Where Are the Balkan States?

Discover Which Countries Are Included in This Region of Europe

Old Bridge Area of the Old City of Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Alexandre Ehrhard / Getty Images

The countries lying on the Balkan Peninsula are often called the Balkan States. The region lies on the southeastern edge of the European continent and it is generally accepted to be made up of 12 countries.

Where Are the Balkan States?

The southern coast of Europe has three peninsulas, the easternmost of these is known as the Balkan Peninsula. It is surrounded by the Adriatic Sea, the Ionian Sea, the Aegean Sea, and the Black Sea.

The word Balkan is Turkish for 'mountains' and most of the peninsula is covered with mountain ranges.

  • The Carpathian Mountains in Romania form the northern border.
  • The Dinaric Mountain range runs along the Adriatic coastline.
  • The Balkan Mountains are mostly found in Bulgaria, as are the Rhodopes.
  • Much of Greece includes the Pindus Mountains 

The mountains play a big role in the region's climate as well. To the north, the weather is similar to that of central Europe, with warm summers and cold winters. To the south and along the coastlines, the climate is more Mediterranean with hot, dry summers and rainy winters.

Within the many mountain ranges of the Balkans are large and small rivers that are noted for their beauty and as home to a great variety of freshwater animals. The major rivers in the Balkans are the Danube and Sava.

To the north of the Balkan States are the countries of Austria, Hungary, and Ukraine. Italy shares a small border with Slovenia on the western edge of the region.

The Balkan Peninsula

Geographers and politicians divide up the Balkan peninsula in a variety of ways. One reason is its history: a number of these countries—Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, and Macedonia—formed the former country of Yugoslavia, which was formed at the end of World War II and broke into separate countries in 1992.

Within the Balkan States, a number of countries are also considered to be "Slavic states," and are typically defined as Slavic-speaking communities. These include Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia.

Maps of the Balkan States will often include the countries listed above, which is based on geographic, political, social, and cultural factors. Other maps that have a strictly geographical approach will include the entire Balkan Peninsula. These maps add the mainland of Greece as well as the small portion of Turkey that lies northwest of the Sea of Marmara.

What Are the Western Balkans?

When describing the Balkans, there is another regional term that is often used as well. The name "Western Balkans" describes the countries on the western edge of the region, along with the Adriatic coast.

The Western Balkans include Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia.

Which Countries Make Up the Balkan States?

Map of the Balkan States
Peter Fitzgerald

It can be difficult to define exactly which countries are included in the Balkan States. It is a name that has both geographic and political definitions, with some of the countries crossing what scholars consider the 'boundaries' of the Balkans.

In general, the following countries are considered part of the Balkans:


Albania, Tirana, Skanderbeg square
Tuul & Bruno Morandi / Getty Images

Albania, or rather the Republic of Albania, has a total population of 3 million people as of 2016. It is in the western part of the Balkan peninsula with a long coastline facing the Adriatic Sea. Albania's capital city is Tirana, and its official language is Albanian, a dialect of Serbo-Croatian. Its government is a unitary parliamentary constitutional republic. 

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Pigeon Square in Sarajevo, Bosnia
Cultura RM Exclusive/Quim Roser/Getty Images

The country which is known as Bosnia and Herzegovina is located east of Albania, and its capital is Sarajevo. It is ethnically rich, with three major ethnic groups called Bosniaks, Serbs, and Croats. The total population is 3.5 million people; and they speak Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian. Its government is a parliamentary representative democracy.


Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Sofia, Bulgaria
NakNakNak / Pixabay

There are 7.1 million people who live in the Republic of Bulgaria, and the official language there is Bulgarian, a Slavic language related to Macedonian. Its capital city is Sofia. Diverse ethnically, the largest ethnic group is Bulgarians, a South Slavic ethnic group. The government is a parliamentary representative democratic republic. 


Lively Zagreb
Kerry Kubilius

Croatia, located in the western edge of the Balkan peninsula on the Adriatic, is a parliamentary, representative democratic republic, with its capital at Zagreb. It has a population of 4.2 million people, about 90 percent of whom are ethnically Croats. The official language is Standard Croatian. 


The Republic of Kosovo has a population of 1.8 million, and the official languages are Albanian and Serbian. It is a multi-party parliamentary representative democratic republic, with its capital city at Prishtina. About 95 percent of its population is ethnically Albanian. 


The two million people who live in the Republic of Macedonia are about 65 percent Macedonian, with about 25 percent Albanian. The official language is Macedonian, a south Slavic language closely related to Bulgarian. Like most of the other Balkan states, Macedonia is a parliamentary representative democratic republic, and its capital is at Skopje. 


Moldova, located in the eastern part of the Balkans, has a population of about 2.5 million people, about 75 percent of whom are ethnic Moldovans. Moldova is a parliamentary representative democratic republic, and its official language is Moldovan, a variety of Romanian. The capital city is Chisinau. 


The 630,000 people who live in tiny Montenegro speak the official language Montenegrin. Ethnicity is varied, with 45 percent Montenegrin and 29 percent Serbian. The capital city is Podgorica, and its political structure is a parliamentary representative democratic republic.


Bucharest - Parliament Palace in Bucharest
Linda Garrison

Romania is a semi-presidential representative democratic republic, with its capital city at Bucharest. It makes up the largest piece of the Balkan peninsula, and its population is about 19.7 million people, who are about 90 percent ethnic Romanians. There are several spoken languages in Romania, but the official language is Romanian. 


Belgrade Parliament in Belgrade, Serbia
Linda Garrison

Serbia's population is about 83 percent Serbs, and there are approximately 7 million people living in Serbia today. Serbia is a parliamentary democracy, with its capital city in Belgrade; the official language is Serbian, a standardized variety of Serbo-Croatian. 


About 2.1 million people live in Slovenia, under a government that is a parliamentary representative democratic republic. About 83 percent are technic Slovenians. Their official language is Slovene, known as Slovenian in English. Their capital city is Ljubljana.