Mom Goes Camping

The Best Camping Spots in the Balkans

best camping spots balkans

I’ve lived in Serbia for the past 10 years.  In that time, I’ve seen tourism take off from zero to a booming industry.  Youth from the EU come here for the cheap beer and rakija, crazy parties on our floating rafts, and to master the art of drinking one coffee for three hours.

But what a lot of people don’t realize is that the Balkans is rich in unspoiled nature.

 

There Is No Camping Culture in the Balkans

While there are some official campgrounds, the camping infrastructure practically doesn’t exist.  If you want to go camping here, expect these problems:

  • No maps: Good luck finding the detailed contour maps that you need if you want to go hiking! This site is useful though – http://www.stazeibogaze.info/
  • No bathrooms: Be sure to bring a shovel for digging a cathole. You won’t find bathrooms at the start of trailheads.
  • No water: You’ll need to bring a water treatment system (I use the Sawyer Mini) because almost none of the wild camping spots have a safe source of water.
  • No marked trails: You’ll find plenty of trails. Just don’t expect them to be marked nicely like in Western Europe or the US.
  • Lots of trash: When going to popular places, expect TONS of trash. And don’t expect any trashcans to throw your own trash away in.

With these things in mind, wild camping in the Balkans is still great.  First of all, the fact that there is no camping culture here means that you can find some remote, isolated areas.

Wild camping is also legal in most places in the Balkans.  I just pitch my tent wherever I find a nice place.  No one is going to complain (but they might wonder what the heck you are doing there and invite you to stay in their home instead!).

I haven’t camped all over the Balkans yet.  So, this list is going to mostly include the places I have been.  And, yes, I will be updating it as I discover more great camping spots.

 

Albania Camping Spots

Lake Shkodra Campground

Campground lake shkodra albania

  • Type: Campground
  • Pros: Right on the lake; has a café and full facilities; great for kids
  • Cons: Need a car (or be prepared to walk 900 meters to the main road each time you want to leave); not much to do other than swim at the lake
  • Website: http://www.lakeshkodraresort.com/

 

Rilindja at Valbone Mountain

rilinjda at Valbone mountain in Albania

The couple Catherine and Alfred opened a cabin and campsite on Valbone mountain. You could also wild camp anywhere on Valbone, but the campsite behind their cabin is really beautiful.  Plus, they let you use the bathrooms and showers in the cabin.   The couple has also done a great job of marking trails and have maps for sale.

  • Type: Wild camping, campsite camping, or mountain cabin
  • Pros: AMAZING nature; marked trails and maps available; water source
  • Cons: Hard to get to but an incredible journey which is definitely worth it – see information on Catherine’s website
  • Website: http://www.journeytovalbona.com/

 

Mario Molla’s House on Koman Lake

camping at Lake Koman

Mario Molla is the guy who operates the Koman Lake ferry. You can take the ferry to the base of Valbone Mountain, or do a round-trip.

I was lucky that Mario invited me to stay at his family’s home. What I didn’t realize was that you have to take a boat to their home, and there is literally no road which goes there!!!  The family was incredible and gave us really yummy food.  Even if you don’t want to spend the night at the home, you should still book a tour with them.  They’ll take you to their home for lunch during the tour.

Gjipe Beach

camping at Gjipe beach albania

This is an amazing beach in the South of Albania.  It is at the end of a canyon.  You can hike to the beach through the canyon, but it is really difficult and not advised without a local guide.

During summer, there is usually a paid campground operating.  I was there in September and the campground was closed.

  • Type: Campground or wild camping
  • Pros: There are a couple cafes on the beach in case you need to buy water; bathrooms; crystal-clear water
  • Cons: Be careful about camping right in front of the canyon – if it rains, the water could sweep your tent away!
  • Location: https://goo.gl/maps/6hGq1Ykg48M2

 

Dhermi

Dhermi is a small village in Southern Albania.  We actually stayed in a cabin while there because it was cheaper than the campgrounds.  However, there are plenty of campgrounds and you might enjoy the hostel-like atmosphere in them.

  • Type: Campground
  • Pros: Amazing beach!
  • Cons: Long bus ride to get there; stores are very overpriced; water is NOT potable – expect to pay for water or use your water treatment system
  • Location: https://goo.gl/maps/xas2VXYgEBs

 

Kosovo Camping Spots

Leqinat Lake at Rugova Gorge near Peja

camping at leqinat lake in rugova gorge near peja in kosovo

This is my all-time favorite camping place.  It is a tough hike to get there, but well worth it. There are also plenty of other places to camp in Rugova Klisura, but I haven’t tried them yet.

 

Serbia Camping Spots

Divcibare

divcibare in serbia

This is a popular ski and vacation spot for Serbians.  If you come on a holiday, expect there to be crowds!  You can find tons of cute cabins to rent out for very cheap (about 10 to 30 euros per night) or stay in the Mountain Home of the Orienteering Club for 300 dinars per night, or wild camping almost anywhere.

  • Type: Cabins, “mountain home”, or wild camping
  • Pros: Great for kids; lots of easy trails; yummy local food for sale; maps available; lots of other activities like horseback riding
  • Cons: Lots of trash everywhere; no bathrooms on the trails; may be crowded
  • Website for Mountain Home of Orienteering Club: http://www.pdptt.rs/dom-na-divcibarama/
  • Tourism Website: http://www.divcibare.rs/

 

Radoinsko Lake

radoinsko lake camping

When you get to the lake, you’ll pass an impressive dam.  Park your car and start walking around the lake (towards the West/Right).  You’ll find some campsites right on the lake away from the weekend homes.

