.

First read our guide to planning a trip to Greece, which covers visas, budgets, vaccines, and much more.

Next, you’ll want to read our all-season Greece packing list.

If you are still trying to figure out your Greece itinerary, check out our guides on where to go in Greece, the best places for island hopping in Greece, and when is the best time to visit. 

If you’ll be spending time in Athens, check out our Athens Instagram guide, the best Athens day trips, and our complete Athens hotel guide. We also have Athens safety tips so your trip can be hassle-free. We are currently working on our mega-post of things to do in Athens as well as our itineraries, so stay tuned! 

We publish new content about the Balkans almost every day! For more information about traveling to Greece and the Balkans, bookmark our Greece and Balkan travel pages so you can find out what’s new before your trip.

Finally, Make Sure You Come to Antiparos with Travel Insurance!

I’m sure you’re aware that it’s a good idea to have travel insurance for traveling in Santorini, the Balkans, or anywhere in the world!

Stephanie and I have both been paying customers of World Nomads for the last three years. We love the peace of mind it gives us in case of emergencies, accidents, illnesses, theft, or trip cancellation or disruption.  While Santorini is safe, there’s always a risk inherent in everyday travel like theft or injury, so it’s better to play it safe.

>> Get a travel insurance quote for your trip here <<

Pin this Guide to the Top Things to Do in Antiparos for Your Next Adventure!

11 Fantastic Things to Do in Timisoara, Romania for an Unforgettable Vacation

11 Fantastic Things to Do in Timisoara, Romania for an Unforgettable Vacation

Located in far western Romania, the city of Timisoara is a gem you cannot miss in your travels through the country. Timisoara perfectly blends the architectural beauty of Prague or Vienna, the liveliness of Paris, and the typically Romanian humbleness. In fact, Timisoara was designated as the European Capital of Culture for 2021!

Check these great things to do in Timisoara during your vacation, and remember to leave space in your luggage because you will leave with so many new memories (and a few Romanian souvenirs)!

Can’t read now? Pin for later!

THE MOST FANTASTIC THINGS TO DO IN TIMISOARA FOR AN UNFORGETTABLE VACATION

Where to Stay in Timisoara

Romania - Timisoara - Victory square - piata victoriei - timisoara is a long square with green park surrounded by national opera on one side and the metropolitan cathedral on the other.

These are some of the places we suggest you checking according to your budget. We always recommend checking for alternatives on Booking.com as early as possible. While Romania is underrated by international travelers, many of the best places can book early during the high season because Romanians know where to go. 

Here are our top recommendations for where to stay in Timisoara. Generally, budget means hostel beds for around $25 a night and singles/doubles for around $30, mid-range is from about $40-100 per night, and luxury will cost over $100 per night.

Budget: If you’re looking for a nice hostel in Timisoara without spending too much, we recommend either this trendy hostel: Hostel Cornel or this cute budget hotel in the old city Hotel Central!

Mid-Range: If you want a nicer hotel in Timisoara without breaking the budget, we recommend the beautiful Mercure Timisoara or Old Town Hotel

Luxury: Since Timisoara in winter is definitely the offseason, we wouldn’t be surprised if you could snag a fantastic deal on one of these top luxury hotels in Timisoara: Hotel Timisoara or Hotel Tresor Le Palais.

The Most Fantastic Things to Do in Timisoara

In Timisoara, you can enjoy a European vibe without dealing with the overcrowdedness of other famous city destinations. There is something beautiful to discover around every corner, but more importantly, there is something fun to do everywhere you go.

Take a Walk Through the Roses Park

Romania - Timisoara - Timisoara city Romania Roses Park vase detail

If you want to know why is known as “The City of Roses”, reach this place to learn why it is quite a deserved nickname. Built near the Bega River, the Roses Park park showcases hundreds of different types of roses and flower arrangements, as well as canopies and amazing rose arcades under which you can take a walk and feel as though you are part of a fairy tale.

