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The most scenic spots of the Balkan region

Between classical Croatia, historic Bulgaria and the mysteries of Montenegro, this sublime collection of countries down by the Adriatic Sea, just east of Italy and north of Egypt, fuses natural wonders and cultural craftsmanship to sublime effect. If you simply have to see the most scenic sights out there, this handful of places should definitely be on your agenda.

Kotor, the fairytale city in Montenegro

Russet red rooftops and coffee-coloured brickwork define the looks of the harbour town of Kotor, which, like much of Montenegro, looks as though it's been spirited into life from the pages of a storybook.

Up in the hills that lead to the hinterlands, the streets curl up past the grand old fortress that once kept Kotor safe from pirates and other brigands in centuries past. While, down towards the harbour, the cobbled lanes slope into a marina full of shimmering white yachts and other leisure boats. On a hot day you can see countless sails standing tall on the glistening, rich blue water of the bay.

This natural harbour is cupped by a dramatic mountain range that further backs up Kotor's fantastical beauty. The authenticity of Kotor's people speaks to tradition and family values as much as welcoming the new friends the city is making through its growing tourism appeal.

Dubrovnik, the stylish Croatian city

Another splendid city in the Balkan region is Dubrovnik, which has plenty of reasons for being one of the most visited parts of Croatia. In fact, the entire city is a recognised UNESCO World Heritage site, thanks to the pronounced history that's gone into every stone and beam of every structure in town.

Rocky outcrops shelter the white walls and terracotta rooftops of Dubrovnik's buildings from the wider Adriatic and Mediterranean seas, while grand medieval walls remain as protective of the city today as they ever have.

It makes sense that Dubrovnik should be treasured in an embrace of masonry, not least since its history in forming the Croatia we enjoy today is told in vivid detail through its many museums and galleries.

Dubrovnik has been a Byzantine city and ally to Ancona, the classic rival to the Venetian maritime state of centuries past. Its role in the evolution of the Mediterranean is more involved than you might think – and it's made the entire town look fantastic.

Nessebar, Bulgaria's 'Pearl of the Black Sea'

Countless civilisations of yore have made their home in Nessebar, Bulgaria, including the Ottomans, the Byzantines, the Romans and the Greeks. It's another place that UNESCO has recognised as a World Heritage site, although most of us these days know it as a sensational holiday destination rich in sunshine and sunsets over a stunning seascape.

The surrounding landscapes of Nessebar only further enhance its appeal, and you can rest assured that your holiday snaps are going to look sensational from every angle. Because Nessebar juts out into the water on a rocky peninsula, it feels like everything's been tucked in together in the most charming way, which makes every corner of the town seem smartly designed.

Of course, there's nothing stopping you from getting on a boat and heading out onto the waves either, where the views back to town just get better and the sun seems to shine brighter. Great swathes of Bulgarian landscape unfurl around and behind you as the horizon gives an enticing invitation.

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