  • Type: Wild camping
  • Pros: Beautiful nature; nice locals; birdwatching; easy to get to with car
  • Cons: Lots of locals with weekend homes there; lots of trash; no good hiking trails nearby; no water source; no bathrooms
  • Location: https://goo.gl/maps/47ZM7g8u8952

 

Uvacko Lake

camping at Uvacko lake in Serbia

There are probably lots of places to camp on this lake, but I’ve only been to one.  My friend’s husband happens to run a camp on the lake.  He has a boat and took us on a trip to see the endangered vultures and a cool cave.  It is a truly amazing place!

  • Type: Campground
  • Pros: Potable water; nice guides; outdoor bathroom; great hiking trails; can take a boat ride to see the vultures and a cave
  • Cons: No wild camping allowed; there are strong currents in the river – DON’T SWIM!
  • Location: https://goo.gl/maps/AgCGLV7mJCJ2

 

Crna Reka (Black River) near Valjevo

camping in crna river near valjevo in serbia

This spot is my favorite for weekend camping trips.  It is easy to get to, the trails are easy for kids, and there is a swimming hole!  Ignore the “Private Property” sign.  Apparently some local put it up even though it isn’t his property.

  • Type: Wild camping
  • Pros: Easy to get to with car; not much walking required; great swimming hole; great for kids; has a drinkable water source near the swimming hole
  • Cons: Might be too easy for hardcore adventurers; no bathrooms
  • Location: https://goo.gl/maps/57vLZRmrMTp
  • Directions: Drive to the Ethno house “Mila Obradovic” and park your car. You’ll see a little path a sign (in Cyrillic) saying “Crna Reka” and a small wooden bridge.  Cross the bridge, follow the path to the right, and walk about 200 more meters to a big field where you can camp.

 

Gradac River near Valjevo

This is a tiny river that goes to the city of Valjevo.  The part of the river right near the city is always crowded on weekends with locals swimming.  There is a horseback riding club there (ride horses for cheap!), and a cool cave that you can go into.  Head further down the river and you’ll find some nice camping spots.  Just be warned that there are lots of people walking on the paths, so you won’t be alone.  On weekends and holidays, there might be lots of other campers too.

  • Type: Wild camping
  • Pros: Easy to get to (even without car); easy trails; can swim in the river – though it will be freezing cold
  • Cons: Don’t expect to be alone; bring water or a water treatment method; no bathrooms – you’ll need to dig a cathole; some trash
  • Location/Directions: Go to the monastery Celije and then start following the trail down from the parking lot (on the West side of the river). You can follow the river North or South – there are camping spots regardless of which direction you go in.   https://goo.gl/maps/xS7WTYHViK82

 

Zlot Canyon

camping in zlot canyon serbia

First visit Zlot cave (aka Lazar’s cave) and then go hiking in the canyon.  Or hike to the top of the mountain to find a camping spot.  Just beware of venomous viper snakes in this area!  There is no water source on the top, so you’ll have to lug all your water up with you.

  • Type: Wild camping
  • Pros: Lots of bats flying around; will be secluded as there aren’t many hikers in the area
  • Cons: Snakes; no water; no bathroom; no good maps available
  • Location: https://goo.gl/maps/r15X1BfP6352

 

Jastrebac

mountain home in jastrebac serbia

This is a big mountain area near the city of Krusevac.  You can easily find wild camping spots.  Or stay in the Mountaineer Organization’s Home (you can camp in the yard too).

 

Montenegro Camping Spots

Canyon Mrtvica

camping in canyon mrtvica in montenegro

 

Rozaje

camping in rozaje montenegro

At the end of the city on the road to Kosovo, I accidentally found the local swimming hole and decided to camp there for the night.  It was great!  The nature is so beautiful and the locals were friendly.  Just be warned that some kids might show up at 1am wanting and be surprised to find you camping in their makeout spot!  😉

  • Type: Semi-wild camping
  • Pros: Very easy to get to; nice locals in area; swimming hole; easy hikes around the area
  • Cons: Not exactly untouched nature; no bathrooms
  • Location: https://goo.gl/maps/pbUtaU1QeRp

 

Bulgaria

Belogradchik

camping in belogradchik bulgaria

After getting sick while camping in a nearby cave (which I write about here), Isabel and I went to a campground called Madonna just about 1km outside of the city Belogradchik (which is famous for its rock formations).  It was a great campground and we could hear owls hooting all night.

  • Type: Campground
  • Pros: All the basic facilities you need; close to the city and nature park; affordable (paid 5 euros per night per person; kids free)
  • Cons: None
  • Location: https://goo.gl/maps/AWmC8PWG8r12

 

Magura Cave

magura cave bulgaria

This is an amazing cave in which was found prehistoric drawings.  The cool thing about the cave is that you can walk through it on your own without a guide.  There aren’t really any good wild camping spots nearby (at least ones that you can walk to).  If you have a car, you could drive around to find a camping spot.

As of 2016, there is now a small hotel near the road that goes up to the cave.  You can camp in their yard.

I’ll be adding to this post.  If you know of any great camping spots in the Balkans, let me know!

About the author /


Diane Vukovic is an avid traveler, outdoor enthusiast, beetle lover, sometimes sculptress, couchsurfer, and loves finding ways to explain complex topics to her 6-year old daughter. Follow MomGoesCamping on Facebook and Twitter @MomGoesCamping to stay in touch!

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