In the center of the park you can find the Open-Air Theatre; if you are lucky enough to visit Timisoara during one of their yearly traditional folklore events, don’t miss out on the live shows held in the park!

During summertime, this place is perfect for long walks while admiring nature and roses in bloom. And if you feel like a day like that isn’t romantic enough, head back to the city center while strolling along the nicely lit alleyways near the Bega river.

Walk Around “Unirii” Plaza

Romania - Timisoara - Union square or Unirii Square is the main square of the city of Timisoara, Romania

No place in Timisoara is more representative of its amazing history and architectural beauty than Unirii Plaza. For those who just love taking photos of colorful buildings, each built in its unique style, this large square in the center of the city is the place to go.

The color palette of the buildings is so diverse that you will feel like you’re part of a massive art exhibition in the open air. You will definitely recognize the Brück House, by its distinct style and the pink and turquoise front, and although you cannot go in, you can enjoy a drink at one of the cafes in the plaza, admiring the surroundings.

This is definitely one of the most aesthetic parts of Timisoara, and I absolutely recommend you devote one day or two to explore this underrated aspect of the Romanian culture.

Visit the Baroque Palace

Romania - Timisoara - The art museum from Timisoara

This is by far my favorite place in Timisoara, and I greatly recommend visiting the inside of the building. It is easily recognizable as the largest building in “Unirii” Plaza, and also by the colored glass windows displayed in the front, resembling the colors of the rainbow.

The Palace is nowadays host of Timisoara’s Art Museum, featuring many exhibitions of Romanian artists or contemporary art brought from other European countries. If you are like me, then you will certainly spend a few hours just walking through the galleries, admiring the works of art exhibited here.

Stroll Around Liberty Plaza

Romania - Timisoara - Liberty's Square in Timisoara, Romania

The second historical place to see in Timisoara is Liberty Plaza, located very close to “Unirii” Plaza. These two large squares represent the two halves of the city’s historical center, which is connected through a system of many narrow streets on which you can still admire the same colorful architecture on both sides.

Not as colorful as “Unirii” Plaza, Liberty Plaza definitely has more of a historical vibe to it rather than an artistic one. It is still quite beautiful, and you can still enjoy some nice buildings, including the old City Hall.

During the day the plaza is quite empty, with flocks of pigeons livening it up. And the best part: in the city center pedestrian areas are predominant. You can enjoy your morning walks or daily tours without the stressful noises of cars anywhere around you.

Stay at One of the Hostels in the City Center

Spending a few nights at a place located right in the city center made my visit so much better. Being so close to the heart of the city and experiencing the lively streets full of color and personality first-hand really helped me understand why this city is so special.

Walking out the front door you are already in the middle of the action, no matter whether it’s a crowd of people enjoying the performances of talented street artists, or perhaps a lively party going on until late at night.

A quick Google search will show you entire lists including such hostels, and none of them are expensive, although you shouldn’t expect five-star services. The Romanian experience is not about living a fancy high life, but about living in the moment and enjoying little things and friends around you.

The highlight of my stay was constantly getting lost on the small, labyrinth-like streets. Once you figure them out, you’re good, but even getting lost for a few minutes just means having the chance to discover a new building you’ve never seen before or a new café you haven’t tried yet.

Romania - Timisoara - Timisoara city from Romania seen from the top of the Orthodox Cathedral. The Piarist Church. Aerial view.

Visit the “Timisoreana” Beer Factory

For those who’ve had enough of buildings and history, this is another side of the Romanian culture that you must experience. The “Timisoreana” beer brand is a staple Romanian drink, and many people claim Romanian beer to be up to the standards of Czech or German beer in terms of quality.

The “Timisoreana” Beer Factory has become pretty much a city symbol, and any beer enthusiast should check it out. Near the factory, nowadays you can find a small beer inn, where you can try the authentic “Timisoreana” beer and (not only), for usually never more than €2 a pint.

