travel inspirationThe Balkans: Q&A With a Custom Travel Consultant
TCS World Travel sent Anna Hawley, one of our Luxury Custom Travel consultants, to scout the little-visited Republic of Macedonia and the lovely coastal nation of Croatia and report back on the experience.
We sat down with Anna to learn how, when, where and why you should explore these two Balkan gems.
Tell us why our guests should visit Croatia and Macedonia.
For guests looking for a classic TCS World Travel experience, Croatia is ready right now to surprise and delight. However if someone is open to a real off-the-beaten-path experience, Macedonia is it. Macedonia is still developing the luxury end of their tourism market as well as their capacity to accommodate large group tours, but it’s a beautiful country, and I would recommend it to the bolder independent travelers among us. It feels like no one has been there... yet.
What are some of can't-miss experiences in Croatia?
In Croatia, Plitvice Lakes National Park is an absolute can't-miss destination. Located about 2 hours by car from the capital, Zagreb, Plitvice captivated me with its travertine cliffs and endless waterfalls. Definitely set aside some time to walk along the city walls of the old town of Dubrovnik. Croatia is far from undiscovered, but with the right guide and a smart itinerary in hand, you can really explore in whichever way feels best for you.
Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
What surprised you about Macedonia?
I had no idea what to expect going in, and I found that every turn had something new to offer—food, hospitality, wine and how far my US dollar went. For those who really want to get to know an untouched destination, and don’t mind a few bumps in the road (literally), Macedonia is the perfect destination. Because they are new to the travel market, Macedonia is in the enviable position of being able to build the foundation of their tourism on modern, sustainable, responsible tourism. Macedonia also has a really rich culture and some spectacular food that even the most seasoned traveler would love.
What were your favorite culinary experiences?
In Macedonia there is a family-run homestead located just outside the capital in the village of Ciflik. They served me the best, freshest meal. The scenery and the family that prepared, served and ate this meal with me was wonderful. Croatian carob cake and rakia, a type of regional brandy, are not to be missed. Some of the Macedonian wines I had really stood out as well.
Traditional Macedonian food
Tell us about the properties where you stayed.
The Villa Dubrovnik in Croatia was spectacular. Service was over the top, and the old wood boat they have to transfer you into the old town was the perfect touch. The views, the beach and the rooms themselves were wonderful. I spent a night in a charmingly authentic Macedonian guest house. It had only recently been converted into a guest house, and was nestled in the heart of a little village. I loved the vibe—tiny bathroom and all.
The Villa Dubrovnik, Croatia
If someone wants to get away and relax, where in the Balkans would you send them?
In the Balkans, I would charter a fully-crewed yacht for them so they could cruise among Croatia's and Montenegro’s numerous islands. The islands are absolutely amazing, and are best seen by boat. I would put together a very luxurious experience for them, with a handful of easy, optional, locally-informed diversions.
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