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  • Sveti (Saint) Jovan Kaneo Church, Lake Ohrid, Macedonia

Anna Hawley chats with us about her recent scouting trip to Macedonia and Croatia.


TCS World Travel sent Anna Hawley, one of our Private 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.

Q: You loved your scouting trip through Macedonia and Croatia. Where would you suggest our guests start for unique experiences and destinations?

A: 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.

Q: What are some of Croatia's can't-miss experiences and destinations?

A: 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, endless waterfalls, and numerous well-maintained pathways. 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.

Q: What surprised you? 

A: 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.

Q: Speaking of food, what were your favorite food experiences? 

A: 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. It was at the beginning of my trip. The scenery and the family that prepared, served and ate this meal with me was wonderful. It didn’t hurt that we had taken a beautiful three-mile walk/hike to get there. It was perfect. 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.

Q: You stayed in a number of remarkable properties. Which ones stood out and why?

A: 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. 

Q: If you needed to put together some Balkan destinations for a guest who wanted to get away and relax, where would you send them?

A: 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.

Did Anna's experience inspire you to plan a trip to the Balkans? Email us at [email protected], call us at 800.454.4149 or visit our web page to request a custom independent journey of your own, or to request our catalog.