Beer -

Try at Least One Variety of Romanian Wine

During your stay in Romania, you cannot miss the chance to try authentic, 100% natural Romanian wine. Highly praised for their quality products, Recas Vineyards are somewhere close to the city, so a lot of people visit the place to try this brand right at the source.

If you are looking for a day to unwind after so much sightseeing, I recommend popping into Casa cu Vinuri (“The Wine House”). Here, you can find so many varieties of wine, so many tastes, and coming from many countries throughout Europe.

However, for an authentic experience and a taste of our amazing culture, I definitely recommend you to order some Romanian wine.

Romania - Timisoara - Romanian wine tasting and presentation.

Venture Outside the Comfort of the City

If you are looking for more child-friendly activities or simply more nature-oriented, the Zoo is a great place to unwind, and enjoy nature while still having fun. Here, you’ll be able to see animals usually found in the wildlands of Romania, deep in the Carpathian Mountains, but not only.

The Zoo is found outside the city, so if you decide to venture outside Timisoara, you should definitely check out the Romanian Village Museum, right near the Zoo Park. Romanians really love displaying their unique traditions and culture, and that’s exactly what this museum is for.

You can get the chance to see how colorful our traditional villages used to be and still are in some places of the country. It really does remind you of a simpler time.

Romania - Timisoara -

Try Romania’s First-ever Escape Room

If you and your friends are looking for a non-conventional source of entertainment, this is a go-to activity. Escape Rooms have gained so much popularity in recent years, and although nowadays you can find Escape Rooms in almost every big city in Romania, Timisoara was the first one to introduce this amazingly fun trend in Romania.

The place is called Exit Games, and they feature six different rooms with various themes, with puzzles that are just as fun and rewarding as they are challenging.

It doesn’t matter how old you are, this activity suits everybody who loves to train their mind with puzzles in their free time, but not only. Even if you’ve never tried anything like this before, I guarantee by the end of the hour you will be so hooked you’ll definitely try it again.

All you need to do is make sure you escape in 60 minutes or less for a unique photo using Exit Games’ props, that will be posted on their Facebook Hall of Fame. This is definitely a chance you don’t want to miss out on.

Romania - Timisoara - two old keys on a rusty metal table with labels : escape room

 

Spend an Afternoon in One of the Many Cafes in the City Center

Don’t miss the chance to spend a cozy afternoon in one of the many cafes in the city center of Timisoara. Many cities in Romania nowadays bring up western flavors from France or Italy in small cafes, while trying to keep them in theme with the surrounding architectures of the buildings, and Timisoara is no different.

A lot of cafes go for colorful designs and vintage or eco-friendly vibes, but you will not find any two cafes that share common themes. The best part is that most of them are vegan-friendly and provide various options for any preferences.

If you want to experience Romania in the 60s-70s you will probably enjoy an afternoon in ScartLocLejer café. The name itself says “Comfortable place”, and it is definitely not a place that takes itself too seriously.

The café is cluttered with vintage decorations and various memorabilia from the communist period, and many people love this place just for the nostalgia flavor of it. At first, it may look like a hoarder’s place on the inside, but know that the kitschy theme is totally intentional.

Reciproc is another café great for spending a relaxing afternoon in. They specialize in vegan options and offer many varieties of coffee and tea, as well as beers and ales.

Many Romanian cafes nowadays have adopted the trend of providing board games for customers, and these two make no exception. That way, a simple afternoon with friends can turn into a fun activity meant to bond people and maybe make them forget about technology for a few hours.

Romanian culture is all about living in the moment and finding enjoyment in the small things, so everything about these small, cozy cafes tells exactly that.

Tirana - Albania - cafe bar City Art

Don’t Miss Out on Great Food!

I certainly believe that, when visiting a country, the food experience is just as important as any other.

While in Timisoara, definitely don’t miss out on the bistros found around every corner, as there is literally something for everyone, from typical brunches, or fast food, to more refined tastes.

Like I mentioned before though, Romanian culture is all about finding enjoyment in the simplest things, so my advice is that you forget about the fancy dinner you had planned and head to Cafeneaua Verde for an amazing burger meal.

