The Balkans: Q and A With a Custom Travel Consultant
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The Balkans: Q and A With a Custom Travel Consultant

3 min read

TCS World Travel sent Anna Hawley, one of our Luxury Custom Travel consultants, to the Balkans 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, for those 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 as one of the best cities for 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 two 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, it’s really one of the best cities to explore in whichever way feels best for you.

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 untouched places in the Balkans and don’t mind a few bumps in the road (literally), Macedonia is the perfect destination. Because Macedonia is new to the travel market, it is in the enviable position of being able to build the foundation of their tourism in ways that are modern, sustainable and responsible. Macedonia also has a really rich culture and 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. Surrounded by the incredible scenery of the Balkans, I was served the best, freshest meal. The family who 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.

Tell us about the properties where you stayed. 

The Villa Dubrovnik in Croatia was spectacular. The 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 fantastic. I spent a night in a charmingly authentic Macedonian guest house. It had only recently been converted into living quarters, and was nestled in the heart of a little village. I loved the vibe—tiny bathroom and all. 

If someone wants to get away and relax, which places 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 so they could experience the best cities and sceneries, with a handful of easy, optional, locally informed diversions.


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