After my first time to Europe and visiting only the popular cities in the West, I was dreaming of Eastern Europe the whole next year in University waiting for summer to come around. It took ages to plan my sample Eastern Europe itinerary – and I’m going to detail it all here for you now that it’s said and done.
I’ve written about all these cities before so there will be links throughout with proper guides. As I mentioned in my sample western Europe itinerary, I didn’t have the funds at the time to go to Ireland and Spain as they would have required flying with my time constraints. Therefore, I made sure to hit those up first before heading East.
I mentioned Ireland and Spain in my Western Europe itinerary and as I said you could do Ireland first, then the Western Itinerary I wrote about, ending in Spain, then flying to Greece so start this “Eastern Europe” itinerary. So, I will start with Greece now!
Sample Eastern Europe Itinerary for Backpackers
1. Athens, Greece. Flying into Athens was exciting, but nerve-wrecking as my backpack didn’t make it and I didn’t have anything but almonds and my journal in my carry-on. First thing to know about Athens, is in July and hot months no one is there. They are on vacation because it’s so hot! The city was a little dirty and desolate to be honest, but interesting and of course seeing the ancient ruins at Acropolis was very cool. .
2. Mykonos, Greece. Mykonos is a party island. From Athens, you need to take a ferry to the closest port and you’ll want to find a travel agent in town to book your ferry tickets. They’re a little pricey if you’re comparing to Thailand islands. Mykonos was gorgeous, expensive, had delicious food, and there are quiet areas if you know where to look; we found a cute apartment in a secluded area. Read more: The Best of Mykonos Greece
3. Santorini, Greece. In terms or partying and gorgeousness, Santorini takes the cake. There’s no question as to why this is the most tourist island. It’s stunning. You have the famous sunsets and that white on blue rounded architecture everywhere you look. Food was a little pricey but scrumptious and the shops were full of the cutest stuff. I couchsurfed here mainly to save money and also because we hadn’t experienced Greece like a local. We stayed with a model/scuba instructor and had a blast club hopping the whole time and exploring the island on bikes. Read on for tips: What I love about Santorini Greece: Scuba and the Gods
4. Corfu, Greece. Corfu is the “green” island. The water is so clear, but with lush green forests in the background. Actually, it looks a lot like Thailand. We stayed at popular party hostel the Pink Palace, which is retrospect was a mistake as they trap you a bit from seeing the local parts of the island.
5. Tirana, Albania. So Albania was a bit of an accident. We pretty much were stuck in Santorini and told we had to go to Italy in order to get to our next city (Dubrovnik). The only other option was taking a ferry to the southern bit of Albania and going via taxi north, as local buses are hit and miss. We did take local buses / hitchhike through Albania through Montenegro to Croatia. We started via local bus to Tirana and met a cool chick, Bena, who shared all the secret local hotspots of Albania with us, from beaches and bars to UNESCO sites.
6. Dubrovnik, Croatia. After a couple of days of unplanned travel, we made it to Dubrovnik and I was overwhelmed with how much I loved this city. If there was one place I wanted to go back to and take Ben, it would be this town. I know it’s become more touristy partially with help from Game of Thrones filming on the castle. It’s a medieval wonderful town. Fabulous food and so gorgeous overlooking the sea that I didn’t mind the small crowds. We stayed at a Sobe in the Old Town which I 100% recommend. They will find you at the bus station.
7. Sarajevo, Bosnia. Sarajevo was a bit of a culture shock after being in beach party towns, not to say we didn’t party in Sarajevo (I was only 20 after all). A place not so long ago destroyed by war, you can still see the destruction today and learning about the history of that war is very important. This was the first place I’d been that had a call to prayer, but was interesting in that there were also Christian churches and Synagogues in the same intersection. Also, the food was incredible as well as the coffee! Definitely buy a coffee set here.
8. Belgrade, Serbia. Not only interesting, but affordable. It’s a cool town to see but I was there only a short time. There was a beer festival in Belgrade happening so you can only imagine what I was up to. We found a hotel online and it was 3 bucks a night with breakfast. How is that possible!?
9. Budapest, Hungary. The first thing I learned about Budapest is that one side of the river is Buda and one side is called pest. I recommend doing a walking tour of the city to learn, and I also couchsurfed here. Mostly, we learned about what happened there during world war 2, which has always interested me. Make sure to visit the famous Szechyeni baths, which is a highlight of a trip to Budapest.
10. Krakow, Poland. Although I liked the walking tour and learned a lot, I found the city a bit boring. Perhaps the weather had something to do with it. I did enjoy the town fair and markets. I’m sure it was a fluke that I didn’t have a blast, but I would go back. Read more tips for visiting Krakow.
11. Prague, Czech Republic. Prague is incredible! Spend as much time here as you can. Affordable, great food, amazing history and architecture, and a fun nightlife. I couchsurfed here and loved seeing the city from a locals view. Read for some tips on Prague.
12. Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic. This place is about 4 hours from Prague by a cheap bus that offers hot chocolate and a movie! The town is the “last bohemian town” with a castle uniquely hand-painted to look like it’s more fancy architecture than it really is. There is a moat with beers, lots of little homey bars, and your hostel will possibly offer you a joint fix on arrival.
So, there you have it, my sample Eastern Europe itinerary based on my own trip. All in all I started the trip flying into Irelend, then flying to Spain, then onward via flight to Greece. The rest is as you read, then after Cesky, we took a bus back to Prague to fly to Ireland to catch the roundtrip flight home.
I had more fun on my trip to Eastern Europe than Western Europe, and although some people think it’s not as easy to travel, I found that wasn’t true except lack of buses in Northern Albania and Montenegro. It was very affordable and I learned a lot.
I hope you found this Eastern European backpacking itinerary helpful! Remember to find a cheap flight using my tips and get some travel insurance that covers adventure sports. If you’re planning a trip, check out my tips on how to plan a trip from scratch.
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