If you are in the mood for something sweet, Verona Café has a large variety of desserts for every taste.

Romania - Timisoara - Arrangement of specific Romanian food products in one free market from Timisoara, Romania. October 2007

Or, if you enjoy something simple yet effective, I recommend The Cupcake Shop. Just like the name suggests, they took a simple treat such as cupcakes and transformed it into an amazing dessert, with so many flavors and toppings to choose from.

If you are vegetarian, don’t worry, there are plenty of options for you as well! I definitely recommend you pop into Biofresh, a vegan restaurant near the city center with Mediterranean influences. The Cupcake Shop is also known to have vegan options for its desserts.

If you are looking for a getaway in a smaller, less crowded city, but still look for the typical European Paris-like or Prague-like city vibe, Timisoara is most certainly the perfect choice for you.

With so many activities to choose from and so many ways to unwind for a truly relaxing vacation, this is a destination for everybody. 

It has been so long since my last visit, but I cannot wait to return and rediscover all the things that made it such an unforgettable experience.

What to Pack for Romania

Don’t forget! Romania is a 4 season country, so before you are visiting, make sure you check up the weather! Luckily for you, Cluj is always hotter than other cities so don’t be scared if you forgot about this aspect.

We have a full Romania packing list, but in case you just want the quick version, here are a few essentials you shouldn’t forget to pack!

A good guidebook: While travel blogs are great, we still think a good guidebook is always handy. We own and recommend Lonely Planet Romania & Bulgaria for travel in Romania and beyond!

One or two swimsuits: While swimsuits may not come to mind for winter, if you’re staying in a resort with a sauna, indoor pool, or steam room — or just visiting Bucharest’s epic Therme spa — you’ll likely want one! We suggest bringing two so you never have to put a cold wet one back on. We love this one.

Moisturizer: Travel will beat your skin up in the best of times. If you’ve never used a moisturizer before, you really should start. You’ll be happy to give your face a boost before heading outside in the cold all day.

Sunscreen: We strongly suggest wearing sunscreen when you spend time outdoors, no matter the weather outside — especially if you’re skiing! The higher altitudes combined with the reflection of the sun off the snow can lead to unexpected sunburns. I love this solid Neutrogena sunscreen – it’s mess-free, works well in carry-ons, is ultra-protective, and blends in well.

Read Next: Essential Romania Packing List: What to Wear & Pack for Romania

Romania Travel Resources

Romania - Bucharest - Street art near Carturesti Verona

If you’re going to Romania, we have a goldmine of resources for you to take advantage of! First, check out this guide to planning a trip to Romania. It’s a good starting point for planning your trip.

Next, check out all the things to do in Transylvania and things to do in Bucharest. You can also check out our Instagram guides to SibiuBrasov, and Bucharest – more are on the way.

You can also read about the best Romanian castles, the Romanian food you should try on your trip, the best Romanian souvenirs, and inspirational travel quotes about Romania. Plus, how to plan some epic day trips from Bucharest.

We publish new content nearly every day! Bookmark our pages on Romania and the Balkans so that you don’t miss out on any new info or resources that we publish before your trip!

Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance

I’m sure you’re aware that travel insurance is a good idea for traveling in Romania (or really, any part of the world)! Stephanie and I have both been paying customers of World Nomads for the last three years. We love the peace of mind it gives us in case of emergencies, accidents, illnesses, theft, or trip cancellation or disruption.

While the Balkans are perfectly safe to travel around, there’s always a risk inherent in everyday travel, so it’s better to play it safe. The saying goes “if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel” is true!

>> Get a travel insurance quote for your trip here <<

Pin this Guide to the Best Things to Do in Your Timisoara Vacation!

THE MOST FANTASTIC THINGS TO DO IN TIMISOARA FOR AN UNFORGETTABLE VACATION

Planning a trip to Sofia? Check out our best free trip planning resources