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It's hard to believe, what with Croatia's status as a destination du jour (see: beachgoers, yacht-week revelers, "Game of Thrones" superfans) that there hasn't been a direct flight from the U.S. since the breakup of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s.
That's changing this month, as American Airlines launches a new route from Philadelphia to Dubrovnik. Most nations in the Balkans — an expanse that includes Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Slovenia, among others — have seen major tourism growth in the past decade, and are keeping pace with fresh travel offerings.
Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia.
COURTESY OF KER & DOWNEY
The nonstop flight makes transfers easy for Natural Habitat Adventures' new Wild Croatia by Land & Sea itinerary (10-day trips from $8,995 per person), which features kayaking on the Dalmatian Coast and hikes through mountains and wetlands. Montenegro is a hot spot for Europe's high-society set, with new seaside hotels like Ānanti(doubles from $438), which has eight villas and 14 suites, and the country's first eco-resort, the 111-room Chedi Luštica Bay(doubles from $263).
The private beach of the Chedi Luštica Bay, a hotel in Montenegro.
COURTESY OF THE CHEDI LUŠTICA BAY
For an urban experience, head to Belgrade: Serbia's largest city has gotten an infusion of arty hotels, like Mama Shelter(doubles from $168), on Knez Mihailova Street (Belgrade's Champs-Élysées), and Saint Ten(doubles from $156), a 55-room property in a landmarked 1929 building.
No pressure to choose just one country, though: Ker & Downey has expanded its Balkans Heritage itineraries to include a stop in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in addition to museum-hopping in Zagreb, Croatia; a Danube cruise in Serbia; and exploring Old Town in Ljubljana, Slovenia (seven-day trips from $10,500). Eastern Europe specialist Gwen Kozlowski, a T+L A-List travel advisor, can plan custom itineraries even farther afield.
A version of this story first appeared in the June 2019 issue of Travel + Leisure under the headline The Balkans, Europe's Next Frontier.