Take a road trip across Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina with Atlas Obscura as we explore the Balkans in search of Yugoslav memorial sites. Scores of these wonderfully bizarre monuments lay scattered across the hills and mountains of the region, vast Modernist effigies raised to commemorate the deeds of anti-fascist partisans and revolutionaries. Once upon a time, these striking sites were busy with tour buses and school children, but ever since the collapse of Yugoslavia, the visitors have dwindled. Over the course of this one-of-a-kind tour, we will visit more than a dozen of these remarkable monuments—known locally as spomeniks—and treat them to the well-deserved attention that they’ve been largely missing for these past few decades. We will honor them not as political symbols, but rather as extraordinary works of art commemorating events that should never be forgotten.
However, it won’t just be concrete and steel we’re looking at—along the way we’ll see mountains and lakes, explore underground tunnels, stay in Brutalist hotels, dig into local cuisines, and get to know the people who make up this diverse region of Eastern Europe.
This tour is suitable for guests of all ages (18 and above) and levels of ability—just be sure to pack your walking shoes, your flashlight, and your sense of adventure. Be aware that this tour also involves a good amount of driving time, so dress for comfort.
Sometimes we’ll stay at modern 4-star resorts, while other nights we’ll be immersed in retro hospitality at Brutalist 1970s hotels. Some of these buildings are as interesting as any monument we’ll see.
Over the course of these 12 days we’ll travel more than 2,200 kilometers (1,367 miles), and through three very different countries. Comfort is a priority—so we will have our own private bus for the journey, a modern, air-conditioned vehicle with a professional driver.
For your personal planning of airfare to Belgrade, we suggest that your flight arrive anytime on Monday, October 7. Regarding a return flight to your home destination, feel free to book for a convenient time after breakfast on Saturday, October 19. If you plan to arrive early or stay later, we’re more than happy to help in arranging your accommodation and suggesting activities in Belgrade.
Funny you ask—turns out, no one can really agree on the exact answer to that question (see: What Language Do People Speak in the Balkans, Anyway?). Serbian, Croatian, and Bosnian are all recognized as distinct and separate languages, though in practice they are more similar to one another than some dialects of the English language are (say for example, English as it is spoken in Texas vs. Scotland). Croatia uses the Latin alphabet, Serbia primarily uses Cyrillic, and Bosnia uses a mixture of the two. We’ll share with travelers a set of Serbian phrases that will prove useful in all three countries.
We’ll encounter three different currencies during this tour: Serbian dinars (RSD), Croatian kuna (HRK) and Bosnian marks (BAM). These units vary considerably in size (one U.S. dollar will buy you approximately 100 RSD, 6.20 HRK or 1.60 BAM) and so there’s just no way around it—this is going to get messy at times. We’ll make a gas station stop before each border, in case people have leftover money they want to exchange for drinks and snacks, and after crossing each border, we’ll stop at the first ATM we see in order to stock up on the next currency. Teamwork can help too. For example, you might lend someone the last of your kuna at a souvenir shop in Croatia, and they’ll repay you later in Bosnian marks.
Great question! For starters, we recommend reading our guide Darmon’s article on the subject, “The Misunderstood History of the Balkans’ Surreal War Memorials,” which gives a great introduction to the complexities at play. If you’re ready to dig deeper, be sure to check out “Spomenik Monument Database” by Don Niebyl, a photographic compilation of over 75 of these striking monuments. You can also browse this Place List of spomeniks in the Atlas Obscura database.