Eastern Europe and former Soviet countries are slowly emerging economies due to the open European market policies. New political freedom and stability are ushering a steady flow of tourism. Eastern European countries are hence a real bargain if you are traveling on a budget.
Below are the most interesting countries in Europe you can backpack without resorting to huge expenditure.
This beautiful landlocked country lies in the lap of the unspoiled Caucasus Mountains. Surrounded by virgin peaks, verdant green valleys, rivers, farms, and quaint remote villages, Georgia is ideal for hiking and nature trails. Wine lovers can visit Georgia’s wine region, Kakheti. It is one of the most ancient viticulture regions in the world, dating back from the neolithic period. Khakheti’s Mediterranean climate is famous for its hospitality and delicious food.
Armenia is a small country locked between Georgia, Turkey, and Azerbaijan. It is one of those off the beaten track destinations you don’t hear much about. Besides its lakes, mineral water springs, and spa resorts, Armenia also has a rich culture. The country possesses many ancient monasteries, and it’s a cuisine rich in flavors.
The land of a famous vampire looks like a country straight out of fantasy fiction, with dark, mysterious forests, village traditions, medieval forts, castles, and new exciting nightlife. Backpacking Romania is cheap and easy since most of the locals speak basic English. Dracula fans can visit Bran’s castle located outside Brasov in Transylvania. To discover the beauty of Romanian landscapes, hike the Carpathian Mountains for picturesque views and embrace the wild nature of Romania. The Danube Delta calls for bird watching as the area is home to some 300 bird species. For those who wish to party, stop at Bucharest for clubbing and cocktails all night long.
If you are keen to learn more about Soviet history, Moldova’s capital, Chisinau, will be worth your time. Moldova’s language and culture are similar to Romania. Soviet flats and brutalist architecture are part of Chisinau’s urban landscape. A large part of Moldova’s history revolves around The Great Patriotic War since Moldovan soldiers joined the Soviet Union to fight against Germany during world war II. A war memorial monument is located on the outskirts of the capital. Soviet planes that were used during the Great Patriotic War are exhibited at the free Army Museum. Not far from the museum are vestiges of the Soviet Union, such as abandoned football lawns and the stadium. For an overview of Moldova’s history, you can visit the National Museum of history whose exhibitions cover the periods from the middle ages to the second world war. Before leaving Moldova, do not miss Chisinau’s central market. Souvenirs like soviet pins and coins, cheap clothes, local cheese, and honey will fulfill your shopping spree.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia’s unique charm comes from the blend of Turkish and Eastern European influences. Visit the charming historic town of Mostar. With its cobbled stoned streets and minarets, Mostar is a must on your itinerary. The capital city, Sarajevo, is multicultural and diffuses a vibrant cafe culture. Beautiful mosques stand alongside orthodox churches and cathedrals. Traveling from Sarajevo to Mostar offers stunning views of the countryside all along the scenic road.
Shopaholics will revel at Skopje’s Old Bazaar. The market is packed with cafes, bakeries, and jewelry shops. The cobbled passageways are punctuated by minarets and home to treasures like the rose garden of the Mustafa Pasha Mosque, which dates from the Ottoman-era. A strong yet pleasant smell of coffee permeates the air, a reminder that Turkey isn’t far away.
Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia
Known as the Baltic countries, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia encompass historic cities, monuments, unique culture, breathtaking nature, mystical lakes, and delicious cuisine.
Begin with Vilnus, the capital of Lithuania. Walk around the majestic old town and get to learn about the country’s history through its architecture, galleries, and museums. After which you can indulge in traditional food. Your next stop is Kaunas, where tasting the home-brewed beer in the traditional bars is a must. Immerse yourself in nature by visiting the Curonian Spit National Park. Head to Klaipeda, a city that displays its German influences on its architecture.
Riga, the capital city of Latvia, is famous for its Hanseatic and Art Nouveau architecture, and its history stretching from the Middle Ages to its Soviet past. For picturesque landscapes, visit the Gauja National Park, the untouched Latvian nature.
Finally, Estonia, where you can start with the university town of Tartu, whose young population, laid back cafes, and cheap restaurants add to the city’s joie de vivre. In the capital city of Tallin, do not miss the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, which is one of the most beautiful orthodox churches of the Baltic region. Stop by Soomaa National Park, which is best enjoyed during the rainy season during which the flooded park is accessible via canoe.