Western Balkans (Lonely Planet Multi Country Guide) by Marika McAdam
|Western Balkans (Lonely Planet Multi Country Guide) by Marika McAdam|
|Reviewer: Magda Healey|
|Summary: Decent enough guide with good background info, typical Lonely Planet snappy, readable text and good selection of maps which loses a star for excluding Slovenia from its coverage.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Maybe|
|Pages: 452||Date: May 2009|
|Publisher: Lonely Planet Publications|
Lonely Planet does well from its multi-country guides as members of its peripatetic, Inter-railing, backpacker audience often 'do' more than one country (and sometimes a whole continent or region at least) within one trip.
I was looking for the guide to the countries of former Yugoslavia and this one happened to look reasonably good (and was available in my local bookshop to which I was exiled from Amazon by my own tardiness), so I picked it up without doing more than a cursory check and the realised that from my point of view at least it had one major failing: it did not do what I assumed it would (and what I believe the first edition did) - it did not include Slovenia (presumably because it wasn't considered Balkan enough?). This is, I think, a major mistake. If the inclusion of Albania and Kosovo are natural and understandable, exclusion of Slovenia is at best unsettling, especially as it's not exactly a huge country with scores of cities and regions to cover and the books as it is is still not among the fattest guides at less than 500 pages.
Thus, on the ground I only used the Croatian section of the guide, though I did have a good read of the other parts and have already been inspired into contemplating another Balkan trip.
Western Balkans has all the positives one expects from a Lonely Planet guide: snappy but informative background sections, informed and inspired local coverage and readability that goes beyond just practical. One can always dispute their particular selections (and for eating places I tend to find Rough Guide picks a bit more to my taste, for example), but generally Lonely Planet offer reliable information for a budget to mid range traveller and Western Balkans is no different. I tend to buy a Lonely Planet or Rough Guide depending on which is the most up to date one, but with Lonely Planet I always wish there was some allowances for people travelling with children (Rough Guides do that). This is the publisher's policy though and can't be held against them.
Selectiveness is always an issue with multi-country guides and in addition to the obvious blunder of dropping Slovenia, there are some notable ones even in the few sections I had a chance to use. The chapter on Around Zadar covers Plitvice Lakes which are three hours away by bus and by no means local to Zadar in any more meaningful way than they are to Zagreb, but mentions the Kornati archipelago only in passing and ignores the other local islands (Pag, Dugi Otok) or Krka waterfalls (which really belong to Sibenik section, but are still more local to Zadar than Plitvice are). This somehow confirms my earlier experience with Lonely Planet being much better at covering city destinations that countryside ones.
All in all, Lonely Planet's Western Balkans is a decent enough guide for those who intend to do some country hopping in the region and don't want to carry individual country guides. I felt that the more truly 'Balkan' areas (from Albania to Montenegro and Bosnia) were given a better (and more heartfelt) treatment than Croatia, and it loses a star for dropping Slovenia altogether.
You can read more book reviews or buy Western Balkans (Lonely Planet Multi Country Guide) by Marika McAdam at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google play and Waterstones. We do earn commission from Amazon though. Just so's you know.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.