From skiing in Bulgaria to Unesco wonders in Albania, Yolanda Zappaterra rounds up bargain escapes
1. Hit the slopes in Bulgaria
Voted one of the best-value ski resort for families in the Post Office Travel Money Ski Report 2022, Bansko’s ski and snowboarding scene is also a firm favourite with big names in the sport. And with its 75km of uninterrupted ski runs and historic town set at the foot of the Pirin Mountains, it offers an excellent ski holiday at an affordable price.
2. Explore Montenegro's beaches
Montenegro boasts some of the Balkans’ best beaches, sandwiched between sweeping mountain scenery and historic fortified towns. Make a beeline for the Bay of Kotor for dramatic cliffs fringing the Adriatic; the Iberostar Herceg Novi here faces the sea, with steps to a private beach and a water taxi on hand to whisk you to the nearby town. Jet2’s all-inclusive package includes a free place for a child under four, and all meals and drinks.
3. Discover Albania
Little-visited Albania is an unpolished gem, with a history and landscape that easily equals its better-known neighbours. Unesco-listed Ancient Greek, Roman and Byzantine remains are just some of the discoveries to be made on a Headwater tour, which also takes in Tirana, Korçë, Durrës, foodie-favourite Përmet and the charmingly old-school Albanian Riviera.
4. Eat your way round the region
Intrepid Travel’s Balkans Real Food Adventure starts in Croatia and ends in North Macedonia via Montenegro, taking in a dizzying range of culinary experiences along the way, including cooking classes, dinners with local families, market visits and encounters with food and drink producers. The region’s landscape ensures plenty of variety in scenery as well as produce – not least in the stunning Mavrovo National Park.
5. Get cultural in Bucharest
For a budget-friendly city break, Bucharest beckons. Once nicknamed the Paris of the East for its opulent art nouveau palaces – remnants of which remain – there’s plenty to charm. Browse contemporary art galleries, visit the cafes of the historic Old City and stop by the Palace of Parliament to see the world’s largest parliamentary building, then head for Cișmigiu Gardens to amble around a tree-lined lake.