The recent COVID-19 pandemic has become a cause of distress, shock and even death for many. Countries most affected by this pandemic quoted by Statista seem to be Russia, UK, Spain and Italy, with over 250,000 cases in the UK. After scrolling down the list of affected countries, I noticed a set of countries all within close vicinity of one another, which made me wonder why they were right at the bottom of the list. They all had the least amount of cases (some did not have any) and deaths caused by COVID-19 were extremely less. One of the fundamental reasons why this is, is because in many ways, these countries fail to attract a mass of tourists like Spain and UK do.
Countries such as Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania, Croatia and Bosnia & Herzegovina, come together to form what we know as the Balkan region. Before understanding why these countries are some of the least visited countries and why they were least affected by this pandemic, we have to rewind time.
History points us towards the answer. Unsteady political control, economic destruction, being ruled by communism and the many wars in between; these are what sum up what happened in the Balkan region between post-WW1 and the early 1990s. The Cold War was the prime time in which many of the residents within the Balkan region were humiliated and killed. This was mainly because of the strict regime control of the unwanted Soviet Communists. These guys were basically in charge of the destruction of the Balkan region. Their politics and governments are to be charged with being responsible with the many problems that transpired.
All this is what led to poverty, destroyed buildings, migration, loss of hope and the lack of motivation to progress. Visitors to the region will notice this immediately.
This was the reason why the Balkan region lost many potential tourists and was avoided by the mass tourists with the exception of the eager, adventurous and intrepid travellers.
Today, the region is precariously making its way onto the tourist maps and increasingly becoming a tourist magnet for travellers from far and wide. Construction is taking place, the locals are working together to provide a hospitable atmosphere and fortunately, due to the immense history the region possesses, more and more people are making their way there. Whilst we were there, we noticed tourists from the Far East, Middle East, Europe and Africa.
This answers our other question of why there are very less cases of COVID-19 in this region The bottom line is, there aren’t many people travelling in and out of the country to contract it in the first place.
That leads me onto my integral point; once this pandemic is over, add this region to your list of places to visit. You’ll face smaller crowds, spend less, be inspired by spectacular sites, and be able to try some unique cuisines. For Muslim travellers, mosques in the region are aplenty and there are many Halal options throughout. The Balkan countries all possess great history, nature, architecture and other great monuments which are unique to this region. Locals of the countries are starting to welcome tourists and visitors into their countries and so therefore, this acts as a great time to experience the country before it turns too touristy.
With beautiful beaches, pristine lakes, spectacular mountains, landmarks filled with history and a cuisine that is unlike any other, this region is waiting to be explored. You can get extremely cheap flights to any of the airports within the Balkan countries and make your way around by public transport which is very affordable. Food is incredibly cheap and many of the major tourists sites have entrance fees that are very reasonable.
Below are some photos to tempt and persuade you to visit this region once this pandemic is over. And by the way, they are all UNESCO World Heritage Sites.